Today is Trafalgar Day, marking the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805, in which the Royal Navy defeated the combined French and Spanish navy. In the battle, Nelson was killed, along with thousands of seamen and officers from both sides.
Last week we were revisiting Topsham, once an important port situated by the River Exe south of Exeter. Whenever we are travelling, we try to make time to look at some of the churches and churchyards that we pass. Often these have monuments dating back four or five centuries. If these were letters or other pieces of paper in a record office, they would be considered exceptionally rare, but as gravestones or church monuments, they are seldom noticed. You do not have to travel great distances, or look very far back in time, to find interesting monuments. Right on our doorstep at Topsham, we found a monument to a seaman who had fought at the Battle of Trafalgar. At the 200th anniversary of the battle in 2005, many of these Trafalgar monuments, such as this one, were restored.
Memorial to Thomas Randle, Trafalgar veteran
The inscription reads:
WHO WAS MANY YEARS
IN THE ROYAL NAVY
HAVING SERVED IN SEVERAL SHIPS
AND AS QUARTERMASTER
ON BOARD THE VICTORY
AT THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR
JAN. 2ND 1851
Thomas Randle did not originally intend to make a career in the Royal Navy. There was always a desperate need for recruits, and most men who wanted to join the navy at that time were signed up in their teenage years – some were only 10 or 11 years old. Thomas was forced into the navy by a press gang Continue reading →
START OF THE GREAT WAR
August 2014 is the centenary anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, or First World War as it was later known. Fighting that began in the Balkans in July 1914 spread through Europe, involving some nations spoiling for a fight and others unprepared for conflict. By the beginning of August the madness had reached the Channel coast, with Germany threatening both France and Belgium. This sucked Britain into the war, when the British ultimatum to Germany demanding that military operations against Belgium must cease was ignored. The ultimatum expired at midnight on Tuesday 4th August, and from then on Britain was at war.
By mid-August the first troops of the British Expeditionary Force were disembarking on the Continent. By the third week in August they had reached the frontier between Belgium and France, but like the other troops already stationed at the border their role was to delay the enemy advance as much as possible, not stop it. Soon they were involved in a measured retreat as the allied forces fell back to the outskirts of Paris in order to regroup. The German advance was halted by the Battle of the Marne, which started on 5th September, and the Germans were forced to withdraw west of Verdun. This eventually led to the establishment of the Western Front and the notoriously static trench warfare that caused so much carnage during the First World War.
EMBROIDERED SILK POSTCARDS
In Britain, from September 1914, there was a massive drive to recruit men for the army, and soldiers poured across the Channel Continue reading →