Distinguished Merit

I am standing in the small and beautiful Trafalgar Cemetery just outside the old city walls. It is May 2011. This is one of my favourite places in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, which is the peninsula at the extreme southern end of Spain at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea, and I always try to spend some time here whenever I am lucky enough to be working in Gibraltar. It is a gorgeous evening, very quiet and peaceful in the cemetery now that all the tourists have finished doing their shopping in Main Street and returned to their cruise ship. I walk over to stand in front of one of the two gravestones in the cemetery that are marked out by small bouquets of poppies to commemorate the fact that here are buried two casualties of the Battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Nelson's famous naval victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets in October 1805. The inscription on this tombstone reads as follows:

To the memory of Captain Thomas Norman of the Royal Marine Corps and late of His Majesty's ship Mars, who died in the naval hospital of this place on the 6th day of December 1805, in the 36th year of his age and having suffered several weeks with incredible patience and fortitude under the effects of a severe wound received in the great and memorable sea fight off Trafalgar. His brother officers on the station have consecrated this humble but sincere testimony of their sense of his distinguished merit and of their regret for his premature fate. ...

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