Friday, January 29, 2010

Booty: D*U*T*Y

For many in Britain it was the happiest and the saddest of days - the best of times and the worst of times if you will allow. October 21st, 1805 was the day that Britain thoroughly and finally crushed Napoleon's naval might at the Battle of Trafalgar. It was also the day that Horatio Admiral Lord Nelson was shot by a French sniper and died on board his flag ship, Victory. The picture above, by the painter Arthur William Devis, shows the martyr in his death throes. England mourned.

Earlier in the day, however, something else of interest occurred aboard Victory. This relates to our post yesterday about flags, colors and pendants. In 1800, Rear-Admiral Home Popham (who followed the general Royal Navy trend by having a very cool name), standardized and expanded the system of telegraph flags for the Royal Navy. This form of communication was used extensively by British ships during the Napoleonic Wars, and Trafalgar was no exception. Before the battle, Nelson ordered the following signal to be sent to his fleet:

England expects that every man shall do his d*u*t*y.

Of course she does. The interesting point here is that Popham, who devised such intricate combinations of flags and colors that 3,000 words could be spelled out, neglected to include "duty" in the lexicon. Duty! Seriously, if there is anything the Royal Navy in the great age of sail was based on - besides rum - it was duty. What were you thinking, Sir Popham?

So, as you can see, Nelson's telegraph Lieutenant had to spell out the word.

The effect - as with everything Nelson touched - was inspiring and the British won the day. Nelson died and his body was packed into a barrel of rum for the voyage home. The rest is history, as they say.

Allow me to propose, Brethren, that we raise a mug of Nelson's blood (that's right - rum) this Friday evening to d*u*t*y and to Victory. Huzzah!


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! I could use a mug of Nelson's blood right about now... Not a good day today. Hopefully the weekend will be better. Huzzah, indeed.

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! Unfortunately, we are all at some time or other required to do our d*u*t*y, aren't we?