Activity 1: Nelson's Crew at Trafalgar
This page looks at some aspects of the crew of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. There were 821 crewmen on board the Victory at the time of the battle of Trafalgar. As it was the flagship, it would have had a few extra men on board, mostly Nelson's personal staff, but otherwise its crew would represent a typical First Rate ship of the early 19th century.
Most of the men on board came from Britain - they are listed as coming from England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales - but there were men from many other nations on the ship. The graph shows the balance of the crew coming from the four countries which made up Britain at the time.
Of the other men on board, many came from other European countries, and there were also over 20 listed as being born in the United States of America. You can find out more about these men on Activity sheet 2.
The next graph shows the balance of names from European countries. A ship at this time would draw most of its experienced sailors from merchant shipping fleets.
The 'Others' - not included of course in the analysis in either of these graphs - includes crew from Brazil, the West Indies and Canada. Also not included in either graph are 39 crewmen whose countries of birth are not listed.
Some men would be volunteers, some would pressed, or forced, to join the crew. Ports were places where it was natural to find men who had journeyed from other places around the world. Volunteers would be attracted by a reward for joining up, Bounty Money, which could be as high as £5.00. Press gangs were a crude form of conscription carried out with the full backing of the law. They would concentrate on men who had experience of work at sea. Every major port in the country had an Impress Service. The Act of Parliament which permits press gangs is still legal in England!
British Fleet 1805 is a file which you can download to your own computer - click on the name to download it. It is in CSV format, and it will load into a wide variety of database or spreadsheet programs so you can carry out your own investigations. It contains a list of all the vessels in the British fleet in October 1805. Some ships were active; some were not. See if you can answer the following questions:
- How many ships are listed?
- How many men were in the British Navy if all the ships were fully manned (not usually the case!)
- Can you select just the ships which were at the batle of Trafalgar? How many were there?
- Which is the oldest ship listed? Can you list the ships in the order in which they were built?
- Can you draw your own pie chart to show which ships were built at whcih shipyard? Which built most?
There are many more ways the database can be investigated for historical information. See what you can find out for yourself.