Island’s contribution to Battle of Trafalgar
Six Bermudian sailors fought alongside Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.
George Cole, Christopher Baiscomb, William Johnson, Jacob Simmons, John Tucker and Francis Wellman all served under the naval commander on board six different 74-gun ships during the historic victory.
The men, who ranged in age between 26 and 60, manned “Ships of the Line” and would have been on the front line in the most important battle of the Napoleonic War.
Baiscomb, 33, served on board HMS Leviathan as a Landsman, while Johnson, 44, Cole, 33, and Tucker, 60, were all Quartergunners during the 1805 battle.
Volunteers Simmons, 52, and Wellman, 26, served as able seaman and carpenter’s crew respectively.
Recent research conducted by the UK-based 1805 Club has lifted the lid on the Bermudians’ involvement in Trafalgar for the first time, but little is known about the men’s origins or what became of them after the battle.
Dr Edward Harris, founding executive director of the National Museum, said: “This is the first time that it has been brought to the fore that Bermudians served at Trafalgar and we are very grateful for that.
“It is extremely difficult to follow each of the sailor’s individual stories before and after the battle because records just don’t exist.
“You would have a better chance with tracing officers than able seamen unfortunately, so we don’t know what happened to them after the battle.
“At that time, a number of Bermudians did join the Royal Navy because naval ships were being built here in Dockyard.
“Efforts have been made to trace the descendants of each of these men, but they have not been successful yet. But there must be relatives out there.”
The 1805 club approached Dr Harris earlier this year saying its membership had found documentation showing that several Bermudians had served at Trafalgar.
The group’s North American secretary, Captain John Rodgaard, later provided details about the Bermudian sailors to the National Museum.
Capt Rodgaard told The Royal Gazette: “The club is very keen to be able to memorialise them on the island. We have discussed the possibility of erecting a wayside marker or a plaque in their honour, possibly at the Naval Dockyard.
“I will be travelling to Bermuda in February with my wife, Dr Judy Pearson, to participate in the annual Midshipman Dale commemoration ceremony at St George’s.”
Nelson’s landmark victory at Trafalgar came against the odds; with the British ships being outnumbered 33 to 27, and ultimately ended French plans to invade England.
Remarkably the British did not lose a single ship during the battle, the French and Spanish lost 22 vessels, however Nelson was killed.
When the battle had been won news of the victory and Nelson’s death was carried to Britain by HMS Pickle; a speedy Bermudian-built schooner.
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