Captain John Pasco, RN (1774-1853): Flag Officer at Trafalgar

Captain John Pasco is along side Admiral Horation Nelson, remembered as one of the best known historic figures in British naval history – for that moment when he served as the flag-lieutenant on board HM ship-of-the-line Victory (100 guns) during the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805. It was this thirty-one year old signal officer who hoisted Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s famous battle signal ‘”England expects every man will do his duty.” Originally Nelson had asked Pasco to send the message “England confides that every man will do his duty.” Pasco suggested “expects” be substituted for “confides”, since the former was in the signal book, whereas confides would have to be spelt out letter-by-letter. Nelson agreed to the change, Pasco then recorded: “Engage the enemy more closely” to be sent. Pasco ran it up and it remained flying until shot away in the battle. Pasco was severely wounded in the right side and arm with grapeshot and carried below the decks.

On April 3, 1811, he received a captain’s commission and took command of HM schooner Tartarus (16 guns) during the Battle for Baltimore.

Sources: A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of Every Living Officer in Her Majesty’s Navy by William R. O’Byrne (London: John Murray, 1849).

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Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 9:15 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Captain Pasco is the great great grandfather of my children on my late husband’s side. Captain Pasco’s son, Bertram Pasco moved to Eureka CA in 1911 where he died at the age of 68.

    Tina Pasco

  2. I am a descendant of flag lt. John Pasco

  3. Lt John Pasco married my 1st cousin 6x removed Rebecca Penfold on 1st September 1805.


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