Thursday, September 02, 2010

Admiral Lord Nelson's Nurse:

Derek Andrews

Most countries with a varied and often turbulent history have people who are revered as heroes or heroines or icons and are remembered for their deeds and achievements to this day. If they're lucky they get featured on postage stamps and the back of a Pound note, a Euro, Rouble or Lira and Deutschmark. I believe the U.S. has a rather good image of Nicholas Cage on its Dollar Bills.

Trying not to go off topic too quickly but "Heroes and Heroines" is a great favorite of mine sung by the incomparable Mary Chapin Carpenter. I can't find a You Tube video of it but have given a link to the words.

Anyhow, America has any number, George Washington, Meriwether Lewis, President Lincoln to name just three. Italy has Garibaldi, France has Napoleon, Germany has Bach, Handel, Wagner ( and that's just the Bayern Munchen F.C. midfield !!).

Plenty too from England. Wellington, Queen Victoria, William Wilberforce and many more including Vice-Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson. He's the guy who stands proud on his towering column in London's Trafalgar Square. Trafalgar of course being the sea-battle he is best known for.

Much loved by his men and fellow officers, he fought many a battle. After The American War of Independence, he fought in the French Revolutionary Wars in the Mediterranean, then was wounded, losing an arm at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. By then he had already lost one eye.

He commanded the fleet when Britain secured arguably its greatest ever naval victory (the Armada of Phillip II of Spain being decimated by the Royal Navy and Mother Nature in 1588 was also a vital naval victoory, of course.) , when on October 21st 1805 he defeated the Franco-Spanish fleet from his flagship "Victory". Prior to the battle he had sent his signal "England expects every man to do his duty". Defeat of the enemy was soured by his death.

A musket bullet fired from the mizzentop of the French ship "Redoutable" struck Nelson in the left shoulder, passed through his spine at the sixth and seventh thoracic vertebrae, and lodged two inches below his right scapula in the muscles of his back. Nelson exclaimed, "They finally succeeded, I am dead." He was carried below decks.

He knew he was done for but as they carried him gently to his cabin, he was still passing on advice and orders, also covering his face with a handkerchief so his men would not see the pain he was suffering.

The loss of Nelson was a blow to two generations of Royal Navy Officers, cutting them to the quick as well as inspiring them for another century and a half, and in no small way helping to ensure that “Britannia Ruled the Waves” over that time.  It was, and is, a source of tremendous national pride that Lord Nelson went to his grave in the manner of his own signal to the fleet as combat was joined at Trafalgar.  He did his duty, and damn the cost.

His body was immersed in a vat of brandy for preservation and when the ship docked at Gibraltar, it was placed in a proper coffin and brought back to England where he was accorded a State Funeral.

These days "Victory" is in dry-dock at Portsmouth, England's major naval port and is a huge tourist attraction. A brass plaque on the deck marks where he fell just over 200 years ago.


(America was 29 years old at the time !)

Recently the diaries of a nurse Elizabeth Wynne who attended Lord Nelson many times throughout his career have been discovered and a grant has been given to a historian at Bath Spa University to  enable a biography of her to be written.

She sounds an absolutely fascinating character as you can see from this linked article and I shall look forward to reading of her life. Damned sight more interesting than some politicians memoirs!!

Article links:


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