HMS Victory, Porthsmouth, England

HMS Victory is a 104-gun ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built between 1759 and 1765. She is the oldest naval ship still in commission and the only remaining ship of the line. She sits in dry dock in Portsmouth as a museum ship.




In December 1758, the commissioner of Chatham Dockyard was instructed to prepare a dry dock for the construction of a new 100-gun first-rate ship. This was an unusual occurrence at the time; during the whole of the 18th century only ten were constructed—the Royal Navy preferred smaller and more manoeuvrable ships and it was unusual for more than two to be in commission simultaneously.

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 to design the ship was Sir Thomas Slade who, at the time, was the appointed Surveyor of the Navy.

The keel was laid on 23 July 1759 in the Old Single Dock (now No. 2 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.

There being no immediate use for her she was placed in ordinary— in reserve having been roofed over, demasted and placed under general maintenance—moored in the River Medway for 13 years until France joined the American War of Independence.

She was commissioned in 1778 under the command of Rear Admiral John Campbell (1st Captain) and Captain Jonathan Faulknor (2nd Captain), with the flag of Admiral the Honorable Augustus Keppel. She was armed with smooth bore, cast iron cannon 30 x 32 and 42 pounders (15 and 19 kg), 30 x 24 pounders (11 kg), and 40 x 12 pounders (5 kg). Later she also carried two carronades, firing 68 lb (31 kg) round shot.

After Trafalgar

Victory took Nelson’s body to England where, after lying in state at Greenwich, he was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral on January 6, 1806.

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 November 7, 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 British Government agreed to restore and preserve her to commemorate Nelson, the Battle of Trafalgar and the Royal Navy’s supremacy 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. 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.

HMS Victory is still in commission as the flagship of the admiral for the time being acting as 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 name is also used to refer to the westernmost entrance (Victory Gate) to the Royal Navy’s facility in Portsmouth, HMS Nelson

[Source: Wikipedia]

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