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Kiss Me Hardy

"Kiss Me Hardy"

Thomas Masterman Hardy

Don't confuse Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy of Portesham (1769 – 1839) with his namesake, the world famous Dorset, poet and novelist, Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928).

Hardy of Bockhampton near Dorchester, was in fact proud to claim him as a distant family relative and much of his writing focussed on the Napoleonic wars in which our Thomas played a leading role.

Thomas Masterman Hardy served as flag captain to Admiral Lord Nelson, and commanded HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar,  against a combined French and Spanish fleet in October 1805.

It was the most important sea battle of the 19th century, resulting in the victorious British Navy, becoming the world's largest sea power for the next 100 years. 

The Victory breached the enemy line, as Hardy steered her across the stern of the 80-gun French flagship Bucentaure

Enemy sharpshooters fired from their rigging, as Nelson and Hardy continued to walk on deck, directing and giving orders. Hardy turned to see Nelson fall onto his side saying "Hardy, I do believe they have done it at last .... my backbone is shot through".


At about 2.30, Hardy came belowdecks to tell Nelson that many enemy ships had surrendered. Nelson was certain he was going to die and begged him to "take care of poor Lady Hamilton".

As he became weaker he said  "Kiss me, Hardy". Hardy knelt and kissed Nelson on the cheek. He then stood for a minute or two before kissing him on the forehead. Nelson asked, "Who is that?", and on hearing that it was Hardy, he replied "God bless you, Hardy" and  "Thank God I have done my duty." 

Nelson died at half-past four, two hours after the fatal shot.

Horatio Nelson (1795)
Hardy's Monument

High above the village on Blackdown Hill, is  the magnificent 72 ft stone monument to Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy GCB, our famous 19th century resident, who fought under Admiral Lord Nelson as Captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.​​​

The Quarter Gunner's Yarn

A Poem by Sir Henry Newbolt

We lay at St Helen's and easy she rode,

With one anchor catted and fresh-water stowed,

When the barge came alongside like bullocks we roared,

For we knew what we carried with Nelson aboard.

Our Captain was Hardy, the pride of us all,

I'll ask for none better when danger shall call,

He was hardy by nature and Hardy by name,

And soon by his conduct to honour he came.

The third day the Lizard was under our lee,

Where the Ajax and Thunderer joined us at sea,

But what with foul weather and tacking about,

When we sighted the Fleet we were thirteen days out.

The Captains they all came aboard quick enough,

But the news that they brought was as heavy as duff;

So backward an enemy never was seen,

They were harder to come at than Cheeks the Marine.

The lubbers had hare's lugs where seamen have ears,

So we stowed all saluting and smothered our cheers,

And to humour their stomachs and tempt them to dine,

In the offing we showed them but six of the line.

One morning the top men reported below,

The old Agamemnon escaped from the foe,

Says Nelson "My lads, there'll be honour for some,

For we're sure of a battle now Berry has come."

"Up hammocks!" at last cried the bo'sun at dawn,

The guns were cast loose and the tompions drawn,

The gunner was bustling the shot racks to fill,

And "All hands to quarters!" was piped with a will.

We now saw the enemy bearing ahead,

And to East of them Cape Trafalgar it was said,

'Tis a name remembered from father to son,

That the days of old England may never be done.

The Victory led, to her flag it was due,

Though the Téméraires thought themselves admirals too,

But Lord Nelson he hailed them with masterful grace,

"Cap'n Harvey I'll thank you to keep in your place."

To begin with we closed the Bucentaure alone,

An eighty-gun ship and their Admiral's own,

We raked her but once, and the rest of the day,

Like a hospital hulk on the water she lay.

To our battering next the Redoubtable struck,

But her sharpshooters gave us the worst of the luck,

Lord Nelson was wounded most cruel to tell,

"They've done for me, Hardy!" he cried as he fell.

To the cockpit in silence they carried him past,

And sad were the looks that were after him cast;

His face with a kerchief he tried to conceal,

But we knew him too well from the truck to the heel.

When the captain reported a victory won,

"Thank God" he kept saying, "my duty I've done";

At last came the moment to kiss him good-bye,

And the captain for once had salt in his eye.

"Now anchor, dear Hardy", the admiral cried,

But before we could make it he fainted and died;

All night in the trough of the sea we were tossed,

And for want of ground tackle good prizes were lost.

Then we hauled down the flag, at the fore it was red,

And blue at the mizzen was hoisted instead.

By Nelson's famed captain, the pride of each tar

Who fought in the Victory off Cape Trafalgar.


Photo credit: National Maritime Museum

Portesham House

Portesham House, No 1 Goose Hill.

[Where there are certainly no geese nor is it upon a hill, rather, it was a track that led to the lowest part of a village, also known as a goosehill which is probably a derivative of "guzzle-hole", now an obsolete old English word for the waste or drainage of a ditch.]

This handsome 18th Century Georgian Manor House is where Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy spent his child and early boyhood years. Born on the 5th April 1769 a short distance away at the great house of Kingston Russell (east of Long Bredy).

Portesham House was Hardy's home until he was married in 1807, it then passed to his sister and the Hardy family descendants continued to live there until 1937.

The house itself is around 500 years old, originally having had much more land, with part of the estate extending as far as the Hardy Monument.

The building itself has Tudor roots, having been built for one of King Henry VIII's cooks.

The Georgian front was added in the 18th Century.

Portesham House was part of the two-hundredth anniversary celebrations in 2005: The  bicentenary of The Battle of Trafalgar. The "Trafalgar Way", a journey from Falmouth to London, in which Captain Lapenotiere raced for 271 miles in 38 hours with 21 changes of horses, to deliver the dispatches of the Naval victory and of Nelson's death. The celebration stopped at Portesham House and the Hardy Monument to pay tribute to the importance of Captain Hardy at Trafalgar.

All wonderful Dorset history and, in fact, English history!

Trafalgar Post-chaise outside Portesham

Photo courtesy of David McKinna  -  Post-chaise for Bicentennial celebration 22nd August 2005


To be found in the main hall of Portesham Village Hall

"The friendship between Nelson and Hardy was extremely strong. Nelson regarding him not merely as a "right-hand man" like the resourceful Berry, or an able and courageous seaman like Ball, Trourbridge, Keats and others. Hardy possessed all their good qualities, but he had other attributes which led Nelson to feel he might safely make him the recipient of his most intimate confidences. Possibly the strong union of sympathy which linked them together was intensified by their strange diversity of both temperament and physique. It is difficult to imagine more striking contrast than that presented by the pale-faced, stunted and attenuated admiral and the captain - tall, broad-shouldered, muscular, robust, rubicund of countenance and hearty in manner, like his stalwart Dorset forebears. Nelson was habitually moody, sensitive and fretful; at times he was despondent, but Hardy would always cheer him with a ringing laugh, an unruffled temper and a constant disposition to look on the bright side of things. 

At Nelson's funeral it was Thomas Masterman Hardy who bore the "banner of emblems". It must never be forgotten that Hardy took part in all Nelson's principal naval engagements - St Vincent, the Nile and Copenhagen as well as Trafalgar. But so important was the role played by Hardy at Trafalgar that it overshadows many notable occurrences in his career both before and after the most memorable 21st October of history.

From December 1796, when Nelson hoisted his broad pennant on board La Minerve, of which Hardy had been appointed lieutenant on the preceding 20th August, they became inseparable friends. The victor of the Nile very soon realised the merits of the future captain of the Victory. "I never knew Hardy wrong upon any professional subject" said Nelson; "He seems imbued with an intuitive right judgement." It was not therefore surprising that Nelson trusted Hardy implicitly and the same confidence was placed in him by Lady Nelson and other members of their family. To all of them it was "dear Hardy" and their affection was repaid by the most sterling loyalty. Nelson regarded Hardy as one of his best friends and ablest officers almost from the day he saved him from capture by the Spaniards in 1797. That Hardy often told Nelson home truths is abundantly evident from the mass of correspondence now brought to light.

Hardy was 37 when he returned to England after Trafalgar and survived Nelson by 34 years, dying as Governor of Greenwich Hospital on 20th September 1839.

He served the state under no less than four sovereigns, including Queen Victoria. Between 1806 and 1827 (he finally "struck his flag" on the 22nd anniversary of Trafalgar), he rendered invaluable services to his country both on the North and South America Stations. It has been said that his tact and prudence alone saved England from a third war with the United States.

In 1830 Sir T M Hardy was made First Sea Lord at the specific request of King William IV, who had the highest regard for him. Hardy moved to Whitehall, where for 4 years he threw himself fully into his official duties. He is remembered as one of the best and far-sighted men who ever held that responsible post"

Extracted from: Nelson's Hardy - His Life, Letters and Friends by A.M.Broadley & R.G. Bartelot MA

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