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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 16 September 2004
This is a haunting, thrilling book, which beautifully narrates the events leading up to the fateful day of 21 October 1805, the Battle of Trafalgar, when the British won, but Nelson was killed. The events surrounding the battle are skilfully described, and interwoven with the scenes are descriptions of many aspects of life in the navy, such as food, clothing, medicine, artillery and even women and children. The battle led to the surrender of many French and Spanish ships, but no British, yet worse was to come, because a violent storm immediately hit them, with dreadful loss of life. Adkins then goes on to describe events after the battle, including the news reaching various parts of the world, and the mixed reception in England: joy at the victory and grief at the loss of Nelson. A terrific read.
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on 12 April 2005
A brief extract from this excellent book
"It was now a few minutes past one o'clock, just over an hour after the battle had begun.At the heart of the fighting, where the two British columns had cut the French and Spanish line, the flow of blood from the decks into the gutters and out through drain holes had left scarlet streaks down the sides of the ships.The sea itself was taking on a dull crimson cast alternatively lit by flashes from the muzzles of the cannons and shaded by the pall of dust and smoke......" and so it goes on!
In 1805, Britain was at risk from iminent invasion from the superior and very experienced armies of Napoleon and with little in the line of defence to counter this attack. That is of course excluding the Royal Navy under the command of one Admiral Horatio Nelson!
This book tells of the hardships of life aboard a Royal Navy Battleship during 1700/1800's, the very uncomfortable living conditions, the poor diet, the disease and suffering and perhaps worst of all, the horrors of the surgeons table.
The details of the battle will most certainly leave you in awe of the bravery of each and every individual including both officers and able seamen and others on board. You will read amazing details of battleship technique and the description of the effect of red hot cannon balls and musket balls and the horrendous carnage that left decks looking like a butchers yard.
Finally of course you will learn of the brilliance of Horatio Nelson and the hero that he ultimately became.
The personal accounts written by those who were there (both British, French and Spanish) are superb actually taking you 'there'.
In this, the Trafalgar Bicentenary Year and as a Norfolk Man, I thoroughly recommend that you read this book!
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on 5 April 2005
This book is fantastic, it has everything. The insight into life on board ship during the period is fascinating and mentality of good old British "stiff upper lip" I have to say very amusing at times. Enthralling, educational and very complete, its one of those books you just dont want to end!!
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on 12 May 2005
To anyone with an interest in naval warfare during the Napoleonic era and the battle of Trafalgar in particular it would be reasonable to assume that there is almost nothing new that a modern author could contribute to the subject that hasn't already been covered many times before.
I too thought this way until I read this book. Whilst the basic facts of the battle are sure to be well known to anyone with more than a passing interest in Nelson and Trafalgar, where this book really scores is in the many references and excerpts taken from the letters written by the 'ordinary' seamen of both sides who took part in the battle and how it changed their lives.
In this bok Adkins achieves the difficult balance of giving just enough technical information to keep the knowledgeable interested but not so much as to overwhelm the newcomer who just wants to find out more about the most important naval battle in Britains history.
I cannot remember a book written about the battle of Trafalgar that I have enjoyed reading more.
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on 29 September 2004
I found this book fascinating, absorbing, moving, and very hard to put down once started. The conflict is described from all three sides; British, French and Spanish. By using many letters and reports written by the sailors and officers, as well as other first hand accounts Adkins describes the battle, and its aftermath from the view of the men and women who fought and their relatives back home. He portrays their world so vividly you feel these people are your friends and family writing, not long dead strangers from an alien past. The preparations, tactics, and details of the 5 hour battle along with individual exploits are astonishing enough, but he also covers the background and lead up to Trafalgar, the hurricane that followed and the scenes of devastation on the Spanish coast, the victory celebrations, Nelson's funeral and why he became an adored and iconic hero, and the exhausting years maintaining the naval dominance until the end of the Napoleonic War. He finishes with the differing treatment of their sailors by the British, French and Spanish governments - there is always a sting in the tale of a 'glorious victory'.
I read this book to learn more about my great, great, great, great grandfather who fought at Trafalgar, and to find out why we should still be celebrating the battle after 200 years. Before I finished I had fulfilled both aims. This is a biography of a battle as fought by ordinary people not a history of politicians and emperors. I shall be reading it again.
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on 23 May 2009
Most books about the Battle of Trafalgar tend to focus on Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson. Nothing wrong with that, as he was, in my humble opinion, the greatest Englishman who ever lived. However, this book is something different.
A thoroughly absorbing blow-by-blow account of the way the battle unfolded, complete with diagrams, anecdotes and letters from the men (and women) who were actually there, English, French and Spanish.
Add into the mix newspaper accounts from the period and the fact that you're taken from the preparation of both fleets, through the battle, the following storm and out the other side, and you have a very informative and engrossing read.
There are any number of excellent biographies of Nelson out there, but for information on the actual Battle of Trafalgar itself, this excellent paperback is pretty much all you need.
Highly recommended.
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on 23 September 2008
Quite apart from the compellingly written and fine detail on the battle and the subsequent storm, the author employs a discursive narrative style which leads him down all sorts of alternative pathways. More than a biography of a battle, a window into a time.
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on 30 December 2011
This book is excellent. It gives a lot of information about life in Nelson's Navy as well as going into great detail about the battle itself. Its details what happened at various times of the fateful day as well as giving diagrams as to where the changing ship positions were. Theres information about the French admiral Vielneuve and what subsequently happened after the battle in a storm. It also describes Nelson's funeral. I really enjoyed this book and thoroughly recommend it.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 September 2006
Nearly everyone if asked would be able to tell you that Trafalgar was a naval battle, fought by Britain's greatest ever admiral, Lord Horatio Nelson. Fewer people will be able to tell you who he fought against and why and even less will be able to tell you when and exactly where the battle occurred. I find this rather sad. That a man whose heroic deeds were so revered by his fellow countrymen, lets face it in the not too distant past is remembered by the name of a sea battle about which if we are honest very little is really known. This is the main reason I purchased this book. To improve my own knowledge of the battle of Trafalgar and to gain an insight into the conditions under which his men and to a degree himself had to live and fight while on board ship.

I really don't know what I was expecting when I started reading the book, but I found it fascinating, enlightening, brutal and exhilarating, often all at the same time. The conditions for the sea crew, bearing in mind that the battle was only 200 years ago (October, 1805) were almost medieaval.

The author has the ability to make you feel as though you were there on the heaving gun deck of the ships themselves with the nauseous smell of blood and vomit mingling with the screams of the dying and wounded all around you. The stench of cordite and seeing everything through a haze of acrid smoke. Somehow being at sea in a confined space makes it even more barbaric than it would have been on land.

The book gives a compelling account of the battle, but is also well laced with the day to day events that a seaman had to put up with, both humorous and macabre. The author recounts an anecdote from the Battle of the Nile, in which the French captain Dupetit-Thouars has first one arm blow off and then another, then a leg and continues to give orders from the deck while propped up in a grain barrel. Shades of Monty Python.
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on 24 November 2011
This was a superb book, a biography of a famous battle, the story of the men (and women) who fought it and how they lived and fought in their warships. Adkins effectively weaves personal accounts of the battle with historical analysis as well as his own insights.

Ordinarily I don't like to read books about military strategy but Nelson's Trafalgar is so much more than diagrams and a scoresheet. It's the telling detail that bring it to life; the individual accounts and the author's knowledge of life aboard a ship-of-the-line.

If womeone is going to read just one book about the Battle of Trafalgar, I'd recommend this one.
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