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Commander James Spratt's diary including the Battle of Trafalgar and his subsequent wound.


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Collection Archive
Gallery locationNot on display

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Biographical details Commander James Spratt (1771–1853), was an officer in the Royal Navy and became known as one of the heroes of the Battle of Trafalgar. Spratt was also the father of Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt, English vice-admiral, hydrographer and geologist. He was born 1771 and joined the Royal Navy in 1796 at the age of 24. Commander James Spratt was famous for having dived into the sea from the HMS DEFIANCE, swimming cutlass in teeth to the French 74-gun L'AIGLE, boarding her single handed. Climbing in through a stern window, he found his way to the French poop deck and threw himself on the French crew, one man against several hundred. In the melee he killed two French seamen, and was grappling with a third when he fell from the poop deck to the main deck, killing his opponent but injuring himself badly. He was saved by the timely arrival of a full boarding party from the DEFIANCE, but his gallantry cost him his career. His wounds left him with one leg shorter than the other and he retired to Teignmouth, Devon, where he became renowned as a long-distance swimmer. It was in Woodway House, Teignmouth, that his son Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt was born in 1811 and at the age of 16 entered into the Royal Navy.
Description Commander James Spratt diary of Trafalgar describing the fierce battle with L'AIGLE 80 guns, how he asked Captain Philip Charles Calderwood Henderson Durham of HMS DEFIANCE permission to swim across to L'AIGLE. He jumped overboard from the starboard with his cutlass between his teeth and his Tomahawk under his belt and climbed onboard from L'AIGLE'S stern. He recounts that it was only when he got on board L'AIGLE that he realises no one had followed him. He goes on to describe fight on L'AIGLE and how he came to be wounded which was treated by the doctor Sir William Burnett leaving Spratt with a leg three inches shorter then the other. In the diary he recalls how they put his leg in a box and after a time when the doctors removed it to see how it was healing they found his leg covered in maggots. He was stationed at Gibraltar Hospital when he returned to England. Later in the diary he recalls the different times he saved lives while swimming.
Date made circa 1805

Finding Reference JOD/281
Catalogue section Manuscript volumes acquired singly by the Museum
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Extent 1 volume
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