Letter: Holiday that wouldn't offend France and Spain

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your correspondent Bernard Jones (Letters, 6 May) makes a very fair point about the Government's intention to move what is now the May bank holiday to the 'dark evenings, cold, damp, leaves falling, winter on its way' of late October so as to celebrate Trafalgar Day instead. However, his reference to the destruction of the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar needs looking at.

Nelson and Collingwood actually attacked an allied Franco-Spanish fleet of 18 French and 15 Spanish ships. Of these, 17 were taken and one destroyed in the battle itself. The storm after the battle accounted for many of these, and also wrecked another ship. Three ships were retaken by the allies, who, however, lost another five ships to the British after the battle.

The French were left with five ships of those present at Trafalgar, and the Spaniards with seven. Though the actual loss in ships was smaller, the Spaniards could afford it less. It was the Spanish fleet that was destroyed on 21 October 1805, Napoleon's being merely badly damaged.

If we really have to have a bank holiday in October to celebrate a naval victory and which stands no chance of upsetting two of our European partners, we merely have to move back a day from Trafalgar Day to celebrate a genuinely Euro- victory in which the Royal Navy played a leading part.

On 20 October 1827, Sir Edward Codrington led a combined force of British, French and Russian warships into the Bay of Navarino and destroyed the combined Turkish-Egyptian fleet. This was referred to as an 'untoward event' by the Duke of Wellington, but delighted the Greeks whose independence was thereby assured.

There were allegations that French and Russian ships fired into one another to shouts of 'Remember Moscow' (it was, after all, only 15 years after the French burned that city and suffered the ordeal of retreat from it). But on the whole, it is not a bad example of European collaboration to assist an oppressed people. It has the additional benefit of not only being done under British leadership but flatly against the wishes of the British government.

Yours sincerely,

DAVID J. LYON

London, E14

6 May

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