September 26, 2006

Gratuitous Royal Navy Geek Posting


Today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1748, of Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood. Here is a nice little biography. And here is the Royal Naval Museum's page.

Collingwood is usually overshadowed in popular history by his good friend Horatio Nelson, owing to Nelson's dash and drama. Nonetheless, Collingwood's own naval record was every bit as respectable and important as Nelson's and it is sometimes argued that his seamanship and powers of strategic thinking were even superior. (I believe there may be something to this. Nelson was a brilliant tactician but his strategic skills were never really put to the test. There is that about his temperment which suggests he might not have excelled in such a role.)

Collingwood first saw combat at the Battle of Bunker Hill, where he served in the British naval squadron. Later, he commanded ships in the great fleet actions of the Glorious First of June and the Battle of Cape St. Vincent.

Collingwood is probably best remembered now for his role as second in command under Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. Collingwood led the leeward British column of attack in his flagship HMS Royal Sovereign which, because of the ship's speed, earned her the honor of being the first British ship to come under fire from the Franco-Spanish Fleet. Upon learning of Nelson's death Collingwood took overall command of the British fleet. He spent the remainder of his sea-going career as Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean fleet, where he turned in a solid performance. The job of C-in-C was merciless and thankless, however, and eventually drove Collingwood into a decline. He died in 1810 on his way back to Britain.

Posted by Robert at September 26, 2006 08:44 AM | TrackBack