Iron Admirals: Naval Leadership in the Twentieth Century

By Ronald Andidora | Go to book overview

1
Nelson's Legacy

I

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, with a mixture of envy and frustration, "Wherever you find a fathom of water, there you will find the British." 1 He spoke from firsthand knowledge because the Royal Navy played the role of nemesis throughout the epoch that bears his name. At sea, the British navy surpassed the record of Napoleon's Grand Armée on land, winning every fleet battle and prevailing in the vast majority of encounters between individual ships. England's wooden walls shielded her from invasion and fostered her trade and industry, allowing the emperor's implacable foe to provide political leadership and financial backing for the various coalitions that finally brought him down. The British Fleet was also a sword that severed the lines of French maritime commerce and thrust the Duke of Wellington's troops onto the Iberian Peninsula and into Belgium. Wellington himself, normally parsimonious with his praise, gave the following testament, "I never found naval men at a loss. Tell them to do anything that is not impossible, and depend upon it, they will do it." 2 It was entirely fitting that after his final defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon's last view of France came from the deck of HMS Bellerophon, a seventy-four-gun ship-of-theline that had served in the King's navy for the entire twenty-two-year struggle against revolutionary and imperial France.

The embodiment of the British naval achievement during that period was Vice-Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, arguably the most inspirational figure in the annuals of his service. Nelson's place in history is rooted in a series of

-1-

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Iron Admirals: Naval Leadership in the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Maps ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Nelson's Legacy 1
  • 2 - Samurai in Nelson's Shadow 11
  • 3 - The Man Who Could Lose the Empire in an Afternoon 45
  • 4 - The Fighter and the Strategist 91
  • 5 - The New Legacies 149
  • Notes 161
  • Bibliography 171
  • Index 175
  • About the Author *
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