Britain to beat France, again
Sunday 28 December 1997
The Government has decided to commemorate the bicentenary of the historic naval battle in October 2005, risking the sensitivities of the French and Spanish, who were roundly defeated.
John Spellar, Armed Forces Minister, said he would welcome "imaginative proposals to commemorate this significant anniversary" and an official at the Ministry of Defence said re-enactment "sounds like a cracking idea".
Given the prickly state of Anglo-Spanish relations over the future of Gibraltar, it is unlikely that the battle could be staged where it happened, only 30 miles from the Rock. But experts believe that Trafalgar, one of the world's decisive naval actions which ended the threat of Napoleon's invasion and established British naval supremacy for a century, could be re-enacted off the south coast of England.
Docklands in London has also been suggested as a suitable location, but it is unlikely that the Victorian confines of the capital's former port could accommodate anything like the 60 ships of the line that engaged each other for five hours in the afternoon of 21 October 1805, before the French and Spanish surrendered after losing 20 ships and half their 14,000 men. The rest were captured.
Nelson, who issued his famous signal "England expects that every man will do his duty" that day, knew that the battle was won before he was mortally wounded by a bullet at 4.30pm, expiring on his flagship Victory with the words "Kiss me, Hardy" that are equally immortal.
Discussions on the form of the celebrations are at an early stage, but George Robertson`, Secretary of State for Defence, has already had one meeting with MoD officials on the subject and plans are being drawn up. Several events will take place on Victory at Portsmouth, restoration of which is scheduled to be completed in time for the bicentenary.
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