Ship’s decanters had their beginning in the early naval sailing ships, and it would have been an exception to have found a captain’s cabin without one – from the smallest to the largest vessel. The general shape began to develop sometime in the second half of the 18th century, and nothing mush is heard of them until Admiral Rodney’s battles of 1780 and 1782 at the Moonlight Battle and the Battle of the Saintes. They had an especially broad base, some of them up to 12-inches in diameter, to ensure stability when used at sea in wardrooms or officers’ cabins.
The Nelson Ships’ Decanter
The Nelson Ships’ Decanter – named after the greatest fighting admiral the world has ever known. Vice Admiral Horatio Viscount Nelson, a gallant, fearless naval genius, a patriot well deserving of the many honours that were bestowed upon him during his short lifetime.
He first went to sea at 12, and commanded a frigate before he was 21. He was sometimes at sea for years at a time, and was chronically seasick whenever the weather was foul. Frequently wounded, he lost the sight of his right eye at Corsica in 1794, and even worse, hs right arm at Santa Cruz in the Canaries only 3 years later.
Before his final battle at Trafalgar, he had already won fame at the Battles of Cape St. Vincent 1797, the Nile 1798 where he was again victorious over the French sinking 9 ships to not a single British loss, and Copenhagen 1801 where he virtually annihilated the entire Danish Fleet. It was during this battle when things where going badly, that Nelson’s Commander in Chief signalled him to withdraw from the fight. On being told, Nelson put his telescope to his blind eye, turned to the officer beside him who awaited his command and remarked complacently that he was unable to read the signal. Soon afterwards he turned the tide of battle and fought on to another great victory.
His greatest and final victory was at the battle of Trafalgar on 21st October, 1805. Here he was outnumbered and out gunned as he took on the combined fleets of the French and Spanish navies. He sank or captured 18 of the enemy. and again, not a single British ship was lost. At Trafalgar, fate caught up with him. Standing on the deck in the thick of things during the heat of battle, the 47 year old Nelson was mortally wounded. He was carried below and expired 3 hours later. In dying he said “Thank God I have done my duty” a sentiment he felt deeply.
By permission of the present Lord Nelson, the direct descendant of Admiral Lord Nelson, a facsimile of Admiral Lord Nelson’s signature appears on the underside of the decanter. It has been mutually agreed by Lord Nelson and Pusser’s that a donation from the sale of each Nelson’s Ships’ Decanter should be made to the Society of Friends of the Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth, England, and to the Friends of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.
HMS VICTORY, Nelson’s Flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, lies alongside the museum at Portsmouth. Now open to the public, the ship still in commission as the Flagship of the Chief in Command of the Naval Home Command.
The National Maritime Museum is pre-eminent. One of its most treasured displays contains the coat which Nelson was wearing when mortally wounded at Trafalgar. A musket-ball fired by a rifleman from the fighting top of a French ship entered his left shoulder, and the hole left by the ball is clearly seen in the garment.
Significance of the Decorative Panels
Encircling the cameo are roses, thistles, shamrocks and leeks which represent the union of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales which together form the United Kingdom.
The Rose and the Thistle, apart from being the national emblems of England and Scotland, are of significant British heraldic importance – particularly the Rose. To some extent, their origins as national badges alone with the Leek and the Shamrock, remain a mystery, but both the Rose and the Thistle have a connection as such through being the personal badges of English and Scottish sovereigns.
A Rose gules is the royal badge for England, and roses respectively white and red were the badges employed by the warring houses of York and Lancaster. The marriage of Elizabeth of York to Henry of Lancaster produced the combination of the white and red rose which is known as the Tudor Rose.
The Thistle is the royal badge for Scotland. According to legend, it became Scotland’s national emblem as the result of an incident at the Battle of Largs in 1262. Legend has it that King Harco of Denmark had landed on Scottish soil and was advancing inland under the cover of darkness. One of his barefooted followers trod on a thistle. He howled with pain and thus the alarm was raised. The date of the thistle’s first appearance as a royal badge is 1474, when it supplied the dorse of a silver coin of James II.
In Wales, the Leek is a national emblem, but not a royal badge. Nevertheless, it is equated to the Rose, the Thistle and the Shamrock, and is a comparatively frequent charge in the armorial bearings of Welshmen.
The Shamrock, according to legend, was adopted as the national emblem of Ireland because it was used by St Patrick to illustrate the Trinatarian idea of orthodox Christianity.
The words, “Rule Britannia Britons Never Shall be Slaves” are taken from the song written by Thomas Arne in 1740. The inference of “Rule Britannia” was that Britain held command of the seas. Evidence shows that “Britannia Rules the Waves” was an accepted maxim long before 1740. At the time of the conquest of Britain by the Romans, the only Roman fleet of any size was stationed in Britain. Roman coins of the time sometimes represented Britannia as shown on the cameo, in the figure of a woman, clothed in a linen frock, on a chariot with a spear riding over the waves. Thus the Roman intention was to signify that Britain had domination over the seas about it, and the Roman Emperor over Britain.
It has been traditional in ward rooms of the Royal Navy to propose a different toast for each night of the week. These particular toasts had their beginnings sometimes in the 1700s. After more than 200 years, they are still popular today, especially the Saturday Night Toast to “Sweethearts and Wives”.
The four lifebuoys at each corner of the cameo have inscribed upon them the four great battles in which Nelson fought St Vincent 1797, The Nile 1798, Copenhagen 1801 and Trafalgar 1805.
The Nelson Cameo
A reproduction of the likeness of Lord Nelson from the famous portrait by Lemuel Abbott which hangs in the national Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England; reproduced here with the museum’s kind permission.
The cameo is topped by the official crown of the Royal navy, and is crossed by two flags, the White Ensign of the Royal Navy to the left, and the Union Flag of Great Britain on the right. It is surrounded by acorns and oak leaf clusters signifying the “walls of oak” as the ships of Britain’s Royal navy were called.
It was these “walls of oak” and the men who manned them led by men like Nelson, that constituted Britain’s Royal Navy which reigned supreme on the seas from the end of the Dutch Wars in 1670 up until the end of the First World War in 1918 – an incredible period of 250 years. It was behind her walls of oak that Britain’s tradition of freedom, democracy, justice and industry were allowed to develop and flourish – eventually passing forward to America and the other English speaking nations of the world whose people for the greater part are still the more free on earth.
The Seven Seas
The ‘Seven Seas’ – an old expression which really means all the waters which cover the face of the earth, and refers n fact to the seven oceans: the Arctic (Oceanus Arcticus), the Antarctic (Oceanus Antarcticus), the North Atlantic (Mare Septentrio Atlanticum), the South Atlantic (Mare Meridies Atlanticum), the Indian Ocean (Mare Indicum), the North Pacific (Mare Septerntrio Pacificum), and the South Pacific (Mare Meridies Pacificum). These are inscribed in Latin around the base in the aforementioned order.
The Flag Signal
Inscribed about the neck is what is probably the most famous and also the most esthetically pleasing flag signal ever flown. It is the signal which Nelson telegraphed to the British Fleet from on board his flagship, HMS VICTORY, as it bore down on the combined Spanish and French Fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar on that fateful day of 21st October, 1805. His message ENGLAND EXPECTS THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY has become synonymous with the tradition and devotion to duty which the Royal Navy expects from those who serve with it. There is not a man in the Navy who would not be familiar with this signal although it is hardly ever mentioned. Perhaps it need not be, it speaks for itself.
British Navy Pusser’s Rum
For well over 300 years, and long before the days of Nelson, the Royal Navy dispensed a daily issue of Admiralty rum to the crews of its ships – and usually a double issue before battle when they “spliced the main brace!” as they called it. First introduced into the Navy in 1655 as a substitute for beer, by 1731 it was in general use.
The story of rum in the Navy is largely that of social change, both in England and the Royal Navy. From 1650 and throughout the 18th century, shipboard life was incredibly difficult. Then too in those hard days, battles were fought eyeball to eyeball. Personnel requirements of the old sailing navy were vastly different than today; the mental alertness or packing a cannonball into a muzzle loader was not the same as that required to operate a modern weapons system.
The daily issue of Admiralty rum was finally abolished on 31st July 1970. The reason for abolition were much the same as reductions in the past, that is the men were much more efficient without it, and in a highly sophisticated navy no risk for margin or error which might be attributable to rum could be allowed.
BRITISH NAVY PUSSER’S RUM is the same rum that was standard issue on board ships of the Royal Navy when the custom was terminated in 1970. Until recently, it was not available to the public. It has a unique flavour, is exceptionally smooth; a superb rum said by connoisseurs to be the finest afloat!
And the name PUSSER’s? …. A corruption of the word ‘purser’. For hundred of years, the jack tars of the Royal Navy have referred to the ‘purser’ as the ‘pusser’ – and anything which came from the purser was called “pusser’s” – and still is today!
The Royal Navy Sailors’ Fund receives a substantial donation from the worldwide sales of PUSSER’S RUM. The Pusser’s contribution is the Fund’s largest source of income aside from the original bequest. And so it is that the PUSSER’S tradition still lives and carries forward with the Royal Navy as it has for more than 300 years.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.pussers.com/
*Info taken from bottle/card