Reuben Traveller, British Royal Navy Ship Boy serving Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar – Urban Legend or not

The St-James Cemetery in Hull, Quebec (now Gatineau) is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city and has many of its founders buried there. One of its residents is Reuben Traveller. The local oral history mentions him as sailor in Admiral Horatio Nelson fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar. His story has been repeated many times in the local media, each time with a different twist.

A few years ago, as curiosity, I decided to inquire a little more about this man and see if he was really at Trafalgar. As an amateur historian I know it is very easy to distort the truth when it comes to history and it is often hard to come with hard evidence to prove a fact. In this situation, I think a small interpretation gave birth to a story that is getting away from what is the real story. Sometime if you repeat something many times, it does become the “real” story in the minds of the people even if it’s not the real truth.

Reuben Traveller was born February 20th 1788 in England and died February 14th, 1861 in Otawa, Ontario.

The local legend around him probably started about the interpretation of the inscription on his gravestone. The first sentence read like this “When Nelson fought at Trafalgar and fell, this Ship Boy was afloat in active service”

Picture of the inscription on Reuben Traveller gravestone and his gravestone.

The poem on the stone never mentions that he was at Trafalgar but what it most probably means is that he was serving in the British Royal Navy somewhere else at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar.

The second argument in favor Mr. Traveller not being at Trafalgar is; members of the British Royal Navy who served there received the Naval General Service medal with the clasp “Trafalgar”. A medals roll of every medals recipient’s name was produced at that time. That roll still exists today and modern paper copies are available. I did ask some medals collector who do have copy of that roll if Reuben Traveller name was on that roll and the answer was, NO.

So with these facts in mind, I doubt very much that Reuben Traveller was with the British Royal Navy at the Battle of Trafalgar. He probably did serve in the Royal Navy but during that famous battle.

If you want to know more information on Reuben Traveller life, click here 

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