On This Day – 6 November – The Origins of Pickle Night

For the five days since Nelson had died at the close of battle, Admiral Collingwood was in charge of the victorious but battered British Fleet onboard his flagship HMS Euryalus, a 38 gun frigate.

It was from here that the signal was made to summon over a tiny topsail schooner, crewed by 33 men, the Capt of which was Lt. Lapenotiere, a 35 year old Devonian, of Dutch descent.

HMS Pickle made her way towards the Euryalus in the stormy seas that had beset the fleet since the battle. Lapenotiere was lowered in a sea boat and transferred across to the Euryalus where Admiral Collingwood was awaiting him in his day cabin.

Collingwood presented Lapenotiere with the dispatches containing details of the order of battle and the news of a great British victory at Trafalgar. They also contained the news of Nelsons tragic death. They were addressed to William Marsden, the Secretary to the Board of Admiralty at Greenwich, London.

On passing the dispatches to Lapenotiere, Collingwood said “Now take these dispatches to England; you will receive £500 and your Commander’s commission. Now I have kept my word”

This great honour was bestowed upon Lapenotiere due to an event that took place onboard a merchant vessel several years earlier when both Lapenotiere and Collingwood were passengers. An order was given that would have resulted in the merchant ship being smashed on rocks when Lapenotiere, realising this, gave another order and saved the ship. A grateful Collingwood said “If ever I have the opportunity, I will do you a service”

Once back onboard the Pickle, her Captain gave the order and the little schooner got under way, her destination Falmouth, her mission, to deliver the biggest news story of the century.

In gigantic seas the Pickle battled her way through storm after storm until eventually she arrived in Falmouth harbour . It was 9:45 am on Monday 4th November when Lapenotiere went below to his tiny cabin and changed into his best uniform, mildewed and creased though it was, prior to going ashore and arranging his carriage to London. The carriage that would take him and his precious dispatches the 266 miles to the Admiralty at Greenwich.

Thirty seven hours and nineteen changes of horse later, Lapenotiere arrived at the Admiralty. It was the 6th November, approximately one a.m and the Admiralty Secretary, William Marsden, was about to retire for the night when the night porter announced “an officer bearing dispatches”.

Lapenotiere strode into his office, unshaven, uniform crumpled and his face lined with tiredness. Without preamble he said “Sir, we have gained a great victory; but we have lost Lord Nelson”. Lapenotiere then handed over the dispatches, his mission complete.

RNA Norwich

The Norwich Branch is one of 300+ branches of the Royal Naval Association world wide. It was commissioned in 1979 and today has a membership of just over 90. It is a registered charity in its own right - the Registered Charity Number is: 1068699

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