© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London | Licence: CC BY-NC-ND
© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London | Licence: CC BY-NC-ND

Belleisle in tow of the Naiad on 23 October 1805

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From the Collection


Watercolour showing the damaged Belleisle being towed into Gibraltar by the Naiad after the Battle of Trafalgar. The dismasted Belleisle is shown to left, with the Naiad at centre, and the rock of Gibraltar behind.The Belleisle had been particularly badly damaged during Trafalgar. It was the second ship in Collingwood's line, receiving such a fierce attack that the captain, William Hargood, ordered the men to lie down to avoid the worst of the French fire. The Belleisle had the fifth highest casualty rate among the British ships. The Naiad was one of a group of frigates that served before and after the batlle, disrupting local shipping and helping with tactical preparations, although too small to take part in the fighting itself.The Naiad and Belleisle were the only two ships that managed to round Cape Trafalgar on 23rd October avoiding the worst of the storm which battered the British fleet for days. They still only narrowly avoided being wrecked on the shore and spent four hours of darkness in terror overnight, before the sun rose and the storm abated, allowing the two ships to make harbour. This watercolour presumably shows that moment when the storm had died down.The artist Paul Harris Nicolas was a Marine Lieutenant on the Belleisle during the battle. He wrote an account of his experiences published in the 'Bijou' in 1829 and produced a group of watercolours before and after the action, as well of the ships off Portsmouth. A variation on this drawing of the Belleisle is in a private collection in the UK.

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© National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

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