French Connection In Nelson’s Santa Cruz Defeat

Mon, July 13th, 2015 - By Colin

There’s an important but overlooked matter of honour to be addressed at this year’s 218th anniversary of Admiral Horatio Nelson’s failed attack on Santa Cruz. The Asociación Histórico Cultural Gesta 25 de Julio will re-enact key battle scenes in the Tenerife capital on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 July. As well as celebrating local fortitude it also recognises a deep respect for Nelson which saw him leave Tenerife minus his shattered right arm but with supplies and gifts from the victors.

 

La Geria, Santa Cruz

 

Honour is a thread that runs strongly through this piece of history. French, 12 gun sloop La Mutine was in port with most of the crew ashore but it aided the Tenerife cause with two crew members losing their lives. I have walked down Calle La Mutine next to CD Tenerife’s ground so many times without realizing its significance. Just across the city Calle Horacio Nelson, near the abandoned bull ring, is another reminder of the battle, and commemorative plaques along the coastal road pinpoint defensive forts and strongholds.

 

La Gesta commemorative plaque

 

As darkness falls on Friday 24 July, small groups of soldiers will clash in the historic heart of the city between the Iglesia de la Concepcion and Plaza de la Candelaria. It may be the lower end of the central shopping street but for a few hours it will be a piece of living history.

The focal point on Saturday 25 is the Alameda del Duque de Santa Elena near the Plaza de España. An all day workshop and camp with guided tours, story telling and fencing displays will try to pass on the historic memories to children. For the adults there will be plenty of marching, drill instruction, and musket fire as rival troops jostle for supremacy. For a modern contrast, troops from the 49th Infantry Regiment of Tenerife will also be parading their colours and arms.

 

La Gesta, Santa Cruz

 

The lake and fountain of Plaza de España are part of a new modern look to welcome sea visitors on cruise ships but down below part of the walls of the battlements of Castillo de San Cristobal are now a visitor attraction. Pride of place is a large room holding the Tigre canon that led the defence of Santa Cruz. Heading out along the coast road the Canary Military Museum devotes a big exhibition hall to the epic battle and includes the Union Jack that the British troops were forced to surrender.

 

El Tigre, Santa Cruz

 

The Governor of Tenerife was gracious in victory and allowed the injured British sailors safe passage back to their ships. Nelson, after treatment for his injuries, was invited to dine with the governor and presented with gifts like malvasía, a popular local wine. La Gesta is now an important date on the Tenerife calendar and this year it will offer homage to three proud naval nations.

Posted : Monday, July 13th, 2015 at 11:27 am
Category : about tenerife
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