One of the most defining naval actions in history, the Battle of Trafalgar asserted the Royal Navy’s and Great Britain’s dominance of the seas. Fought on the 21st of October 1805, off Cape Trafalgar between the combined French and Spanish Fleets against Britain’s Royal Navy.
Under orders from Napoleon to attack the british fleet, Admiral Villeneuve and the combined fleets of France and Spain departed from Cadiz on the 19th of October.
Under the Command of Admiral Horatio Nelson, the British Fleet abandoned orthodox tactics and attacked the combined Franco-Spanish Fleet head on, in 2 columns, in an attempt to split the enemy line into three groups.
This would create 3 main advantages for the British fleet. First it would allow the fleets to close as quickly as possible reducing the chances of the enemy fleet withdrawing without fighting. Secondly, it would allow for more ship to ship fighting where the British had a distinct advantage. Lastly it made more difficult for the combined fleet to come to its own defense and opened them up to British broadsides.
The battle was a huge success for the British, two thirds of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet was lost with no British ships being sunk.
Casualty rates were tremendous on both sides. The British had hundreds wounded and lost around 405 men, among them Admiral Nelson. Approximately 2,700 men were lost in the French and Spanish fleets.
As a resut of the battle, the Royal Navy was never again seriously threatened by the French fleet. It ensured British dominance of the worlds oceans well into the twentieth century. It put into perspective the famous patriotic song Rule Brittania, specifically the lines “Rule Brittania, Brittania Rules the Waves”.
Wikipedia, Battle of Trafalgar, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Trafalgar
Wikipedia, Order of battle at the Battle of Trafalgar, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trafalgar_order_of_battle_and_casualties