Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
22 October 1805


on HMS `Royal Sovereign' writes to his father the day after the battle of Trafalgar:

"This comes to tell you that I am alive and hearty except three fingers; but that's not much, it could have been my head. I told brother Tom I should like to see a greadly [sic] battle, and I have seen one, and we have peppered the Combined rarely; and for the matter of that, they fought us pretty tightish, for French and Spanish. Three of our mess are killed, and four more of us winged.

"But to tell you the truth, when it began, I wished myself at Warnborough with my plough; but when they had given us one duster, and I found myself snug and tight, I set to in good earnest, and thought no more about being killed than if I were at Murrell Green Fair, and I was presently as busy and as black as a collier.

"How my fingers got knocked overboard I don't know, but off they are, and I never missed them till I wanted them. You see, by my writing it was my left hand, so I can write and fight for my King yet. We have taken a rare parcel of ships, but the wind is so rough we cannot bring them home, else I should roll in money, so we are busy smashing 'em.

"Our dear Admiral Nelson is killed! so we have paid pretty sharply for licking 'em. I never set eyes on him, for which I am both sorry and glad; for to be sure, I should like to have seen him - but then, all the men on our ships are such soft toads, they have done nothing but blast their eyes, and cry, ever since he was killed. God bless you! chaps that fought like the devil, sit down and cry like a wench. I am still in the Royal Sovereign, but the Admiral [Collingwood] has left her, for she is like a horse without a bridle, so he is in a frigate that he may be here and there and everywhere. I saw his tears with my own eyes, when the boat hailed and said my Lord was dead."

22 October 1964

RICHARD CROSSMAN, Labour politician (pictured),

writes in his diary:

"I was appointed Minister of Housing on Saturday, October 17th. Now it is only the 22nd but, oh dear, it seems a long, long time. Already I realise the tremendous effort it requires not to be taken over by the Civil Service. My minister's room is like a padded cell, and in certain ways I am like a person who is suddenly certified a lunatic and put safely into this great, vast room, cut off from real life and surrounded by male and female trained nurses and attendants. When I am in a good mood they occasionally allow an ordinary human being to come and visit me; but they make sure that I behave right."