Portsmouth Naval Base volunteers are to sail the schooner Pickle from Hull to the Solent to attend a celebration of the original HMS Pickle’s voyage to Falmouth carrying the news of the victory at Trafalgar and the death of Admiral Lord Nelson.
The battle took place off Cape Trafalgar (not far from the Southern tip of the country) and the journey took ten days – and then it took another 37 hours for captain Lieutenant John Lapenotiere to reach the Admiralty in London.
On arrival, it’s recorded that he announced: ‘Sir, we have gained a great victory but we have lost Lord Nelson.’
The accomplishments of Lapenotiere and his small boat are celebrated each November 4 – the anniversary of Pickle’s arrival in Falmouth – with Pickle Night, an evening for naval ratings to remember the heroes of 1805 and generally let their hair down, often dressed in the uniform of the day.
HMS Victory hosts a special Pickle Night event on the great ship’s lower gun deck with 104 specially-nominated ratings dining with Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock.
HMS Victory executive officer WO1 Dickie Henderson along with some senior ratings serving aboard Nelson’s flagship thought this year the presence of a replica (the original Pickle was wrecked more than two centuries ago) berthed next to Victory, would add to the proceedings.
The current Pickle was built 20 years ago in the Baltic, has a hull similar to the original and was adapted to look more like the original HMS Pickle to mark the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar.
The crew will live in more comfort than sailors of Nelson’s era but he sailing gear would have been recognisable to old time sailors. On her planned way south from the 25th-30th October, she is to call at Harwich, Dover and Eastbourne, and reach Portsmouth on the 30th.
Thanks to support from long-time Navy supporter Sir Donald Gosling and his foundation, and the RN RM Charity, up to six sailors, at a time, from HMS Victory and Portsmouth Flotilla will be able to crew the Pickle on each leg (the longest is 36 hours)… I gather there has been no shortage of volunteers.