October 21 - 1805 - The Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of Trafalgar is the greatest naval victory in British history, certainly judged by its place in cultural memory. By the time it took place in 1805, Britain's Royal Navy had established a blockade of all French ports, limiting the trading capabilities of Napoleon Bonaparte's French Empire. What Napoleon wished was to invade Britain, meaning he would have to disrupt the blockade, and so he tried to distract the British with a combined French and Spanish fleet heading towards the Caribbean and drawing Admiral Horatio Nelson out. The British fleet would chase them back to Cadiz in Southern Spain. Off the coast of Spain, the two sides would engage. Nelson, already blind in one eye and missing an arm, took an unorthodox approach to beating the larger Franco-Spanish fleet. Nelson directed his fleet to form two columns and head directly at the enemy line, with the signal "England expects every man to do his duty." He smashed up the French flagship, engaged many ships in battle, and would even lose his life when French troops boarded his flagship, HMS Victory. Nelson's last words were "God and Country." For all of that, the Battle of Trafalgar established British naval supremacy and made Nelson a national hero.