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The Battle of Trafalgar – A Midshipman’s Memoirs, 1805
I noticed a small wreath of poppies placed at the foot of one of the gravestones. I distinctly remember thinking, “This is a little early for Armistice Day”, so out of curiosity I looked under the poppies and found a card. It was from the local Royal Naval Association and it was then that the sheer coincidence of it all struck me; the date was of course October 21st, and the gravestone commemorated a local man, a Midshipman Robert Smith, killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, whilst serving in HMS VICTORY. On a day that was to claim the lives of 449 Royal Navy men, Robert had been one of HMS VICTORY’s 57 men who had fallen in the battle.
An article published in the Church magazine in December, 1905.
'It was the custom of those days for bodies to be quickly dispatched overboard in the heat of battle and perhaps no more dramatic example of this is to be found that the fate which befell Nelson’s Secretary John Scott, minutes prior to Lord Nelson being shot by a French sniper. Scott, whilst in conversation with Captain Hardy on the poop-deck, had been dismembered by a cannonball; what little remained of him had been swiftly bundled over the side.
All this had occurred in full view of Lord Nelson and he is reported to have enquired, “Is that poor Scott who is gone? Poor fellow!” And perhaps it was with Scott’s demise in mind that whilst he lay mortally wounded, Nelson is reputed to have implored Hardy, “Don’t throw me overboard, Hardy”.
To which Hardy replied. “Oh no, certainly not”.
Thus it was that Lord Nelson’s body, carefully embalmed and immersed in a mixture of brandy, camphor and myrrh, was brought back to England in a leaden coffin for burial at St Pauls, London.
Whether, because he died of his wounds after the battle, thus Midshipman Smith had the same ignominious end as Scott.
VICTORY AT TRAFALGAR
In the November Magazine it was reported that the name of “Robert Smith, of Batlers Green, near Watford,” had been found on the list of those who died with Nelson on board the VICTORY at Trafalgar, on October 21st 1805.
Some interesting particulars about this young man have come to our knowledge. On Friday, November 10th last, Mrs Emma Smith, aged 89, was buried in Aldenham Churchyard, her husband, Mr Thomas Smith, of Batlers Green, having been buried here in 1849, no less than 56 years ago. Their son has been kind enough to give us the following information about his uncle, Robert Smith, who fell at Trafalgar.
Robert was a younger son of Thomas and Frances Smith of Batlers Green Farm, that is of the Farm in Batlers Green on the side of the road nearest to Round Bush. He was christened in Aldenham Church (as our Registers show) on March 30th, 1786 and was born on February 20th of the same year; he was. therefore, only 19 years old when he died. His father died in 1816, and his mother in 1821, and his oldest brother Thomas in 1849. A letter which he wrote to his father and mother on October 20th (the day before his death) is most interesting, and we are glad to be allowed to print it in full: -
He sent a letter on the eve of battle which reads: -
"My most dear and honor'd Pa rents,
As I expect to be in Action to-morrow morning with the Enemy of our Country, the idea of which I assure you gives me great pleasure, in case I shall fall in the noble cause have wrote these few last lines to assure you that I shall die with a clear conscience, pure heart and in peace with all men. Have only a few requests to make, first that you will have the goodness to thank and make my kind respects to all Friends (more particularly my very good friend Sir Thomas Thompson) for their kind attention to me. Secondly that you will not give way to any uneasiness on my account and further that you my dearest of Mothers will not give way to those low spirits which you are subject to, consider that your affectionate son could not die in a more glorious cause and that it is all the fortune of war. Have no doubt that had I survived the glorious day should have met with the reward due to my merit from worthy friends and a Good Country. Have requested every profit arising from my stock to be given you with my Desk as a small tribute of affection. Shall conclude this last with my kindest Duty to you my parents, love to Sister, Brothers, and praying the almighty to receive my soul. Remain your ever dutiful and affectionate Son.
"PS - I must once more request you not to forget my second wish."
He was awarded £10.14.0 of Prize Money.
He was awarded £26.6.0 of Parliamentary Award.
The money was paid to his father, Thomas Smith, on 30 January 1807.
He was awarded the Naval General Service Medal with the Trafalgar clasp.
His name appears on the Naval General Service Medal Roll but he had died at the battle. His family received the medal..
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