Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lord Horatio Nelson : Act of Courage

Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) had been through it all. He had lost his right eye in the siege of Calvi and his arms in battele of Tenerife. He had defeated the Spanish at Cape St . Vincent in 1797 and had routed Napoleons Egyptian campaign by defeating his navy at the battle of the Nile on the following year. But none of the triumphs prepared him for the problems he faced from his own colleagues in the British Navy as they prepared to go to war against Denmark in February 1801.

Nelson, England's most glorious war hero , was the obvious choice to lead the fleet . Instead the admiralty choosen Sir Hyde Parker, with Nelson second in command. This war was a delicate bussiness; it was intended to force the disobedient Denmark to comply with a British embargo on the shipping of the military goods to france. The British navy at that time considered Parker as more stabile, older officer that would be better to lead the mission than Nelson.

Nevertheless Nelson took the assignment, but he saw a trouble ahead. He knew that time was essential. The faster British navy launched its fleet to attack the better. The Danes ( Denmark people) would have insufficient time to established their coastal defenses. The British fleet was ready to sail but Parker was a man with details...,everything must be in order. It wasnt his style to hurry . Nelson hated this unnecessary delay and cant wait to see action. Nelson reviewed intelligence reports, studied map and finally came up with the detailed plans for attacking Danes. He wrote letters to Parker urging him to seize an initiative for an early attack but Parker ignored him.

At Last, on March 11 , The British fleet set sail. Instead heading to Copenhagen , Parker harboured north of the city and called a meeting to his captains. He explained according to intelligence reports the Danes has prepared well built defense for Copenhagen. Danes fleet patrol from the north and south and their mobile artillery batteries could blast english ships to pieces. How could they win without suffering terrible loss to Danes fleet. To makes things seemed worse Parker was also receiving reports from most of the ship of navigators that the waters in Copenhagen were quite treacherous, places of sandbars and the winds would often changing side unpredictly.Navigating under bombardment in this waters would be dangerous.With all of these difficulties he offeres perhaps it was best to wait for Danes to leave harbor and to fight in the open sea.

Nelson can no longer be quiet.Finally he struck into the conversation "No war" he said "had ever been won by waiting". For him the Danish defenses looked very strong only for children at war. But he had worked out the strategy weeks earlier :he would attack from south , the easier approach, while Parker and a reserve force would stay to the city north . Nelason would use his mobility to take out the Danish Artillery batteries. He had studied the maps sandbars were no threat . aggresive action was more important. Nelson speech burned the captains motivations. He was still respected as Englands most respected leaders and his performance was catching . Even Sir Hyde Parker was impressed , and the plan was approved.

The next morning Nelson;s line of ship advanced on Copenhagen and the battle began. The Danish guns, firing British ship at close range and bring casualities on british side . Nelson lead from the deck of this main ship , HMS Elephant , urging his men to keep on pushing forward. He was in an excited, almost ecstatic state. A shot nearly killed him ."It is a warm work, and this day maybe the last to any of us at any moment. but marked you, i would not be elsewhere for thousands" . He wanted to there, in the heat of the battlefield.

Parker followed the situation development from the north. Now he regretted that he has agreed Nelson's plan. A defeat in here could ruin his career and he had seen enough. After four hours of fighting and bombardment the fleet had taken hard hits and gained no advance. Nelson still seemed to keep on pushing forward. And then Parker decided to hoist the flag number 39. A flag signal to retreat. Every ship that noticed must raised the same flag and pass the message to another ship. Once the flag is raised it signals that the attack was over ,British ships must was an order. The battle was over.

But a different scene happens on HMS Elephant ,Nelson's ship . A lieutenant told Nelson about the Flag no 39 . But Nelson ignored it. Instead he called his officers to raise flag no 16 which means " Attack enemy more closely". A few minutes later with Nelson flag's no 16 still flapping in the air. he said " You know men, i have only one eye - i have a right to be blind sometimes!!"And raising his telescoped to his blind eyes he remarked " i really couldnt see the signal.

Torn beetwen obeying Parker and obeying Nelson , the fleet captains chose Nelson . They would risk their careers along with his. But soon the danish defenses beginning to crack , some of british ships landed onshore. and the harbor surrendered and the Artilery guns began to slow their fires. Less than an hour from Parkers ordered to withdraw.
The next day Parker congratulated Nelson for the victory. He didnt mentioned nelson's disobedience. he hopes that his lack of courage would quietly be forgotten.


British navy choice on Parker, a man who was careful and methodical . such men may seem calm even strong, in times of peace.But they are hiding weakness, they think carefully and so afraid of making mistakes.

Lord Nelson instead operate accordingly to the opposite principal. Even though he is handicapped but he enter the battle with fierce determination. Other Sea lords are worrying about wind, enemy formation . but Nelson concentrate on his well planned strategy and his intuition to keep on pushing to victory .He sense that enemy is beginning to crumble. In the end his intuition was right.

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