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Today marks 211 years since the Battle of Trafalgar, the decisive naval engagement of the Napoleonic War between Britain and France. This bittersweet victory ended the threat of a French invasion, but claimed the life of Britain’s greatest military hero of the time: Admiral Nelson

The image above, from CAM 157: Trafalgar 1805, depicts the gun crew aboard HMS Victory in the heat of battle. This extract describes what is taking place -

“Gun crews in action on the middle deck of the Victory working feverishly to deliver broadsides against the enemy. However ponderous and slow-moving, ships of the line were extremely powerful floating fortresses. The Victory’s three tiers of guns – fifty on each side, plus carronades – could throw a broadside weight of approximately half a ton of metal about a mile and a half. Billowing smoke, the deafening thunder of the guns discharging and recoiling, the shouts of the officers and the cries of the wounded all combined to create a hellish atmosphere.

A gun crew manhandles a 24-pdr (so-called because of the weight of the shot it fired) back into position with the aid of handspikes. Guns were mounted on wheeled carriages so that when they were fired the breech ropes and side tackles could absorb the violent recoil. A gun captain pulls the lanyard, setting off the flintlock and igniting the charge.”