Admiral Nelson's Trafalgar memorandum



On 9 October 1805, 12 days before the Battle of Trafalgar, Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson sent this memorandum to his second-in-command, Admiral Collingwood, detailing his plans for engaging the allied French and Spanish fleet.

The unsigned but dated manuscript details what he called, the ‘Nelson touch’ and is the fullest exposition of his naval tactics. It formed the basis of his strategy for the Battle of Trafalgar. The essence of his plan is now regarded as a masterpiece of naval strategy. 

The fleet was to be drawn up 'in two lines of 16 ships each with an advanced squadron'. As Nelson states on the left-hand page, the intention was to 'overpower from two or three ships ahead of the Commander-in-Chief supposed to be in the Centre to the Rear of their Fleet'.

Victory came and England successfully fought off the invasion, but at a cost, including Nelson’s life. The moment of his death is recorded in the logbook for the HMS Victory, where it simply states 'Nelson died'.

This logbook is also held in the British Library.

Full title
Admiral Nelson's Trafalgar memorandum
9 October 1805
Held by
British Library
Usage terms
Public Domain
Add. MS 37953

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