The Trafalgar Way story competition

Laura White
Laura White

Recently a short story competition was launched to help put the Trafalgar way on the map.

Young people aged from seven to 21 in Devon are invited to write their own story on the theme of ‘An Urgent Message.’

Dan Snow, the BBC historian and TV presenter, will be one of the judges of the competition, and said of the Battle of Trafalgar: “This dramatically altered the balance of power in the world. The tale of the Trafalgar Dispatch being rushed from Falmouth to London is like a bolt of lightning revealing a lost world of people and places.”

There are a number of detailed plaques along the route that the famous dispatch travelled, the little bus stop in Crockernwell is almost like a museum to the Trafalgar Way with details of how much each horse change cost, with Launceston £3, 17 shillings and 6 pence, and Okehampton £3, 4 shillings being the most expensive of all the changes.

On Monday 21st October 1805 the Royal Navy, under the command of Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, decisively defeated the combined French and Spanish fleets of the Cape Trafalgar on the south west coast of Spain. This victory permanently removed the threat of invasion of England by the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The first official dispatches with the momentous news of the victory and the death of Lord Nelson were brought back to England aboard H.M Schooner Pickle by Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotière.

Lapenotière landed at Falmouth on Monday 4th November 1805 and set out “express post-chaise” (coach and horses) for London following what is now known as the Trafalgar Way.

Lapenotière took 38 hours to cover the 271 miles, a trip that would normally take three weeks, changing his horse 21 times at points on route including Launceston, Okehampton, Crockernwell and Exeter being the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh horse changes.

Lapenotière delivered his dispatch to the Admiralty at 1pm on Wednesday 6th of November 1805.

The news was passed to the Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and King George III at once, and special editions of newspapers were published later the same day to inform the nation of the victory.