DIGNITARIES from the Royal Navy gathered to commemorate the 212th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
They united for the Saturday morning ceremony on board HMS Victory – the oldest commissioned warship in the world – which played a crucial role in the outcome of the conflict.
Celebrating the Royal Navy’s landmark triumph against the combined Franco-Spanish forces, the event paid a heartfelt tribute to Admiral Lord Nelson.
The leader was fatally wounded by a French sharpshooter’s musket ball as he paced Victory’s quarter deck in battle, on October 21, 1805.
In remembrance, Second Sea Lord of the Royal Navy, Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock, laid a wreath at the spot where he was struck his final blow.
Meanwhile, senior officers together fell silent in salute for the naval hero.
Lieutenant Commander BJ Smith, Victory’s 101st commanding officer, got the ceremony under way – reading the general order issued by Lord Collingwood one day after the British success.
Speaking after the proceedings, he said: ‘This is the third ceremony I’ve conducted as commanding officer and it will probably be my last.
‘Each time, it’s incredibly moving and poignant. Nelson set such an example in terms of his management skills and the way he was able to lead his men and he is still hugely revered, even now.’
Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, councillor Ken Ellcome was also present for the celebrations.
He said: ‘This is a great day to recognise the achievements of Admiral Lord Nelson. He was a brilliant leader, a master tactician and was willing to take a risk and do things differently.
‘We’re so fortunate as a city to have the heritage that we do. Without the Royal Navy, we wouldn’t have Portsmouth – the two will be intertwined forever.’
The Battle of Trafalgar, which took place off the south-west coast of Spain, was one of the Royal Navy’s most decisive conflicts.
The British victory meant the nation would not be invaded by the French empire, but would instead rule the seas for the next 100 years. Out of 27 ships of the line, the Royal Navy did not lose a single vessel – while Franco-Spanish forces lost 22 of their 33.
More than 400 British sailors died in the battle and about 1,200 were wounded.
Watch our livestream of the Trafalgar Ceremony on board HMS Victory here.