Mon, Sep 19, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Thames teems with boats marking Nelson's death

AFP , LONDON

The largest flotilla on the River Thames in modern times passes under Tower Bridge as HMS Belfast fires a 15-gun salute in London on Friday. The event was held to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Admiral Lord Nelson in 1805.

PHOTO: EPA

The largest procession of boats seen on the River Thames in modern times recreated British hero Admiral Lord Nelson's waterborne funeral procession on Friday.

The recreation was part of a string of events throughout the year to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson's death.

Some 41 rowed boats and 29 motor vessels, many manned by volunteers in period costume, sailed through the British capital to recreate the original flotilla which drew some 100,000 people onto the London riverbanks to snatch a glimpse of the war hero's funeral procession.

The admiral died leading his fleet to victory over French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's Franco-Spanish forces on Oct. 21, 1805 off the southern coast of Spain.

The re-enactment followed the original route taken on Jan. 8, 1806 from Greenwich in southeast London to Westminster in the city center.

The wooden ship Jubilant, a replica of a traditional shallop, acted as the funeral barge at the head of the procession.

It carried a modern version of the missive sent back to Britain with news of the Trafalgar victory.

The flotilla included the cutter from HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship on which he died, and descendants of people involved in the Battle of Trafalgar were on board the ships.

Oared boats were arranged and dressed to recreate the order and appearance of the original procession.

The flotilla received a 15-gun salute from battleship HMS Belfast, in retirement on the south bank of the Thames.

A spokeswoman for SeaBritain 2005, one of the organizers, said: "It all went beautifully. There were more people watching than we could ever have anticipated, which was wonderful. It really was like recreating the funeral procession of 1806 with the number of people along the route."

The river was a little choppy but sailing conditions were far better than for the original flotilla which battled rain, sleet and snow.

The epic Battle of Trafalgar finished the threat of invasion by France and established British naval supremacy for the next century.

Britain did not lose a single ship, while 18 opposing vessels were destroyed.

Nelson is considered one of Britain's greatest national heroes and a giant column topped with his statue forms the centerpiece of London's central Trafalgar Square.

The season of commemorations will close in the square on Friday, when 15,000 are expected to attend the grand finale.

On June 28, hundreds of warships from across the world assembled off the southern English coast as Queen Elizabeth II conducted the largest peacetime fleet review in British history.

Replica 19th century ships then used huge amounts of smoke and blazing pyrotechnics in a spectacular battle recreation.

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