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Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB (29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805) was an English flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He won several victories, including the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, during which he was killed.
Nelson was born into a moderately prosperous Norfolk family and joined the navy through the influence of his uncle, Maurice Suckling. He rose rapidly through the ranks and served with leading naval commanders of the period before obtaining his own command in 1778. He developed a reputation in the service through his personal valour and firm grasp of tactics but suffered periods of illness and unemployment after the end of the American War of Independence. The outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars allowed Nelson to return to service, where he was particularly active in the Mediterranean. He fought in several minor engagements off Toulon and was important in the capture of Corsica and subsequent diplomatic duties with the Italian states. In 1797, he distinguished himself while in command of HMS Captain at the Battle of Cape St Vincent.
Shortly after the battle, Nelson took part in the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where his attack was defeated and he was badly wounded, losing his right arm, and was forced to return to England to recuperate. The following year, he won a decisive victory over the French at the Battle of the Nile and remained in the Mediterranean to support the Kingdom of Naples against a French invasion. In 1801, he was dispatched to the Baltic and won another victory, this time over the Danes at the Battle of Copenhagen. He subsequently commanded the blockade of the French and Spanish fleets at Toulon and, after their escape, chased them to the West Indies and back but failed to bring them to battle. After a brief return to England, he took over the Cádiz blockade in 1805. On 21 October 1805, the Franco-Spanish fleet came out of port, and Nelson's fleet engaged them at the Battle of Trafalgar. The battle was Britain's greatest naval victory, but Nelson was hit by a French sharpshooter and mortally wounded. His body was brought back to England where he was accorded a state funeral.
Nelson was noted for his ability to inspire and bring out the best in his men: the 'Nelson touch'. His grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics produced a number of decisive victories. Some aspects of his behaviour were controversial during his lifetime and after: he began a notorious affair with Emma, Lady Hamilton while both were married, which lasted until his death. Also, his actions during the Neapolitan campaign resulted in allegations of excessive brutality. Nelson could at times be vain, insecure and overly anxious for recognition, but he was also zealous, patriotic and dutiful, as well as courageous. He was wounded several times in combat, losing one arm and the sight in one eye. His death at Trafalgar secured his position as one of England's most heroic figures. Numerous monuments, including Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London, have been created in his memory and his legacy remains highly influential.
Horatio Nelson was born on 29 September 1758 in a rectory in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, England, the sixth of eleven children of the Reverend Edmund Nelson and his wife Catherine. His mother, who died when he was nine, was a grandniece of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, the de facto first Prime Minister of Great Britain. She lived in the village of Barsham, Suffolk, and married the Reverend Edmund Nelson at Beccles church, Suffolk, in 1749.