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Trafalgar Day ceremony on-board HMS Victory

24 October 2016
HMS Victory is the oldest commissioned warship in the world and is the Flagship of the Head of the Naval Service, The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones KCB ADC.

Trafalgar Day is the most important day in Victory’s calendar and on Friday 21st October a poignant ceremony was held on board to mark the 211th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, a battle which changed the course of our history as a nation and which sealed British dominion of the seas for a hundred years.

The ceremony on board Victory is also an act of remembrance rather than just a celebration of victory, remembering the loss of the country’s greatest ever naval leader and the lives of men on both sides who perished in the fierce battle, or subsequently, from their injuries.

As we honour Nelson and the heroes of Trafalgar, we also remember our fellow servicemen and women serving in today’s Royal Navy and Royal Marines.

Lieutenant Commander BJ Smith RN

The day began with the daily naval ceremony of ‘Colours’, as the White Ensign of the Royal Navy and the Union Jack are hauled up, followed shortly afterwards by the flag sequence indicating Nelson’s famous message to the Fleet that “England expects that every man will do his duty” (Nelson’s final signal, as the mighty ships of the line of the Royal Navy and the combined Franco –Spanish Fleet clashed was “Engage the enemy more closely”).  

Nelson’s tactical genius in splitting the line of enemy ships had already set the pre-conditions for victory, when only an hour into the Battle, Nelson was hit by a French sharpshooters’ musket ball as he paced Victory’s quarterdeck, directing the Battle. 

He fell, fatally wounded, on a spot marked by a lovingly polished brass plaque, which now forms the centrepiece of the Trafalgar Day Ceremony, when the Ship’s Admiral in Charge, Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock OBE, and Second Sea Lord, lays a wreath on the Plaque, in the ceremony led by the Reverend David Robinson RN.

Vice Admiral Woodcock said:  “The Battle of Trafalgar is an iconic part of the Royal Navy’s and United Kingdom’s proud Maritime history.

“Trafalgar Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on the remarkable display of courage, application of the Royal Navy’s war fighting edge, and the enduring inspiration provided by Admiral Lord Nelson.

“In doing so we remind ourselves of the continued professionalism and dedication of our sailors and marines, traits as prevalent today as they were in 1805, and just as essential today as our personnel work tirelessly to defend our Nation’s interests at home and across the globe.”

Lieutenant Commander BJ Smith, Victory’s 101st Commanding Officer is hugely proud to play a key role in the Ceremony.

He said: “Being in Command of HMS Victory this year is a huge privilege and Trafalgar Day is the most important day in our calendar.

“Having greatly admired Nelson since childhood it is a great honour to take a lead role in the Trafalgar Day Service.

“It is a poignant and significant event when we remember the courage of Nelson, our greatest naval hero but also remember the sacrifice of many hundreds of men on both sides.

“Trafalgar Day remains relevant today to the modern Royal Navy as we continue to maintain Nelson’s legacy to this maritime nation, protecting our interests across the globe. As we honour Nelson and the heroes of Trafalgar, we also remember our fellow servicemen and women serving in today’s Royal Navy and Royal Marines.”

Visitors to the historic ship can now enjoy original colours, and a new journey, experiencing HMS Victory through Nelson’s eyes. 

They will be able to walk around Nelson’s Great Cabin, access the carpenter and bosun’s store and see Captain Hardy’s Cabin displayed for the very first time as the working accommodation of a Captain. 

The length of the visitor’s route on board has also been increased by as much as 80% accessing areas previously not seen.

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