The Royal Navy today paid tribute to its greatest hero with a Trafalgar Day ceremony on board Lord Nelson’s flagship.
The ceremony on HMS Victory was held to commemorate the 208th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
The ship, at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, was itself at the battle where it served as Nelson’s flagship.
Under a gloomy sky, the Second Sea Lord this morning laid a wreath at the spot on the upper deck where Nelson was fatally shot.
Another was left on the orlop deck, where he later died.
Admiral Lord Nelson’s famous signal ‘England expects that every man will do his duty’ flapped overhead in the wind as the wreath was laid on the upper deck.
Lieutenant Commander Rod Strathern is the commanding officer of HMS Victory.
He told The News: ‘Trafalgar Day marks a key point in our very proud maritime history.
‘The fact Britain then had dominion of the seas helped our maritime trade flourish, and the wealth that we enjoy today is a direct result of that.
‘It’s easy to lose sight of the naval and maritime history, and we need to hold on tight to that. It’s valuable and it’s very proud.
‘Portsmouth is certainly the heart of remembrance of Trafalgar.’
The Battle of Trafalgar is known as one of the greatest battles in British naval history.
Against a numerically superior Franco-Spanish fleet, it was better tactics, leadership, equipment, and personnel that won the battle.
But while the battle was a success, the victory cost Nelson his life.
He was fatally wounded by a French sharpshooter early during the action, although he remained conscious long enough for the captain of HMS Victory, Thomas Masterman Hardy, to inform him of the result of the battle and to report ‘my Lord, you have won the day’.
Lt Cdr Strathern added: ‘The triumph at the decisive Battle of Trafalgar is arguably the high point of the Royal Navy’s long and proud history and Victory, the oldest commissioned warship in the world, is a living memorial to Nelson and those who fought and died with him off Cape Trafalgar over 200 years ago.
‘We are incredibly proud of what she represents and I consider myself very privileged to take part in the ceremony.’
The ceremony on board HMS Victory today was led by Monsignor Andrew McFadden, the Royal Navy’s principal Roman Catholic chaplain.
Second Sea Lord Vice-Admiral David Steel, pictured above after laying the wreath on board HMS Victory, said: ‘It is absolutely right we continue to mark the significance of the Battle of Trafalgar.
‘At the time of the battle, the Royal Navy was deployed around the world doing everything that was asked of it to ensure the security and sovereignty of the United Kingdom.
‘With over 70 per cent of the Royal Navy at sea as we speak, the very same can be said today.’
·Pictures by LA(Phot) Ian Simpson