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Monday, December 10, 2012

Letter from the Battle of Trafalgar

'They won't send their fleets out again in a hurry'
Sailmaker Robert Hope from the fighting Temeraire, after the Battle of Trafalgar.

Hope, a sailmaker, was part of the crew of the gunship HMS Temeraire, which went to the aid of Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory at the height of the fighting.

The two-page letter, which resurfaced days before the 205th anniversary of Trafalgar today, has been hailed as a highly significant find because it gives an ordinary seaman’s view of the famous battle.

Quintin Colville, curator of naval history at the National Maritime Museum, which has purchased the letter from Hope’s descendants for an undisclosed sum, said: ‘There are numerous accounts of Trafalgar written by officers but this is a very rare example of a voice from the lower decks.’

Hope wrote the letter to his brother John, a carpenter, from Ashford, Kent, a fortnight after the battle. At the time, his ship was moored at Portsmouth.

He gives a vivid account of the conflict, telling how his 98-gun ship engaged the Santisima Trinadada, a Spanish four-decker, for 45 minutes, while they were alongside Nelson’s Victory, and before they came under heavy attack.

‘Five more of the enemy’s ships came upon us and engage us upon every quarter, for one hour and 16 minutes,’ wrote Hope, whose job on the Temeraire would have involved joining a gun crew for the battle, as well as his primary role of repairing sails.

When one struck but being so closely engaged that we could not take possession of her at that time, two more seemed to be quite satisfied with what they had got so sheered of, but the other two, was determined to board us.


HM Temeraire
Portsmouth Nov 4th 1805

Dear Brother
This is with my love to you hopeing
It will find you in good health As I bless god
I am at present, what do you think of us Lads
Of the Sea now, I think they wont send their fleets
Out Again in a hurry, I suppose you know more
About the Action than I can tell you, the first
Ship that we Engaged was the Santa Trinadada
The Spanish four Decker, we engage her three
Quarters of an hour when the Victory fell
Along side of him we dropt a Stern when five
More of the Enemy’s Ships came upon us and
Engage us upon every Quarter, for one hour and
Sixteen Minutes, when one Struck but being so
Closely Engaged that we could not take possession
Of her at that time, two more Seemed to be quite
Satisfied wh [error] with what they had got so Sheered
Of, But the Other two, was determined to Board
Us, So with that Intent. one Dropt on our Starboard
Side, Called the La Fue and other dropt on our
Larboard Side called Le Doubtable, they Kept
A Very hot fire for some time But we Soon

Page 2
Cooled them for In the height of the smoke
Our, men from the upper decks Boarded them
Both at the same time, And soon Carried the
Day, at this time, at this time [error] I Counted when
Smoke Cleared away Seventeen Prizes and one
All on fire, But we have only got four Into
Gibraltar, for a Gale of wind Came on the day
following that we was Obliged to Scuttle them
for they was so very leaky, Taken & Destroyed

In twenty five, we had forty three Killed
And Eighty five wounded, And twenty Seven
Drowned In the Prizes, I sent a letter to my
Father from the Rock, So when you receive
this Please to let him know that I am arrived
In England for I long very much to hear
from him. And Give my love to my Sister
and your Answer upon the receipt of this will
Oblige your loveing Brother
Robert Hope

Dr Colville said Hope is almost certainly referring to the Redoubtable when he says ‘Le Doubtable’.
It was a musket ball fired from the Redoubtable that killed Nelson.

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