Are you sure the signal said ‘Fire’?


Some nine years ago, I wrote a slightly sardonic piece about the Royal Navy, and the effects of budget cuts on the administration of that Navy around the time of Trafalgar. It was built around the extremely unlikely possibility of commercial sponsorship for the Royal Navy, and I copy it herewith:-

The following conversation is taken from records unavailable for many years after the tragic events of Trafalgar unfolded, but in the light of recent disclosures regarding certain sponsorship deals for the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar, it was deemed timely to reveal them at the present time!

The scene is Portsmouth Dockyard, in the shore offices occupied by Admiral Nelson and his staff, three months before the battle which decided the fate of modern Europe.

Hardy. “My Lord Admiral, good news from the teams out searching!”

Nelson “Searching, Hardy? Searching for what, exactly?”

Hardy “Why, for the extra sponsorship deals that we need to allow a fully-funded fleet to go out once more to search for the French fleet.”

Nelson “I do wish that the Government hadn’t saddled us with keeping all costs associated with the campaign outside the normal funds which have been voted by Parliament!”

Hardy “It was something to do with these new ideas you floated, if you will pardon the expression, My Lord, floated to keep apart the normal campaign expenditures by which we were funded for Copenhagen, the Nile and the blockades, from the your new ideas regarding fleet manoeuvres and tactics. The Admiralty felt that as such proposals such as abandoning the tried and trusted methods such as sticking rigidly to…”

Nelson “Ah yes, Hardy, I remember; they wanted me to agree not to break our line-ahead formation! A member of the Admiralty Board claimed that as I was using ideas which had been the result of these new-fangled discussion and focus groups, and thus bringing untested tactics to the Navy’s battles, they should be funded by private subscription instead of from Navy funds! Yes, I recall the talks. You said ‘good news’ Hardy?”

Hardy “Well, Sir, we have full agreement where the names of the donors can be painted in between each of the gunports, with such titles as “Cornwall’s gunpowder is the best!” and “From the Tudors onwards, Rutland’s Oaks have served England!”. We have almost completed all the negotiations with the major sponsor, but there is one detail outstanding. We need your approval to allow to be flown, immediately below your own flag and that of the Union Flag, all ships of the line should fly a third flag which states, “Only Blogg’s Ship’s Biscuits are good enough for Nelson!”

A journey from Trafalgar to Star Wars; not as unlikely as one may think!

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