Sailors go back in time 200 years to crew sailing vessel which brought news of Trafalgar

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet

Sailors will step back in time more than two centuries when they crew a replica of the ship which brought news of victory at Trafalgar next month.

Twelve volunteers from Portsmouth Naval Base will take it in turns to sail the schooner HMS Pickle from Hull to the Solent so that the ship will be in harbour for the event which celebrates it achievements.

Back in 1805, the schooner Pickle was dispatched to Britain to report both the crushing defeat of the Franco-Spanish Fleet at Trafalgar and the death of the man who led the Royal Navy to victory, Admiral Lord Nelson.

It took ten days for the 73ft sailing vessel to reach Falmouth - then another 37 hours for her captain Lieutenant John Lapenotiere to reach the Admiralty in London, breathlessly announcing: "Sir, we have gained a great victory but we have lost Lord Nelson."

The accomplishments of Lapenotiere and his small boat are celebrated each November 4 - the anniversary of Pickle's arrival in Falmouth - with Pickle Night, an evening for naval ratings to remember the heroes of 1805 and generally let their hair down, often dressed in the uniform of the day.

HMS Victory hosts a special Pickle Night event on the great ship's lower gun deck with 104 specially-nominated ratings dining with Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock.

This year senior ratings serving aboard Nelson's flagship thought the presence of a replica (the original Pickle was wrecked more than two centuries ago) berthed next to Victory, would give proceedings extra authenticity and poignancy.

The replica - built 20 years ago in the Baltic and subsequently converted to look like Pickle to mark the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar - does feature some mod cons, such as communications, engine and galley.

But on deck, crew will toil as Nelson's sailors toiled to run the ship as it hops from its home in Hull down the east coast and into the Channel in four legs between October 25-30.

Thanks to support from long-time Navy supporter Sir Donald Gosling and his foundation, and the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity, up to six sailors from Portsmouth Flotilla will be able to crew the Pickle on each leg (the longest is 36 hours)…and there has been no shortage of volunteers.

There is also the opportunity to crew the ship on her return journey too, between November 8 and 15, with Pickle pausing on November 11 to remember Britain's war dead.