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First Shots - The Battle of the Nile - John Christian

First Shots - The Battle of the Nile - John Christian

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The French had anchored accross Aboukir Bay in a line, ready to engage the British, and had anchored leaving no room for British ships to get around either end of the line.

Nelson’s plan was for the British to peel off one on one in a line on the seaward side of the French van – Captain Thomas Foley, on HMS Goliath (74 guns), leading the British line, noticed an unexpected gap as he approached, between “Guerrier” (74 guns) and the shallow shoal. On his own initiative Foley decided to exploit this tactical error and changed his approach to sail through the gap raking the Frenchman’s bow and turned to pass down the unprepared portside of Guerrier firing as he went. Followed through the gap by HMS Zealous (74 Guns) and 3 more British ships of the line. The French were unprepared and took heavy losses, Nelson’s Ship arrived 6th in line and added more fire to the beleaguered French line from the seaward side as planned - the rest is history so to speak.

The painting is the start of the battle, based around the moment HMS Goliath and HMS Zealous sail through the unexpected gap at the north end of the French line, at 18:20 the engagement began on the 1st of August 1798 and was the culmination of a naval campaign across the Mediterranean over the previous 3 months. 

John Christian writes: "Reading an article written by Dr Sumantra Maitra, a national-security fellow at the centre for the National Interest USA and an elected Associate Fellow of The Royal Historical Society UK, posted in the members section of Naval Records Society, I was struck by a paragraph highlighting the many heroes in British Naval history and what made them so successful:-

“whose forces were commanded by men who were independent enough to think and decide for themselves. Overall these people were disciplined and patriotic, had a providential sense of purpose and destiny, were clear in their communications, and were clever about achievable realist objectives instead of an affinity for utopian quests. They also knew the value of subtle' "military signalling" in an era of contested multipolarity,
much like our own.”

"The Battle of the Nile" came to mind, it was a resounding success for Admiral Nelson and his fleet for these very reasons."

Original watercolour on paper, signed lower right.

Image size: 15.5 x 11.5 inches
Mount size: 20 x 16 inches
Frame size: 23 x 19 inches

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