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Monday, September 26, 2005
French Trafalgar

Beaverbrook seems to be grossly misinformed about the outcome of history's great Battle of Trafalgar on October 21st, 1805. Anyone else proudly subscribing to this absurd myth, and so wilfully defiant as to believe that Nelson and the English were the victors, should read this contemporary French account published in the newspaper Le Moniteur, republished on the website of the Maritime Historical Society:


NELSON KILLED IN DUEL WITH VILLENEUVE!

ENGLISH FLEET DESTROYED AT TRAFALGAR.



Head Quarters, Cadiz, Oct. 25

The operations of the Imperial Navy mirror in the Atlantic those of the grand Imperial Army in Germany.

The English fleet is annihilated - Nelson is no more. Indignant at being inactive in Port, while our brave brothers in arms were gaining laurels in Germany, Admirals Villeneuve and Gravina resolved to put to sea and give the English a fight. They were superior in number, 45 to our 33, but what is that, to men determined to fight and win. Nelson did everything to avoid a battle, he attempted to enter the Mediterranean, but we chased him, and caught him off Trafalgar. The French and Spaniards vied with each other to get into action first. Admiral's Villeneuve and Gravina were both anxious to lay their ships alongside the Victory, the English Admiral's ship. Fortune, so constant always to the Emperor, did not favour either of them - the Santissima Trinidad was the fortunate ship. In vain did the English Admiral try to avoid action but the Spanish Admiral Oliva prevented his escape, and lashed his vessel to the English flagship. The English ship was one of 186 guns; the Santissima Trinidad was but a 74. Lord Nelson adopted a new system, afraid of meeting us in the old way, in which he knows we have superiority of skill, as we proved by our victory over Sir Robert Calder. He attempted a new mode of fighting. For a short time he confused us, but what can confuse his Imperial Majesty's navy for long? We fought yard-arm to yard-arm, gun to gun. Three hours did we fight in this manner, the English began to be dismayed: they found it impossible to resist us, but our brave sailors were tired of this slow means of gaining a victory and decided to board her, their cry was "al'abordage." Their courage was irresistible. At that moment two ships, one French and one Spanish, boarded the Temeraire. The English fell back in astonishment and fright. We rushed to the flag-staff and struck their colours. All were so anxious to be the bearers of the news to their own ship, that they jumped overboard and the English ship, by this unfortunate act by our brave sailors and their allies, was able, by the assistance of two more ships that came to her assistance, to make her escape only to sink later.

Meanwhile Nelson still resisted. It was now a race to see who should first board and have the honour of taking him; French or Spanish. Two Admirals on each side disputed the honour and boarded his ship at the same moment.

Villeneuve flew on to the quarter-deck and with the usual generosity of the French, he carried a brace of pistols in his hands. He knew the Admiral had lost his arm, and could not use his sword so he offered a pistol to Nelson, they fought, and at the second shot Nelson fell. He was immediately carried below. Oliva, Gravina, and Villeneuve attended him with the accustomed French humanity. Meanwhile 15 English ships of the line had struck, four more were obliged to follow their example and another blew up. - Our victory was now complete, and we prepared to take possession of our prizes, but the elements were by this time unfavourable to us and a dreadful storm came on.

Gravina made his escape to his own ship at the beginning of it but the Commander in Chief, Villeneuve, and the Spanish Admiral, were unable to do this and remained on board the Victory. The storm was long and dreadful but our ships being so well manoeuvred, rode out the gale. The English, being so much more damaged, were driven ashore, and many of them were wrecked. At length when the gale ceased, 13 of the French & Spanish line returned safely to Cadiz; the other 20 have, no doubt, gone to some other ports and will soon be reported. We shall repair our damage as speedily as possible and then go again in pursuit of the enemy, and afford them more proof of our determination to wrest from them the Empire of the Seas, and to comply with his Imperial Majesty's demand of Ships, Colonies and Commerce.

Our loss was trifling while that of the English was immense. We have, however, to lament the absence of Admiral Villeneuve, whose courage carried him beyond the strict bounds of prudence, and, by boarding the English Admiral's ship, prevented him from returning to his own.

Having acquired so decisive a victory we wait with impatience the Emperor's order to sail to the enemies shore, destroy the rest of his navy, and thus complete the triumphant work we have so brilliantly begun.

And you all thought you knew the story of Trafalgar.

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