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HMS Victory

HMS Victory

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HMS Victory is one of the world’s oldest and most famous warships, and is the only ship to have served in the American Revolution, the French Revolutionary War, and the Napoleonic Wars. In fact, it was her role as the flagship of British hero Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson during his final battle of the Napoleonic Wars for which HMS Victory is most renowned.

HMS Victory history

Early Career

Launched in 1765 and commissioned by the Royal Navy in 1778, HMS Victory was a first-rate ship, witnessing her first main role during the American Revolution under Admiral Keppel.

In 1793, HMS Victory formed part of the fleet during the French Revolutionary Wars under Lord Hood, and in 1797 was also the warship under the remit of Admiral Sir John Jervis in his victory against a Spanish fleet at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. However, it was her role in the Napoleon Wars which would define HMS Victory.

Battle of Trafalgar

On 21 October 1805, HMS Victory served under the flag of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar. This naval battle saw Nelson lead the British to victory against the French and Spanish, despite the fact that the British fleet of 27 ships was greatly outnumbered. This decisive victory confirmed the supremacy of the British navy and instilled Nelson as a national hero.

However, this success came at a great cost as Nelson was shot and mortally wounded at the Battle, living just long enough to learn that he had been successful.

HMS Victory Today

Today, HMS Victory is located at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, where the well-preserved warship now serves as a museum. As you step aboard you are transported back to 1805 where HMS Victory prepares for the Battle of Trafalgar, with a number of decks and cabins open to explore.

8 guns used at the battle remain aboard the ship, alongside an original section of its mast that was shot through by the French ship Redoubtable. Guided tours are available, while elsewhere at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard may be found the HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s favourite ship.

Getting to HMS Victory

HMS Victory is located at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which can be reached via Junction 12 of the M27 by following the brown tourist signs. Portsmouth Harbour Train Station / Hard Interchange coach and bus station is a few minutes walk away, while a park and ride service also runs every 15 minutes and is signposted from the M275.

HMS Victory

HMS Victory was Lord Nelson's flagship in his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. Discover more about the history of the famous ship.

Nelson served in the Victory for just over two years until his death at Trafalgar, but the ship had been in active service for more than 20 years.

1759: Building of HMS Victory

Victory was designed by Sir Thomas Slade and built at Chatham Dockyard. Over 2000 oak trees were used in the construction of the hull – equivalent to 60 acres of forest. The final cost was £63,176 (over £50 million today).

The decision to name the ship Victory was not popular. The previous ship of that name had sunk with all on board in the English Channel in 1744, so sailors believed the name unlucky.

HMS Victory model ship (SLR0516), National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

1765: HMS Victory is launched

Victory was launched on 7 May 1765, but was only commissioned for active service in March 1778 to take part in the War of American Independence (1775–83). The ship had 104 guns, 27 miles of rigging and four acres of sail. Quickly proving successful, Victory could sail faster than many of its smaller consorts, thanks to the excellent design of the underwater hull.

1793–97: A mighty ship of the line

Following a refit and a period of peace, Victory was recommissioned in 1793 as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Lord Hood in the Mediterranean. The ship was involved in the Siege of Toulon in 1793, as part of an Anglo-Spanish fleet that was eventually forced to surrender the French port to Napoleon’s forces. It also took part in the siege of Calvi in 1794, as part of the British fleet that ousted the French from Corsica.

After another refit during the winter of 1794–95 Victory returned to the Mediterranean and became the flagship of the new commander-in-chief, Sir John Jervis. Under him, the ship was present at the Battle of Cape St Vincent, 14 February 1797, and played a key role in the opening stages of the battle. Badly battered in the action, Victory was sent home at the end of 1797 and converted into a hospital ship.

1803–05: Nelson’s ship

When war broke out against Napoleon’s armies in 1803, Victory was given a refit and became Nelson’s flagship, culminating in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The ship was badly damaged at Trafalgar, both in the masts and hull, so when it returned to Britain with Nelson's body on board in December 1805, it was again given a major refit.

1823–Present: A tourist attraction

HMS Victory lay permanently at anchor in Portsmouth harbour from 1823. Sentiment and the association with Nelson ensured the ship's survival. Victory became a tourist attraction, with a plaque to mark the spot on deck where Nelson fell and the cockpit where he died arranged as a shrine.

By the 1920s time had taken its toll and Victory was in danger of sinking. So it was moved to a permanent home in drydock in Portsmouth Dockyard. The ship was restored and opened to the public by King George V on 17 July 1928. To this day it retains its status as a fully commissioned ship in the Royal Navy and serves as the flagship of the Naval Home Command.

Victory was designed by naval architect Phineas Pett and built by shipwright Andrew Burrell at Deptford Dockyard. She was launched as a 42-gun vessel with 270 crew, on 10 October 1620. [1] [3]

The ship was first commissioned in 1621 to join a fleet under Admiral Robert Mansell, which was cruising the Mediterranean to hunt for Algerian pirates. The fleet returned to English waters in the autumn of 1621, and Victory was assigned to patrol the English Channel throughout the winter, in order to protect merchant shipping making the crossing from the continent. [3]

In May 1622 she was named as flagship to the Earl of Oxford, who had committed to clear pirates from the seas around Dunkirk. The mission ended in failure, no pirates being encountered in the entire cruise along the Dunkirk shores. [3]

Victory was recommissioned under Captain Thomas Kettleby for the abortive attack on La Rochelle in 1627. During the First Anglo-Dutch War, under the command of Lionel Lane, she took part in the Battles of Dover (19 May 1652), Dungeness (29 November 1652), Portland (18 February), the Gabbard (2 June 1653 – 3 June 1653) and Texel (31 July 1653). By 1660 she was armed with 56 guns. [1]

Second Dutch War Edit

By 1665, Victory had been reduced to ordinary status at Chatham Dockyard, and in 1666 she was rebuilt there by Phineas Pett II as an 82-gun second-rate ship of the line. [2] Recommissioned under Sir Christopher Myngs, she took part in the Four Days Battle of 1666 (where Myngs was killed), and on 25 July 1666 in the St. James's Day Battle under Sir Edward Spragge.

Spragge was assigned to command the Blue Squadron in the English rear. Victory was therefore too far to the south to take part in the early stages of the battle, and was one of the vessels cut off from the centre by the arrival of the Dutch rear commanded by Cornelius Tromp. Spragge's and Tromp's forces were vigorously engaged from the afternoon of the first day, with Victory coming to the aid of the dismasted HMS Loyal London when that vessel caught fire in the midst of battle. [4] Two of Victory ' s crew distinguished themselves during the fight. Her second in command, the eighteen year old John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, earned Spragge's commendation for rowing messages across to another English vessel while under heavy cannon and musket fire. Meanwhile, the ship's chaplain, Reverend Speed, abandoned the cockpit where he had been offering last rites to the wounded, and instead took his turn loading and firing the cannons. A song invented by the crew after the battle described Speed as "praying like a Christian while fighting like a Turk." [4]

The Dutch blockade being broken, Victory returned to the Thames for repair. [4] In June the Dutch fleet returned, taking the English by surprise in the Raid on the Medway the defenceless and half-repaired Victory was hastily towed close to shore and sunk in mud to prevent the Dutch from seizing or burning her. The scuttling worsened her condition, and despite refloating and extensive refitting, was not declared seaworthy until 1668. [4]

Third Dutch War Edit

During the Third Dutch War she participated in the Battle of Solebay (on 28 May 1672 under Lord Ossory), the two Battles of Schooneveld (on 28 May and 4 June 1673 under Sir William Jennens), and the Battle of Texel (on 11 August 1673, still under Jennens). By 1685 her armament had been reduced to 80 guns. [2]

She was broken up in 1691 at Woolwich Dockyard. [2]

  1. ^ abc Lavery, Ships of the Line, vol. 1, p. 158.
  2. ^ abcd Lavery, Ships of the Line, vol. 1, p. 161.
  3. ^ abc Fraser, Edward (1922). "H.M.S. Victory". The Mariner's Mirror. Society for Nautical Research. 8 (7): 195–197. doi:10.1080/00253359.1922.10655122.
  4. ^ abcd Ballantyne and Eastland 2005, pp.28–29

Bibliography Edit

  • Ballantyne, Iain Eastland, Jonathan (2005). Warships of the Royal Navy: HMS Victory. Barnsley, Yorkshire: Pen and Sword Maritime. ISBN1844152936 .
  • Lavery, Brian (2003) The Ship of the Line – Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650–1850. Conway Maritime Press. 0-85177-252-8.

This article about a ship of the line of the United Kingdom is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.

HMS Victory returns to its 1805 colours (and Nelson hated them)

It’s now 210 years since HMS Victory helped Britannia rule the waves after it emerged victorious at the Battle of Trafalgar. To commemorate the conflict, Victory will be repainted in the colours it was on that day in 1805. All About History got in touch with Andrew Baines, head of historic ships at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, who told us a little bit more about the ambitious project.

What is the repainting trying to achieve?

The primary reason for repainting Victory over the summer was to ensure that the ship’s hull was weathertight. In the past, rainwater has caused significant damage to Victory, and so over the past few years we’ve undertaken lots of work to eliminate sources of water ingress. The hull planking is in quite poor condition in places, and leaks on the seams. In the course of painting, we repair the damaged areas and make sure everything’s in good condition.

This year’s painting was of course different because of the change in the colours used. Over the past three and a half years we’ve endeavoured to bring an archaeological approach to the Victory Project. A key part of that work has been an investigation into the historic colour schemes that can still be found on Victory. By combining the archaeological evidence with information in the museum’s rich manuscript holdings, we have identified the colours worn by Victory at the time of Trafalgar, and the trustees decided that these historically accurate colours should be used when we repainted.

The real motivation for this change is that we can now say that this isn’t what we think Victory might have looked like, nor is it what it would have looked like if we’d been picking colours back 1805, it’s simply what it looked like when Nelson was rowed out to the ship on 14 September 1805. It’s rather pleasing that, for the first time in more than 200 years, we’ve been able to give Victory that appearance.

Is the first time Victory has been repainted?
There’s an old saying in the Royal Navy – if it moves, salute it, and if it doesn’t, paint it. Victory has been repainted on a continual basis throughout its history. When at sea, it was probably repainted four or five times each year. In 1816, it lost its ochre and black bands and these were replaced by black and white bands that were carried all the way through to 1922, when the ship was permanently dry docked. At that stage, it was painted in a very bright yellow and black scheme, which was believed to be correct for the period of Trafalgar. The yellow used has changed across the last 90 years as the recipe had to change when use of pigments such as chrome yellow was made illegal. Now, of course, having identified the correct colours, we simply mix the correct shade using modern pigments that are much kinder to the environment.

The legendary Admiral Nelson led Victory on numerous occasions

Why did Victory have these colours at Trafalgar? Was it tradition or some sort of war paint for an advantage in battle?

Victory’s colour has changed over its existence to suit the fashions of the day. When it was first commissioned in the 1770s, its sides were varnished, rather than painted, and it was decorated with bright blues and reds in a frieze around the top of the ship’s hull. By the 1790s, that had given way to plain sides of painted ochre, and then Nelson applied his famous chequer scheme when Victory became his flagship in 1803.

The colours themselves are simply the cheapest pigments available – lamb black, white lead and yellow ochre (which in reality can be anything from straw to a pale brown). We know Nelson wasn’t happy with the shade of ochre on Victory’s sides and asked for more white paint to make them paler. Unfortunately for him, he died before his request reached the Admiralty. Not being particularly sentimental chaps, they turned the request down!

Could you describe the time-lapse to us?

The time-lapse video shows the painting of the ship’s starboard side over a period of about three months. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t particularly kind to us this year, but the time-lapse does bring home how much work goes into a job such as this, even with modern equipment such as mobile platforms. In 1805, all of the painting would have been done by seamen in Bosun’s chairs – effectively a plank hung over the ship’s side that you sat on to work.

HMS Victory in Portsmouth Dockyard in 1900

Do you have any other new and exciting projects coming up at the Dockyard?

The winter period is quite an exciting one for us at HMS Victory as we are using all of the research we have undertaken in the past few years to redisplay and reinterpret the ship. There will be a new route through Victory providing access to areas that have never been accessible to the public before, and also changes to spaces that people are quite familiar with, such as Nelson’s Great Cabin, which when completed will be almost unrecognisable to anyone who has been on board in the past few years, but which the admiral himself would find very familiar. Visitors will be able to see more of Victory than ever before, and what they do see will be more accurate than at any point in the past century. We’re working really hard to deliver this for Easter 2016.

In addition to the changes at HMS Victory, the Mary Rose will also undergo a major makeover. The Mary Rose’s long and remarkable history will enter an exciting new phase as the wall that has previously separated visitors from the ship will be replaced with glazing, providing remarkable unrestricted views of the ship. Removing the walls will open up spectacular views of the hull where visitors will be able to experience the full magnitude of the Mary Rose for the first time since it was raised from the Solent in 1982.

Victory as it looked prior to the repaint

Furthermore, the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard plays host to an incredible new blockbuster exhibition ‘36 hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle That Won The War’ to mark the momentous centenary in May. As well as being a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring together material from across the UK and Germany, the exhibition is linked to the other significant NMRN launch in 2016, namely the restoration of the last surviving ship from the World War I battle, HMS Caroline, and her opening to the public in Belfast in May 2016.

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HMS Victory

HMS Victory was an ancient Earth sailing vessel that had belonged to the British Royal Navy, and one of the most famous ships in its naval history. She had served as the flagship for Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Nelson himself was killed in the battle.

In 2365, Geordi La Forge was preparing to give a model of Victory to the captain of the starship USS Victory. The model was slightly damaged as a result of Moriarty's tampering with the holodeck. ( TNG : " Elementary, Dear Data ")

In 2366, Captain Picard remarked to Guinan that Nelson toured Victory shortly before Trafalgar while Picard himself debated whether or not to engage a Borg cube. ( TNG : " The Best of Both Worlds ")

Ten Interesting Facts and Figures about HMS Victory

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The flagship of Admiral Horatio Nelson, the HMS Victory is one of the most famous ships to sail in the Royal Navy. Launched in 1765, it would see its name go down in the history books nearly forty years later at the Battle of Trafalgar. While Nelson would command the battle from the Victory’s quarterdeck, his death would forever tie the ship to him and the battle. Of course, Trafalgar is not where the HMS Victory’s story begins nor is this where it ends. Moored in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, you can visit the ship yourself to find out more, but we’re going to bring you ten interesting facts and figures to digest more immediately.

First, Some Numbers

For the nautical nerds amongst us, here are some fast facts about the ship itself. The Victor’s overall length from bowsprit to taffrail is 226 ft, 6 inches. Its breadth is 51 ft, 10 inches. The depth in the hold is 21 ft, 6 inches. As for the tonnage, the ship 2,196.6 metric tons and displaces 3,556 metric tons of water. During the Battle of Trafalgar, the ship was armed with 104 cannons and crewed by 821 sailors.

Don’t Drink the Water

As with most ships of the era, the crew didn’t drink water on board. The most common beverages amongst the men were wine and beer.


The HMS Victory was commissioned as part of twelve ships ordered by Pitt the Elder in 1758. Pitt wanted one to be a first-rate ship, which meant it would be one of the largest ships of the time. The ship was laid down and took six years and roughly 6,000 oaks and elms to build. The ship was launched on May 7, 1765, but shipwright Hartley Larkin immediately noticed a problem—the dock gates were 9 ½ inches too narrow for the ship to fit through. A crew of workmen had to chip away at the wooden gates enough so the ship could make it out of the dock.

Sails and Speed

The HMS Victory has three masts and had a total of thirty-seven sails. The fastest the ship was ever recorded as going was 11 knots, which is the equivalent of 12 miles per hour.

Hurry Up and Wait

Despite it being built to be a major part of the British fleet, the ship remained moored in the River Medway for thirteen years until France joined the American War of Independence in 1778. The ship was then activated in response to French attacks that helped keep the majority of the Royal Navy on that side of Atlantic.

Copper Bottom

In 1780, the bottom of the ship was covered with 3,923 sheets of copper. The purpose of this was to protect the ship below the waterline from shipworm, which are mollusks that have a habit of boring into the wood, weakening it over time.

Pre-Trafalgar Battles

As part of the conflicts with France taking place during the Revolutionary War, the HMS Victory was part of the British fleet in both the First and Second Battles of Ushant. It also participated in a battle against France and Spain as part of the Siege of Gibraltar in 1783 and later the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1797.

What’s in a Name?

The HMS Victory was named after Britain’s multiple victories against the French prior to the ship’s commissioning.

A Survivor

The HMS Victory is the only surviving ship to have participated in the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars. Strange to think that for its pedigree, two years after Trafalgar, the Royal Navy deemed the ship too old and in disrepair to consider it a first-rate ship. It was then made a second-rate ship and thirty of its guns removed. By 1831, the Admiralty wanted to break up the Victory and use its timbers for other vessels, but a public outcry spared the historic vessel. It was then used as a training ship until it was moved to Portsmouth in 1922 and has existed as a museum ship ever since.

Visit the Victory

Those wishing to see the Victory in person can find it at No. 2 at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The ship opens at 10 AM every day (except holidays) and requires a ticket. You can purchase a Full Navy ticket that grants you access to several other ships in the dockyard as well as a Harbour Tour and entrance to the National Museum of Royal Navy Portsmouth.

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About John Rabon

The Hitchhiker's Guide has this to say about John Rabon: When not pretending to travel in time and space, eating bananas, and claiming that things are "fantastic", John lives in North Carolina. There he works and writes, eagerly awaiting the next episodes of Doctor Who and Top Gear. He also enjoys good movies, good craft beer, and fighting dragons. Lots of dragons.

Reconstruction [ edit | edit source ]

Victory from the starboard side showing the black and yellow-ochre paint scheme first displayed in 1800 and later adopted by all Royal Navy warships.

By late 1797 Victory was stationed at Chatham under the command of Lieutenant J. Rickman. In December, unfit for service as a warship, she was ordered to be converted to a hospital ship to hold wounded French and Spanish prisoners of war. Γ] ⎮]

However, on 8 October 1799 HMS Impregnable 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. 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. Ε] 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", which was adopted by all Royal Navy ships after the Battle of Trafalgar. ⎯] The work was completed in April 1803 and the ship left for Portsmouth the following month under her new captain, Samuel Sutton. Γ] ⎰]

Want to know more about HMS Victory?

Able Seaman. Elijah Cheetham HMS Penelope

My brother Elijah Cheetham, served on HMS Penelope and was onboard when she was sunk on the 18th of February 1944. I was 8 years old at that time. Recent documentarion has come to light confirming his service record. He volunteered for the Navy on the 28th of July 1943, his service is listed as comencing on 17th of December 1943, his 18th birthday. However he began his training at HMS Raleigh on the 28th of July 1943, transferring to HMS Victory on the 5th of October.

He joined HMS Penelope on the 12th of November 1943 and served onboard until she was lost in Feb 1944. He survived the sinking and sent a letter to his mother two weeks later. Here are some extracts from that letter:

From Mess 1, Ferdola Barracks, Malta.

I'm terribly sorry I haven't written to you for the last fortnight, I have been rather ill in hospital. I am a survuivor of HMS Penelope. As you know we have been doing a lot of work on the 5th Army front and our rewards was as follows:

It was Friday morning Feb 18th and we were well on our way to Anzio to give Jerry another suprise packet, but it was us that received the suprise. All of a sudden there was a terrific explosion and everyone dived for the gangway to get on the upper deck to see what was happening. We had been torpedoed but the ship was not sinking, although it had listed badly to starboard. No one was in a panic because there were too many lads injured to start worrying about ourselves, so we did the best we could to get the injured lads to sickbay. Shortly afterwards there came two more explosions (torpedoes) and the ship split in two so it was everyman for himself. I didn't hesitate because before I knew where I was I hit the water fully dressed, including sea boots, stockings and overalls.

I tried to swim for it but couldn't because my sea boots seemed to be dragging me under. I kicked these off and my overalls. Much to my relief I was able to keep my head up even though the sea was rough. I swam about for a bit but I soon got fatigued and felt myself slipping. Family came to mind and I struck out with renewed strength. After three hours I was finally picked up and dragged aboard absolutley naked apart from my waist belt and ring. Three tots of rum sent me to sleep.

We were taken to a hospital in Naples and there I have been for the last fortnight. We were then drafted to this camp once more and I was told that I should be going home. The big nobs think otherwise. I haven't done enough time out here yet, so I must stay. That's how you get treated as a survivor. All we have been issued with is toilet gear and battle dress, so it looks as if I shall have to buy new kit myself.

There were 750 in the ships company and only 200 were saved. Terrible isn't it. I am pleased to say that Stan Lake survived. I couldn't write to you seperatley. I have had to smuggle this into the country, the ship hasn't been announced as sunk yet. We are not allowed to mention that we survived. Paddy is going home so I have asked him to post this for me in England. It doesn't get sensored there, but he insists on bringing this personally. I do hope he makes it becasue I know he will get a great welcome. Please try not to worry too much about me I'm ok now and believe me I'm willing to go back and give Jerry exactly what I received and more. Even though I'm not coming home I still have that consolation of squaring things up.

Cherrio and God bless you all. Your loving son Lidge xxxx.

Elijah joined the Black Prince in July 1944 and served onboard for the remainer of the war, he was discharged on the 8th of December 1946 as having served with very good character.