Captain Vernon Hawser studied his charts in the grand cabin of his ship, The Endurance, and wondered if he would ever have the chance to be a hero the way Lord Neslon had been.
After Vice-Admiral Calder’s disaster at Trafalgar (20 ships-of-the-line sunk or captured when he lost the weather gage to Villeneuve’s fleet) it had been up to his hero. Lord Nelson, his ship the HMS Victory, and a stripped down squadron of 11 other ships managed to prevent Napoleon’s invasion of England.
Nelson’s brilliance had saved England at the Battle of Portland, savaging Villeneuve’s fleet, and turning the invasion force back to the Continent. A great victory. And a close one too.
Hawser had a thought. What if Nelson’s ship hadn’t been damaged in the early hurricane in the Caribbean? What if he’d been in command at Trafalgar, with a much bigger fleet than at Portland. That would have been a rum thing!
His executive officer knocked and came in his cabin, “the Ambassador has arrived, Captain. Would you like to show him on board?”
“Excellent, Rob, capital idea, though I can’t say I’m thrilled that our old girl has to be the ship to take him to the Continent.”
“Had to be someone, sir, and who knows, this may be for the best. You can’t stay at war forever.”
“Hmm. I’m not sure that’s true, Rob, but I take your point. The men will enjoy a bit of rest, though, won’t they? But it seems cowardly to me, to make peace with this new crowd of vagabonds in charge in Paris,” he said, knowing his XO’s thoughts on the matter.
“Well, I think these Commune-ists are going to be much easier to deal with than Bonny ever was. Nobody could beat him, and the Commune seems fairly disorganized to me.”
“You know, Rob, I’d just had a thought when you came in. Can you imagine what might have happened if Lord Nelson been able to take control of the fleet at Trafalgar? What if, instead of having our troops forced pinned in England, we had been able to fight the French in Spain, help the Prussians at Waterloo?”
“I’d dare say we wouldn’t be in this mess, sir. But there’s no point thinking about what-if, and might-have-been. We’ve a job to do. Escort the Ambassador to Amsterdam, where he will sign the peace.”
“Of course, you’re right. And Nelson said it best at Portland: England expects that every man will do his duty. So let’s meet this Ambassador Chamberlain.”
200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar