Great Yarmouth in Norfolk is the setting for a weekend of extraordinary civic ceremonies commemorating all those who took part in the Battle of Copenhagen¹ on 2 April 1801. Organised by The 1805 Club, the Anglo-Danish event takes place on 31 March and 1 April, and its highpoints include the unveiling by the Danish Defence Attaché of the first memorial in Britain to Nelson's most difficult battle, 206 years after it happened.

The weekend, named A Homage to all Heroes - Copenhagen 1801, pays tribute to the feats of courage and humanity of the sailors involved in this the least well known of Nelson's naval victories, and in particular the memorial² honours the magnanimity of Nelson and the heroism of the Danes, typified by the gallantry of 17-year-old Sub Lt Peter Willemoes³. The inscription on the memorial is in English and Danish.

The unveiling ceremony on Saturday afternoon, 31 March takes place at the town's Middlegate Garden. Captain Niels A K Olsen, the Danish Defence Attaché to the UK, is joined by Mr Richard Jewson JP, Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk;  Royal Navy officers; civic leaders; Nelson descendants and members of The 1805 Club. The ceremony includes a procession from the Town Hall to the garden.   This is a national event for the sea cadets involving the local unit TS Norfolk supported by TS Fearless Marine Cadets who will be leading the parade,  taking part in the procession and providing the guard.

Other highlights include a civic dinner in the gothic Town Hall on 31 March and A Homage to all Heroes Commemorative Service at St Nicholas Church, Great Yarmouth, on Sunday 1 April, which starts with a Mayoral Procession from the Town Hall.

Copenhagen proved a controversial battle for which Nelson received a muted reception when compared to the adulation he enjoyed following his victory over the French at the Nile and was then it was completely overshadowed by his victory and death at Trafalgar in 1805.

 The organisers of the Copenhagen 200 Years Conference held in Portsmouth in May 2001 agreed to set up a fund for a memorial as the permanent legacy in Britain of this significant but often overlooked battle. One of them, The 1805 Club, a charity dedicated to the conservation of monuments and memorials to the Georgian sailing navy, made the arrangements.

Great Yarmouth was chosen as the location for the memorial because it was from the town's harbour that the British fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, sailed for the Baltic on 12 March 1801 and later returned with the wounded, who convalesced in the town's hospital.

Peter Warwick, Chairman of The 1805 Club5, says: "At last, after 200 years, we can honour the heroism and sacrifice of all those who fought at this terrible, and as it turned out unnecessary battle. In the spirit of Nelson's own words, which describe the Danes as 'the Brothers of Englishmen', we today concentrate our minds on the courage and bravery shown by all heroes, rather than merely celebrating the British victory, important though that was. This significant occasion is as much for Danes as it is for the British".

"The 1805 Club is privileged to be involved in such an event and as well as thanking those from Denmark we would particularly like to thank all those in Great Yarmouth and Norfolk, 'Nelson's County', who have embraced the concept of the weekend with such enthusiasm. This is an international event but it also Great Yarmouth's own", adds Peter.

Homage to all Heroes

Notes for Editors

You are invited to send a representative to all of the following events during the Homage to All Heroes weekend.

• Unveiling of memorial in Middlegate Gardens by Captain Nils AK Olsen, Danish Defence Attaché in the UK at 2pm with media opportunity for posed photographs and interviews at c2.15pm. Procession from Town Hall at 1.50pm.

• Civic dinner at Town Hall Assembly Room. Photo opportunity from 7.15pm with Chairman of The 1805 Club Peter Warwick making a presentations to Cllr Sue Robinson, Mayor of Great Yarmouth and Captain Niels A K Olsen RDN at 7.20pm. 

• Commemorative Service at St Nicholas Church starting with Mayoral Procession at 1.30pm with service between 2pm and 3pm and salute at 3.05pm.


1.  The Battle of Copenhagen was fought between 17 ships and floating batteries at anchor in front of the fortified city and 20 ships of the Royal Navy under the command of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. Nelson was second in command. The British sought to knock-out the Danish Fleet before it was used by its ally France, to command the Baltic and thus inhibit British trade. Denmark and Russia were part of Napoleon's Armed Neutrality of the North. Parker and Nelson were sent to destroy it. The battle remains subject to confusion and controversy. It was at the Battle of Copenhagen that Nelson famously placed his telescope to his blind eye, claiming that he could not see Hyde Parker's signal to withdraw.   

2. The memorial at Great Yarmouth

The memorial is a size A3 wall plaque made of stainless steel. The inscription is in English and Danish:

A Homage to all Heroes: Copenhagen 1801

This memorial commemorates all those who fought at the first Battle of Copenhagen on 2 April 1801. It especially honours the magnanimity of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, who address his message of truce 'To the Brothers of Englishmen, the Danes', and the gallantry of the Danes, epitomised by the courage of 17-year-old Lieutenant Peter Willemoes.

This plaque was unveiled on 31 March 2007 and was the first in the United Kingdom to commemorate and honour the participants in the Battle of Copenhagen of 1801. The British fleet sailed to the Baltic from Great Yarmouth and returned here after the battle.

3.  Sub-Lt Peter Willemoes "the Danish hero of 2nd April 1801"
Aged 17 and newly promoted, Sub-Lt Peter Willemoes was put in charge of Fleet Battery No 1, which he took out of the protection of Trekroner Battery in choppy water. From there, he took up position on the Danish defence line between the Dannebrog and the Sjaelland in the King's Deep. The large raft lay low in the water opposite the British ships-of-the-line. It came into action just before 11am and was opposed by Nelson in the Elephant and the Ganges.

Broadsides from the British ships reduced the raft's superstructure to pieces. After an hour and a half's fighting 46 men were dead or wounded, the highest losses on the Danish side. Willemoes summed up his experience as follows:

"I am, thank God, still with all my limbs, which I least expected to keep possession of. As I had about my small battery Admiral Nelson and two British ships-of-the-line, who fired incessantly with grapeshot, round and bar shot. I did my duty and have been praised by the Crown Prince and the admirals as well as my colleagues, for standing firm. They told me they never believed I would escape with my life."

Dining with the Crown Prince after the battle, Nelson commented on a brave young Dane believed to be Willemoes, joking that he should be promoted to admiral. The Crown Prince replied: "If I were to make all my heroes admirals, there would be no lieutenants or captains left!"

The Dutch Admiralty was so pleased with Willemoes that when it re-organised its forces after the battle, he was left in command of his battery. He was a casualty at the Battle of Sjoellands Odde on 22nd March 1808.    

4.  The Copenhagen 200 Years Conference. The co-organisers of the conference at Portsmouth in May 2001 were: The 1805 Club, Royal Navy, The Royal Naval Museum, The Nelson Society, and The Society for Nautical Research.

5. The 1805 Club, a registered charity, was founded in 1990 with three objectives:

- To assist in the preservation of monuments and memorials relating to Lord Nelson and seafaring people in the Georgian era
- To promote research into the Royal Navy of the Georgian period and especially Lord Nelson
- To organise cultural and historical events
- It has carried out, or assisted with, more than 45 projects. These include the erection of a new monument to Emma Hamilton in Calais, the installation of plaques in the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich in London to mark the position where the coffins of Nelson and Collingwood lay in state, and the conservation of the tombs of Nelson's wife, Frances, and his daughter Horatia.
To mark the Trafalgar bicentenary in 2005, The 1805 Club initiated the Trafalgar Captains' Memorial Project; a two-year research programme, which identified and recorded all the memorials and graves of the 38 captains and lieutenants who commanded British ships alongside Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.  Seven graves were "at risk" because of their poor condition, and the Club supervised their conservation, including raising £26,000. To coincide with the project a book The Trafalgar Captains, Their Lives and Memorials, was published by Chatham Publishing.

The Club has now embarked on a similar project identifying the graves of captains who served with Nelson at the Battle of the Nile.

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