From Hawke to Nelson: Strategical and Tactical Comparisons

By Dr Ruddock Mackay, published February 2005


The achievements of Admiral Edward Hawke (1705 – 1781) are compared with those of Nelson. While Nelson had little success in finding enemy fleets away from port, Hawke, in contrast, made several decisive victories by intercepting French fleets on the high seas. In the tactics of battle, Nelson followed, and built on, the example set by Hawke. Hawke emphasised the tactic of engaging at ultra close range – to within ‘pistol shot’ for gaining maximumum advantage from the British prowess in gunnery, and he encouraged independence and initiative among his subordinates rather than relying on potentially unreliable signals to attempt to orchestrate the tactics as the battle unfolded. Nelson also followed Hawke in engaging in battle with the maximum possible aggression, always with the intention to utterly annihilate the enemy.


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Filed under: Napoleonic War | Atlantic | Nelson | Mediterranean | Other (Eighteenth C)
Subjects include: Battles & Tactics | Strategy & Diplomacy

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