Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

The Story of Nelson, the Hero of the Navy

Part II

Before many years had passed, Nelson had become a captain, and had a fine ship under his command. At that time, we were at war with the French, who, under their great leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, were trying to conquer all the other nations of Europe.

Napoleon was, perhaps, the greatest soldier that ever lived; and, for a long time, no armies could stand against him. But, at sea, our brave sailors were more than a match for the French, who were beaten everywhere.

Nelson had much fighting all over the world before he took part in a great battle. In one of these fights he lost the sight of one eye, and at another time he lost his right arm.

As a captain, Nelson was very proud of his men, and did all he could for their comfort. There is no wonder that hey were ready to go through any danger for him; and, and he said to a friend, "they thought no more of cannon balls than of peas."

To his young midshipmen, he was just as kind. If he saw that one of them was half afraid to climb up the tall mast, Nelson would say, "I am going to race you to the masthead, and will meet you there." Of course, no brave lad could then refuse to try, and when they met up aloft Nelson would say, "You see, it was not very hard, after all."

Nelson took part in four great battles at sea. In the first, he was not at the head of our fleet, but it was through his bravery and cleverness that the fight was won. But at the famous battle of the Nile, Nelson was in command of the British fleet, and the glory of the day was all his own.

He had been chasing the French for weeks, and at last he found them in a strong harbour, the sides of which were lined with cannon.

Lord Nelson


Now, all Nelson cared about was getting his ships as close as he could to the French vessels; and then his men, who could fire their guns twice as fast as their foes, soon battered in the sides of the French men-of-war.

In this battle, Nelson was wounded and was carried below deck to the doctor. Around him lay many of his men, all wounded too. Of course, when the doctor saw Nelson, he at once came to attend to him.

The great admiral, however, would not allow him to do so, for, said he, "I will take my turn with my brave fellows." Here, again, you see his love for his men; and there is no need to wonder that they were ready to die for him.

This great battle was fought at night, and in the morning it was found that all the French ships were destroyed. There was much joy in our country when the news was heard, and the title of Lord Nelson was given to our great leader.


In another great battle, where, strange to say, Nelson was not at the head of our fleet, the British admiral gave the order to stop fighting. This was done by a signal made up of flags. Now Nelson wanted to go on with the fight, and so he put his telescope to his blind eye, and said, "I really do not see the signal, so go on with the battle," which, an hour afterwards, was won.

We are now corning to Nelson's last great fight—the battle of Trafalgar. For two years he had been looking for the fleets of France and Spain, and when he came in sight of them his ships at once got ready for battle.

Before the fight began, he gave his famous signal, "England expects every man to do his duty." When our British sailors saw it flying from Nelson's ship, the "Victory," they gave loud cheers, and were ready to fight their hardest.

In this, his last fight, Nelson wore his admiral's coat, which was covered with stars. These made him an easy mark for the riflemen who were in the rigging of the French ships. Soon, a bullet struck him in the shoulder, and he fell on his face upon the deck. His great friend, captain Hardy, at once ran to his help.

"They have done for me at last," said Nelson. "I hope not," replied Hardy. "Yes," said Nelson, "my backbone is shot through."

As the hero lay dying, the cheers of his men told him that the French ships were nearly all taken or burnt, and this thought cheered his last moments.

Death of Nelson


The doctor now told him that he had only a few minutes to live. Just then, Hardy came to his side. In little more than a whisper, the dying Nelson said, "Kiss me, Hardy." The captain did so, kissing his cheek. "Now I die happy. Thank God, I have done my duty," were the last words of Nelson.

Thus died our greatest sailor, and all Britain mourned for him. Once a year, at least, we remember what he did for us; and, on 21 October, or Trafalgar day, we deck his monument with wreaths and evergreens.