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Monday, July 25, 2005

Nelson's Failed Attempt on Santa Cruz

Ataque británico en Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Jul 25, 1797 – British naval commander Horatio Nelson's right elbow is shattered by grapeshot during an assault on Tenerife; the arm had to be amputated. After the English requested terms of surrender, "Don Antonio Gutierrez, the Commandant General of The Canary Islands acted as a gentlemen and, with great generosity, accepted these terms. It went further than this; the Spanish helped to ferry British wounded back to their ships and invited the officers to dine with them that evening."

But, don't go thinking that they kissed and made up and promptly forgot all about it!

The city of Santa Cruz takes great pride in displaying the gun with which the famous arm was reputedly shot. Also ...
"It was claimed that Nelson's arm was kept behind the altar in the Cathedral in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. So far as I know no-one has refuted this. Anyone going on holiday to Gran Canaria might want to check out if it's still there. It would be one hell of a holiday souvenir."
Whilst the above claim is unlikely, if you visit Tenerife (not Gran Canaria) you will find many real souvenirs from the battle. Paintings depicting the battle can be found in the collections of the Municipal Museum of Fine Arts and the Regional Military Museum.

The heraldic arms of the City, Port & Square of Santa Cruz de Santiago de Tenerife has a green cross, symbol of the Foundation of the Cross, which gave name to the city. Behind the cross, in red, appears the Sword of Santiago (St. James, Spain's Patron Saint), on whose day it was the city trounced Horacio Nelson. Under this sword appear three lion's heads, which symbolize the victory of the city over the English pirates.

July 25, 1496 is also the date of the end of the conquest of Tenerife by the Spanish.

The date of Nelson's attack, 25 July, is still a public holiday in Santa Cruz, along with the town's foundation day, 3rd May.

"El Brazo de Nelson" (Nelson's Arm) is also the name of a wargames club, Club of Games of Strategy and Modelling in Tenerife.

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