Dialogue Extract (The Battle of Trafalgar)

by Robin Hawdon

CAPTAIN HARDY enters the cabin and stands smiling at his ADMIRAL. A massive, taciturn, forthright man, solid as a rock, with a receding forehead and a deep voice bearing the trace of a Dorset accent.

HARDYHome, my Lord.

NELSON turns his head and gazes out of the side windows, where the Hampshire shore can be seen a few hundred yards distant.

NELSONIt’s been too long, Hardy.
He turns back.
Are we released from quarantine?
HARDYYes, my Lord. It’s finally confirmed we don’t carry the Yellow Fever.
NELSONTrust the bureaucrats to have their say.
Folds the letter.
Nevertheless I suspect this will reach Merton before I do.

GAETANO, Nelson’s sour old Italian VALET, enters, with his employer’s faded Admiral’s frock coat, embroidered with four emblems of his various orders and Knighthoods.

GAETANOYour coat m’Lord.
NELSON(calling at the ceiling as he puts it on)  Mr Scott!
Turns to HARDY.
Have my barge ready to take us ashore, Captain Hardy. Let’s discover how England’s fared without us.
HARDYAye aye, sir.
NELSONAnd might I have all hands on deck?
HARDY’S eyebrows rise.
It’s been a long haul and I would say farewell.
HARDYIndeed, my lord.
HARDY turns to go.
NELSONNot quite the triumphant homecoming we had hoped for, eh?
HARDY turns back.
HARDYYou’d never know it.
HARDY(grinning) Wait till you get on deck.

He leaves, as JOHN SCOTT, Nelson’s personal SECRETARY enters, smiling happily.

NELSONIs there some joke I’m unaware of?
SCOTTNo, my Lord.
NELSON(Handing him the letter) See that this goes by express to her ladyship, would you Mr Scott – and let’s hope we can shortly follow the same way.

There comes the clanging of a bell from above, and the cry “All hands on deck” – followed by the thunder of feet from all parts of the ship.



The H.M.S. SUPERB is anchored in the background. The entire CREW – some seven hundred men – are assembled on deck as NELSON comes up from below. As he mounts the POOP, a distant sound meets his ears. He turns towards the shore.



Along the harbour walls, the beaches, the ramparts, on every promontory and foothold, a great crowd has assembled, and across the waters of the harbour its shouts and cheers can be heard ringing to the skies.


The senior OFFICERS and Nelson’s PERSONAL STAFF (JOHN SCOTT; DR SCOTT, THE CHAPLAIN; MR BURKE, SHIP’S PURSER; and MR BEATTY, SURGEON), who are assembled on the poop, stand grinning as NELSON stares at the CROWD. He turns to HARDY at his side.

NELSONAre they shouting for us, Hardy?
HARDYFor you, my Lord.
NELSON stares a moment, then turns to the rail of the poop, and addresses the CREW.
NELSONThey must think we’ve got Bonaparte’s head on board with us. We’ll keep them misinformed as long as possible.
The CREW roars with laughter. He addresses them in a quieter tone.
Lads – it’s been a long, weary chase. We’ve been two years out of port, and covered twenty thousand miles of water – and due to the Frenchman’s arrant cowardice in facing battle, and our wretched ill-luck in forcing it, we’ve come back with rather less glory than the good citizens of Portsmouth would have us believe. Nevertheless, Admiral Villeneuve and his friends cannot escape their just deserts forever. Now that our fleets have them once more holed up like rabbits in the Spanish ports, I believe Fate will ordain it that they stay there until this battered old lady is ready again to lead the way to the victory that her name assures, and that she so surely deserves.
Cheers from the CREW.
For that reason she must be prepared to leave port at the earliest possible moment, and I’m afraid there can be no shore-leave for you this occasion.
Groans and some mutters.
I know, it’s poor reward. The dilemma is, I suspect many amongst you feel you’ve done enough for your country’s cause, and the press-gangs would have to be fleet of foot to get you back here.
Qualified laughter.
But when you set sail again, I’ve no doubt this time neither God nor Bonaparte will deny you the battle you have pursued so steadfastly. Bless you all.
He starts to turn. A voice calls from the gathered seamen. The speaker, deep in the safety of the packed ranks, is a hefty sailor called JENSON.
JENSONWill you be taking command again, Admiral?
NELSON(turning back) My inclinations are that thirty-five years under the flag are perhaps enough for a man – or rather three-quarters of a man with but half a constitution.

Another voice with a broad Irish accent speaks up now. It belongs to an extrovert character called MULLIGAN.

MULLIGANAh, Nel – you’ll not be deserting us now.
LIEUTENANT(Sharply) Quiet there!

The MEN chuckle, and NELSON can barely hide his smile. NELSON turns to descend to his barge. As he does so a BOATSWAIN bellows out.

BOATSWAINThree cheers for the finest three-quarters of an Admiral in the navy. Hip, hip…..
CREW(Enthusiastically) Hooray!