The Royal Navy at War in the Age of Nelson
When: Fri 1 Feb 2013, 18.30-20.00
Where: Conference Centre, British Library
Price: £7.50 / £5 concessions
Between 1794 and 1815 the Royal Navy repeatedly crushed her enemies at sea in a period of military dominance that equals any in history.
The Lords of the Admiralty ordered that the original dispatches from seven major fleet battles – The Glorious First of June (1794), St Vincent (1797), Camperdown (1797), The Nile (1798), Copenhagen (1801), Trafalgar (1805) and San Domingo (1806) – should be gathered together and presented to the nation. These letters, written by Britain’s admirals, captains, surgeons and boatswains and sent back home in the midst of conflict, were collected in an magnificent velvet bound volume, now housed at the British Library. They include battle narratives; surgeon’s reports listing men and their wounds; accounts of the shocking scale of destruction; boatswain’s lists of lost personal items and clothing; captured enemy reports and narratives and hand-drawn maps.
Sam Willis, one of Britain’s finest naval historians, stumbled upon this little known collection by chance in 2010. The rediscovery of these first-hand reports has enabled him to revisit the key engagements in extraordinary and revelatory detail. In this talk and his new book In the Hour of Victory, the author gives a compelling and dramatic story of these naval triumphs, and lets us hear the voices of these officers at the heart of events.