The Immortal Memory

The Battle of Trafalgar by J. M. W. Turner (oi...

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If you wish to accuse me of being a bit tardy, I will accede. This perennial post of mine, most years since the very first, should have been yesterday’s post. I simply forgot. So unlike in naval combat, in blogging late is better than never.


If you remember, I referred a while back to President Jefferson’s open letter regarding the return of Louisiana to France from Spain, where he commented that “on that day we shall have to marry ourselves to the British fleet and people”, and later commented “that from that day forward France shall end at her low water mark”. This is the day that France (and Spain) would forever lose control of the sea to Great Britain.

Today is the anniversary of a battle to rank with Salamis, with Waterloo, and with Yorktown. For today the English speaking peoples with their concepts of individual liberty and rights took control of the sea.

That battle is Trafalgar. The battle was fought off of the south-west coast of Spain between the British Squadron with 27 Ships-of-the-Line and the combined French and Spanish fleets with 33.

The Franco-Spanish fleet was under orders to sail for Brest to help accomplish the invasion of England, which was, by far, Napoleon’s most steadfast enemy.

Remember these were sailing ships, completely dependent on the wind. and at Trafalgar, there was very little. The French and especially the Spanish were short-handed and had to fill their ship’s companies with soldiers. The British on the other hand had been blockading the coast for years and had been drilled mercilessly. Their commander, himself, had not been off the flagship for more than two years.

Alfred Thayer Mahan in his classic The Influence of Sea Power upon History puts it this way: “Those distant, storm-tossed ships, never seen by the Grande Armee, were all that stood between it and world domination.

And so today, in 1805, the battle was joined. The British had the weather gage and a very unusual plan. Because of the light wind, they would divide their battle line in two, with each squadron approaching the Franco-Spanish line at an acute angle. With a well-trained enemy, this would have been nearly suicidal but, under these conditions it allowed the British to engage the entire fleet and win the battle in a single day.

The British were under the command of a man who had had his introduction to naval war in the American Revolution, he fought in several minor battles off Toulon, was integral in the capture of Corsica, was captain of HMS Captain at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. At the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, he lost his right arm, he won a decisive victory over the French at The Battle of the Nile and against the Danes at the Battle of Copenhagen.

At Trafalgar the British fleet went into battle with this signal flying from the flagship:

That flagship is, of course, the HMS Victory, which is now the oldest naval ship in regular commission in the world.


An aside, the second oldest, USS Constitution (and the oldest afloat) was launched on 21 October 1797. Over last weekend she sailed across Boston Harbor to Fort Independence on Castle Island where she fired a twenty-one gun salute, as she returned she also fired a salute at Coast Guard Sector Boston, the former Edmund Hartt’s Shipyard, where she was built. Here she is, afloat and underway

CASEY SCOULAR/U.S. NAVY


The Admiral in command is Horatio, Lord Nelson.

Or to give him his full name:

Admiral Lord Nelson

The Most Noble Lord Horatio Nelson, Viscount and Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron Nelson of the Nile and of Hilborough in the said County, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of the Fleet, Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Ships and Vessels in the Mediterranean, Duke of Bronté in the Kingdom of Sicily, Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, Member of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St Joachim

as it is inscribed on his coffin in St. Paul’s cathedral, for he was killed by a French marine during the battle.

The first tribute to Nelson was fittingly offered at sea by sailors of Vice-Admiral Dmitry Senyavin’s passing Russian squadron, which saluted on learning of the death.

King George III, upon receiving the news, is reported to have said, in tears, “We have lost more than we have won”.

And the Times reported:

We do not know whether we should mourn or rejoice. The country has gained the most splendid and decisive Victory that has ever graced the naval annals of England; but it has been dearly purchased.

For us, as Americans, much of the development of our country, the end of slavery, and the freedom of all American republics from, the Canadian Arctic to Tierra del Fuego owe their self-government to the victory by Lord Nelson and the continuing efforts throughout the nineteenth century of the Royal Navy.

Even today, we note that HMS Queen Elizabeth, the new British strike carrier is working up off the coast of North America, as she learns in cooperation with our navy, how to project force in the twenty-first century

And so tonight in the Royal Navy and the Commonwealth navies, and at least in some places in the United States Navy and even in other navies and places will be drunk the one naval toast that is drunk in total silence:

The Immortal Memory of Lord Nelson and those who fell with him”

The traditional music to follow the toast is: Rule Britannia.

 

About the Norðdæle

As far as I remember, we haven’t noted any anniversaries in history this week. That’s unfortunate but easily remedied. There are a couple of big ones. Last Monday was the 953d anniversary of that little scrap that the village of Battle was named after: The Battle of Hastings. Leaving all of us in the English speaking working world to talk about 1066 and all that. Actually, the fact that we speak English is itself a great victory of the common people over the elites. For centuries after the Conquest, the rulers of England spoke French.

But far less known is the battle almost fifty years to the day before Hastings. The battle of Assandun, between King Cnut and Edmund Ironside in Essex on 18 October 1016. Cnut’s victory here gave him the rule of what we might call the Danelaw, and Edmund’s death a few weeks later gave him the crown of England, to go along with that of Denmark and eventually Norway as well.

These pair of battles highlight something. England was at a crossroads. Would it come to lead a Scandanavian Empire as Cnut and successors tried to build, or would it become part of Europe? Sort of a Brexit type issue, isn’t it? Just as the English Reformation was. It seems to me that England (or even Britain) has always been adjacent to Europe, but rarely a part of it.

But like most of you, I can’t read what documentation there is, my education doesn’t stretch anywhere close to that far. But I know people – in this case, The Clerk of Oxford. And she is willing to tell us out it, and indeed an entire alternate view of English history. I think it fascinating. It’s here, and here is a taste.

October is the season of conquest anniversaries. Four days after the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings falls a less well-known date: on 18 October 1016, a Danish army led by Cnut defeated the English king Edmund Ironside in battle at a place called Assandun in Essex, the last battle in Cnut’s conquest of England. I wrote about that battle in detail, and the sources for our information about it, in this post from 2016, and about a visit to the area here. Like Hastings, Assandun was a battle which won a kingdom; but unlike at Hastings, the leader of the losing army was not killed, and so the aftermath was more complicated. It resulted in a treaty which divided England into two parts: Wessex for Edmund, and what the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle calls the norðdæle, ‘the northern part’, for Cnut.

This division of the kingdom between north and south reflected a regional split in England which by that time already went back more than a hundred years. Parts of northern England had been settled by Scandinavians and under Scandinavian rule at various times since the ninth century, and their culture, language and perhaps political affiliations were still significantly influenced by this settlement. When Cnut’s father Svein Forkbead launched a serious invasion in 1013, he seems to have felt able to count on political support from at least some among the leaders of the north for Danish rule, and he and Cnut treated the north differently from Wessex during their invasions. The division of the kingdom proposed in 1016 thus reflected a pre-existing cultural divide, of which the legacy can still be seen with extraordinary clarity today in the place-names and dialect of northern and eastern England.

Keep reading at the link, and enjoy!

In 1492, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue

Arms of the Portuguese Prince Henry, the Navig...

Image via Wikipedia

Another Columbus Day has come. And again we celebrate the (re)discovery of the New World. And look what has been erected on that discovery! If you didn’t know; Columbus was a student of Prince Henry the Navigator’s school.

Those students made almost all of the voyages of discovery from the Iberian Peninsula. By the way, Prince Henry of  Portugal was the Grandson of John of Gaunt, time-honored Lancaster. The English always make it into these stories of the sea, don’t they?

So we know that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. But why? His crews were afraid of starving or falling off the edge of the world. His ships were ridiculously small. What exactly was the point? Nobody in Portugal had even heard of Brazil, nor were they all that enthused about an overseas empire. So, why?

Trade, that’s why. Everybody knew where India and China were (at least all the cool cats that knew the world was round). They had since Marco Polo made that remarkable trip, if not before. They liked the silk and other good things that came from China. But there was a problem.

You see there were pirates in the Mediterranean, then one had to get through the totalitarian Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Persians, and various and sundry other Islamic States. If you remember Spain had just managed to reconquer Spain from the Moslems and just plain didn’t want anything to do with them. So they decided to take a shortcut and sail west to go east. Yeah, their calculations were off a bit about the size of the world, but that’s why.

Now let’s think about this a little, Spain went way out of its way to avoid the clowns and founded both the New World and New Spain in the process: and got themselves into a shooting war with England that would eventually cost them their world power status. See A Cloud Smaller Than a Fist.

A few hundred years later, the United States won its Independence from Great Britain. The United States’ very first war was a regime change in Tripoli. There are still Islamic pirates, they still hold slaves and all in all they are still living in the 7th Century. And still today, Iran threatens war on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Some things never change.

Only now with their oil wealth, instead of modernizing and improving their people’s lives and such, they seem intent on conquering the world and seem to believe the world will use its modernity to help

They have found some fellow travelers, who had best hope they lose because they aren’t going to enjoy winning for long. Ask the survivors of the Kingdom of the Visigoths in about 1000 AD.

So there you have it. The cause of Columbus sailing the Ocean Blue.

In Other News:

  • General Robert Edward Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, dies peacefully at his home in Lexington, Virginia. He was 63 years old.

Lee was born to Henry Lee (Light Horse Harry) and Ann Carter Lee at Stratford Hall, Virginia, in 1807. His father served in the American Revolution under George Washington and was later a governor of Virginia. Robert Lee attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated second in his class in 1829. He did not earn a single demerit during his four years at the academy. Afterward, Lee embarked on a military career, eventually fighting in the Mexican War (1846-48) and later serving as the superintendent of West Point.

  • On the morning of October 12, 1915, the 49-year-old British nurse Edith Cavell was executed by a German firing squad in Brussels, Belgium.

Before World War I began in 1914, Cavell served for a number of years as the matron of a nurse’s training school in Brussels. After the city was captured and occupied by the Germans in the first month of the war, Cavell chose to remain at her post, tending to German soldiers and Belgians alike. In August 1915, German authorities arrested her and accused her of helping British and French prisoners-of-war, as well as Belgians hoping to serve with the Allied armies, to escape Belgium for neutral Holland. As I wrote on the centenary of her execution, here, there was no doubt at all of her guilt. And you can watch (no sound BTW) the procession for her state funeral at Norwich Cathedral in 1919 here.

  • On this day in 1776, British Generals Henry Clinton and William Howe lead a force of 4,000 troops aboard some 90 flat-boats up New York’s East River toward Throg’s Neck, a peninsula in Westchester County, in an effort to encircle General George Washington and the Patriot force stationed at Harlem Heights.

This was the largest British amphibious attack before Normandy.

After hearing of the British landing at Throg’s Neck, Washington ordered a contingent of troops from the Pennsylvania regiment to destroy the bridge leading from the peninsula to the Westchester mainland. The destruction of the bridge stranded Clinton and his men at Throg’s Neck for six days before they were loaded back onto their vessels and continued up the East River toward Pell Point.

  • On this day in 1946, Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, the man who commanded the U.S. and Chinese Nationalist resistance to Japanese incursions into China and Burma, dies today at age 63.

All courtesy of This Day In History.

 

Putting ourselves in God’s place

Christianity starts here:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

It is so basic that even Islam agrees. We were created, male and female. But Britain disagrees. David Mackereth, a doctor in England, was fired recently by the NHS (in other words, by the government of the UK itself) for saying (not even doing) that he would not call a 6-foot bearded male, her. And so, self-worship is now the state religion of the UK. Nathaniel Blake wrote about it at The Federalist. He reminds us:

The central doctrine of transgenderism is the belief that human will determines reality as we create ourselves. A man who identifies as a woman is therefore a woman and has always been. Social, chemical, and surgical alterations are merely the outward affirmation and outworking of this inward truth, and the imperfections of physical transition do not negate the metaphysical truth of gender identity. Not all people who identify as LGBT accept this radical ideology, but the loudest voices preach it aggressively.

These mystical doctrines of transgender ideology exemplify modern self-worship, in which the human replaces the divine dictates of revealed religion as the source and creator of meaning. Catholicism preaches the real presence of Christ veiled in the bread and wine; transgenderism professes the real presence of the woman veiled in the male body.

But discontentment lurks amid the triumphant claims that identity determines reality. Self-creation is not freedom, for it only changes our master. Desire appears as the most authentic aspect of the self, and so it, rather than reason or revelation, rules human efforts to create our own truth and meaning.

Furthermore, since we are not gods, our efforts to create ourselves are hindered by the natural laws of our existence and by what older creeds called sinfulness. Self-worship does not overcome our consciousness of sin or the given nature of our embodied human existence.

Indeed so. It reminds me that G.K. Chesterton remarked that “The danger of loss of faith in God is not that one will believe in nothing, but rather that one will believe in anything.” And so it has proved. Especially that we will put ourselves in God’s place. God had something to say about this of course, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” But many of us have made ourselves gods ahead of God himself, and this is the result.

Self-worship elevates our desires and thereby sets us at war with others and the world. We see other people as the problem, rather than the purpose of life. Self-worship cannot eradicate the problem of sin, however, nor bend the world to one’s will, and so it often results in self-loathing, which in turn is redirected toward others. Private-jet environmentalists who lecture working families about having children illustrate this, as do transgender activists who want to force everyone else to affirm their mystical sense of self, rather than biological reality.

The judge in Mackereth’s case got it backwards. The teaching of Genesis 1:27 that God made humans, male and female, in the image of himself is the firm foundation for human dignity and human rights. The real threat comes not from a Christian doctor’s refusal to pretend a man is a woman, but from a mystical ideology that worships the self.

Yep, says it all, really.

Looking over the Parapet

Some interesting news, for the first time in almost 50 years the British Royal Navy has two strike carriers at sea. The Queen Elizabeth is in the western Atlantic learning how best for her to operate strike aircraft and defend herself as the centerpiece of a carrier strike group. Now comes word that the Prince of Wales her sister ship has sailed for the first time from the Firth of Forth to begin her own workups, which likely won’t take as long as the QE because she is in the process of writing the book.

It should be noted that there is nothing afloat that is as powerful as these new ships, with the sole exception of US Nimitz class carriers and someday the new US Ford class. Bravo Zulu! More at The Thin Pinstriped Line. Oh, why not?

Just make sure you don’t let them fall under EU command.


Staying in Britain for the moment, for the first time ever, the Israeli Air Force is exercising over England along with the RAF, the USAF, The German Air Force, and the Italian Air Force.

Israel  sent several F-15s as well a Boeing  707s refueling planes and C130s and C130J’s

This is taking place over Lincolnshire and is known as Cobra Warrior, It is said that the RAF may take part in Israel’s Blue Flag exercise next year, which they have observed before.

Good job to all hands. More at Warsclerotic. I wanted to call those tankers C-135s since the use the flying boom that the USAF developed early in the cold war, but if you carefully at the picture you’ll notice that these aircraft have windows, KC135s co not.


If you pay much attention to either British history of British history on TV, you’ll know the name, David Starkey. He’s an excellent historian and an honest man. Here he explains the significance of Brexit and horrendous mess that May and Bercow have made. Do watch it.

You’ll not be surprised that I agree with him completely, and strongly commend him for doing this, because there is no way in hell that this would ever appear on the Fake News BBC.

Interestingly, towards the end, he speaks a good deal about the parallels between Brexit and the English Reformation under Henry VIII (his specialty, if I recall, is the Tudors). Well, maybe I’m about half as smart as I think, because I’ve always seen twp parallels in Brexit, one is the Reformation in England, and the other is the American Revolution.  Ever since the Anarchy in the thirteenth century, there has been a longing in the English to return to “the good old law”. In large measure that is what an8mated the American founders, and while we ended up starting over, not much of the good old law went into the discard.

My friends at The Conservative Woman suggest that this is also worth watching. They’re correct, so watch it too. (and it ‘s short).

Anniversaries

There were a couple of anniversaries yesterday, that are worth noting.

First, on 18 September 1947, the United States Air Force came into existence. Born out of the Army Air Forces, it had long been recognized that it should be a separate service. Even General of the Army/General of the Air Force (the only man to hold five-star rank in two services, and the only man to hold five-star rank in the Air Force) Henry H. (Hap) Arnold understood that separating in the preparation for and during World War Two was inadvisable. But with that war behind us, it was time to look to the future

And so following the Royal Air Force which became a separate service in 1918, it became so in America as well. The Navy looking at the British model strongly opposed the idea, noting that the RAF had taken over the fleet air arm. At a conference in Key West, it was agreed that the navy would keep its own air arm, as did the marines. And so now America has the two strongest air forces in the world.

As noted here right now the  Air Force faces challenges:

In strategic terms, the Air Force faces major challenges. As Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson put it this week, “What we know now from analysis” is that “the Air Force is too small for what the nation expects of us.” Wilson noted that the new National Defense Strategy says the military must “defend the homeland, provide a credible nuclear deterrent, win against a major power while encountering a rogue nation, all while managing violent extremists. Each of those missions relies heavily on America’s Air Force.”

Based on past performance, I’d guess they’ll come through for us, as they always have, but we really need to do better.

And so now, again looking to the future we have another new service aborning, mostly out of the Air Force, the Space Force. It’s probably a good idea, but it’s going to have to rely heavily on its older brother for a time, to get it all sorted out.

And so we owe thanks to the brave men and women whose bravery has kept us safe since 1947. Happy Birthday, Air Force, Keep ’em Flying and press on.

 


A few years before the establishment of the air force, there was a battle that was pretty important for    American history but perhaps even more important in English history. 881 years before the USAF King Harold Hardrada of Norway met King Harold Godwineson of England at Stamford Bridge. It’s quite a story, and my friend The Clerk of Oxford tells it better than I can.

Harold Hardrada’s army landing in England, in a 13th-century English manuscript
(CUL MS Ee.3.59, f.31)

On or around 18 September in the autumn of 1066, the king of Norway, Harald Hardrada, arrived on the coast of Yorkshire with a large army. In his company was Tostig, the brother of Harold Godwineson, king of England, who had joined forces with the Norwegians against his brother. Harold Godwineson himself was occupied elsewhere, on the south coast, having spent the summer awaiting a Norman invasion which had not – yet – come. Soon after their arrival the Norwegian forces won a battle at Fulford, near York, but were defeated a few days later by the English king at Stamford Bridge. In this battle, Harald Hardrada was killed. Accounts of the Norwegian invasion of 1066 in medieval English sources tend to be fairly brief, since it came to be overshadowed by the Battle of Hastings a few weeks later; but in Scandinavian history Harald Hardrada was a major figure, and so many Old Norse sources tell detailed and powerful narratives about the last days of his life. Written centuries after the events they describe, they are not really intended to be reliable sources for what actually happened in 1066; instead, they show us how later Norse writers thought about this period of history, which was (among other things) a turning-point in England’s relationship with the Scandinavian world.

One such is a text called Hemings þáttr, a narrative written in Iceland in the thirteenth century, which deals at length with the attempted Norwegian invasion of England, the Norman Conquest, and its aftermath. Following other Norse sources, it tells how Harald’s last days were marked by a cluster of omens which seemed to show the king that his death was approaching; Harald is shown embarking on the invasion with a sense of foreboding, increasingly confident that this will be his last expedition, the end of a magnificent career. He has been talked into it by Tostig, egged on to ambition by a bitter and vengeful man – Tostig is jealous of his brother, wants power for himself, and is trying to use the Norwegian king to get it. Harald knows Tostig is using him, knows he can’t be trusted, and yet agrees to support him. Almost before he has done so, the bad omens start: Harald’s men have threatening dreams, sailors report mysterious fires at sea and blood pouring out of the sky, a ghost rises up from a graveyard to prophesy that the king will fall. Worst of all, before setting sail, Harald has a vision of St Olaf, his martyred half-brother, who angrily chastises him for what he is about to do. Harald is shaken and Tostig, a wily ‘man of many words’, has to talk him round, telling him it’s just some ‘English witchcraft’ trying to frighten him. But the signs could not be clearer that this invasion will not end well.

By the time they reach the English coast, the relationship between the king and his English egger-on is strained. One thing that’s interesting about this part of the story is how precise the geographical references are, compared to the English sources; the Old Norse sources are much more specific about locating Harold and Tostig in particular places as they travel along the coast of Yorkshire, and Cleveland, Scarborough, and Ravenser are all mentioned by name. (Sometimes medieval Icelandic writers knew more about northern England than historians in the south of England did.)

Keep reading at the link. It’s quite the story, and well told. This battle, often overlooked, has in my mind at least ramifications that echo down to the present, stopping the revival of Cnut’s Scandinavian empire and weakening King Harold just enough for Duke William to beat him, sucking England into continental Europe for the next 500 years.

And yes, do buy her book, it’s one of my favorites. Here is the US Amazon link. I liked her writing enough to order it from Amazon UK before it was available here, and never regretted it.

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