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The Trafalgar Roll: The Ships and the…

The Trafalgar Roll: The Ships and the Officers

by Robert Holden Mackenzie

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On October 21, 1805, a British fleet under the command of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson engaged a combined Spanish and French fleet off Cape Trafalgar. In the ensuing battle, Nelson achieved a singular and signature victory, routing the French and Spanish and ensuring Britain's naval dominance for almost a century. The action began with the hoisting of the signal "England Expects that Every Man Will Do His Duty" on Nelson's flagship Victory and ended with the news of Nelson's death by sniper fire. For many, this is all they know of Trafalgar. For others, names like Collingwood, Hardy, Orion, Tonnant and Victory evoke images of the two British columns "crossing the T" of the combined fleet.

Thanks to the meticulous research of Mackenzie, however, a unique human history of the battle has been preserved. What Mackenzie has done is provide brief biographies of both the British ships and as many of the British crews as he could. Looking at the ships rosters, we see how the 74-gun H.M.S. Collosus was hammered by the 74-gun Swifsure and the 74-gun Bahama, leaving 40 dead and another 60 wounded (both enemy ships ultimately struck their colors to her). But we also learn how Midshipman William Allen Herrington would survive his wounds, be captured in the Constitution's battle with the Java in the War of 1812, ultimately retire as a Vice Admiral in 1863 and die two years later at the age of 75. And we read how seemingly insignificant players, such as John Hindmarsh, third lieutenant of the 36-gun frigate Pheobe, "founded the colony of South Australia, of which he was the first governor" and was "one of the only two persons who received the naval war medal with seven clasps, the greatest number that anyone succeeded in claiming."

The biographies are not intended to entertain, they provide simple, dry recitations concerning the lives of the men who fought under the British flag that day. And yet, to some (like me) it is incredibly enthralling stuff--seeing what became of the men who experienced that remarkable day. It makes you realize how they grew to become to glue that bound together the greatest navy of the century (the number of future captains and admirals who fought that day is astounding).

I can't recommend it to everyone, but I personally find it endlessly readable. ( )
  NauticalFiction99 | Jun 29, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0870219901, Hardcover)

The Trafalgar Roll, originally published in 1913, was intended to record and honor the men who fought at Trafalgar in the same way that earlier publications had done for the soldiers at Blenheim and Waterloo. Over 1250 officers - from Nelson himself to midshipmen, surgeons, clerks, boatswains and carpenters - are listed, with the careers of the majority being chronicled in detail. In addition a brief service history of each ship, down to the little schooner Pickle, is included. A remarkable labor of research at the time it is now an invaluable reference work for anyone with a serious interest in Nelson's navy. A new introduction by the distinguished naval historian Colin White explains the significance of the work and places it in context for the modern historian and enthusiast.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:45 -0400)

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