I do not say, my Lords, that the French will not come. I say only they will not come by sea. --- John Jervis, Earl of St. Vincent, First Lord of the Admiralty, assuring the House of Lords in 1801.
But by January 1, 1805 the Viscount Melville, the current First Lord of the Admiralty, must consider the irony of those words in light of recent events. Years have passed and a new threat of invasion looms large.
Spain has declared war on England. French men-of-war are poised to rendezvous with Spanish warships, putting together a Combined Fleet large enough to brush aside Melville's ships guarding the Channel.
Napoleon and his army of 200,000 men stand ready at Boulogne. The newly crowned Emperor of France has pledged, "Let us be masters of the Channel for six hours and we are masters of the world."
Not since the days of the Spanish Armada has England faced a greater threat of seaborne invasion. Not since the reign of William the Conqueror has France had the opportunity to invade and subjugate its anicent enemy. For the people of Britain, the threat of foreign boots on English soil is more real than it has been at any time in the last two centuries.
The cat and mouse game of breakout and pursuit has begun.