Note that the term “Battle of Trafalgar” comes last in this title. Cannon fire, dismasted ships, exploding magazines and decks awash with blood don’t fill page one. It’s not like that at all.
According to Nicolson, the victor of Trafalgar is the result of so many things. A British tradition of seamanship wherein new sailors press-ganged into the navy are actually trained to become sailors; a structure of command where officers are promoted from the rank after demonstrating their competence at a wide variety of seamanship skills; a massive ongoing expenditure of revenue by the British government to build, and even more costly, to maintain this fleet. Britain saw a strong navy as synonymous with a strong economy, vibrant, dependent on trade with many other parts of the globe. Trade, that in part, provided the British navy with a vast supply of war materiel.
Add to that the attitude that all his majesties sailors will do their best. They will all fight to exterminate the enemy and you have a potent brew for success.
The French fleet, on the other hand, has suffered from neglect. The French Revolution devalued the expertise of ships’ captains --- they had to kow-tow to the revolutions cadres. As a result, about one third of the navy’s officers had gone missing. The navy was inadequately provisioned: the men had not been paid. They wore rags for clothes. Their sailors were poorly trained. And instead of growing their fleet, the French fleet was actually contracting as a result of the lack of maintenance. Initiative was discouraged. Battle plans were kept secret till the last possible moment. Micromanagement was the order of the day. Ultimately, Napoleon, that land animals simply did not value a navy. As he saw it, the war was to be won by armies, on land.
Circumstances among the Spanish fleet were even worse. Promotion in rank had nothing to do with competence but was determined entirely by rank in the nobility. Some leading admirals, in fact, never even set foot aboard their ships.
So there is the prelude to the Battle of Trafalgar.
How does the Battle go? Just as it has in any other Battle of Trafalgar.
But then I’ll leave you to read it for yourself, if you can make it to the end. Although I'm and avid reader of History, this book is simply to dense and unreadable to hold my interest. I gave it a good try. But after page 125 it became time to man the lifeboats.
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