Early on the morning of 21st. October 1805 Nelson had written his prayer for victory but, he had also composed a signal for his beloved Mediterranean Fleet as it prepared to engage in what everyone knew would be a history-making battle that would profoundly influence Europe and the whole world.

His original signal was probably the right one.  "Nelson confides [knows] that every man will do  his duty".  Had he flown this signal then the cheers would have echoed down the centuries.  But, he had second thoughts.  "Nelson" might be seen as "too personal" when  news of it got home to the Admiralty so he changed it to "England".  His Flag Lieutenant, John Pasco, records:

"His Lordship came to me on the poop, and after ordering certain signals to be made, about a  quarter to noon, he said. "Mr. Pasco, I wish to say to the fleet, ENGLAND CONFIDES THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY:" and he added "You must be quick, for I have one more to make which is for close action."  I replied, "If your Lordship will permit me to substitute the confides for expects the signal will soon be completed, because the word expects is in the vocabulary, and confides must be  spelt,"  His Lordship replied, in haste, and with seeming satisfaction, "That will do, Pasco, make it directly."  When it had been answered by a few ships in the Van, he ordered me to make  the signal for close action, and to keep it up: accordingly, I hoisted No. 16 at the top-gallant mast-head, and there it remained until shot away."

signalstop signals bottom

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