THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR
With the resumption of hostilities in May 1803 after the Treaty of Amiens, the Royal Navy was ill prepared. It was outnumbered by the French, Dutch (and later Spanish) fleets. It was threatened by an invasion which only the Royal Navy could ever prevent. There were more than 2 years of blockade which thwarted French plans and, until Pitt had formed the third coalition against France, this was the country’s only defence.
After a series of manoeuvres, including sailing to the West Indies, the combined Franco-Spanish fleet was brought to battle. British superiority in seamanship and gunnery resulted in an overwhelming victory.
Nelson’s principal foe was not present. On that same day as Trafalgar, he was concluding the Battle of Ulm. Napoleon may have been the second greatest general that ever lived – but, when it came to naval warfare, he was hopeless.
Daniel Musson: The presenter has been fascinated with Nelson since his teens – and it is this fascination that first drew his attention to this particular subject.