Sailors go 200 years back in time to crew sailing vessel which brought news of Trafalgar

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.

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HMS Pickle at Dover

These photos from HMS Pickle’s brief time in Dover Harbour following her momentous trip from Gibraltar under Mal Nicholson’s command were kindly sent by Neil Batey, the Sailors’ Children’s Society’s local community engagement and family support officer for Dover & Ramsgate. Thanks Neil!

The charity looks after the children of seafarers who are disadvantaged in some way. See also the  website for seafarer’s families Find the Sea Families.

Folks in Dover enjoyed and appreciated her visit so much that on the 31st October Royal Cinque Ports YC is holding a Pickle Night with entertainment by Dover Tales and The Old Lone Gin Band from 7.30pm, with profits to be divided between the Sailors’ Children’s Society and the RNLI. I’m told the event will feature a debut song rendition of The Ballad of the Pickle.

And here’s Mal talking to BBC Radio Kent (for Facebookers only, sadly).

HMS Pickle is on her way home

Now substantially fixed up with many new timbers, new rigging and other gear, HMS Pickle is now sailing her way in shortish hops along the coast from Portugal to her new home at Keadby Lock in South Humberside. She has reached Santander.

Today’s HMS Pickle is traditionally built schooner named after the celebrated Bermudan sloop HMS Pickle, which famously brought news of the victory at Trafalgar and of Nelson’s death to England. Little Pickle got the job because she was quick and handy, but from reading the original HMS Pickle’s Wikipedia entry she was involved in quite a number of remarkable exploits, including various captures and rescues.

To see her position on the route home, click here. Also, follow her progress on the official HMS Pickle Facebook page.