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Heroic Norfolk mariner evokes spirit of Nelson

PUBLISHED: 18:46 09 March 2011

Rousing battle signal: Capt Sir William Hoste.

Rousing battle signal: Capt Sir William Hoste.

Archant

On the bi-centenary of a remarkable victory, Mark Nicholls recounts the rousing exploits of Norfolk captain Sir William Hoste which earned him a place in the annals of British naval history.

Namesake: The Hoste Arms at Burnham Market.

There have been many inspiring signals flown from British ships. Nelson’s ‘England expects’ motivated the Trafalgar crews but a few years after the 1805 battle, another Norfolk sea captain – and protégé of Lord Nelson – followed suit with an equally rousing signal to inspire his sailors to victory against the odds.

The genius in the signal raised by Captain Sir William Hoste at the Battle of Lissa on March 13, 1811, lay in its simplicity: “Remember Nelson”. It was 200 years ago tomorrow when Sir William Hoste (1780-1828) earned his place in the annals of British naval history, outgunned and outnumbered to overcome a dominant enemy.

Hoste, who was born in 1780, at Ingoldisthorpe, near Sandringham, and benefited from Lord Nelson’s patronage early in his career, never forgot the vice-admiral’s support or the victory at Trafalgar. In what was to be his most perilous, yet finest, hour he drew on the strength of his association with Nelson to see him and his crew through to victory.

March 13, 1811 saw Hoste in command of HMS Amphion in a force of four frigates near the island of Lissa in the Adriatic. They faced a Franco-Venetian squadron of six frigates and five smaller vessels with 2,000 men aboard.

In his attack, the French commodore Bernard Dubourdieu even brazenly tried to imitate Nelson’s manoeuvre at Trafalgar.

Yet Hoste, with his inferior 124 guns manned by 900 men to Dubourdieu’s 276 guns, drew on the strength of Nelson to inspire his men and hoisted the signal ‘Remember Nelson’, flying it from Amphion’s masthead as the enemy ships closed.

Closer to home, the question is whether the Hoste Arms at Burnham Market, is named after Sir William Hoste? There are two suggestions as to how the popular hotel and restaurant changed its name in 1811 from the Pitt Arms to the Hoste Arms.

While nostalgia may favour the decision as one which honoured Sir William’s success off Lissa, the more practical explanation may simply be a case of land ownership.

For the full story of Sir William Hoste’s heroic victory see the EDP Sunday supplement is this Saturday’s EDP.

Adapted from the book Norfolk Maritime Heroes and Legends, by Mark Nicholls, available from local bookshops and Poppyland Publishing at www.poppyland.co.uk at £13.95.

Mark will be speaking to Binham Local History Group on Thursday, April 28, at 7.30pm at Binham Village Hall where he will discuss the life and times of the characters recalled in his book. Admission is £2 (group members), £3 non-members. For information, telephone 01328 830270.

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