Friday, August 06, 2010

A Short History of the Battle of Trafalgar, by someone who was there

A Short History of the Battle of Trafalgar, by someone who was there

A door opens.

"Who the Devil?" asks a cultured voice, its owner looking up from a desk full of logs, maps and ephemera of shipboard life.

He looks up, his gaze from one good eye going over my shoulder at the banks of flashing lights, crates of equipment and unfamiliar sounds in the cavernous room beyond.

"That…" he starts, pulling himself up in his chair, "That is no part of this ship! What… who are you?"

I wear what are, to him, the unfamiliar colours of a Lieutenant Commander in the modern British Navy.

I salute.

"Lordship, forgive the intrusion, you may find this extremely difficult to understand, but this is the truth, by your own hand."

I hand him a piece of centuries-old vellum bearing the words: "Trust this man, he speaks the truth."

"This appears to be my handwriting, but I remember no such thing. When did I write this?"

"In about ten minutes' time, Lordship."

"You have, then, ten minutes."

Ten are all I need.

"Sir, I come from the 21st Century. We have developed a means of opening a door and stepping back through the years, and we are using this device to ensure that key points of our history are maintained."

"How so?"

"Today is October 20th 1805. Tomorrow, you will engage the enemy in a battle that will shape our nation for the next one hundred years. It is imperative, sir, that you win."

"How do you imagine that you can improve on my plans? What do you know of modern naval warfare?"

"Enough to know what difference this will achieve."

I drag one of the crates into the Great Cabin and snap it open.

"What the deuce?"

"I bring you joy, sir," I exclaim, falling into a well-practiced attempt at he vernacular of the time, "Joy at your impending victory.

"Allow me to introduce the Milan guided missile system."

"And what good is that… thing?"

"How would you like to engage your enemy from a mile away and completely destroy his ship with fire?"

"I would like this with all my heart."

And we talked.

And the plan was set.

And victory assured.

"Finally, Lordship, before we engage the enemy, can I ask one last thing?"

"You may ask."

"You must raise a signal to your fleet to rouse the hearts of the men. It will be the most famous naval signal in history, the very definition of England's fighting spirit for generations to come."

"I have given this some thought already," said the small, softly spoken man, his already shattered body no bar to his stature as a great commander, "What have you in mind?"

"This," I say, handing him a second piece of paper.

"Then it shall be so," his smile fading as he asks one final, sombre question.

"Will I live the day?"

"Forever. You will live forever."

"Then the signal shall be raised."

Aww crap. Wrong piece of paper.

No worry. All hail the Napoleonic Empire of Western Europe!

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