A rare Union flag that survived the Battle Of Trafalgar will goes on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich on Wednesday (October 21).
The artefact will be displayed in the Nelson, Navy, Nation gallery to commemorate Trafalgar Day.
It will be placed alongside other items related to the battle, including the uniform worn by Nelson and images depicting its significance – The Battle Of Trafalgar by Joseph Mallord William Turner illustrating the use of the Union flag in battle and Plan Of The Action Of Trafalgar, marking the position of the ships during the battle.
What’s the flag’s history?
The Union flag was flown at the Battle Of Trafalgar from HMS Minotaur in October 1805.
On October 10, 1805, Admiral Lord Nelson issued an order ahead of the battle, stating: “When in presence of an Enemy, all the ships under my command are to bear White Colours and a Union Jack is to be suspended from the fore-topgallant stay.”
This was to avoid confusion with the French and Spanish colours.
Acquired from the Church of St Mary’s Selling in Kent, the flag was the prize of Stephen Hilton, who served as the Master’s Mate on the Minotaur.
At the time it was common practice for warrant officers, such as Hilton, or junior officers to take ensigns as rewards after battle.
Hilton returned to Selling at the close of the Napoleonic Wars and is buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, having died aged 85 in 1872. His descendants presented the flag to the church in the 1930s.
Upon its acquisition the Union flag was conserved by the museum to restore it to as close to its original form as possible.
However, there are two sections missing; the right hand edge of the flag and an oblong section from the bottom right hand corner.
The flag has also been ironed out – adding 40mm to its length and 73mm to the width – thoroughly cleaned and had a number of small holes and losses repaired.