Trafalgar Day – 21st October

Trafalgar Day marks the day on which Britain triumphed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It is the most important day in the calendar of HMS Victory.

Each year on the 21st October, a ceremony is held onboard Victory marking the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, a battle which defined the Age of Sail and which sealed British dominion of the seas for a hundred years. 

Britain’s status as a nation on the world stage still owes much to the courage and skill of the crews of the British ships and their great leader, Admiral Horatio Nelson, on that momentous day off Cape Trafalgar.

The ceremony onboard HMS Victory is an act of remembrance rather than just a celebration of victory, remembering the loss of the country’s greatest ever naval leader and the lives of men on both sides who perished in the fierce battle, or subsequently, from their injuries.

The day starts with the daily naval ceremony of ‘Colours’, as the White Ensign of the Royal Navy and the Union Flag is hauled up, followed shortly afterwards by the flag sequence indicating Nelson’s famous message to the Fleet that, “England expects that every man will do his duty.”

Trafalgar day was first celebrated in Trafalgar Square but is widely commemorated by parades, dinners, lunches and other events held in honour of the Battle of Trafalgar.

The ship’s ceremony takes place on the day itself – while London’s parade is on the closest Sunday, involving some 400 Sea Cadets from the UK, who march on behalf of the Royal Navy – a tradition that spans more than a century.

Sea Cadets during the annual parade

The overwhelming victory over the French and Spanish fleet off Cape Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 gave the Royal Navy its most famous triumph and confirmed a long tradition of naval supremacy. The battle also immortalised the memory of  Horatio Nelson, who was shot and died of his wounds at the moment of his greatest victory. He fell, fatally wounded, on the spot now marked by a lovingly polished brass plaque, which forms the centrepiece of the Trafalgar Day Ceremony.

HMS Victory, the most famous ship in the history of the Royal Navy, is preserved at Portsmouth.
It is the oldest commissioned warship in the world and attracts around 350,000 visitors per year in her role as a museum ship.

Raise a glass every 21st October to remember all those brave men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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