Two hundred years ago to this very day (about tea time), a weedy little bugger who couldn't clap his hands together or really use binoculars won one of the biggest history-changing battles in um...history.
And he did it through the subtle and cunning tactic of charging headlong into the larger enemy fleet, breaking up their line of battle and turning the engagement into a bunch of head-butting, snarling, ball-kicking, splinter-ripping, bone-smashing, cursing and stabbing, hot lead and cold steel melees. It was a very very nasty and bloody shitfight. The sand they spread below decks to sop up the blood quickly turned into sticky red clay.
But when the smoke finally cleared, when the blood, bone and flesh was washed off the decks and when the screaming and swearing wound down, Boney was left with only five seaworthy vessels out of the 33 big blustering ships of the line he sent in to take down the Royal Navy. Once again the invasion of England had to be postponed. (Drake and Downing look up from the back nine at Rye and nod.)
And the Brits were left with the slight, wispy blond, rather fey and very crippled son of a country parson, one Horatio Nelson, dying from a musket-ball shattered chest in the Captain's cabin of HMS Victory - dying just as he became the absolute dead set legend who completely and utterly won one of the all time great battles ever. And he did so by being far more bold and nasty with it than his opposite numbers could imagine. Not bad for a cunning, charismatic, ambitious and ruthless Norfolk lad.
Yes, today's Trafalgar Day. Hurrah! Hurrah!
Since it's impractical to light a bonfire on a blog, I offer instead some RN communications sent in somewhat of the same spirit as Nelson's "Engage the enemy more closely" ....
RN sub signal to surface fleet CO during the Munich Crisis after eyeing up a large, low in the water and slow German freighter passing nearby – "Request permission to start the war".
Signal to RN ship in December 1941 - "Commence hostilities with Japan."
Response - "Request permission to finish breakfast first."
RN sub to surface escort - "In case of attack by heavy surface vessels I will attempt to stay on the surface"
Surface escort - "So will I."
Admiralty signal - "Norwegian coast defence ships Eidsvold and Norge may be in German hands. You alone can judge whether in these circumstances attack should be made. We shall support whatever decision you take."
Lone RN destroyer's response - "Am going in."
From the memoirs of Capt Jack Broome RN, WWII convoy commander:
"On this occasion he rounded off the meal chewing up the Army Padre's spectacles."
Message painted by the RN on captured German torpedo: "I missed you. A. Hitler".
Extract from RN Fitness Report - "I object to the fact that this Medical Officer has used my ship to carry his genitals from port to port, and the other members of the Wardroom to carry him from bar to bar."
Dolphin (submarine) Code signal No. 119 – "Whilst I have the necessary fuel, skill and experience for the task you suggest, I do not hunger for glory. Please feel free to give it to someone else. I won't be upset."
And although this one's from a US Admiral, it has very much the Nelsonian touch - "The war with Japan will end at 1200 of 15th August. It is likely that kamikazes will attack the fleet after this time as a final fling. Any ex-enemy aircraft attacking the fleet is to be shot down in a friendly manner."
RN escort frigate signal to wandering WWII convoy in mid-Atlantic fog - "Join me. Where am I?"
So why not light a bonfire on Trafalgar Day anyway? Or at least a flaming zambucca or a good cigar. Fire it up for the seagoing hoons and commissioned pirates that blasted the shit out of the other poor bloody bastards so you wouldn't have to read this post in French, Spanish, German or French.