AROUND 250 members of the international community gathered together on Friday evening October 21, in what can only be described as probably one of the finest settings to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of what was, for Britain, the most important naval victory of the 19th century – the Battle of Trafalgar, reports The Resident’s Bob Hughes.
Last Friday’s celebrations in Lisbon were held among the many sailing exhibits in the Nautical Museum in Belém. Mark Heger of Aldeia Catering had arranged what could only be described as a magnificent buffet, befitting the memory of Vice-Admiral Nelson who no doubt would have approved of the fine feast.
Cocktails were served alongside the royal barge built in Lisbon, which was used to carry Queen Elizabeth from the Royal Yacht Britannia when she visited Lisbon.
Guests of Honour at the event were the British Ambassador John Buck and his wife Jean, In his speech, John Buck first thanked the directors of the magnificent museum, and went on to say that the victory owed much to the genius of Vice-Admiral Nelson – brilliant tactician, strategist and great leader.
Nelson had been a very modern figure who had risen in the navy because of merit rather than background, something that gave him instinctive empathy with those under his command, particularly the ordinary seamen. Nelson would have been the first to acknowledge that the victory at Trafalgar was also equally due to their courage and steadfastness.
It is clear that officers and men on both sides fought with honour, bravery and determination. What had struck the British Ambassador most in reading the accounts of the battle, he said, was “the horror that all those men faced, the sniper fire on deck, the cannon balls ripping through the gunneries below, the bodies blown apart.” The Portuguese people, above all, know the desperate fighting and courageous sacrifices that were necessary before the European War ended at Waterloo in 1815. Their ships had already been involved in battles in the English Channel in 1793 and 1794, Cape Vincent in 1797, in the Mediterranean between 1798 and 1800, and in Gibraltar in 1801.
We now know that even greater horrors were in store for Europe in the 20th century, but perhaps, 200 years after Trafalgar, we can look back with pride not only on the military achievements of our ancestors, but also on the lessons that Europe has learnt. Paulo Lowndes Marques also gave a rousing speech to round off the evening. Charles Roberts thanked all the many people who had made the night’s celebrations possible, including the many sponsors of this fine and memorable event. Probably the most deserved applause went to Aldeia Catering for a magnificent meal that helped make the evening a great success, Nelson would have been proud.