The Battle of the Nile was fought in Aboukir Bay, near Alexandria, Egypt, on the 1st and 2nd of August 1798. The British fleet was under the command of Rear Admiral Horatio Nelson and the French fleet under the command Admiral Paul D’Brueys d'Aigailliers.
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte planned an invasion of Egypt, in order to restrict Britain’s trade routes and threaten its possession of India. Nelson searched the Mediterranean Sea for the French fleet and sighted it, consisting of 13 ships of the line and four frigates, at anchor in Aboukir Bay. Nelson’s fleet of 14 ships quickly engaged the enemy. Towards the end of the action, Nelson received an injury to his forehead resulting in a flap of skin covering his good eye. Nelson thought he was blinded and dying and was taken below decks for treatment, without queue jumping other ranks, who had also been injured. He was later helped back on deck to watch the latter stages of the battle. In this battle of annihilation the British suffered 213 killed and 677 wounded, the French lost 1,400 killed and 600 wounded. The French figures are not certain, and various sources have estimated at between 2000 and 5000 killed and wounded. It was a decisive victory for Nelson. One British seaman reported: An awful sight it was, the whole bay was covered with dead bodies, mangled, wounded, and scorched, not a bit of clothes on them but their trousers.
The victory at the Nile helped to raise Nelson’s popularity at home, and to cement his reputation in the navy, as one of the most able commanders of his generation.
After the battle, Nelson lingered in Naples and became infatuated with Lady Emma Hamilton. He also became involved with politics, civil strife and the French forces at Naples and Sicily. He was granted the Dukedom of Bronte. He was persuaded to leave Naples for England in July 1800, but, with the Hamiltons, he went by a circuitous route via Vienna, Prague and Hamburg to Cuxhaven in Germany. The Admiralty had declined to send a warship to carry the Hero of the Nile home, as Nelson’s actions in Naples between 1798 and 1800 had not been universally popular with Parliament and the Navy Board. Therefore, he boarded the mail packet, King George.
It is recorded that Nelson, together with Sir William Hamilton and Lady Emma (who was six months pregnant at the time with Nelson’s child), landed in Gorleston on 6th November 1800. This was the first time Nelson had returned to England since his victory over the French at the Battle of the Nile. It is said that he was rowed ashore by the sailors of the King George and carried ashore onto Gorleston beach. Nelson’s party was driven from Gorleston down Southtown Turnpike (Road) and, on reaching the Haven Bridge, the horses were removed from the carriage and the men of Great Yarmouth pulled it to the Wrestler’s Inn on Brewery Plain, where there was much celebration. Here, Nelson was given the Freedom of the Borough. Legend tells us that when the town clerk was administering the oath he noticed that Nelson’s left hand was placed on the Bible and he exclaimed, Your right hand, my Lord. That, replied Nelson curtly, is at Tenerife. Another story recounts that the landlady of the Wrestler’s Inn asked Nelson if she could rename the pub, The Nelson Arms in his honour. Nelson replied: that would be ridiculous, seeing as I have but one.
While in Great Yarmouth, Nelson was entertained by the Mayor, Samuel Barker, and attended a service at St. Nicholas’ Church, where he gave thanks to God for his victory at the Nile. On entering the church the organ played Here the Conquering Hero Comes. He soon left Great Yarmouth for London, leaving £50 to be distributed to the poor.
After the plaque was unveiled by Bertie Patterson of the Nelson Society the gathering enjoyed tots of spiced rum and the traditional toast was raised to the immortal memory of Nelson.
Society members toast to the immortal memory of Nelson at the plaque unveiling.