Gibraltar 2005

The memorial Cemetary

The memorial Cemetary [78.9kb]

When Jeanne, my daughter, and I were planning a short holiday to celebrate my retirement we chose Gibraltar. It was not too far and we had not been there before. Its connection with Nelson had not crossed my mind, I had been too focused on his time in Merton.

But, lo and behold, there in the hotel's reception was a booklet with information on how 'The Anniversary' was to be commemorated.

Gibraltar is perhaps an ideal place to remember great battles, for its history over the last 13centuries has been one of continual conflict. the rock itself is honeycombed with tunnels built by one conqueror after another to house cannons with which to repel the next would be conqueror.

It is now British and is determined to stay British, in spite of pressure from Spain. So Gibraltar continues its history of conflict. And indeed it was British when the Victory limped into dock after the Battle of Trafalgar (in case you had forgotten that bit).

October 21st, the noise of the battle could be heard in Ronda(Spain) but not in Gibraltar. It was Wednesday before news arrived. Collingwood's letter to General Fox arrived via a civilian market ship. Written on the 22nd it read:


Yesterday a Battle was fought by His Majesty's Fleet...... and a Victory gained which will stand recorded as one of the most brilliant and decisive that ever distinguished the British Navy.....Our loss has been great in men; but what is irreparable , and cause of Universal Lamentation, is the death of the Noble Commander-in-Chief who died in the arms of Victory.

The gravestone of Lt William Forster, in the cemetery

The gravestone of Lt William Forster, in the cemetery [68.1kb]

Then a great storm arose off Trafalgar and many prize ships were lost, Collingwood estimated a loss of four million pounds. Over the next few days damaged British ships began to limp back to Gibraltar, towing or escorting prize ships that had survived the storm.

It was Monday 28th October before the Victory arrived, under tow, having lost her masts.

On board was the body of Lord Nelson in a cask of brandy.

The Lord Nelson Pub

The Lord Nelson Pub [55.1kb]

There is a story that the cask was taken ashore and placed in what is now called the Nelson Room in St Vincent House, Rosia Bay. This story is probably apocryphal as it is unlikely the sailors would have allowed the body to be removed. What is more believable is that there was a near mutiny on board when it was suggested that another ship carry Nelson's body home.

It was feared that the Victory already forty years old would take too long to make seaworthy. The dockyard crew worked a miracle and all her crew except five who were too badly wounded rejoined their ship to carry the Admiral's body back to Britain.

All except two of the wounded sailors treated on Gibraltar recovered. The two who didn't are buried in the Trafalgar Cemetery. Every October 21st a remembrance service is held in the Cemetery.

As in Britain, Nelson is remembered in Public House names.

Meg Thomas, August 2005

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