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"Nelsonís Pursuit of Napoleonís Egypt Expedition" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2021 2:42 p.m. PST

"ON TRAFALGAR DAY Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson had the combined French and Spanish fleet in clear view. The encounter had come at the end of a long chase that had begun in May 1805, taken him across the Atlantic to reach the West Indies in June, back again to the mouth of the English Channel in August, and finally south to the Strait of Gibraltar in September, where he blockaded Cadiz until the enemy put to sea in October. He had had a number of false starts and followed a number of false trails, but once Admiral Pierre Villeneuve had cleared the Strait of Gibraltar from the Mediterranean and set off into the deep Atlantic, Nelson had been able to make the assumption with some certainty that the French were heading for the West Indies. The campaign of Trafalgar was to prove a triumph of strategic maneuver. As an intelligence operation, it was not, at least in its later stages, one of complexity.

The contrast with Nelson's earlier pursuit, discovery, and destruction of a French fleet was extreme. In 1798 Nelson, recently promoted to independent command, was appointed to lead a British squadron back into the Mediterranean, from which it had been absent since late 1796, and to mount watch outside Toulon, the principal enemy naval base in the south of France. It was known that General Napoleon Bonaparte was in command of an army assembling there; that transports were gathering also, under the protection of a French battle fleet; and that an amphibious expedition was planned, directed against British interests. The question was which and where: Britain itself? Ireland? Southern Italy? Malta? Turkey? Egypt? All lay within Napoleon's operational reach, and some, Malta in particular, were steppingstones to others. Beyond Egypt lay India, where Britain was rebuilding a substitute for the overseas empire lost in North America in 1782. If Napoleon could put to sea undetected, the Mediterranean would swallow his tracks and Nelson would discover where he had gone only when he had done his worst. The menace was guaranteed to perturb a watcher day and night. Nelson was perturbed. Before the French left port he was anticipating their departure for "Sicily, Malta and Sardinia" and "to finish the King of Naples at a blow" but also perhaps for "Malaga and [a] march through Spain" to invade Portugal, Britain's longest-standing ally. After they left in late May, he was in hot pursuit, sometimes on the right track, sometimes the wrong, sometimes behind, sometimes ahead, sometimes in the wrong continent altogether. In the end he ran his quarry to earth. The scent had died in his nostrils several times, however, and his own false calculations had led him astray. Not until 1 o'clock in the afternoon of August 1, when the lookout on HMS Zealous reported masts in Aboukir Bay, east of the Nile Delta, had Nelson reassurance that the chase begun seventy-three days earlier had been brought to conclusion. How it had makes one of the most arresting operational intelligence stories of history…"
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Amicalement
Armand

15th Hussar28 Jan 2021 3:27 p.m. PST

That's a fair sized article, with good details on the pursuit/chase!

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP29 Jan 2021 12:01 p.m. PST

Glad you enjoyed it my good friend! (smile)

Amicalement
Armand

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