The signal sent from Admiral Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory before the Battle of Trafalgar on Monday 21st October 1805 was simply
‘England expects that every man will do his duty’.
The story of the battle has been so well told and published that I’m not going to follow the typical route. I’m going to briefly tell the story of a sailor who entered the Navy on Wednesday 21st March 1798 as a midshipman aboard the 74-gun ship Vanguard under the command of Captain Edward Berry, and serving as the flagship of Sir Horatio Nelson. This man was Granville Proby who saw action at the Battle of the Nile on 1st August 1799, then transferred to the ship Foudrovant with Captain Berry, and while blockading Malta, took part in the capture on 18th February 1800, of the ship Genereux and the armed store-ship Ville de Marseilles. He also took part in the action od 31st March 1800 in which Foudroyant, in company with the 64-gun ship Lion and frigate Penelope, captured the French ship Guillaume Tell, the flagship of Rear-Admiral Denis Decres, during which Foudroyant sustained a loss of 8 men killed and 64, including a wounded Granville Proby.
His career moved on. In 1801 he was again present in Foudroyant under Admiral Lord Keith during the Egyptian campaign. He then moved on again – serving aboard the frigate Santa Teresa, under Captain Robert Campbell and the frigate Resistance under Captain Hon. Philip Wodehouse before arriving on HMS Victory, the flagship of Lord Nelson. There, on 24 October 1804, he was promoted to lieutenant, and transferred to the frigate Narcissus under Captain Ross Donnelly. In May 1805 he transferred to the 98-gun ship Neptune under Captain Thomas Fremantle and there, on Monday 21st October 1805, he was involved in the Battle of Trafalgar.
That overwhelming victory over the French and Spanish fleet off Cape Trafalgar gave the Royal Navy its most famous triumph and confirmed a long tradition of naval supremacy.
The battle also immortalized the memory of Viscount Horatio Nelson who was shot and died of his wounds at the moment of his greatest victory.
Granville Proby carried on his career, becoming a Rear Admiral in 1841; Vice Admiral in 1851 and Admiral (retired) in 1857. In these later days he was very much involved in restoring and rebuilding the family home of Elton Hall nestling in the beautiful countryside on the Cambridgeshire/Northamptonshire border, just eight miles southwest of Peterborough.