Battle of Trafalgar
The White Ensign is being flown today to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805. It consists of a red St George's Cross on a white field with the Union Flag in the upper canton. The White Ensign was one of three ensigns in use into the 19th Century, with each one being assigned to one of the three squadrons of the Navy, according to its colour (red, white and blue), with red being the most senior and blue the least. Ships flew the colour of ensign corresponding to the squadron to which they were attached, which was in turn determined by the seniority of the admiral under whose command the ship sailed. In 1864 the White Ensign was adopted as the ensign used by all Royal Navy ships and shore stations. The Red Ensign was allocated to merchantmen. The Blue Ensign was to be the flag of ships in public service or commanded by an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve,
Royal Navy ships and submarines wear the White Ensign at all times when underway. The White Ensign may also be worn on a gaff, and may be shifted to the starboard yardarm when at sea. When alongside, the White Ensign is worn at the stern, with the Union Flag flown as a jack at the bow, during daylight hours. The White Ensign is worn at the mastheads when Royal Navy ships are dressed on special occasions such as the Queen's birthday.
This sea battle was fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815). The British ships flew Nelson’s White Ensign from HMS Victory.
The battle was the most decisive British naval victory of the war. Twenty-seven British ships of the line led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard HMS Victory defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under French Admiral Pierre Villeneuve off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost. In his greatest battle Nelson lost his life, but not before knowing that the victory was his.
The British victory spectacularly confirmed the naval supremacy that Britain had established during the past century and was achieved in part through Nelson's departure from the prevailing naval tactical orthodoxy, which involved engaging an enemy fleet in a single line of battle parallel to the enemy to facilitate signalling in battle and disengagement, and to maximise fields of fire and target areas. Nelson instead divided his smaller force into two columns directed perpendicularly against the larger enemy fleet, with decisive results, Admiral Collingwood leading the leeward column. The Royal Navy dominated the world’s oceans for the next hundred years.
In 1808, because the threat of invasion by the French was removed, it was decided not to build any more Martello Towers, which is why this one, number 74, is the last constructed and the two more planned for Seaford Bay were never built.