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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

The Trafalgar Way

Hot on the heels of my last post about Admiral Hardy. Life is full of coincidences, which resulted in me publishing that post last Sunday morning and only three hours later finding myself here in the main square of Bodmin in Cornwall.


What I hadn't realised was that there is a Trafalgar connection between the two. Admiral Hardy was present at the Battle of Trafalgar and witnessed the death of Nelson and right here on this spot in Bodmin a man arrived by carriage who was carrying news in the fastest way possible at the time. The Post-Chaise route ran from Falmouth on the south coast, all the way to London.


The triumph of the British Navy at Trafalgar was one of the key defining moments of British history. In a single day the navies of both France and Spain were wiped out ruling out an invasion threat from the continent for decades to come. France and Spain had united to invade Britain, and their combined forces greatly outnumbered the British.


To address this imbalance, Nelson sailed his fleet directly at the allied battle line's flank, hoping to break the line into pieces. Villeneuve had worried that Nelson might attempt this tactic but, for various reasons, had made no plans for this eventuality. The plan worked almost perfectly; Nelson's columns split the Franco-Spanish fleet in three, isolating the rear half from Villeneuve's flag aboard Bucentaure. The allied vanguard sailed off while it attempted to turn around, giving the British temporary superiority over the remainder of their fleet. In the ensuing fierce battle 22 allied ships were lost, while the British lost none. Wikipedia


It took 14 days by ship for the news to arrive in Falmouth. The very French sounding Captain John Richards Lapenotière was a British Royal Navy officer who, as a lieutenant commanding the tiny topsail schooner HMS Pickle, observed the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, participated in the rescue operations which followed it and then carried the dispatches of the victory and the death of Admiral Nelson to Britain.


Here at Bodmin was the third horse change of 21 that it took to travel the 271 miles to London, taking some 37 hours. There Lapenotière delivered his dispatches to the Admiralty on the 6th November from where the Prime Minister and the King were informed of the great victory. The route is still called The Trafalgar Way to this day, although news now travels at the speed of light.



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