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Friday, October 21, 2005
1140, Nelson Conducts Brilliant Feint Manoeuvre

MORNING OF TRAFALGAR, 200 YRS AGO ON THE MINUTE:

-- Nelson signals HMS Africa:

MAKE ALL SAIL POSSIBLE

WITH SAFETY TO THE MASTS


(Africa was out of the main line of battle and sailing down from the NW)
-- Nelson signals Vice Admiral Collingwood heading the Lee Column:

I INTEND TO GO THRU

THE ENEMY’S LINE TO PREVENT

THEM GETTING INTO CADIZ


Note to readers: Here Nelson conducts a brilliant feint. He intended to take his column and break through the middle of the French/Spanish fleets, but he knew that the vanguard of their fleet (their leading ships) represented a quite lethal threat to his own if they tacked in time and brought their broadsides to bear. He therefore made a clear signal to Collingwood that he was turning to cut off their leading ships heading north. This caused those French Sail of the Line not to immediately tack but to keep their broadsides pointing at Nelson’s column as it appeared that they intended to close. But at the last moment, Nelson tacked again away from their van and headed back to break through their middle. By doing this, he prevented roughly a third of their combined fleets (which were superior in number) from engaging in the crucial part of the battle, while the concentration of British ships pummeled the remaining two-thirds into submission. By the time the French van knew what was up and could respond, it was too late to save the day.

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