As most people will know, Admiral Horatio Nelson died having smashed a combined Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar in 1805 and saved Britain from the danger of an invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte's armies.

Those simple facts aside, the lead-up to the battle of Trafalgar was one of the most interesting games of cat-and-mouse played during the Napoleonic Era and just how did an outnumbered British fleet manage to defeat its foes?

In Line of Fire: Trafalgar, the team from Cromwell Productions has again published a wonderful examination of an important military clash and one that landlocked French power and hamstrung Bonaparte's ambitions.

The 50-minute video uses contemporary paintings and artwork to illustrate the sorts of ships that would fight each other, uses re-enactors to add live footage of life onboard a warship and then interviews with military historians to give us all the great info about who did what to whom.

They examine the political situation, the naval balance, the strengths and weaknesses of the navies and just how naval commanders went about beating the enemy.

To my mind, the really interesting bits are about France's Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, who some branded a coward (including his emperor), while others say he would have made a good subordinate to Nelson if he had the luck of having British sailors crewing a Royal Navy warship.

Villeneuve, as the programme points out, was stuck between a rock - the unrealistic demands of Bonaparte - and a hard place, the waiting British navy led by the frighteningly brilliant Nelson.

The emperor wanted to have his navy clear the British from the English Channel and designed an elaborate landlubber's plan to get Nelson out of the way through a run for the West Indies and then returning to guard the invasion force.

Problem was that the French ships were no match for the British and Villeneuve ran for the perceived safety of Cadiz.

Line of Fire: Trafalgar's experts - including naval officers and historians Duncan Anderson, Aryck Nusbacher and David Chandler - describe, almost with relish, the horrible situation in which Villeneuve found himself.

Despite all, he sailed forth and ran in to Nelson's fleet at Trafalgar and the carnage that ensued as he was firstly out-thought and then out-fought has become part of military legend.

Line of Fire: Trafalgar is another first-class offering from Cromwell Productions and is an excellent addition to any Napoleonic or maritime library.




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