Admiral Lord Nelson’s Battle of Trafalgar Memorandum


On 9 October 1805, twelve days before the Battle of Trafalgar, naval officer Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) sent a memorandum to his second-in-command, Admiral Collingwood, listing his plans for engaging the combined enemy fleets of the French and Spanish navies during the War of the Third Coalition. This war was just one stage of the wider Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) which saw the French Empire battle against various European powers.

The document detailed the basis of Nelson’s tactics for the Battle of Trafalgar, now widely regarded as a masterpiece of naval strategy.

Nelson declared that the British fleet was to be drawn up 'in two lines of 16 ships each with an advanced squadron'. 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'.

Leading the battle from HMS Victory, Nelson’s strategy secured a British victory, albeit at the cost of his life.  The logbook which records the moment of Nelson’s death is also held at the British Library and simply states  'Nelson died' when he was shot by a French musketeer during the battle.

Full title:
Admiral Lord Nelson’s Battle of Trafalgar Memorandum
9 October 1805
Letter / Manuscript
Horatio Nelson
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 37953

Related articles

Historical texts

Article by:
The British Library

Explore the documents that mark crucial events in the world's political and social history.

Related collection items