Nelson Afloat: A Hero Among the World’s Navies

  • John B. Hattendorf


The legacy of Horatio Nelson is something more than just that of a fleet commander who had won a famous victory and more than just that of a distinctively British naval hero. His legacy is different from that of a Marlborough or a Wellington, who are also seen as great commanders. Beyond that, Nelson is seen as the embodiment of key professional virtues for naval leaders that provides an enduring model. Within a century after his death, Nelson had become a hero among the world’s navies and an icon of naval professionalism around the globe. The applications of Nelson’s name in professional naval terms are remarkable and extend to the present day and to modern navies that no longer bear any physical resemblance to those of the age of fighting sail. If one excludes from examination here the distinctive views that may have developed in Nelson’s own victorious Royal Navy and those navies that directly evolved from its traditions in British colonies and the Commonwealth and then if one adds to that number those that Nelson defeated, France, Spain, and Denmark, there are still nearly 150 of the world’s navies to consider. In that wide field, one may turn to the navies of Germany, Japan, China, the Soviet Union, Latin America, and the United States as representative cases.


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© John B. Hattendorf 2005

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