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A.J.West
and the Trafalgar Centenary 1905

By 1905, Alfred West was heavily involved in making films of Naval topics, and it was natural that he should be asked if he could exhibit a special program on Saturday 21 October 1905 to mark the Centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar in which Nelson's fleet won a close and famous engagement with the combined French an Spanish fleets. The events were held in various provincial and London venues, including the Albert Hall. They were intended to raise funds for the 'Nelson Centenary Memorial Fund', which had been set up by the British and Foreign Sailors Society (BFSS).

The King, who took a great interest in the Society, allowed his initials, E.R. VII, to be stamped on souvenirs sold by the fund. Subscribers were able to acquire medals and badges. 'Victory Copper' was used to make Nelson busts (one of which was presented to Alfred West) which were available for donations of 50 to the fund. These busts continued to be sold well into the 1930s as presentation items.

West writes in his Autobiography:

"On Trafalgar Day, "Our Navy" pictures were in great demand. Apart from being shown in three provincial cities, they were also exhibited at the Polytechnic, the Crystal Palace, the People’s Palace, and the Royal Albert Hall, where special arrangements had been made for the Nelson Centenary celebration in aid of the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society, under the patronage of King Edward VII.

A bust of Nelson made out of oak and copper from the "Victory" was presented to me in recognition of my services in helping to organise and assist in the programme. Miss Weston’s Naval Boys’ Brigade from Portsmouth arrived with a field gun to give a display of drill (Film clip), and a wreath sent from the Royal Sailors’ Rest was placed upon another bust of Nelson and sent with it to Admiral Togo of the Japanese Navy from the boys of Britain. The Brigade, under Naval instructors, gave a unique display in the arena of the hall."

Alfred West also made a film aboard HMS Victory which is extant:

"The year 1905 being the centenary of the battle of Trafalgar, a special programme was arranged introducing Our Navy of the past. One of the films obtained was of an old naval veteran, 92 years of age, then living in Portsmouth, who had served under Admiral Hyde Parker, one of Nelson’s captains. He was a little feeble on his legs and rather deaf, but otherwise well and hearty, and he was not only willing, but eager to take part in the film I outlined to him. He was taken aboard the "Victory", then lying at anchor in mid-stream, and accompanied by a Petty Officer from the Royal Naval Barracks and two Boys from the "Royal Seamen and Marines’ Orphanage". (One of the boys is believed to be Frank Beggs from a Portsmouth Naval family, - the names of the others are not known. The Beggs family re-enacted the scene with their own grandchildren in 2005 to commemorate the 200th anniversary)

After climbing a gangway without assistance, a chair was placed for him to rest before proceeding to the Quarter Deck. Looking around, the old salt remarked that the ship was somewhat altered from when he was last aboard 72 years before. He seemed a little overcome as he saluted the Quarter Deck, and taking out his hand-kerchief to mop his face, he sat down to watch me act the part he was going to take. He understood what he had to do, and did it splendidly.

With one hand on one of the boys who were beside him, and the Petty Officer following behind, he slowly came to the spot where Nelson fell, and kneeling down with some difficulty he took he wreath which one of the boys was carrying, and placed it carefully and reverently over the tablet that marks the spot.

He had to be helped up by the Petty Officer, and then proceeding slowly to the poop, pointed out with his stick the famous words that are painted around the steering wheel :-"England expects that every man will do his duty."

Turning round, he points aloft, and the scene changes to the famous signal, which was hoisted for this occasion by the special permission of the Commander in Chief. Other films obtained included one of guns used at Trafalgar being worked by seamen in contemporary rig. These, together with lantern slides of the battle and the death of Nelson were included in the Centenary programme."

The material that was shown is available to see here

See David Clover, West's Great Grandson, talking about the clip on BBC's South Today during the Trafalgar Bicentenary week.

Links:


Click for enlarged view - Bust of Nelson (57306 bytes)

Presentation Bust of Nelson awarded to A.J.West in recognition of his part in the 1905 Trafalgar commemorations organised by the British and Foreign Sailors Society

Click for enlarged view - Nelson (75773 bytes)

The bust of Nelson - top only

Click for enlarged view - Nelson Centre (94368 bytes)

Inscription on central part of Bust

Click for enlarged view - Base Inscription (163302 bytes)

Inscription on base of bust

Lantern Slide of HMS Victory
(Click slide for enlargement)

(Courtesy of Marshall Gibbons,

Winnipeg, Manitoba,  Canada)
HMS Victory was moored very close
to the G. West and Son shop in Gosport)

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