- Firstly you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own regarding their propriety. Secondly, you must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your king; and thirdly you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.
- To a midshipman aboard the Agamemnon (1793)
- Our country will, I believe, sooner forgive an officer for attacking an enemy than for letting it alone.
- About the attack on Bastin (May 3, 1794)
- My character and good name are in my own keeping. Life with disgrace is dreadful. A glorious death is to be envied.
- (March 10, 1795)
- Let me alone: I have yet my legs and one arm. Tell the surgeon to make haste and his instruments. I know I must lose my right arm, so the sooner it's off the better.
- After being wounded during the attack on Santa Cruz de Tenerife (July 24. 1797)
- First gain the victory and then make the best use of it you can.
- Before the battle of the Nile (August 1, 1797)
- Before this time to-morrow I shall have gained a peerage, or Westminister Abbey.
- Life of Nelson (Ch. 5), before the Battle of the Nile (August 1, 1797). Alternately reported as "Westminster Abbey, or victory!"
- I cannot, if I am in the field of glory, be kept out of sight: wherever there is anything to be done, there Providence is sure to direct my steps. (1797)
- The Neapolitan officers did not lose much honour, for God knows they had not much to lose - but they lost all they had.
- After a French rout of the Neapolitan army (1798)
- I am myself a Norfolk man.
- On being welcomed on arrival in Great Yarmouth, in his home county
- My greatest happiness is to serve my gracious King and Country and I am envious only of glory; for if it be a sin to covet glory I am the most offending soul alive.
- It is warm work; and this day may be the last to any of us at a moment. But mark you! I would not be elsewhere for thousands.
- At the Battle of Copenhagen (2 April 1801)
- I have only one eye,— I have a right to be blind sometimes . . . I really do not see the signal!
- Life of Nelson (Ch. 7): At the battle of Copenhagen, Ignoring Admiral Parker's signal to retreat, holding his telescope up to his blind eye, and proceeding to victory against the Danish fleet. (2 April 1801)
- If a man consults whether he is to fight, when he has the power in his own hands, it is certain that his opinion is against fighting.
- Statement (August 1801)
- If I had been censured every time I have run my ship, or fleets under my command, into great danger, I should have long ago been out of the Service and never in the House of Peers.
- Statement (March 1805)
- Victory or Westminister Abbey.
- Life of Nelson Vol. I, Ch. 4 : In the battle off Cape Vincent, giving order for boarding the San Josef
- In honour I gained them, and in honour I will die with them.
- Life of Nelson (ch. 9), when asked to cover the stars on his uniform to hide his rank during battle.
- Duty is the great business of a sea officer; all private considerations must give way to it, however painful it may be.
- Letter to Frances Nisbet
- The measure may be thought bold, but I am of the opinion the boldest are the safest.
- to Sir Hyde Parker urging vigorous action against the Russians and Danes, March 24, 1801, quoted in "The Book of Military Quotations" By Peter G. Tsouras - Page 54
The Battle of Trafalgar (October 21, 1805)
There are many accounts of Nelson's words prior to, and during this famous battle against the Napoleonic French and Spanish fleets, in which he was fatally wounded, with minor differences in wording and chronology. These quotations draw from direct readings of several of them.
- May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my Country and for the benefit of Europe in general a great and glorious victory; and may no misconduct in anyone tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature of the British fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may His blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my Country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.
- Dispatches and Letters of Horatio Nelson : a diary entry on the eve of the battle of Trafalgar
- Something must be left to chance; nothing is sure in a sea fight above all.
- Before the battle of Trafalgar
- When I am without orders and unexpected occurrences arrive I shall always act as I think the honour and glory of my King and Country demand. But in case signals can neither be seen or perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.
- England expects that every man will do his duty.
- Life of Nelson (Ch. 9) A signal to the British fleet before the battle of Trafalgar
- Variant: England expects every officer and man to do his duty this day. (as reported in The London Times, Dec. 26, 1805)
- Initially supposed to be: England confides that every man shall do his duty. The signaller pointed out that "expects" was in the signals alphabet, but "confides" was not and so had to be spelt out, taking longer. Nelson agreed to the change.
- This is too warm work, Hardy, to last long.
- It is nonsense, Mr. Burke, to suppose I can live. My sufferings are great but they will soon be over.
- Kiss me, Hardy
- Supposedly Nelson's dying words, spoken to his Flag Captain, Thomas Masterman Hardy, who kissed his cheek and then his forehead.
- Thank God, I have done my duty.
- Statement among his final dying words.
Drink, drink. Fan, fan. Rub, rub.
- In his dying hours, Nelson was attended by his chaplain, Alexander Scott; his steward, Chevalier; and the purser, Walter Burke. Their accounts have been available to Nelson's modern biographers. This was a request to alleviate his symptoms of thirst, heat, and the pains of his wounds. (Pocock, Horatio Nelson, 1987, p.331.)
- Bonaparte has often made his boast that our fleet would be worn out by keeping the sea and that his was kept in order and increasing by staying in port; but know he finds, I fancy, if Emperors hear the truth, that his fleet suffers more in a night than ours in one year.
- Desperate affairs require desperate measures.
- Gentlemen, when the enemy is committed to a mistake we must not interrupt him too soon.
- I cannot command winds and weather.
- I could not tread these perilous paths in safety, if I did not keep a saving sense of humor.
- I have always been a quarter of an hour before my time and it has made a man of me.
- Never break the neutrality of a port or place, but never consider as neutral any place from whence an attack is allowed to be made.
- Now I can do no more. We must trust to the Great Disposer of all events and the justice of our cause. I thank God for this opportunity of doing my duty.
- Recollect that you must be a seaman to be an officer and also that you cannot be a good officer without being a gentleman.
- The bravest man feels an anxiety 'circa praecordia' as he enters the battle, but he dreads disgrace more.
- The business of the English commander-in-chief being first to bring an enemy fleet to battle on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his ships close on board the enemy, as expeditiously as possible); and secondly to continue them there until the business is decided.
- Time is everything; five minutes make the difference between victory and defeat.
- I am Lord Nelson, and this is my Fin.
Quotations of others about Nelson
- Let the country mourn their hero; I grieve for the loss of the most fascinating companion I ever conversed with— the greatest and most simple of men— one of the nicest and most innocent— interesting beyond all, on shore, in public and even in private life. Men are not always themselves and put on their behaviour with their clothes, but if you live with a man on board a ship for years; if you are continually with him in his cabin, your mind will soon find out how to appreciate him. I could for ever tell you the qualities of this beloved man. I have not shed a tear for years before the 21st of October and since, whenever alone, I am quite like a child.
- Alexander Scott, Chaplain who attended to Nelson at his death.