Nelsons Quotes and Anecdotes

Gentlemen, when the enemy is committed to a mistake we must not interrupt him too soon.


  • A fleet of British ships at war are the best negotiators.
  • A ship's a fool to fight a fort.
  • Buonaparte has often made his boast that our fleet would be worn out by keeping the sea and that his was kept in order and increasing by staying in port; but know he finds, I fancy, if Emperors hear the truth, that his fleet suffers more in a night than ours in one year.
  • Close with a Frenchman, but out-manoeuvre a Russian.
  • Desperate affairs require desperate measures.
  • Duty is the great business of a sea officer; all private considerations must give way to it, however painful it may be.
  • England expects that every man will do his duty.
  • First gain the victory and then make the best use of it you can.
  • Frigates are the eyes of a fleet.
  • Gentlemen, when the enemy is committed to a mistake we must not interrupt him too soon.
  • Go thou and do likewise
  • Had we taken ten sails, and let the eleventh to escape, being able to get at her, I could never have called it well done.
  • Hardy, I do believe they have done it at last... my backbone is shot through.
  • I am a Norfolk man and Glory in being so.
  • I am ill every time it blows hard, and nothing but my enthusiastic love for the profession keeps me one hour at sea.
  • I am of the opinion that the boldest measures are the safest.
  • I believe my arrival was most welcome, not only to the Commander of the Fleet but almost to every individual in it.
  • I cannot command winds and weather.
  • I cannot, if I am in the field of glory, be kept out of sight: wherever there is anything to be done, there Providence is sure to direct my steps.
  • I could not tread these perilous paths in safety, if I did not keep a saving sense of humour.
  • I have only one eye; I have a right to be blind sometimes... I really do not see the signal!
  • I owe all my success in life to having been always a quarter of an hour before my time.
  • I will dine nowhere without your consent although with my present feelings I might be trusted with fifty virgins naked in a dark room.
  • If a man consults whether he is to fight, when he has the power in his own hands, it is certain that his opinion is against fighting.
  • If I had been censured every time I have run my ship, or fleets under my command, into great danger, I should have long ago been out of the Service and never in the House of Peers.
  • If they are above water, I will find them out.
  • In honour I gained them, and in honour I will die with them.
  • In Sea affairs, nothing is impossible, and nothing is improbable.
  • It is my turn now; and if I come back, it is yours.
  • Laurels grow in the Bay of Biscay; I hope a bed of them may be found in the Mediterranean.
  • Let me alone: I have yet my legs and one arm. Tell the surgeon to make haste and his instruments. I know I must lose my right arm, so the sooner it's off the better.
  • My character and good name are in my own keeping. Life with disgrace is dreadful. A glorious death is to be envied.
  • My greatest happiness is to serve my gracious King and Country and I am envious only of glory; for if it be a sin to covet glory I am the most offending soul alive.
  • My love is founded on esteem, the only foundation that can make the passion last.
  • Never break the neutrality of a port or place, but never consider as neutral any place from whence an attack is allowed to be made.
  • No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.
  • Now I can do no more. We must trust to the Great Disposer of all events and the justice of our cause. I thank God for this opportunity of doing my duty.
  • Our Country will, I believe, sooner forgive an Officer for attacking his Enemy than for letting it alone.
  • Recollect that you must be a seaman to be an officer and also that you cannot be a good officer without being a gentleman.
  • Something must be left to chance; nothing is certain in a sea fight
  • Thank God I have done my duty. Drink, drink. Fan, fan. Rub, rub. Kiss me, Hardy.
  • The bravest man feels an anxiety 'circa praecordia' as he enters the battle; but he dreads disgrace yet more.
  • The business of the English commander-in-chief being first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.
  • The politics of courts are so mean that private people would be ashamed to act in the same way; all is trick and finesse, to which the common cause is sacrificed.
  • There can be no place for self entirely
  • Time is everything; five minutes make the difference between victory and defeat.
  • To do nothing was disgraceful; therefore I made use of my understanding.
  • Westminster abbey or glorious victory
  • What the country needs is the annihilation of the enemy.
  • When I came to explain to them the 'Nelson Touch', it was like an electric shock. Some shed tears, all approved - 'It was new - it was singular - it was simple!'.
  • Whoever gains the palm by merit, let him hold it.
  • You must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own respecting their propriety.
  • You must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your King, and you must treat every Frenchman as if he were the Devil himself.

Anecdotes about Nelson

The Nelson Arms

The story goes that on his triumphant return after the Battle of the Nile (he returned to England 2 years after the battle) Nelson was approached by the landlady of 'The Wrestlers Inn' who asked him if she could rename her establishment 'The Nelson Arms' in his honour, Nelson was said to have replied:

"That would be ridiculous, seeing as I have but one"

 ''Your right hand, my Lord"  

When Nelson was in Yarmouth being given the freedom of the borough he was asked to make an oath with his hand on a bible, the clerk saw Nelson's left hand on the book and said: 'Your right hand, my Lord' to which Nelson replied: 

"That is at Tenerife''