Victory Races Temeraire for the Enemy Line, Trafalgar 21st October 1805 by Geoff Hunt.
The morning of 21st October 1805 dawned clear, under a hazy sky, with a breeze from the west-north-west so light that the sea was scarcely ruffled. At ten to six on this beautiful autumn morning, Nelsons ships sighted the French and Spanish fleet against the dawn sky. The British ships, in line ahead, were sailing slowly north and rolling in a long Atlantic swell. There were 17,000 men in the British fleet and the vast majority were relieved, if apprehensive, that their long years of waiting were about to come to an end. With Nelson in command there was never the slightest doubt of victory, only of how extensive the victory might be. As soon as it was light enough for flags to be seen, Lord Nelson hoisted the first of his signals that morning: to prepare for battle, and then, in the words of the naval signal book, to bear up and sail large on the course set by the Admiral. The Victorys bow began to swing into the path of the rising sun and soon every ship in the English fleet was altering course towards the enemy. All sail was set, and as the morning advanced and the sun grew warmer, an air that was almost festive pervaded the fleet. From rime to time, the captains hailed each other with megaphones, and wished each other an enemy ship in tow before the night. Small boats were launched and rowed from ship to ship, for in this light wind the speed of the fleet was easily overtaken by a rowers pace. And down in the gloom of the gundecks men chalked defiant slogans on their guns. The French and Spanish did not sight the British fleet until six oclock, because the light was behind them. When they did, their feelings at the sight were different. The British felt they had caught their enemy, the French and the Spanish felt they had been caught. The British never doubted Nelson would lead them to victory, but a good many of the French and Spanish suspected their own admiral of cowardice, and only hoped at the best to save their own honour in defeat. They were willing to fight, but among those who were well informed, there was not much doubt of what the result would be if a battle began. The only doubt at dawn was whether the breeze would hold so that a battle would begin that day, and end before the night. At nine oclock the enemy fleet were five miles distant. Any sombre thoughts had been dispelled by the air of gaiety. The sun was well up and the sea sparkling. The tension was relieved by the sound of bands on the poops of some of the ships playing Rule Britannia and Britons Strike Home and clearly heard in the ships that had no bands. In such light airs the great ships crept forward, rolling slowly in the Atlantic swell. Every captain made his rounds as the morning wore on, as did Nelson, and food was issued early - it seemed the battle would come at the time of their normal mid-day meal. At eleven oiclock the distance between the two fleets had closed to two miles. The English fleet was divided into two columns, Nelson and Victory leading one and Collingwood in Royal Sovereign the other. At this time it is said that Nelson was prevailed on by his staff to allow another ship ahead of the Victory to take the first shock of the attack. Nelson outwardly agreed to this, and Temeraire, Captain Harvey, was accordingly signalled to overtake. As she came up to do this Nelson himself, by one account, leaned over the quarterdeck rail and hailed her, calling out I will thank you, Captain Harvey, to keep in your proper station, which is astern of the Victory! Strictly true or not - and according to her log Temeraire was at one time within a ships length of the Victory the story provides the framework for this picture. Under very light winds, with a great ground swell running, the two leading ships of the British windward column have about 45 minutes, much of it under fire which they cannot return, before they can cut through the enemy line. Victorys original aiming-point was the great Spanish flagship the Santisima Trinidad, at 140 guns the worlds heaviest-armed warship, visible here between Victory and Temeraire. Aboard Victory the signal hoists are preparing for Nelsons celebrated signal, England expects that every man will do his duty. Away to the right Collingwoods flagship, Royal Sovereign, is leading the leeward column into action, some of the enemy ships already trying shots at her. The long, slow approach to battle gave Trafalgar a unique atmosphere. At dawn, there was the confidence on one side and the lack of it on the other: not many great battles have been fought in which the outnumbered side was perfectly sure it would win and the other was almost sure it would lose. Then, all through the forenoon, everyone waited with very little to do while the British fleet crept towards its enemy, and the French and the Spanish fleet manoeuvred helplessly in the ocean swell. The approach had taken six hours, enough time for every man to feel his secret fears and to steady himself by the thought of who and what he was fighting for. When the great shock of the battle came it must have been a relief. By nightfall a great naval victory had been won, dispelling for ever the possibility of an invasion of the British Isles by Napoleons armies. The victory that afternoon also established a supremacy at sea which was not challenged for a hundred years. The death of Nelson at the height of the battle placed the laurel leaves of immortality on his brow and he remains today Britains most enduring, and sympathetic, national hero.
|Item Code : LI0022||Victory Races Temeraire for the Enemy Line, Trafalgar 21st October 1805 by Geoff Hunt. - This Edition|
|PRINT|| Signed limited edition of 850 prints. |
| Image size 17 inches x 23 inches (43cm x 58cm)||Artist : Geoff Hunt||SOLD|
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