Battle of Trafalgar

Painting of the battle of Trafalgar of William Turner
battle of Trafalgar
conflict third coalition war
date 21. October 1805
place before the cape Trafalgar, south Spain
result English victory
England France, Spain
Horatio Nelson PierreCharles de Villeneuve
of 27 ships of 33 ships
of losses
449 dead ones
1,241 wounded
4,408 dead ones
2,545 wounded
17 ships hands over

to Trafalgar - Austerlitz

the battle of Trafalgar to 21. October 1805 was a sea-battle at the cape Trafalgar between the Britishand allied with one another the Frenchmen and Spaniards in the context of the third coalition war, which secured and indirectly also to Napoleons' defeat on the European mainland contributed the English supremacy to sea for more than one century.

In the process of the battledefeated the British fleet under admiral Horatio Nelson those French - Spanish fleet under French Vice Admiral Pierre Charles de Villeneuve. This should break out on behalf Napoleons of the port of Cádiz, blocked by the British, around a landingto support in South Italies. But its fleet suffered thereby a devastating defeat: The British conquered or destroyed 20 of his ships, under it the singular Santissima Trinidad, while they did not lose not one combat ship. Nelson fell in the battle, butits action defeated Napoleons' plans for an invasion of the British islands finally.

Table of contents

strategic background

crucial for Napoleons' original plan of an invasion of Great Britain was its fleet, which cover the landing of its army and in addition the Royal Navy to switch off or at least divert had. After Villeneuve had combined its fleet in Toulon with the allied Spanish fleet with Cádiz, he should to the westIndian islands sails,in order to attack there British possessions and to strengthen the French troops in Martinique, for which 12,000 soldiers were additionally embarked. This should away-lure a part of the Royal Navy of European waters. Afterwards was intended, the united fleet turn and after To leave Brest sails, in order to meet there with the French Atlantic fleet. With this armed force Napoleon wanted to then achieve the naval supremacy in the channel, in order to secure the planned invasion.

The British tried this with a blockade of the ports Brestto prevent and Toulon. To 30. March 1805 however could leave the French fleet Toulon unnoticed, since the British ships were prevented from an effective blockade by adverse hoist. In the consequence it succeeded itself the French ships, before thatto meet Spanish coast with the Spanish fleet and cross the Atlantic. The British Mediterranean fleet under Nelson took up pursuit, could not the opponent however not to the fight place. Villeneuve did not use its naval supremacy in the Karibik however,to separate remained almost dormant. It omitted it even unloading the 12,000 soldiers. Its fleet consisted at that time of 19 liners and unites frigates, while Nelson pursued it only with 9 liners and two frigates over the Atlantic.

As the latter in Barbados had arrived, looked for Villeneuve despite its overwhelming superiority no decision, but left Caribbean waters escape-like direction Europe. The British admiralty suspected Napoleon's plan however and beorderte Vice Admiral Robert Calder, with his ships the enemy against sails. This fleetit, in terms of figures superior opposing armed force succeeded to 22. To place July 1805 before cape Finisterre to the fight. The British conquered two Spanish ships, before the battle was broken off because of bad visibilities.

Afterwards it succeeded to Villeneuve, its forces with furtherto strengthen ten napoleonischen liners, which Calder had blocked before in Ferrol. However it did not segelte under ignoring the instructions Napoleons to Brest, in order to place the channel fleet to the fight, but searched to 20. August refuge in Cádiz. ThatReason for it is today unclear until. Thus the strategic advantage of the Frenchmen was lost, because now the Royal Navy blocked immediately the port of Cádiz. At first however only with far which were subject the forces of the admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, ofCalders ships to 30. August were strengthened. Nelson returned first to England, pushed only to 29. September with further three liners to the blockade fleet and took over the supreme command. The British were in terms of figures scarcely underlaid nevertheless for the opponent.

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Process of the battle

Nelsons Flaggschiff 'Victory' um 1900 in Portsmouth
Nelsons flagship “Victory” around 1900 in Portsmouth

Napoleon was frightened over Villeneuves behavior, which forced it to the provisional task of the planned invasion of England. It instructed Villeneuve to run out after Neapel over there the still embarkedTo accrete 12,000 soldiers. Although Villeneuve the instruction to 28. September received, remained dormant it. Only as it to 18. October experienced that Napoleon wanted to relieve it of his command and its successor already on the way was, became active it and left thoseunited napoleonische war fleet to 19. October 1805 from the port of Cádiz run out. But because of unfavorable hoist and bad navigation this lasted up to noon of the following daily. Thus its attempt failed to escape the British blockade.

There the BritishFregatteSiriusdas Auslaufen des Feindes beobachtet und sogleich an Admiral Nelson gemeldet hatte, konnte er einen Schlachtplan ausarbeiten. The valid doctrine planned, parallel to the opposing fleet to sails, in order to fire at these from the distance. In developmentalready successful British maneuvers planned Nelson however to break through the opposing ship line with two battle rows of the side perpendicularly. The hostile ships in the center should be down-struggled in close combat, before further ships from the battle row turn and hurry to assistancecould. Besides these so the retreat should be cut off. Nelson trusted thereby above all the artillery and the superior close-in engagement training of its soldiers suitable better for it.

To 21. October placed the 33 ships to Nelson under Villeneuves command with 27 British ships andapproximately 20,000 sailors 40 km south of Cadíz at the road from Gibraltar to the fight. Its last log recording of this daily before beginning of battle read:

“With daylight we saw the united fleet of the enemy between east and east southeast. We bored ourselves tooDeath. I let the sails set and man the engagements stations. The enemy drove southward: around seven the enemy fatigues. Our great God, which I admire, may give a large and glorious victory to my country and the welfare of Europe. And likesno absence ride produce a fault. Humanity may be in the fleet after the victory the superior characteristic of the British fleet. I will my life it, who create me has, dedicate and may be light over mine efforts, my countryto serve, stand. To its hands and to defend the country I give myself the fair thing. Amen. Amen. Amen. “

Around itself the possibility of the escape after Cádiz for received, admitted Villeneuve at 8 o'clock of the fleet the instructionturn. Since the wind weakly and the crews were inexperienced, the battle order came perfectly in disorder. Some ships preschten forwards, others dropped back. The maneuver was finally final at 10 o'clock, so that the ships were now on northern course.However there were now large gaps in the rows. When both fleets of rectangular zusteuerten one on the other, Nelson left over approx. 11:35 clock the own ships by Flaggensignal announce:“England expects that every one wants DO his duty” (England expected,that each man its obligation does!)

Zeitgenössische Darstellung der Schlachtaufstellung von Trafalgar mit einem Fehler: Das nördlichste britische Schiff ist die "Africa", nicht die "Neptune"
Contemporary representation of the battle list of Trafalgar with an error: The northernmost British ship is the “Africa”, not the “Neptune”

the command over the southern of the two British lines in Lee (therefore it Lee Column)Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood led, the northern line in luffs (Weather Column) befehligte Nelson themselves on its flagship, the HMS Victory. Although Villeneuve probably suspected its maneuver, he seized no suitable counter measures, but left his fleet inLine lined up further sails, when the two battle rows of the British from the west approached. The Africa lost thereby the connection to the luffing line and approached the enemy therefore alone from the north. Also different ships from Nelsons row segelten tooslowly. But it trusted in the superiority of its plan and continued its attack steadfastly. As last signal it let set on the Victory “Engage the enemy more closely ” (Ran to the enemy).

Already around 11:30 clock opened the napoleonischeQuick one with first remote shots the fire. The actual battle began however only against 12 o'clock, when the British ships approached the hostile line and finally broke through these. The Royal Sovereign, on which Collingwood had set its flag, broke throughas first between the Santa Ana and the Fougueux the hostile line. Immediately further ships of the Lee line came to assistance. A battle led with extreme violence developed: The ships exchanged devastating broadsides and collided also partly with one another,which led to embittered Enterkämpfen.

'His Majesty's Ship “Victory”, Capt. E. Harvey, into the Memorable Battle OF Trafalgar between two French Ships OF the Line' by John Constable

about twenty minutes later reached also the Weather Column with the Victory onthe point the line of the French-Spanish fleet between the ahead-driving Santissima Trinidad and the Bucentaure. The Victory lost Trinidad their mizzenmast and a part of the Takelwerks by the bombardment that. The Temeraire pushed itself into the gap and coveredso the flagship, which would have been destroyed otherwise surely. Nelson looked for the hostile flagship, the Bucentaure, which however first not when such was characterized. Only as the Victory the Bucentaure under heavy bombardment took and behind the tail of thehostile ship by-pulled, set Villeneuve its flag. Besides it signaled now its Vorhut segelnden steadfastly on northern course that it was to turn and come to the assistance. Admiral Dumanoir, who kommandiert these ships, reacted however only with some delay to theseInstruction. Why it turned not immediately, is unclearly, possibly concentrated he however too much on the HMS Africa approaching from the north, which tried to forge ahead toward center.

Nelsons battle plan turned out thus as full success:Frenchmen and Spaniards saw themselves immediately complicated into an embittered close combat and could not not withstand the fast and more reliably firing British artillery. Completely as intended it did not create also the French Vorhut any longer in time, the pressed ships in the centerto hurry to assistance.

The flagship Victory was in the midst of the hardest fights. Together with the Neptune and the Temeraire encircled it the Bucentaure and the Santissima Trinidad . After the large destruction of the French flagship, which Bucentaure moved,itself the Victory on the Redoutable too. When the two ships pushed together, snipers from the Takelage of the Redoutable opened the fire on the deck of the Victory. Nelson was met by a mash ketene ball, those its shoulder and a lungperforated and in the spinal column to be remained. It was brought under deck, remained however still for a long time enough with consciousness, in order to receive the message by the overwhelming victory of the British. A little later, against 16:30 clock, he deceased on board the Victory in Captain Thomas Hardys arms, during these Nelsons last desire „Kiss ME, Hardy “fulfilled. Nelsons last words are to have been „Thank god I have performed my duty “(„thank God has I mean obligation fulfilled “).

Painting of the battle of Trafalgarof William Turner - the picture shows several sequential events of the battle at the same time: At the mast of the Victory Nelsons blows famous signal, in the background burns the French Achille and in the foreground sinks the Redoutable

now took over Collingwood the command overthe British fleet. At the end of the battle in the evening 21. October was destroyed or conquered a majority of the napoleonischen fleet; 17 ships fell as prizes into the hands of the British. The Royal Navy had 449 after official British numbersDead ones and 1241 wounded to deplore, on napoleonischer side fell 4408 sailors, 2545 were wounded. Villeneuve came together with thousands of its sailors into shank.

A devastating storm briefly after the battle pulled many of the anyway heavily damaged ships still morein: So the British boarding crew had some of it to again give and to sinking or stranding to leave, among them the Santissima up Trinidad. On the day after also the Redoutable overtook the same fate. But Collingwood knew all ships of the Royal Navyand the remaining prizes reliably into British ports bring. The remainders of the napoleonischen fleet fled to Cadiz back, where the British in subsequent combat to 4. November further four French ships to conquer knew.

The Victory was dragged first to Gibraltar;in a Brandyfass on board was Nelsons corpse. After their transfer to London it received a state funeral and became in the cathedral of pc. Paul's buried. According to a legend distributed one the Rum, which had conserved its body, onthe sailors, who invented for it the name Nelson's Blood (“Nelsons blood”).


Trafalgar Square with Nelsonsäule

the battle of Trafalgar switched of France fleet off as Rivalin of the Royal Navy finally. Napoleon was from now on no more in thatSituation to endanger the unrestricted naval supremacy of Great Britain. It had to give its invasion plans up for the British islands and concentrate with its campaigns on the European mainland. This led 1812 to its campaign against Russia, that in a disaster forits army ended.

Admiral Nelson was celebrated in Great Britain as a national hero and honoured by numerous monuments. The most well-known Monument is the Nelsonsäule (Nelson's Column) on the Trafalgar Square in the city center of London. In addition that became Trafalgar Day in memories of the victory to an unofficial holiday.

The flagship at that time of the English Armada, the “HMS Victory “, can be visited today in the Historic dock yard of the southEnglish port Portsmouth, before their coast in the summer 2005 also thoselarge 200-Jahr-Feier took place.


  • Tim Clayton and Phil Craig: Trafalgar. The men, the battle, the storm, Hodder & Stoughton, London 2004. ISBN 0340830263 (English)
  • Rene Maine: International fleet history I. From Lepanto to Trafalgar, Stalling TB,Oldenburg 1982.ISBN 3797918941
  • Sten Nadolny: Lord Nelsons largest hour, in: The time 41 (2005).
  • Alan Schom: Trafalgar. COUNT down tons of Battle 1803 - 1805, Penguin Books, London 1992. ISBN 0140111646 (English)

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