In October we welcomed Susan and
Ivan, volunteers at the Norfolk Nelson Museum on South
Quay in Great Yarmouth. They brought a good display of
pictures relating to Nelson, with postcards and booklets
which members were able to purchase.
Susan began to tell us of Horatio
Nelson, born in 1758 at Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk.
His father was the Parson and the church is well worth a
visit. Horatio was one of 8 children, his mother died
when he was only nine. His Uncle, Maurice
Suckling, signed him up to the Merchant Navy when he was
only twelve, working on the Lighters on the Thames,
loading and unloading ships.
Although a sickly child, often
contracting fevers and suffering sea sickness, he fell
in love with the navy life. We were also told that
he had no head for heights, not a good thing back in the
1700’s. Nevertheless he had no fear. He quickly
rose through the ranks and became a captain at the age
We all smiled at the fact that Nelson
was definitely a ladies man. He fell madly deeply
in love with Mary Simpson whom he met in Quebec in 1781,
then in 1783 in St. Omer he met Elizabeth Andrews, a
Clergyman’s daughter who turned down his proposal.
He became close to the Antigua dockyard Commissioner’s
wife Mary Moutray before eventually, in 1785, meeting
Frances Nisbet whom he married in 1787 at Nevis.
Then a love interest with opera singer Adelaide
Correglia in 1796, and finally, in 1798, an affair with
the great love of his life, Emma Hamilton, that was to
last the rest of his life. They had a daughter whom they
named Horatia, but spending so much time at sea meant
that Nelson had little time with her.
Horatia was born in 1803,
married Rev. Philip Ward and went on to have 10
children, the first named Horatio Nelson. Horatia died
So who was this man, small in stature
who rose to Admiral during the Napoleonic wars? A much
loved leader among seaman of the Royal Navy, he
fought side by side with his crew. His method of command
became known as ‘the Nelson touch’. He had
courage, commitment and charisma, together with a dry
sense of humour.
In 1801 the battle of Copenhagen was
being fiercely fought. When the Commander-In-Chief
signalled the fleet to retreat. Nelson put the
telescope to his blind eye and said ‘I really did not
see the signal’. The rest of the fleet copied and
disobeyed orders. The battle continued, the British were
victorious. The saying ‘to turn a blind eye’ was born
and is still used today.
The noise of battle, of guns, smoke,
in the confines of those wooden ships must have been
terrifying. Young men lost limbs with no
anaesthesia. Nelson lost his arm at Copenhagen after
being shot in the elbow, apparently only taking 1 ½
minutes to remove a limb with little more than a
saw. Nelson would turn his ships to the enemy so
close that the guns would begin to penetrate the wooden
Nelson visited Great Yarmouth
three times during his life and said, ‘I am myself
a Norfolk man and glory in being so’, never forgetting
his roots. He often appointed Norfolk men to serve under
him. He was granted the Freedom of the Borough.
When he visited the first Naval Hospital in Yarmouth it
was recorded that, ‘He stopped at every bed and to every
man had something kind to say’.
We were left in no doubt that Lord
Horatio Nelson was a great man, a great strategist,
ruthless and brave but he also had empathy with his men
and especially with the ladies. He finally fell during
the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 on his beloved ship HMS
Victory. He was brought back to London in a barrel
full of brandy to preserve his body and was buried with
much ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
To finish, a few lines from
Nelson himself: “My greatest happiness is to serve
my gracious King and country and I am envious of glory;
for if it to be a sin to covet glory I am the most
offending soul alive”.