Trafalgar Cemetery and Nelson

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Trafalgar Cemetery

See the Trafalgar Cemetery during your holiday in Gibraltar.

England expects that every man will do his duty.”
With these words, Horatio Nelson amused his men as the opposing fleets closed in.

Nelson, the son of a rector, was born at the parsonage of Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk. He went to sea as a boy, soon deciding that he would become a hero. So rapid was his promotion that he was a post captain by the age of twenty.

From 1793 onwards he was fighting the French and Spanish in the Mediterranean.

For his outstanding tactics at the Battle of Cape St Vincent, 1797, under Admiral Jervis, he was acclaimed a hero by his countrymen. A wound made him blind in one eye, and the following year he lost his right arm in a daring attack on Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Isles. By this time he was a rear-admiral.

He chased the French all over the Mediterranean before completely defeating them at the Battle of the Nile in 1789.

Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's ships in the Mediterranean, was killed in action during the glorious Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805.

The Trafalgar Cemetery
This Cemetery was consecrated in June 1798, seven years before the battle of Trafalgar. It was then known as the Southport Ditch Cemetery, and was sometimes regarded as a part of the old St. Jago’s Cemetery, which was situated at the other side of Charles V Wall. The association with the battle of Trafalgar does not seem to have been made until many years after the event.

Southport Ditch, outside Southport Gate, formed part of the town defences at least as far back as Spanish times: it appears in the 1627 map of Gibraltar by Luis Bravo in the British Museum, as a “Fosso” just south of “Puerta de Africa” (Southport Gate). The western half of the ditch, which had been used as a market garden in the nineteenth century, was filled in when Referendum arch was opened in 1967.

The cemetery was used for burials between 1798 and 1814, and thereafter fell into disuse, although there is one isolated tomb from 1838 near the far north-east corner (no.60 in the plan on the south wall). Earlier gravestones from St.Jago’s cemetery were set into the eastern wall in 1932, and there are also a few free-standing stones, some of which date back to the 1780s, which have been transferred over the years from the Alameda Gardens.

Although the name of the cemetery commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, only two of those who are buried here actually died of wounds suffered in the battle (Lieut. William Forster of the Royal Marine Corps of H.M.S. Mars and Lieut.Thomas Norman of H.M.S. Columbus-grave numbers 121 and 101). Most of those who died at Trafalgar were buried at sea, and Lord Nelson’s body was transported to London for a state funeral. Wounded seamen were brought to Gibraltar, and those who died later of their wounds were buried just to the north of Charles V Wall, on the opposite side of Trafalgar Cemetery, a small plaque was recently placed there to commemorate the site.

Many of the tombstones (see pictures) in the cemetery commemorate the dead of three terrible yellow fever epidemics in 1804, 1813 and 1814. Also buried here are victims of other sea battles of the Napoleonic Wars-the Battle of Algeciras (1801) and actions off Cadiz (1810) and Malaga (1812).

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