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The Battle of Trafalgar

To commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar

by The Revd Alan Barker

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar and to reflect upon the importance of good leadership.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need pictures of HMS Victory, Admiral Lord Nelson, and signalling flags (optional).

  • Some seafaring music.

  • If section 4 is used, some paper ‘admiral’s’ hats and a marker pen.

  • The leader of the assembly could, at an appropriate moment, don a captain’s hat!

  • In preparation for the Time for reflection, some children could be invited to compose ‘leader’s prayers’ – imagining that they are the prime minister, captain of the national football team, a head teacher, etc You will need a bottle of red wine (opened) or red juice, a glass or chalice, a bread roll (or you could use a piece of pitta bread), a freestanding cross.


  1. Begin with some seafaring music and welcome everyone aboard! Refer to the fact that 21 October is known as Trafalgar Day. The Battle of Trafalgar was fought on 21 October 1805. Celebrations are being held this year to mark its bicentenary – 200 years since it happened. It was a sea battle, fought on board sail-powered warships. Illustrate with a picture of HMS Victory. As the ships drew close to one another, cannon, muskets and pistols were used as weapons. Reflect that such fighting must have been a terrifying experience.

  2. Introduce the thought that, in times of danger, good leadership is important. Britain had been at war with France since 1793. During this time Horatio Nelson, later known as Admiral Lord Nelson (illustrate with picture) was one of the leading commanders of the fleet. His bravery brought out the best in his captains and men. After being wounded in sea battles, he had only one arm and was blind in one eye.

    A story tells how, in 1801, when the fleet was under heavy fire, the commander-in-chief of the fleet signalled the order to all the ships to stop fighting. Explain that before the invention of radio, messages were sent between ships using flag signals. Nelson put the telescope to his blind eye saying that he could not see the flag message. He and his men bravely continued the attack and gained victory.

    In the middle of the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson was hit by a bullet. As he was carried below deck, he covered his face and his medals so that his men would not see that it was him who was wounded and become discouraged. He died some hours later, knowing that the battle was won. Britain mourned the loss of a great hero. In London, Nelson’s Column at the centre of Trafalgar Square commemorates (helps us to remember) these events.
  3. Continue by suggesting that the Battle of Trafalgar was also won because Nelson valued the efforts of every individual. Nelson sent a famous signal (flag message) that spelt out the words: ‘England expects that every man will do his duty.’ Invite the assembly to consider what this means. Every person on board the ships had an important job to do. Other people depended upon them.
  4. EITHER: Reflect that a school community is rather like a ship’s company. Leadership is important. Explain that this is the responsibility of the head teacher. However, leadership is also shared with others. What leadership roles do other school staff and pupils undertake? Highlight roles such as Key Stage co-ordinators, and music and sports leadership. Then invite the assembly to think what is required for effective leadership. Make a list using an OHP, e.g.:

    Good leaders … set an example; listen; think how others feel; make decisions; gain respect and trust; encourage others; value others; show commitment; ensure that tasks are done; etc.

    Alternatively, suggestions could be written onto paper ‘admiral’s’ hats and worn by children standing at the front of the assembly!

    Point out that it is not just teachers who have to show leadership – can the children think of examples of when they are called upon to do so?
  5. OR: Refer to Nelson’s signal and invite the assembly to consider messages that might be ‘flagged up’ to inspire the company of HMS … (the name of your school). Contemporary examples could be: ‘Whatever you do, do your best’; or ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’

Time for reflection


Nelson was a brave man and a war leader in a very different age from our own.
We hope that we will never have to fight and that differences with other countries can be solved through talking, listening and understanding.
But doing that involves a very special type of leadership.
Can you show that kind of leadership in the way you live?
Can you be a leader who brings people together today?


Before battle, Nelson said his prayers.
He didn’t pray selfishly for himself or his own nation, but for the whole of Europe.
Part of his prayer said:
‘May the great God I worship, grant to my country and for the benefit of Europe in general,
a great and glorious victory:
and may no misconduct, in anyone, tarnish it …
I commit my life to Him who made me
and may His blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my country faithfully.’

Put simply, this prayer might be:
Lord God,
Help us to succeed, not just for our own sake,
but for the good and for the sake of others.
May we have high standards and positive attitudes.
Help us not to do anything that spoils our efforts.
May we be true to you and proud of serving this school together.


‘One more step' (Come and Praise, 47)

Publication date: October 2005   (Vol.7 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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