Book Review:
Trafalgar 1805, Nelson's Crowning Victory

By Gregory Fremont-Barnes
Artwork by Christa Hook


It is now 200 years since one of the most mighty - and decisive - sea battle of history, the epic struggle between Britain's Royal Navy and the combined fleets of France and Spain at Trafalgar.

On October 21, 1805, Admiral Lord Nelson and 27 ships attacked and defeated the enemy fleet under Admiral Villeneuve off Spain's Cape Trafalgar and destroyed them as a fighting entity.

The victory, which cost Britain some 500 men killed and 1200 wounded, sank or captured 18 of the 33 enemy vessels. Losses from the French and Spanish were some 4300 men killed, 2000 wounded and 7000 taken prisoner.

The loss for Britain was not minor, however, as Lord Nelson was mortally wounded and died soon after being told of the result His death darkened the mood of celebration.

In Trafalgar 1805, Nelson's Crowning Victory author Gregory Fremont-Barnes sets out in very readable and concise detail the origins of the campaign that led to Trafalgar, the navies involved, the leading commanders, how it unfolded, the battle itself and what happened afterwards.

There are orders of battle with the ships, their captains, the number of guns and the numbers killed and wounded. For the French and Spanish there is also a column on what happened to the vessel.

Not only is Fremont-Barnes' narrative clear and interesting, it is interspersed with first-hand accounts from the combatants from all sides.

The maps and images in Trafalgar 1805, Nelson's Crowning Victory are excellent. There are strategic views of how Nelson tracked the enemy down after a long sea chase to the West Indies and back, as well as ship positions during Trafalgar and time snapshots of particular ships.

The illustrations by Christa Hook are evocative battle scenes seeing the action from the main deck, the top of the mizzen mast and below in the carnage and noise of the gun decks.

Trafalgar 1805, Nelson's Crowning Victory is a terrific look at the crucial battle that gave Britain the world's naval waterlanes on which to begin its empire-building expansion.

- Richard Moore


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