HMS Victory is a first rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built between 1759 and 1765, and most famous as Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. She is the oldest naval ship still in commission. She sits in dry dock in Portsmouth, England as a museum ship.
The outline plans arrived in June 1759 and were based on HMS Royal George which had been launched at Woolwich Dockyard in 1756. The naval architect chosen to design the ship was Sir Thomas Slade who, at the time, was the appointed Surveyor of the Navy. She was nominally designed to carry at least 100 guns and, in practice, her armament varied from 104 to 106 guns and carronades.
The keel was laid on 23 July 1759 in the Old Single Dock (since renamed No. 2 Dock and now Victory Dock), and the name was finally chosen in October 1760. It was to commemorate the Annus Mirabilis or Year of Victories, of 1759. In that year of the Seven Years' War, land victories had been won at Quebec, Minden and naval battles had been won at Lagos and Quiberon Bay. There were some doubts whether this was a suitable name since the previous first-rate Victory had been lost with all on board in 1744.
Once the frame had been constructed, it was normal to cover the ship up and leave it for several months to season. However, the end of the Seven Years' War meant that she remained in this condition for nearly three years, which helped her subsequent longevity. Work restarted in autumn 1763 and she was finally launched on 7 May 1765, having cost £63,176 and 3 shillings (present day £50 million) and used around 6000 trees, 90% of which were oak and the remainder elm, pine and fir.
Because there was no immediate use for her, she was placed in ordinary—in reserve, roofed over, demasted and placed under general maintenance—moored in the River Medway for 13 years until France joined the American War of Independence.
In March 1778, John Lindsay was appointed her first captain, but he was transferred to captain in May 1778 when Admiral the Honorable Augustus Keppel decided to raise his flag in Victory. She was commissioned in May 1778 under the command of Rear Admiral John Campbell (1st Captain) and Captain Jonathan Faulknor (2nd Captain), with the flag of Admiral Keppel. She was armed with smooth bore, cast iron cannon 30 × 32 and 42 pounders (15 and 19 kg), 30 × 24 pounders (11 kg), and 40 × 12 pounders (5 kg). Later, she also carried two carronade guns, firing 68 lb (31 kg) round shot.
However on 8 October 1799 was lost off Chichester, having run aground on her way back to Portsmouth after escorting a convoy to Lisbon. She could not be refloated and so was stripped and dismantled. Consequently, now short of a first rate, the Admiralty decided to recondition Victory. Work started in 1800 but as it proceeded an increasing number of defects were found and the repairs developed into a very extensive reconstruction. The original estimate was £23,500 but the final cost was £70,933.
Extra gun ports were added, taking her from 100 guns to 104, and her magazine lined with copper. Her figurehead was replaced along with her masts and the paint scheme changed from red to the black and yellow seen today. Her gun ports were originally yellow to match the hull but later repainted black, giving a pattern later called the "Nelson chequer" and which was subsequently adopted by all Royal Navy ships after the Battle of Trafalgar. The work was completed on 11 April 1803 and the ship left for Portsmouth on 14 May under her new captain, Samuel Sutton.
On 28 May Captain Sutton captured the French Embuscade of 32 guns, bound for Rochefort from San Domingo. Victory rejoined Lord Nelson off Toulon on 30 July when Captain Sutton exchanged commands with the captain of the Amphion, Thomas Masterman Hardy.
Victory was passing the island of Toro on 4 April, 1805, when HMS Phoebe brought the news that the French fleet under Pierre-Charles Villeneuve had escaped from Toulon. While Nelson made for Sicily to see if the French were heading for Egypt, Villeneuve was entering Cádiz to link up with the Spanish fleet. On 7 May Nelson reached Gibraltar and received his first definite news. The British fleet completed their stores in Lagos Bay, Portugal, on 10 May and two days later sailed westward with ten ships and three frigates in pursuit of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet of 17 ships. They arrived in the West Indies to find that the enemy was sailing back to Europe where Napoleon Bonaparte was waiting for them with his invasion forces at Boulogne.
The Franco-Spanish fleet was involved in the indecisive Battle of Cape Finisterre in fog off Ferrol with Admiral Sir Robert Calder's squadron on 22 July before taking refuge in Vigo and Ferrol to land wounded and abandon three damaged ships. Calder on 14 August and Nelson on 15 August joined Admiral Cornwallis's Channel Fleet off Ushant. Nelson continued to England in Victory leaving his Mediterranean fleet with Cornwallis who detached twenty of his thirty-three ships of the line and sent them under Calder to find the combined fleet at Ferrol. On 19 August came the worrying news that the enemy had sailed from there, followed by relief when they arrived in Cádiz two days later. On the evening of Saturday, 28 September, Lord Nelson joined Lord Collingwood's fleet off Cádiz, quietly, so that his presence would not be known.
When Admiral Villeneuve learned that he was to be removed from command he took his ships to sea on the morning of 19 October, first sailing south towards the Mediterranean but then turning north towards the British fleet, beginning the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson had already made his plans: to break the enemy line some two or three ships ahead of their Commander in Chief in the centre and achieve victory before the van could come to their aid. In the event fitful winds made it a slow business. For five hours after Nelson's last manoeuvring signal the two columns of British ships slowly approached the French line before Royal Sovereign, leading the lee column, was able to open fire on Fougueux. Twenty five minutes later Victory broke the line between Bucentaure and Redoutable firing a treble shotted broadside into the stern of the former from a range of a few yards. At 25 minutes past one Nelson was shot, the fatal musket ball entering his left shoulder and lodging in his spine. He died at half past four. Such killing had taken place on Victorys quarter deck that Redoutable attempted to board her, but they were thwarted by the arrival of Eliab Harvey in the 98-gun HMS Temeraire, whose broadside devastated the French ship. Nelson's last order was for the fleet to anchor but this was rejected by Vice Admiral Collingwood. Victory lost 57 killed and 102 wounded.
Victory bore many Admirals' flags after Trafalgar, and sailed on numerous expeditions, including two Baltic campaigns under Admiral Sir James Saumarez. Her active career ended on 7 November, 1812, when she was moored in Portsmouth Harbour off Gosport and used as a depot ship.
It is said that when Thomas Hardy was First Sea Lord, he told his wife on returning home, that he had just signed an order for Victory to be broken up. She burst into tears and sent him straight back to his office to rescind the order. Though this story may be apocryphal, the page of the duty log containing the orders for that day is missing, having been torn out.
In 1889, Victory was fitted up as a Naval School of Telegraphy. It soon became a proper Signal School, and signal ratings from ships paying off were sent to Victory instead of the barracks, for a two-month training course. The School remained on Victory until 1904, when training was transferred temporarily to HMS Hercules, and in 1906 the whole School was moved to a permanent establishment at the Royal Naval Barracks.
As the years passed by, Victory slowly deteriorated at her moorings. A campaign to save her was started in 1921 with the Save the Victory Fund under the aegis of the Society for Nautical Research, by which time she was in very poor condition. The outcome of the campaign was that the British Government agreed to restore and preserve her to commemorate Nelson, the Battle of Trafalgar and the Royal Navy's supremacy that existed for some time before during and after the Napoleonic period.
On 12 January 1922 she was moved into the oldest drydock in the world: No. 2 dock at Portsmouth for restoration. In 1928 King George V was able to unveil a tablet celebrating the completion of the work, although restoration and maintenance still continued under the supervision of the Society for Nautical Research. In 1941, Victory sustained some damage from a bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe that impacted into her dry dock causing damage to the hull. On one occasion German Radio Propaganda claimed that the ship had been destroyed by a bomb, and the Admiralty had to issue a denial.
Over the last few years the ship has undergone another very extensive restoration to bring her appearance to as close as possible to that which she had at Trafalgar for the bicentenary of the battle in October 2005. Replicas of items including mess bowls, beakers and tankards in the 'Marine's Mess', and a toothbrush, shaving brush and wash bowl in 'Hardy's Cabin' are on display.
HMS Victory is still in commission as the flagship of the Second Sea Lord in his role as Commander in Chief of the Royal Navy's Home Command (CINCNAVHOME). She is the oldest commissioned warship in the world, although the USS Constitution, launched 30 years later, is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat. Victory attracts around 350,000 visitors per year in her role as a museum ship.
The Victorys foretopsail was severely damaged during the battle of Trafalgar, perforated by upwards of 90 cannonballs and other projectiles. It was replaced after the battle but was preserved, and eventually came to be displayed in the Royal Naval Museum. The sail is laid out across a large chamber, illuminated by alternating lowlight projectors.
The most senior Trafalgar descendant alive and HON Commanding officer is James Hardy.
|List of Admirals|
|Admiral The Hon. Augustus Keppel||16 May, 1778||28 October, 1778|
|Admiral Sir Charles Hardy||19 March, 1779||14 May, 1780|
|Admiral Francis Geary||24 May, 1780||28 August, 1780|
|Rear Admiral Francis Samuel Drake||26 September, 1780||29 December, 1780|
|Vice Admiral Sir Hyde Parker||20 March, 1781||31 May, 1781|
|Commodore John Elliott||June 1781||August 1781|
|Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfelt||10 September, 1781||11 March, 1782|
|Admiral The Earl Howe||20 April, 1782||14 November, 1782|
|Admiral The Earl Howe||July 1790||August 1790|
|Admiral The Lord Hood||August 1790||August 1791|
|Rear Admiral Sir Hyde Parker||6 February, 1793||May 1793|
|Admiral The Lord Hood||6 May, 1793||15 December, 1794|
|Rear Admiral John Man||8 July, 1795||27 September, 1795|
|Vice Admiral Robert Linzee||October 1795||November 1795|
|Admiral Sir John Jervis||3 December, 1795||30 March, 1797|
|Vice Admiral The Viscount Nelson||8 May, 1803||21 October, 1805|
|Admiral Sir James Saumarez||18 March, 1808||9 December, 1808|
|Admiral Sir Graham Moore||December 1808||23 January, 1809|
|Admiral Sir James Saumarez||8 April, 1809||December 1809|
|Admiral Sir James Saumarez||11 March, 1810||3 December, 1810|
|Rear Admiral Sir Joseph Yorke||December 1810||March 1811|
|Admiral Sir James Saumarez||2 April, 1811||25 December, 1811,|
|Admiral Sir James Saumarez||14 April, 1812||15 October, 1812|
|In Ordinary||18 December, 1812||31 January, 1824|
|Commissioner Sir Michael Seymour, 1st Baronet||1824|
|Paid off||30 April, 1827||21 October, 1831|
|became Flagship of Port Admiral|
|Rear Admiral Sir Frederick Lewis Maitland||1832|
|Rear Admiral Duncombe Pleydell-Bouverie||1837|
|Rear Admiral Hyde Parker||1842|
|Rear Admiral W H Shiffeff||1847|
|Admiral Sir Charles Ogle, 2nd Baronet||20 March, 1848||19 December, 1848|
|Admiral Sir Thomas Bladen Capel||20 December, 1848||19 December, 1851|
|Admiral Sir Thomas Briggs||20 December, 1851||19 March, 1853|
|Vice Admiral Sir Thomas John Cochrane||20 March, 1854||19 March, 1856|
|Vice Admiral Sir George Frederick Seymour||20 March, 1856||19 March, 1859|
|Admiral William Bowles||20 March, 1859||19 March, 1860|
|Vice Admiral Henry Bruce||20 March, 1860||19 December, 1864|
|Vice Admiral Sir Michael Seymour||20 December, 1864||19 March, 1866|
|Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley||20 March, 1866||20 March, 1869|
|Tender to HMS Duke of Wellington||20 December, 1869||1 September, 1891|
|Admiral The Earl of Clanwilliam||1 August, 1891||17 September, 1894|
|Admiral Sir Nowell Salmon VC||18 September, 1894||31 August, 1897|
|Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour||1 September, 1897||17 November, 1900|
|Admiral Sir Charles F Hotham||18 November, 1900||30 September, 1903|
|Admiral Sir John Fisher||1 October, 1903||18 March, 1904|
|The Port Admiral's flag moved to Hercules and on 1 February, 1905, to Firequeen|
|Admiral Sir Archibald L. Douglas||18 March, 1905||1 March, 1907|
|Admiral Sir Day H Bosanquet||2 March, 1907||17 March, 1908|
|Admiral Sir Arthur D. Fanshawe||18 March, 1908||30 April, 1910|
|Admiral Sir Assheton Gore Curzon-Howe||1 May, 1910||17 March, 1911|
|Admiral Sir Arthur W. Moore||18 March, 1911||31 July, 1912|
|Admiral of the Fleet Sir Hedworth Meux||1 August, 1912||17 February, 1916|
|Admiral The Hon Sir Stanley Colville||18 February, 1916||17 April, 1919|
|Admiral Sir Cecil Burney||18 April, 1919||17 June, 1920|
|Admiral Hon Sir Arthur Gough-Calthorpe||18 June, 1920||31 May, 1923|
|Admiral Sir Sidney Robert Fremantle||1 June, 1923||1 April, 1926|
|Admiral Sir Osmond de Beauvior Brock||18 May, 1926||30 April, 1929|
|Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes||1 May, 1929||17 June, 1931|
|Admiral Sir Arthur Waistell||18 June, 1931||17 February, 1934|
|Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Kelly||18 February, 1931||31 August, 1936|
|Admiral of the Fleet The Earl of Cork and Orrery||18 August, 1937||30 June, 1939|
|Admiral Sir William M. James||1 July, 1939||30 September, 1942|
|Admiral Sir Charles Little||1 October, 1942||28 September, 1945|
|Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton||29 September, 1945||29 June, 1947|
|Admiral The Lord Fraser of North Cape||30 June, 1947||18 April, 1949|
|Admiral of the Fleet Sir Algernon Willis||19 April, 1949||17 October, 1950|
|Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur J. Power||18 October, 1950||17 October, 1952|
|Admiral Sir John Edelsten||18 October, 1952||17 October, 1954|
|Admiral of the Fleet Sir George E Creasy||18 October, 1954||17 July, 1957|
|Admiral Sir Guy Grantham||18 July, 1957||17 July, 1959|
|Admiral Sir Manley Laurence Power||18 July, 1959||17 January, 1962|
|Admiral Sir Alexander N C Bingley||18 January, 1962||17 January, 1963|
|Admiral Sir Wilfrid J. W. Woods||18 January, 1963||9 September, 1965|
|Admiral Sir Varyl Begg||10 September, 1965||9 June, 1966|
|Admiral Sir Frank E. Hopkins||10 June, 1966||30 October, 1967|
|Admiral Sir John B. Frewen||31 October, 1967||27 February, 1970|
|Admiral Sir Horace R. Law||28 February, 1970||28 February, 1972|
|Admiral Sir Andrew Lewis||29 February, 1972||29 June, 1974|
|Admiral Sir Derek Empson||30 June, 1974||30 October, 1975|
|Admiral Sir Terence Lewin||31 October, 1975||30 October, 1976|
|Admiral Sir David Williams||31 October, 1976||30 October, 1978|
|Admiral Sir Richard Clayton||31 October, 1978||30 June, 1981|
|Admiral Sir James Eberle||1 July, 1981||31 December, 1983|
|Admiral Sir Desmond Cassidi||1 January, 1983||30 October, 1984|
|Admiral Sir Peter Stanford||31 October, 1984||30 October, 1987|
|Admiral Sir John "Sandy" Woodward||31 October, 1987||30 October, 1989|
|Admiral Sir Jeremy Black||31 October, 1989||30 March, 1991|
|Admiral Sir John Kerr||31 March, 1991||30 March, 1993|
|Admiral Sir Michael Layard||31 March, 1993||30 March, 1994|
|Admiral Sir Michael Boyce||31 March, 1994||30 March, 1997|
|Admiral Sir John Brigstocke||31 March, 1997||18 January, 2000|
|Vice Admiral Sir Peter Spencer||19 January, 2000||28 January, 2003|
|Vice-Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent||29 January 2003||25 October 2005|
|Vice-Admiral Sir Adrian Johns||25 October 2005||15 July 2008|
|Vice-Admiral Alan Massey||15 July 2008||present|