Standing on the deck of HMS Victory, Lord Nelson glanced up at a lookout high in the rigging and called, “Keep a keen eye out for Spanish sail, my lad. For today, I feel like a fight.” Soon, the lookout cried, “Sail ho, off the starboard bow!”
Nelson pointed his spyglass in the direction indicated, and – sure enough – there were two Spanish frigates off the starboard bow. Realizing that his ship was in for a tough fight, Lord Nelson turned to a young officer. “Ensign, fetch my red coat!”
A few minutes later, the Ensign returned with the coat. As he held it out for his Admiral to wear, he said, “Begging your pardon, My Lord, but why do you need your red coat?”
Nelson smiled grimly. “There’ll be much blood spilled today, Son. And some of it might well be mine. If it should happen that I am wounded, my red coat will hide the blood. Then, our own men will take heart from seeing their commander apparently untouched, and our enemies will fear my invincibility.”
The Ensign nodded, seeing at once the wisdom of the Admiral’s reasoning. The battle was long and difficult, but Nelson eventually won the day.
A few days later, a lookout shouted down, “Sail ho, off the port beam!”
Nelson pointed his spyglass in the direction indicated, and found himself staring at the entire Spanish Armada. Hundreds of ships bearing down on his lone ship like angels of death.
Anticipating his Admiral’s next order, the young Ensign said, “Shall I fetch your red coat, Sir?”
Nelson nodded. “Do that, Son. And while you’re at it, fetch me my brown trousers!”