Honour - TRAFALGAR 1805

Date - 21-October
Type - Fleet or Squadron Actions
Conflict - Napoleonic War; 1803-15

Description The action took place off Cape Trafalgar on the south west coast of Spain.

The French planned to invade Britain with her Grand Army. But before this could take place they had to secure the Straits of Dover and the Western approaches to the English Channel.

To assemble the ships required to attempt this, required a series of moves. First the British blockade of Toulon was broken followed by the blockades of Cartagena and Cadiz. The resulting French/Spanish Fleet would move north to join with ships based at French Atlantic ports. Resulting in an attempt to defeat the Royal Navy in the English Channel obtain naval supremacy in the Strait of Dover and allow the transports to begin the invasion.

When only a few Spanish ships joined the Fleet at Cadiz, the French sailed to the West Indies to collect more ships and sailed back to European waters to continue the plan.

This detour had been followed by the British under Nelson and when the Fleets met at Trafalgar he had a battle plan ready. This was for the British Fleet to sail in two columns to break through the French line in two places. However the leading ships in each column would receive the full force of the French gunfire during the approach.

The plan worked and while Nelson was killed, the French/Spanish lost 18 ships with 17 taken as prizes, and one having blown up.

The night after the battle a storm caused five damaged prizes to sunk, and only four managed to make Gibraltar. The rest were run ashore or re-captured. 

But the result was that the French were unable to challenge the Royal Navy in the immediate future and the threat of invasion ended. It also meant that for the next ten years Britain had naval dominance in the English Channel, Atlantic Ports and Mediterranean.


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This page last edited - 20 November, 2012.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.