Nelson in conflict with a Spanish launch, July 1797
After the Battle of St Vincent, 14 February 1797, the Spanish fleet was blockaded in Cadiz harbour by the British. The inshore squadron of the fleet was commanded by Sir Horatio Nelson. On 3 July, he sent a bomb ketch close inshore to provoke a Spanish reaction. This proved successful and Nelson launched some armed ships' boats to rescue it, with himself in his own admiral's barge. He was accompanied by John Sykes, his coxswain, and Captain Thomas Fremantle. Although significantly outnumbered, the barge was soon locked in combat with a Spanish launch. In hand-to-hand fighting, Sykes twice saved Nelson's life, sustaining severe head injuries. (According to the 'Life of Nelson' by Joseph Allen (1852), a Greenwich Hospital official, Sykes later became gunner of the 'Andromache' and was accidentally killed firing a salute at Gibraltar in 1799.
- Image reference: BHC2908
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
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