Royal Grammar School


Remembering our hero

Remembering our hero

It's Trafalgar Day today. And I learnt a shocking fact from the founder of the Collingwood Society (though I haven't checked it out for myself). He told me that, on the Navy's own Trafalgar website, there is not a single mention of Cuthbert, Admiral Lord Collingwood. He says he will move heaven and earth to rectify this omission - and I believe him!

Fortunately, our local hero was not forgotten on Tyneside. Three of our Cadets gave up the first morning of their half-term to attend the annual ceremony at St. Nicholas Cathedral, where the RGS's most famous former student was christened and married, to present to the Lord Mayor the wreath she then laid at the foot of Collingwood's memorial. As usual, senior naval and police officers, members of the Collingwood family and we were present - plus, this year, the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear. It's a quiet but dignified occasion which I always enjoy.

I just made it to the magnificent Collingwood monument at Tynemouth to hear Captain Andy Jordan, Commanding Officer of HMS Collingwood in Portsmouth, give the oration before we drank a tot to the admiral at midday, the time when the Battle of Trafalgar got underway on 21st October 1805.

There was some entertaining Twitter chatter going on all morning: when the Independent Schools Council informed us that Nelson was an old boy of Norwich School, I reminded the Twittersphere of Collingwood's provenance!

As I write this, the National Maritime Museum is still tweeting updates on where the battle had got to by this time of the afternoon: but I was most amused by a tweeted reminder of the waspish side of Collingwood's character. He didn't suffer fools gladly, as witness some of his comments about the lacklustre captain of the flagship from which he commanded his squadron (and, after Nelson was shot, the fleet). 

Even his friend and hero Nelson nettled him as the battle commenced and Collingwood's column first broke and engaged the enemy line, his gunners fighting ships on both sides. As Nelson hoisted one signal after another, Collingwoof commented testily: 

"I do wish Nelson would stop signalling. We know well enough what to do."

He just wanted to get on with it. And he did. The rest is history. 

Have a great half-term!

Bernard Trafford