The Untold Battle Of Trafalgar Review: Jobs For Immigrants

June 27, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

THE UNTOLD BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR: Monday 28th June, Channel 4, 9pm ALERT ME

If immigrants are a problem in Britain today, then they certainly weren’t back in 1805. At the height of the Napoleonic Wars nearly 10% of the nation’s seadogs were foreigners who had either run away or been dragged away by the British Navy. Yes, England expected every man to do his duty and apparently it didn’t really matter if that man was a Portuguese bloke who had got drunk and been kidnapped by a press-gang.

There has certainly been no shortage of naval history on television of late (the BBC’s Empire of the Sea was particularly fascinating) and tonight Channel 4 muscle in on the maritime party by turning out this equally interesting ode to all the foreigners who took splinters in the ass for King George III. This is interesting stuff in its own right, but history buffs tuning in hoping for a good old retelling of how we saw off both the revolutionary Frenchies and their Spanish friends will also find plenty to warm their hearts here.

We see all the hellish action through the eyes of the poor sods on board one of the first British ships into battle, HMS Ballerophon. Luckily a scribe decided to log all the souls on board with the kind of meticulousness that has historians giggling with excitement and going on about what a preciously unique historical artefact that book/diary/shopping list really is. You know the ones.

Yet through this useful document we now know that some of the people indirectly fighting Napoleon at Trafalgar in October 1805 – were among other nationalities – Swedish, Portuguese and American. Indeed this was considered to be a ‘golden period’ for a generation of black people who found they could earn decent money and receive respect that was unheard of at the time. Sadly these better rights came to an abrupt end when the war finished in 1815 and the Navy reduced its staff.

The narrator goes on to explain that there were even a couple of Frenchmen on board as the ship opened fire on their country men. As you might expect, royalists from across the channel were only too pleased to ‘jump ship’ when the baying peasants started wheeling the guillotine down their street..