Re: THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR: After The Battle
Thursday 24th October 1805
Collingwood had come to realize that with continuing weather, the extent of the damage to his ships, and the exhausted state of the crews, that unless he took some decisive actions, there was the danger of the whole fleet being lost.
At 8.30 a.m., Collingwood signalled the order “Prepare to quit and withdraw men from prizes after having destroyed or disabled them if time permits”.
The Santisima Trinidad was the greatest British prize; the largest warship in the world. After the battle the great Spanish ship had suffered massive damage and was in a poor state. She was in tow of HMS Prince, who had great difficulty keeping possession of her during the storms (some accounts say that Prince never managed to make a successful tow in the first place?). By the time Collingwood’s order to withdraw came the Spanish battleship was already taking in water in the heavy rolling seas. Upon the order, work started to remove all of the wounded and prisoners from the ship. The wounded were got out of the ship by lowering them with ropes from the stern and quarter gallery windows into the boats of the British ships HMS Prince, Neptune and Ajax. Whether all were got out of the ship is uncertain.
Midshipman Badcock, of HMS Neptune, gives this account of how Santisima Trinidad came to her end:
"I was sent on board the Santissima Trinidada a few days after the action to assist in getting out the wounded men previous to destroying her. She was a magnificent ship, and ought now to be in Portsmouth Harbour. Her top-sides it is true were perfectly riddled by our firing, and she had, if I recollect right, 550 killed and wounded, but from the lower part of the sills of the lower-deck ports to the water's edge, few shot of consequence had hurt her between wind and water, and those were all plugged up. She was built of cedar, and would have lasted for ages, a glorious trophy of the battle, but 'sink, burn, and destroy' was the order of the day, and after a great deal of trouble, scuttling her in many places, hauling up her lower-deck ports that when she rolled a heavy sea might fill her decks she did at last unwillingly go to the bottom."
Some accounts say that Santisima Trinidad was not in fact scutlled, and with already having five feet of water in her hold, sank as a result of the heavy seas; “At some moments she rolled so completely over on her beam ends that it seemed as though she must go to the bottom …” With these severe rolls more water would have been taken in over the decks and down to the holds below, inevitably contributing to her final demise.
In pursuance of Collingwood's order the HMS Britannia, Orion, and Ajax cleared the French Intrepide of the prisoners on board, and at eight o'clock that evening the HMS Britannia set the empty hulk on fire. She blew up a little after nine o'clock.
When Kerjulien’s group turned back to Cadiz on the 23rd, the French 80-gun twodecker Indomptable, blundered across to Rota, on the northern side of Cadiz Bay, and in the morning of the 24th, was wrecked there. She had upwards of a thousand men on board, from all accounts, including extra hands intended to man the ships it was hoped to recapture. Apparently every man on board perished, including the survivors from the French flagship Bucentaure five officers and two hundred men.
Monarca, with her British prize crew on board, was drifting in a crippled state on to the dangerous shoals off San Lucar when she was overtaken, during the afternoon of the 24th, by the HMS Leviathan. Sending his boats alongside, Captain Bayntun removed the prize crew and the greater number of the Spanish prisoners, and then anchored the Monarca for the night. Before morning, however, the ship broke away from her cables in a sudden squall, drove ashore and went to pieces. A party from HMS Bellerophon had been in charge of Monarca, and a midshipman from that ship describes how the end came on.
"You will imagine what have been our sufferings, in a crippled ship, with 500 prisoners on board and only 55 Englishmen, most of whom were in a constant state of intoxication. We rolled away all our masts except the foremast; were afterwards forced to cut away 2 anchors, heave overboard several guns, shot, &c. to lighten her; and were, after all, in such imminent danger of sinking that, seeing no ship near to assist us, we at length determined to run the ship on shore on the Spanish coast, which we should have done had not the Leviathan fortunately fallen in with us and saved us, and all but about 150 Spaniards. The ship then went ashore and was afterwards destroyed."
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