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The only surviving Union Jack from the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar is to stay in Britain, thanks to the Government.

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has imposed an export curb on the 11ft 7ins by 7ft 4ins emblem, which flew onboard HMS Spartiate.

The crew of that ship stitched it from 31 panels and presented it Lt James Clephan in recognition of his bravery.

Yesterday, the flag was sold to an American for 384,000, but he would have to apply for a special licence if he wants to take the flag abroad.

During the battle, which took place on 21st October 1805, 27 British ships came up against 2 French/Spanish ships. The British mashed the enemy to a pulp, sinking 22 enemy ships and not losing any of their own.

Victory for the Battle of Trafalgar's flag

By James Lyons (external - login to view)
21/10/2009 (external - login to view)

Ship's historic emblem to stay in Britain


Exactly 204 years ago it fluttered proudly above the blast of cannon fire and roar of gunshot as Britannia ruled the waves.

Yet the only surviving Union Jack from the Battle of Trafalgar was in danger of falling into foreign hands at auction - on the anniversary of the conflict.

Now the Government has stepped in to ensure this proud emblem of Britain's glorious past, still marked by shot and bearing a faint whiff of gunpowder, remains on these shores.


Culture Secretary Margaret Hodge

Temporary export curbs will give British museums a chance to match the expected 10,000 to 15,000 sale price.

Culture Secretary Margaret Hodge, who imposed the export ban, said: "Trafalgar was one of our greatest sea victories and a turning point in our country's fortunes.

"This flag is a poignant and unique memento from that battle and I am ready to do everything necessary to help keep it in this country.

"Generations to come should have the chance to look at it and reflect on our glorious history, when England expected and our heroic sailors rose to the challenge." The standard, 11ft 7ins by 7ft 4ins, flew above HMS Spartiate in the massive sea battle.

Its 540 crew had stitched it together from 31 panels. And after the conflict they presented it to their Lt James Clephan in recognition of his bravery.

ACTION

It is being sold off in London today, Trafalgar Day, by one of his descendants who lives in Australia. Auctioneer Charles Miller said: "I think it's hard to overstate the historical importance of this flag.

"This was the greatest naval action ever fought.

"The great thing about the flag is it's one of the most emblematic items you can get from Trafalgar.

"This is a bit of naval hardware that has actually served in action."



Horatio Nelson joined the Navy at 12 and was a captain at 20. He lost the sight of his right eye in action in 1794 and his right arm in 1797. Aged 47, while winning at Trafalgar, he was killed by an enemy sniper.

Also being sold are coloured prints depicting a far-fetched giant raft that British illustrators imagined the French could use to invade our shores. They are expected to fetch 1,000.

On October 21, 1805, 27 British ships under Admiral Lord Nelson's command squared up to 33 French and Spanish vessels west of Cape Trafalgar, on the south-west coast of Spain. Nelson's forces sank 22 enemy ships without losing a single one of his own.

It was a spectacular victory that confirmed British naval supremacy and ended Napoleon Bonaparte's hopes of invading the British isles.

But the naval genius behind it paid the price with his life.

The triumph was a vindication of his daring tactics. Until then the conventional wisdom had been for opposing fleets to form into two parallel lines and shoot it out.

But at Trafalgar Nelson split his vessels into two groups and attacked the enemy line at a right angle.

The battle also made Lt Clephan a hero. Born in Fife, Scotland, he had begun life as a weaver.

But in 1794, aged 26, he was press-ganged and forced to join the Royal Navy.

By 1805 he was First Lieutenant of HMS Spartiate - captured from the French at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. It was from her masts in the conflict that a shot which wounded Nelson was fired.

Lt Clephan's fearless acts during the battle also won him further promotion in the Royal Navy.

DISPLAY

He became a commander in 1811 and by the time he retired in 1840 he had made captain Clephan was one of only 16 to attain that rank from around 300,000 press-ganged sailors.

He retired to Edinburgh, where he died in 1851 aged 83.

Meanwhile the chair in which Nelson - one of history's great insomniacs - napped during quiet moments on HMS Victory has been refurbished and put on display for the first time.

It was part of a suite of furniture used by the hero in his cabin for informal briefings with his officers.

Richard Noyce, curator at Portsmouth's Royal Naval Museum, said: "This chair has an extending footstool and Nelson, a notoriously bad sleeper, used it for catnaps during the day.

"Following the Battle of Trafalgar the chair passed to his sister Catherine Matcham and down through her descendants."

American buys Trafalgar flag for 34K but ministers vow to keep it in the UK

By Richard Smith; James Lyons
22/10/2009 (external - login to view)



The last surviving Union Jack from the Battle of Trafalgar was yesterday sold to an American for a record 384,000.

But the war to keep the iconic emblem in Britain is far from over. The Government will now face delicate talks with the mystery owner whose phone bid was more than 20 times the expected price.

Culture Secretary Margaret Hodge said: "We'll do everything we can to keep it in this country."

Auctioneer Charles Miller said: "The winning bidder wants the flag to leave the country initially. But he expects to make an approach to the Government soon with a view to displaying it in Britain at some future point."

The buyer would have to apply for a special licence if he wanted to take the flag abroad. Ms Hodge could then impose a temporary ban, which would give museums here time to raise cash to buy it and keep it in the country.

Culture Department spokesman Toby Sargent said: "If they raise enough, the minister will refuse to sign the export licence and the owner will be left with the flag in this country. What usually happens then is they agree to sell to a museum.

But they can hold on to it in Britain and then re-apply for a licence after 10 years."

The 11ft 7in by 7ft 4in flag - peppered with holes from French guns - flew over HMS Spartiate 204 years ago. After Nelson's victory it was given to the Spartiate's lieutenant James Clephan for his bravery. It was sold by a descendant in Australia.

Among would-be buyers at the Trafalgar Day sale in London was the National Maritime Museum.

mirror.co.uk