21 October each year sees parades around the UK in gentle commemoration of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, a sea battle between the Brits and the French off Cape Trafalgar, near Cadiz in Spain. In London around 400 young Sea Cadets from across the UK, aged between 10 and 18, march on behalf of the Royal Navy, lead by their mass bands. From Whitehall they march to Trafalgar Square for nautical drills before Naval dignitaries. From there they march via Admiralty Arch along the Mall to Buckingham Palace. Recognising today’s warm relationship with our French brothers and sisters the French and UK flags fly in harmony with each other. This year the glorious sunshine and blue skies made the event more memorable than ever.
Procession along The Mall to Buckingham Palace
A brief background to the Battle of Trafalgar:
In the late 1700s much of Europe was controlled by France under Napoleon while the seas were controlled by the British Fleet.
Napoleon’s plans to invade Britain required that his own ships had control of the English Channel and hence his need to eliminate the British Fleet. The French fleet lay in several ports around Europe, the great majority of ships being in Spanish Cadiz (France and Spain were allies). In September 1805 the British Fleet, under the command of Horatio Nelson, assembled off Cadiz. Late on 20 October, on the order of Napoleon, the French fleet left Cadiz sailing for the Mediterranean en route for Italy. Nelson followed and engaged them off Cape Trafalgar, some 20 miles south of Cadiz, in the morning of the 21 October. Nelson was shot and died before the battle was over but aware of his victory.
Twenty-seven British ships defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships and the British lost none. The victory confirmed the naval supremacy Britain had established during the course of the eighteenth century. However it had limited impact on Napoleon’s control of Europe which continued for 10 more years until the decisive Battle of Waterloo on Sunday, 18 June 1815, under the command of the Duke of Wellington (as also on this blog- here),