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Old 16-09-2011, 19:53
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Default Re: THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR: After The Battle

The Following Days

The accounts that I have studied, including Collingwood’s dispatches, eyewitness accounts (in letters), and also French accounts, now seem to differ in their chronology. Accordingly, here is a general account describing the fates of the other ships of the combined enemy’s ships.

Of the other Franco-Spanish ships that escaped back to Cadiz, the San Francisco de Asis, a Spanish 74, anchored outside safely, but parted her cables and drove ashore in Cadiz Bay, near Fort Sta. Catalina.

The third ship, the Spanish three-decker Rayo of 100 guns, unable to regain Cadiz, anchored off San Lucar, some miles up the coast, rolled her masts overboard, and had to surrender at discretion to the HMS Donegal (Captain Sir Pulteney Malcolm), which came on the scene fresh from Gibraltar. HMS Leviathan was in company. “On a shot being fired at her, she hauled down her colours and surrendered”. Three days later, while in charge of a prize crew, "after a number of her men had been removed from the ship, drove from her anchors and was totally lost. Many Spaniards, and some of the English officers and crew perished in her”.

The French ship Berwick, on the afternoon of Friday the 27th, "after having anchored in apparent safety, was wrecked off San Lucar, entirely owing to the frenzied behaviour of a portion of the prisoners, who cut the cables. HMS Donegal, being at anchor near by, cut her own cables, and, standing towards the drifting ship, sent her boats to save the people on board. This noble proceeding of Captain Malcolm was only partially successful, when Berwick struck upon the shoal, and in her perished about 200 persons."

Another of the French ships, Aigle stranded off Port St. Mary's, and was wrecked during the night of Friday 27th , after being forced by the weather into Cadiz Bay, in spite of every effort by the HMS Defiance to keep her out.

On the 27th and 28th HMS Orion and HMS Leviathan took out prisoners from the Spanish San Agustin, nearly three hundred men in number. On the 30th Leviathan destroyed her, and with Ajax sank the Spanish Argonauta, "the finest two-decker in the world." Says Leviathan's log: "October 30th: Received some Warrant officers' stores from the San Agustin. Set her on fire; about 8, she blew up. The Argonauta was scuttled at her anchor."

What remained of the wrecked ships was destroyed on the morning of the 31st, when the British frigate HMS Naiad set fire to the wrecks of Rayo and Neptuno off San Lucar "both aground" in the words of the ship's log, “to the westward of San Lucar”. The log proceeds: "Saw a French line of battle ship, the Berwick, 74 guns, totally lost, having parted asunder amidships. November 1st a.m. At 1 observed the Neptuno blow up. At 4 the Rayo in full blaze. At 6 in boats. Weighed and made sail."

Four ships, one French and three Spanish, escaped destruction. "Four only remained as trophies of the victory, and these by cruel chance happened to be the most worthless. They were the (French) Swiftsure, the San Ildefonso, San Juan Nepomuceno and Bahama, but they made no effective addition to the English Navy."

Their preservation, too, was only effected with great difficulty. HMS Defence, after a very anxious time and a succession of mishaps, anchored with the San Ildefonso, and " with four cables an end on one anchor and one on another" rode the storm out. The Bahama, which HMS Orion had in charge, came within an ace of perishing.

"I kept the Bahama with the poor lieutenant and his four men in tow," says Captain Codrington, "until the absolute necessity of getting the ship's head the other way obliged me to cast him off, and the opportunity of the violence of the wind abating a little, allowed of making the necessary sail to claw the ship off shore ; and you may judge of the pain I felt on seeing her signals of distress in consequence of being left in so hopeless a situation ! The necessity of the case, however, raised a little unusual exertion in the poor Spaniards, and, by getting up an anchor out of the hold and letting it go, they saved both the vessel and their lives ; and she is now in Gibraltar Mole, waiting the opportunity of going to England. She was finally saved by the unremitting exertions of the Donegal."

The Spanish San Ildefonso" and the Bahama, with the ex-British Swiftsure, were brought to England in May under escort of HMS Britannia. Bahama and Swiftsure (renamed somewhat meaninglessly Irresistible), were made prison hulks in the Medway. San Ildefonso was made a receiving hulk at Portsmouth. All three were broken up in 1816.

The old Spanish ship San Juan Nepomuceno, in her fortieth year at Trafalgar, was kept as a hulk at Gibraltar. None of the five French ships of the line which escaped into Cadiz harbour, it may be added, ever saw a French port again. Collingwood held them fast there until, in June, 1808, Spain rose against Napoleon. Admiral Rosily, who had remained in command, with his squadron, unable to escape, were attacked at close quarters by the Spanish land batteries, and had to surrender at discretion. The Spanish Navy took over the ships, and found employment for them as harbour hulks for many years. The last left, Heros, was broken up at Ferrol in 1860. Her ensign and Admiral Rosily's flag are now kept as trophies at the Naval Museum in Madrid.
Clive Sweetingham

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