“Trafalgar Dawn” – further reading

Trafalgar Dawn, as printed
Trafalgar Dawn, as printed, available, see ‘Marine Art Prints’ on this web site.

The fateful ‘Trafalgar Dawn’ appears to you as if you are a crew member standing on the ship’s belfry.

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I was awakened by the cheers of the crew & their rushing on deck …” Lt. Barclay, HMS Britannia.

like a forest of masts rising from the ocean, and as the morning got light we were satisfied it was the enemy” – a seaman on HMS Revenge.

Of the veteran’s ghosts – A Trafalgar Project Background Make what you will of this, for sure it has never happened before or since to Gordon.

Several times during the painting’s creation, the Artist had the distinct impression his studio was visited by some of the veteran’s ghosts, come to see the progress & discuss with each other.

Read on to find out why.

Contents:

A foreign point of view

Our rare prints

The basic scene

The Painting

Typical Quotes from diaries & journals

Typical Minutiae of detail

Typical General working notes

Some Sources consulted included

Special thanks

 

A foreign point of view

When I began to work on my series of paintings about Nelson & Trafalgar in 1995 I realised as I read more deeply, that the direct evidence of the enemy, much ignored & dismissed by British sources, was important. This unfashionable view I discovered was shared by the Admiralty Committee of 1913 appointed by the king. They were required to investigate what actually happened as opposed to the widely peddled myths.

The more I read, the more I came to realise there was a significant & valuable difference between the popular version of the battle & what actually occurred. The truth, depicted as accurately as I was able, is offered in Nelson spirit, “to my country and for the benefit of Europe in general” & turned out to be even more fascinating than the myth.

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At my own expense I travelled to Brest, Paris, London, Liverpool, Madrid, San Sebastian Naval base & Cadiz and visited Cape Trafalgar. I was able to study source material and interview authorities for my series of paintings.

Frickers at Cape Trafalgar with French companions
Frickers at Cape Trafalgar with French companions

Our rare prints

The smaller size is eminently collectable and very affordable.
The larger size is simply awesome.

Visit ‘Marine art Prints (on the task bar above) for current prices and the simple route to your ownership.

This strictly numbered limited edition is offered in a choice of 2 sizes.
Two sizes does not mean 2 sets of limited editions, for example there will only be one print number “72” regardless of the size ordered.

I work closely with my master printer.

The basic scene

Very soon after this moment, according to the log of the Victory, as soon as the light permitted flags to be distinguished, Nelson made his first signal of the day.
This signal, No 72 – general, (to all his fleet), was for the order of sailing in two columns; the British attack began.

The basic scene is from studies made on-board the Victory.

I took full advantage of the privilege of unrestricted access to the ship, the full cooperation of her curator Peter Goodwin and her then Commander.

At my own expense, with a letter of introduction from Victory’s commander, I travelled to Brest, Paris, London, Liverpool, Madrid, San Sebastian Naval base, Cadiz and visited Cape Trafalgar to study source material.

The principal sources studied by your artist were the logs, journals, official letters, period models, ships plans and maps known to have been compiled at the time by those present and the reports written after battle by the survivors, officers & men from both fleets.

The evidence of the British logs and journals are indirectly confirmed by the diagrams drawn and reports written by the French & Spanish officers present at the battle.

Allowance had to be made for the varied viewpoints of the officers in ships of the Combined Fleet.

I found the order of the combined fleet was described in detail by the Franco – Spanish officers. This is reflected in our painting and confirmed for you in the margin of each limited edition print.
It is possible to identify all the ships in the fleet including the signal frigates & corvettes.

I still have my original notes and sketches, plus copies of many of these documents and others related for example the report of the 1913 Admiralty Committee.

Typical Quotes from diaries & journals

I was awakened by the cheers of the crew & their rushing on deck …” Lt. Barclay.
This excitement was repeated on most of the other British ships.
The officers were expecting this dawn spectacle, the men were not, hence the reaction.

  • A brightening sky had revealed to the East, the French & Spanish fleets” A/S Brown HMS Victory
  • like a great wood on our lee bow” (from NNE to SSW)
  • the eastern horizon was beautifully adorned with French and Spanish ensigns” (9/10 miles leeward) Lt. Barclay, Britannia.
  • like a forest of masts rising from the ocean, and as the morning got light we were satisfied it was the enemy” – a seaman on Revenge.
  • I was awakened by the cheers of the crew & by their rushing up the hatchways to get a glimpse” – officer on Belleisle.

The Painting

The dawn appears as if to a crew member standing on the ship’s belfry, maybe you in a former life…
The scene is based on eyewitness accounts from both fleets and sketches I made whilst on-board HMS Victory, which were later developed in my Plymouth studio.

 

Five minutes after the informal moment depicted, at 06.10, according to the log of the Victory, as soon as the light permitted flags to be distinguished, Nelson made his first signal of the day, No 72, general, (to all his fleet), for the order of sailing in two columns.

The British attack began.

The Admiralty Committee of 1913 wrote; “The sun rose behind the Franco – Spanish fleet which, in the earlier hours of daylight, was in a very favourable position for observing the British.
Several officers whose rank & quarters or station in their own ships gave them exceptional facilities for seeing the British fleet during those hours officially reported their belief that the British fleet was not in regular order when sighted. The evidence of the British logs & the French reports is indirectly confirmed by a great variety of diagrams drawn by the French & Spanish officers present at the battle“.

The order of the combined fleet was also described in detail by the Franco – Spanish officers & reflected in our painting in which it is possible to identify all the ships in the fleet including the signal frigates & corvettes.

HMS Victory is to this day still a Royal Navy flagship.
The basic scene is from studies made on-board the “Victory“.
I was given unrestricted access to the ship by her Captain, and the cooperation of Peter Goodwin,  her ‘Keeper and Curator’.
I took full advantage of the privilege, my name often appearing on daily orders.

The research and preparation for this work was extensive,

I carried a letter of introduction from the then serving Captain of HMS Victory (Mike Cheshire) which undoubtedly helped me gain access to some very rare archives in Europe including visiting Brest, the Paris archives and Musee Marin, Madrid, thw museum maritime and archives, Cadiz and the Naval base at San Sebastian.

In the latter I was the guest of the port Admiral and the curator of the Naval Museum.
This was achieved with the help of representatives of the Plymouth twinning committee and the office des Jumalages de la Ville de Brest, in particular Professor Michel Malgon.

As with all my Nelson and Trafalgar paintings I read and studied much first hand material, journals, log books, officer’s sketches and reports, even 2 Spanish books entirely on the subject of the weather in October 1805!

At San Sebastian in 1996, the curator in serious vein told me the British accounts of the battle were wrong, propaganda.

He said it was a great British secret, the reality being the Spanish destroyed 4 British ships of the line.
This was not entirely surprising as a similar story appeared about 6 weeks after the battle, in Paris in the journal recognised as Napoleon’s mouth piece.

Every last rope on Victory was checked by Peter Goodwin, Victory‘s Keeper and Curator. Look with care, you can even tell which were shroud or rope laid.
The fleet on the horizon is taken from sketches made by officers in both fleets present on the day so is about as accurate as one can get.

The movements of the men, their positions, body language, age, the cut and fashions of their cloths & even hair styles result from very extensive research, as is the equipment, appearance & position of Victory & the other ships depicted.
All is as historically accurate as the most meticulous research could make it at the time.

The original painting, sold in 1996 into a private collection for £4,000.00 was valued in October 2004 at £12,000.00 and again in October 2017 at £35,000.

Consequently in comon with all the paintings in this series, this is not only a fine picture, also an historical document, they are all sound investments – some one is going to be lucky !

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Typical Minutiae of detail

Some examples of the minutiae of detail included such finer points as:

  • Every 6th ratline passed to the swifter
  • Pike racks approx 7′ long.
    Cleats tied to shrouds about 3rd ratline up
  • Shrouds ½ diameter of mast divided by 3 = 5½ inches thick.
  • Shroud ends turn back, differ port & starboard
  • Sail cloths, 2′, 1½ inch seams.

Typical General working notes

Discussion about foc’sle, weather boarded or netted with hammocks.
Progress book, 1801 – 1803 refit, Public records Office.
Elderly officer – discussion on how old & how portly!
The heart fitted at the end of the main stay near the fore mast was made of wood, at first it appeared metallic in the painting, and this was adjusted.
Discussed at length the likely guns on the foc’sle, settled as most likely, carronade.

Every detail was a subject for re-evaluation & detailed discussion between myself & many experts, in particular Peter Goodwin.

This painting has been reproduced in Peter Goodwin’s book, “Nelson’s Ships“.

Some Sources consulted included

Frequent visits to the ship HMS Victory.
Peter Goodwin, I. Eng AMIMarE. Historical Consultant, keeper of HMS Victory, H.M. Naval Base, Portsmouth.
Royal Naval Museum, Heritage Area, including Dr Colin White
Liverpool Maritime Museum,
The Tate Gallery, Liverpool
Plymouth Library, Naval Reference section
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Naval base Museum, San Sebastian, Cadiz
Museo Naval, Paseo del Prado, 5 – 28071, Madrid,
Town hall, Cadiz
Universidad de Cadiz
Musee de la Marin,
Palais de Chaillot, Paris
Service Historique de Marine, Chateau de Vincennes, Armees.
Musee de la Marine, la Châteaux, Brest
Carpenters Stores Expenses, HMS Victory, October 1805, Museum ref 1064/83, record 2376
Report of the 1913 Committee

Log of George Almy, 2nd Master & Pilot, H.M.S. Pickle
Log of Robert Louthanean, Master, Polyphemus
Log of Joseph Seymour, Master, Conqueror
Log of Conqueror
Journal of Lieut.
John Barclay, Britannia
Journal of Captain J.N. Morris, Colossus
Journal of Captain Henry Digby, Africa
Log of Thomas Webb, Master, Agamemnon
Journal & Log of Captain Thomas F. Freemantle, Neptune
Log of Thomas Atkinson, Master, Victory
Quotes from journals of the day, various sources

The Line of battle, series editor R. Gardiner, Conway Maritime Press 1992 (ISBN 0 85177 561 6)

Sailing ships of War, Dr F. Howard, Conway Maritime Press (ISBN 0 85177 138 6)

Masts & Rigging of English Ships of War, James Lee, Conway Maritime Press (ISBN 0 85177 290 0)

The Wooden World, N A M Rogers, Fontana Press (ISBN 0 00 686152 0)

Manual of Seamanship, Vol 1, 1908, H.M. Stationary Office

The Trafalgar Campaign, The Naval Campaign of 1805, Vol 2, by Edouard Desbriere, Chef D’Escadron de Cavalerie Brevete Chef de la Section Historique de L’Etat – Major de l’Armee, translated by C Eastwick Oxford University Press 1933.

The Anatomy of the 100 gun ship Victory, John McKay, Conway maritime Press 1987 (ISBN 0 85177 444X)

Uniforms of Trafalgar, John Fabb & Jack Cassin-Scott, Batsford, London, 1977 (ISBN 0 7134 0218 0 (hardback), 0 7134 0219 0 (Paperback)).

Sir Home Popham’s telegraphic Code, 1803 version.

The Life of Nelson, The Embodiment of The Sea Power of Great Britain, second edition, Captain A T Mahan, DCL, LLD, United States Navy.

The Trafalgar and Nelson stories are awash with myths, legends and propaganda; rather like BBC reporting on the Middle east today.

~ ~ ~ ~

Frickers guidance note on separating facts from fictions:

Most accounts of the Battle of Trafalgar story vary and they are full of errors, the majority of plans and paintings are equally misleading..

Here are some places to start.

WE must ask ourselves the following questions:

  1. Are readers given a plausible explanation?
  2. Who is the source?
  3. Is he really in a position to know what he claims? Has the reporter provided enough background info on the source to help us make our own judgement?
  4. Why can’t he be identified for the story?
  5. What are the source’s possible motives and those of the reporter?
  6. Is they fudging anything?
  7. Could the info have been obtained on the record from somewhere else?

Special thanks to the Plymouth Naval reference Library (very sadly now closed by Plymouth CC, a great loss) and to Plymouth twinning office and to the Office des Jumalages et Relations Internationales de la ville de Brest and the Naval attaché of the Spanish Embassy in Paris.

To acquire or commission a similar painting or print; it’s simple, secure; place a deposit or payment on our Payment page for your Gordon Frickers original painting (or in some cases a Heritage quality print) or feel free to

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