Britain to hold grand Trafalgar bicentenary

14th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, June 14 (AFP) - British officials unveiled plans Tuesday for spectacular celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, where Admiral Horatio Nelson's fleet routed the French and Spanish navies.

LONDON, June 14 (AFP) - British officials unveiled plans Tuesday for spectacular celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, where Admiral Horatio Nelson's fleet routed the French and Spanish navies.  

A six-day festival is planned for Portsmouth, home of the British Royal Navy on the southern coast of England, starting on June 28 with a huge flotilla gathering offshore before a state-of-the-art Nelson-era battle recreation using some 30 tall ships.  

Queen Elizabeth II will review the British fleet for the first time since 1977 and thousands of ships from countries as far afield as South Africa, Australia, Japan and India will take part.  

The epic Battle of Trafalgar, off the southern coast of Spain, finished the threat of invasion by emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's France and established British naval supremacy for the next century.  

Nelson, killed in action, "set out to try and beat the hell out of the French and the Spanish", said Peter Workman, chairman of the International Festival of the Sea.   Britain did not lose a single ship, while 18 opposing vessels were destroyed. Some 14,000 French and Spanish sailors died, 10 times the British casualties.  

The tall ships show, billed as "theatre on water" will not, however, be a recreation of Nelson's triumph. Instead, teams dubbed "blue" and "red" will recreate "vignettes" from the scenes of October 21, 1805.  

Newspaper reports had said that a re-enactment was side-stepped to avoid further wounding the pride of the defeated nations.  

"There are sensitivities, but it's not stopped the French and Spanish sending their biggest ships, with an escort and a submarine each, which we're delighted about," Captain Steve Bramley, Royal Navy director of marketing and publicity, told AFP.  

"We can't change history: Nelson won. We haven't got that number of ships (to recreate Trafalgar fully). The real battle was well over 70 ships. There's not the sea room and there's no way that we could recreate the conditions," he said.  

The recreation finishes with a blaze of lights, smoke, cannon and fireworks to represent the great storm that both sides had to contend with after the original battle.  

"We're using over twice the amount of weight of pyrotechnics used at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The amount of fireworks, we could never, ever afford to do it more than once. We can't even rehearse it," Bramley said.  

The giant fleet to assemble for review will measure some 10 kilometres by two kilometres (six miles by one mile) in size.   Up to 30,000 vessels will be in the anchorage, including some 110 multi-national warships, 30 tall ships plus thousands of private craft.  

British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur was also to attend in her B and Q yacht, in which she broke world record for sailing solo around the globe this year.  

Some 200,000 people are then expected at the tie-in International Festival of the Sea, beginning June 30 at Portsmouth harbour, home to Nelson's flagship HMS Victory.   Around 2,000 entertainers - from pirates to ladies of ill-repute - will perform amid military displays with visitors welcome aboard the moored boats.  

"The tall ships have a magic. It's the atmosphere which grabs people," said Workman.   The commemorations will close in London's central Trafalgar Square on October 23, when 15,000 are expected to attend the grand finale beneath Nelson's statue.

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article