Reverend John Greenly - Battle of Trafalgar 1805

Trafalgar Medal 1805

From the book, Voices from the Battle of Trafalgar (Peter Warwick).


On Monday 21 October 1805, off Cape Trafalgar, Vice Admiral Lord Nelson, with 27 ships of the line, attacked the 33 ships of the combined French and Spanish fleets under the command of Vice Admiral Villeneuve. 


Firing started at midday and by tea-time the most famous sea battle in British history was over. Napolean's fleet had been virtually annihilated with 17 ships captured. 


50,000 men took part; around 15,000 were killed or wounded, mostly on the French side. 


Britain had not lost one ship but had lost their hero and most celebrated naval commander. 


Famous Signal ... England expects ...


Immediately after the battle the Reverand John Greenly in the REVENGE wrote down his recollection of the famous signal in a letter to his father ...


... Lord Nelson's ship, which you may be sure, behaved as he always does. The last signal he made by telegraph (a series of flags hoisted), was 'England expects everything from this day's action, and trusts every man will do his duty'. 


Battle of Trafalgar

 [ Medals ] Naval General Service 1793-1840, one bar, Trafalgar (John Greenly, Chaplain).


Roll confirms John Greenly, Chaplain, H.M.S. Revenge.


Greenly, Reverend John, was the son of William Greenly of Hereford and educated at Christchurch, Oxford. Appointed a Chaplain, R.N., in 1804, he saw service at Trafalgar aboard the Revenge, which ship sustained heavy casualties as a result of several close engagements 28 killed and 51 wounded.


In his book, "The Sea Chaplains", Gordon Taylor confirms that Greenly was the only Chaplain wounded in the battle. Moreover, the same author has only traced three Naval Chaplains who were wounded throughout the entire Great War, E793-181 5 Of these, it would seem that Greenly was the only one who lived to claim his N.G.S Medal.


Taylor makes further reference to Greenly gallantly supplying a pair of shoes to a French lady called Jeanette, presumably before he fell wounded. Said lady had been conveyed to the Revenge by the schooner Pickle, having been picked out of the water near the sinking French 74-gun Achille.


She was infact stark naked but it seems Greenly's fellow officers spared him any embarrassment by quickly rummaging around for some spare clothes. Thus the gallant and blushing?.) Chaplain had but to spring forward with a pair of shoes. The Revenge was commanded by Captain Robert Moorsom and fought in the Lee Column.


In attempting to pass through the enemy's line and secure an advantageous position against the hawser of the French Aigle, she fouled the latter's jib-boom. Thus interlocked, she delivered a couple of broadsides into the French- man's bows. Then, standing on, she was in the act of hauling up on the port tack when a tremendous fire was poured into her lee quarter by the Spanish Principe de Asturias.


Three two- deckers also hemmed her in, and greatly punished her until they were driven off by the approach of other British vessels. Apart from the subsequent loss of life amongst her crew, this gallant ship sustained considerable damage. Her bowsprit, three lower masts, maintop mast and gaff were all severely punished, in addition to taking nine shots "below the copper" and having several chain plates shot away.


She also had a number of her lower deck ports destroyed and three of her guns dismounted ( Mackenzie, "The Trafalgar Roll" refers).


On leaving the Senior Service, John Greenly became Minor Canon at Salisbury Cathedral. At the time of his death on 1 December 1862, he was Curate of St. Thomas and Rector of Sharncote, Wiltshire.

... and finally a famous and inspiring story of unity in the face of the enemy:


If there was one thing more than another required that day, it is that we present a united front to the enemy. There is a great need of aggressive unity.


Just before the battle, Nelson inquired of Admiral Collingwood where his captain was, and learned that he and Captain Rotherham were not on good terms with each other.


Sending a boat for the captain, he placed the hands of Collingwood and Rotherham together, pointed to the enemy's ships, and earnestly looking them both in the face, he uttered the simple words: 'Look, yonder is the enemy.' It was enough; disagreements were forgotten, and victory was gained.


Reverand John Greenly. 

Lord Nelson's Funeral 1805 


Lord Isaac Coffin Greenly, the wife of Lady Elizabeth Greenly of Titley Court, was one of the six pallbearers at the funeral. 

A newspaper account of the funeral which mentions Admiral Isaac Greenly
Nelsons Funeral _ Admiral Sir Isaac Coff[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.2 MB]

SALISBURY 1818 Report




THE CLOSE SCHOOL in SALISBURY was founded by Bishop POOKK, for the Education of The Choristers of The Cathedral, and endowed with £35. per annum; for the payment of which there is a Fund appropriated. The Choristers consist of EIGHT ; who are clothed, instructed in Latin, Writing, and Arithmetic, and when Fourteen years of age, there is a Fund to apprentice them. Day-boys, and Boarders, are received in the School; and in the time of the late Master, The Revd Dr. JAMES EVANS, the number was EIGHTY-THREE. The ETON Latin and Greek Grammars are used; And the ETON system of Education is pursued.


The present Head Master is, The Revd. JOHN GREENLY, A. B., who has a spacious House, capable of accommodating Fifty Pupils: his Terms, for Board and Education, being £40. per annum. Salisbury, Monday, March 23, 1812. The Rev.John Greenly, B.A. of Christ Church Oxford, is elected by the Dean and Chapter of Sarum to be one of the Vicars of the Cathedral and Vicar of the Close, in the room of the Rev.Edward Moore, deceased.

The original ships log for HMS Revenge on which John Greenly served during the Battle of Trafalgar. His name is at the bottom of the log.

The grand-children died from scarlett fever. 

Oxford University Alumni 


Greenly, Edward Howorth, 1s. Charles Williams Allen (after Greenly), of St. George-rhe-Martyr, London, arm. Balliol Coll., matric. 14 Dec., 1855, aged 18; B.A. 1860, M.A. 1864, of Tilley Court, co. Hereford, J.P., D.L., high sheriff 1881, bar.-at-law, Lincoln's Inn, 1862. See Foster's Men at the Bar.


Greenly, John, s. William, of Hereford (city), gent. Christ Church, matric. 28 Oct., 1796, aged 18; B.A. 1800, M.A. 1818, chaplain R.N., wounded at Trafalgar, vicar choral Salisbury Cathedral and vicar of the Close 1812, P.C. St. Thomas 1821, rector of Sharncote, Wilts, 1834, died 1 Dec., 1862.

Greenly, John Prosser (Woodhouse), o.s. John, of Andover, Hants, cler. Christ Church, matric. 9 April, 1829, aged 18; chorister New Coll. 1821-4.


Greenly, William, s. John of Titley, co. Hereford, arm. Trinity Coll., matric. 6 Nov., 1760, aged 18; of Titley, co. Hereford, J.P., D.L., high sheriff 1805.



The Council Minutes tell us that Revd. John Greenly 
was on 9 Jan. 1810 appointed " Master of the Free School, 
" in the room of Revd. W m . Pedder resigned," and the 
following is an extract from the deed of his appointment 
which lies in the town chest : 

" the Nomination and election of the said John Greenly 
" into the said office or Mastership is upon this Condition 
" nevertheless and the said John Greenly doth hereby 
" agree that if and when it shall happen that the said John 
" Greenly shall become Curate of the Parish of Andevor 
" or shall become incapable or unfit by Age or otherwise 
" (etc.) or shall not reside in the said Borough of Andevor 
" aforesaid and in the Dwellinghouse belonging and adjoining 
" to the said School Or in some other convenient House 
" near to the said School to be approved by the said Bailiff, 
" Approved Men and Burgesses Then and in all or any of 
" the said Cases these Presents shall be void and the said 
" Office and Mastership shall from thenceforth be vacant 
" to all Intents and Purposes and all Profits and Revenues 
" thereof shall cease to be Paid to or received by the said 
" John Greenly as if he were naturally dead any Thing 
" herein contained to the Contrary thereof in any wise 
" notwithstanding But nevertheless that it shah 1 be 
" lawful to and for the said John Greenly to accept of any 
" Ecclesiastical Benefice or to be Curate of any Parish 
" Church adjoining or near to Andevor aforesaid so as the 
" cure thereof do not usually require his Attendance on 
" any other Day of the week than the Lord's Day." Dated 
9 Jan., 1810. 

Rev John Greenly lived at the Sub-Deanery, 18 The Close, from 1848-62 (RCHME 1993, 108-10). William Small noted that he lodged at No 1 New St ‘when he first came to Salisbury, at the beginning of this century’ (II,282). He served as naval chaplain on the Revenge in November 1805 and gave a first hand account of the Battle of Trafalgar.
He was a Vicar Choral from 1812 until his death in 1862, vicar of St Thomas’s church, headmaster of the Choristers’School and Cathedral Librarian. Salisbury Cathedral Cloisters (North walk) has a monument to him, together with his wife and four young granddaughters who died of scarlet fever in the space of a month and predeceased him. Memorial windows were also erected in Laverstock Church where his son, John Prosser Greenly, was the rector.

Letter from John Greenly to his father William in Hereford. The letter is dated Oct 19th 1805.


HMS Victory

Dear Father, 

This evening I have dined with Lord N and the Captains. We feel will attempt to breakout soon and then we will engage. Lord N told that his inspiration came from his days at school in Norwich - where he was in awe of the mighty Cathedral and those who had built her. Lord N vowed that he too would achieve something mighty (?) one day. That day is soon. 

I have no more I must return to the Revenge and prepare the men. Believe in me, Yours John Greenly