Admiral Nelson is one of the greatest war heroes in British history. His strategic vision and tactical flexibility have been passed in the centuries since his death. Nelson had an innate ability to inspire his men to achieve beyond what they thought possible. As admiral Nelson said in one of his famous quotes, ”Duty is the great business of a sea officer;all private considerations must give way to it, however painful it may be”.
Admiral Nelson was born on 29th September 1758 at Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk. He joined HMS Raisonnable when he was only twelve years old. Ironically, from the very beginning of his career in Royal Navy as Midshipman, Lord Nelson discovered that he suffered from seasickness.
After he served in Arctic expedition and spent almost three years in East Indies, upon his return in England, he was made acting Lieutenant of HMS Worcesteron 26th September 1776, and shortly after he was appointed Lieutenant of HMS Lowestoft on the 10th April 1777. Nelson rapidly rose through the ranks achieving the rank of captain by the time he was twenty.
Times of great victories
He distinguished himself as a great strategist for the first time, during the battle of Cape St. Vincent(1797), one of the opening battles of The Anglo-Spanish War(1796-1808). In this battle British fleet was outnumbered nearly two-to-one. The victory in battle of Cape St. Vincent showed the strong personality of Nelson, who decided to disobey unrealistic official orders for the sake of his team. Admiral Nelson proved his heroism, when he lost his right arm after the attack on Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
In 1798, rear admiral Nelson attacked and destroyed French fleet at anchor in Aboukir Bay(the role of the French fleet was to support Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt. Only two French ships survived the attack.
The next great victory of Admiral Nelson was against Danish fleet, in the battle of Copenhagen. The immediate effect of the battle was the dissolution of French leaning League of Armed Neutrality (Denmark, Russia, Prussia and Sweden).
Admiral Nelson:“ENGLAND CONFIDES THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY”
In 1805, Admiral Nelson achieved one of the greatest victories in British naval history, in the battle of Trafalgar, fought by Royal Navy against the combined fleet of the French and Spanish navies. Nelson proved once again his military genius when he decided to ignore the naval tactical orthodoxy which involved engaging an enemy fleet in a single line of battle . Before the beginning of the battle, admiral Nelson encouraged his seamen by saying that:“ENGLAND CONFIDES THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY”During battle, Nelson cut through the Spanish fleet in two places allowing superior British gunnery, seamanship and endurance to overwhelm the French fleet. The victory in the battle of Trafalgar confirmed the naval supremacy of Royal Navy.
Nelson was mortally wounded by a French marine from the warship Redoutable.The bullet entered his left shoulder and pierced the lung, before passing through his spine.
Legacy of Admiral Nelson
Death of Admiral Nelson saddened the entire British population. King George III said in tears:“We do not know whether we should mourn or rejoice. The country has gained the most splendid and decisive Victory that has ever graced the naval annals of England;but it has been dearly purchased”.
The heroic figure of Admiral Nelson continued to influence generations of British, especially during times of crisis in Britain. His command style (“Nelson Touch”) has been sought by subsequent British leaders. Nelson was a source of inspiration for Winston Churchill during Second World War. The most famous memorial to Nelson is Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. Nelson is frequently depicted in arts and literature.
The dispatches and letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, https://archive.org/details/dispatchesandle00nicogoog
Angus Konstam, Horatio Nelson:Leadership-Strategy – Conflict, Ed. Osprey Publishing, Oxford, 2011.