Battle of Trafalgar


painting of Admiral Nelson surounded by sailors on the deck of HMS Victory

'The Death of Nelson' by Benjamin West, from the Walker Art Gallery

The cost of war with France, 1793 -1815, was more expensive than all previous wars put together. This included the Battle of Trafalgar. The government did not have enough funds, so a new tax was needed. For the first time tax was put on people's wages, which became Income Tax.

When Britain first went to war with France there was little threat of invasion. But by 1803 invasion was expected. This led to a vast network of coastal defences being planned. One example was the Royal Military Canal running for 28 miles in Romney Marsh, costing £234,000. In today's money this would be £7.5million. Gun positions were located on the canal every 500 yards. Any troops moving along the Military Road were protected by a high earthen bank (or parapet) running next to the canal. But these defences were never put to the test.

Admiral Nelson's success at Trafalgar (1805) made French invasion unlikely. And virtually impossible after Napoleon and his allies were destroyed in the Russian winter of 1812.

cross section diagram showing a soldier protected by an earth embankment overlooking a wide canal

Royal Military Canal diagram showing defensive earthen bank. Photograph of information panel © Alex Wolfson.