ELHAS Meeting Report - October 2011

Meeting Report - October 2011

Since October saw the heroic death of one England's best loved leaders, it seemed appropriate that the October meeting should be a talk about the man himself - Horatio Nelson. Therefore, forty eight members and guests gathered to hear Surgeon Lieutenant Commander, Bryan W Fowles, RN retired, do just that. Nelson has been a hero to Bryan since his boyhood. He grew up in Portsmouth, where no doubt, his affinity with all things nautical was nurtured. After retiring from the Royal Navy he spent many years in general practice in Leeds but has always retained his interest in Admiral Lord Nelson.

This was a lecture with a difference. During the often humorous commentary which accompanied the illustrations of Nelson's life, we were treated to sound effects which served to place the audience very firmly into the story we were listening to.

Bryan began by telling us that Horace Nelson, as he was christened, was born in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, the son of a country vicar and a rather higher born mother. His mother unfortunately died when he was twelve. It was at this age, through the good offices of his uncle, Horace, having expressed a desire to be in the Royal Navy, joined the ship "Raisonable" as Captain's servant. Not being happy with his Christian name he changed his name to Horatio during his teenage years, and this is the name by which he became world famous.

After a spectacular rise through the ranks he became the RN's youngest captain before he was twenty one. The men who served under him both respected and loved him. At a time when the lower ranks were regarded by many as beneath contempt and treated accordingly, he always had the welfare of his crew at heart and gave them the respect they deserved for the work that they did. Although he was such a superb leader and naval warfare tactician his private life was not above reproach. After many years of marriage to Frances Nesbitt a widow he met in the West Indies, her forsook her to embark on a great love affair with Lady Emma Hamilton. Emma remained the love of his life and she and their daughter Horatia were in his thoughts when he lay dying during the great battle of Trafalgar in 1805. His triumphs in such battles as the Nile and Copenhagen were much lauded throughout the land and he was greatly respected for continuing to do his duty even though he sustained some horrific injuries during his long career. We were shocked when Bryan told us that he returned to duty just 30 minutes after having his right arm amputated, without anaesthetic, during the Battle of Santa Cruz.

When, following his death on 21st October 1805, his body was brought to London prior to burial in St Paul's (apparently he had refused to be buried in Westminster Abbey as it is built on marshland) more people lined the streets than even those at Princess Diana's funeral. At the end of Bryan's talk we were able to view some of the many Nelson souvenirs he had brought with him including a 24 pound cannon ball and musket balls the like of which would have brought Nelson down on the deck of the HMS Victory.

 

The next meeting on Monday 28th November will be an illustrated talk by Jacki and Bob Lawrence entitled "East Leeds Then and Now". A nostalgic look at Seacroft and Halton .