England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty

October 21, 20187:00 amLeave a Comment

HMS Victory, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Photo Copyright: A.Dearlove

On the 21st October 1805 Vice-Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, aboard the HMS Victory,  issued the signal “England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty” as the British fleet closed in to engage with the combined French and Spanish fleet off Cape Trafalgar, off the coast of south west Spain. After a hard fought bloody battle the Royal Navy would emerge triumphant without losing a ship with the Franco-Spanish fleet losing 22 ships. Nelson, with the details of his death becoming folklore, would be counted amongst the 430 casualties the Royal Navy took on that fateful day. On the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar we take a look at the connection Surrey has within the story of this famous naval victory.

Following the defeat of the French and Spanish navy the British fleet regrouped with the captured French and Spanish ships as prizes. Admiral Collingwood, having taken command following the death in battle of  Nelson, was responsible for sending the dispatches to the Admiralty to inform them of the victory and that Britain was no longer under threat of invasion. This first dispatch would also inform them of the death of their commander in action.

To this end the first official dispatches were entrusted to Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere, commander of His Majesty’s Schooner Pickle with orders to deliver them personally with all speed. Lapenotiere set out on the 26th October  landed in Falmouth on the 4th November 1805, after a 1000 mile sea journey.

Lapenotiere immediately  set out to the admiralty in London by ‘express post-chaise’.  A Post Chaise is a fast horse drawn carriage drawn by two to four horses, and was used to deliver mail and passengers at speed. Along a route the horses would be changed to fresh ones for a fee at inns or posting stations (Ratcliffe 2002).

The journey from Falmouth to London was completed on the 6th November. It took Lapenotiere 37 hours to cover the 271 miles, changing horses 21 times as he made his way to London. The 19th and 20th horse changes occurred at Bagshot, costing one pound twelve shillings (approx. £70.52) followed by Staines, costing one pound seventeen shillings (approx. £81.53) . The route would also pass through Egham.

The dispatches which followed Lapenotiere’s journey bore other news of the fleet including the casualty list, and took a similar route or joined the route to London.

Bagshot Jubilee lamp the plaques Photo Copyright A.Dearlove

Trafalgar way Plaque, Old Town Hall , Staines-upon-Thames. Photo Copyright: A.Dearlove

Once the dispatches containing the news of the victory reached the Admiralty, they were immediately sent out to the King and the Prime Minister, with special editions of the nation’s newspaper being published the same day.

The historic route from Falmouth to London would be inaugurated as the Trafalgar Way on the 200th anniversary of the battle in 2005. This was marked through a series of plaques being unveiled along the route, at the points where the horses were changed.

A New Trafalgar Dispatch was also created with copies being presented, to the counties Lt Lapenotiere passed through, via a recreation of his journey by post-chaise.

Trafalgar Way plaque, Jubilee Lamp, Bagshot Photo Copyright A.Dearlove

For Further Information





Ratcliffe, Edward 2002, Early Horse Drawn Transport, Transports of Delight How Jane Austen’s Characters Got Around http://www.kevinstatham.co.uk/history/horsetransport/index.htm Accessed 19/10/2018

 New Trafalgar Despatch https://www.nmrn-portsmouth.org.uk/new-trafalgar-dispatch, National Museum of the Royal Navy, Porthsmoth Accessed 19/10/2018

Currency Converter 1270-2017  http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency-converter, The National Archives Accessed 19/10/2018

Written by HER Assistant

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