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HMS Victory: Overview:

  • Nation: Great Britain
  • Builder: Chatham Dockyard
  • Laid Down: July 23, 1759
  • Launched: May 7, 1765
  • Commissioned: May 1778
  • Decommissioned: November 7, 1812
  • Fate: Preserved as a museum ship at Portsmouth, England

HMS Victory: Specifications:

  • Ship Type: Ship of the Line (First Rate)
  • Displacement: 3,500 tons
  • Length: 227 ft., 6 in.
  • Beam: 51 ft., 10 in.
  • Draft: 28 ft. 9 in.
  • Complement: approx. 850
  • Speed: 8-10 knots

HMS Victory: Armament (at Trafalgar):

  • Gun Deck: 30 x long 32-pdrs
  • Middle Gun Deck: 28 × long 24-pdrs
  • Upper Gun Deck: 30 × short 12-pdrs
  • Quarterdeck: 12 × short 12-pdrs
  • Forecastle: 2 × medium 12-pdrs, 2 × 68 pdr carronades

HMS Victory: Building:

Ordered by the Navy Board on June 6, 1759, HMS Victory was designed by Surveyor of the Navy, Sir Thomas Slade. Building commenced the following month at Chatham Dockyard under the watchful eye of Master Shipwright John Lock. On October 30, 1760, the name Victory was chosen for the new ship, perhaps in honor of Britain’s “Annus Mirabilis” (Year of Victories) in 1759, during the Seven Years’ War. The work was completed in 1765, under the supervision of Master Shipwright Edward Allen. Launched on May 7 of that year, the finished 100-gun ship cost a total of £63,176.

HMS Victory: Service History:

After completing sea trials, Victory was placed in ordinary as the war had been concluded. It remained in this reserve role until May 1778, when it was first commissioned as the flagship of Admiral Augustus Keppel during the War of American Independence. Two months later, on July 27, Keppel’s fleet encountered a French fleet off Ushant and gave battle. Though the First Battle of Ushant was inconclusive, it was Victory's baptism by fire. Two years later, in March 1780, the ship was placed in drydock and its hull sheathed with copper to protect against shipworm.

Returning to sea, Victory served as Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfelt’s flagship during his triumph at the Second Battle of Ushant on December 12, 1781, and later took part in Admiral Richard Howe’s relief of Gibraltar in October 1782. With the war’s conclusion, Victoryunderwent a £15,372 refit and had its armament increased. With the beginning of the War of the First Coalition in 1793, Victory became the flagship of the Mediterranean fleet under Admiral Lord Samuel Hood. After participating in the capture (and loss) of Toulon and Corsica,Victory returned to Chatham for a brief overhaul in 1794.

Returning to the Mediterranean the following year, Victory remained in the area until the British fleet was forced to withdraw to Portugal. In December 1796, Admiral Sir John Jervismade Victory his flagship when he took command of the Mediterranean fleet. Two months later, he led the fleet to victory over the Spanish at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. Growing old, Victory returned to Chatham that fall to be surveyed and have its fate decided. Ruled unfit for service on December 8, 1797, orders were issued to convert Victory into a hospital ship.

With the loss of the first-rate HMS Impregnable in October 1799, Victory's conversion orders were countermanded and new ones issued to repair and restore the ship. Initially estimated at £23,500, the reconstruction project eventually cost £70,933 due to an ever increasingly list of defects in the hull. Completed in April 11, 1803, Victory sailed to rejoin the fleet. On May 16, 1803, Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson hoisted his flag aboard Victory as the commander of the Mediterranean fleet. Serving as Nelson’s flagship, Victory patrolled off Toulon as part of the British blockade of that port.

In May 1805, the French fleet under Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve escaped from Toulon. After sailing east first, Nelson learned that the French were heading for the West Indies. Pursuing them across the Atlantic and back again, Nelson finally was able to bottle them up in the Spanish port of Cadiz. When Villeneuve departed Cadiz on October 19, Nelson was able to bring him to battle off Cape Trafalgar two days later. Splitting his force in two, Nelson drove his ships in two columns into the heart of the combined French-Spanish fleet.

Aggressively attacking, the British decimated Villeneuve’s fleet, winning one of the greatest naval victories in history. During the battle Victory engaged Villeneuve’s flagship, Bucentaure(80) and Redoutable (74). After inflicting heavy damage on BucentaureVictory dueledRedoutable with both ships suffering heavy casualties. During the fight, Nelson was shot through shoulder by a marine aboard Redoutable. Taken below, he died three hours later as his fleet was completing the victory. After the battle, the badly damaged Victory transported Nelson’s body back to England.

Repaired after TrafalgarVictory saw service as a flagship in the Baltic and off the coast of Spain. On December 20, 1812, the 47-year old warship was paid off for the last time at Portsmouth. Though the ship was refitted a final time after the war, it remained in ordinary and became the flagship for the Port Admiral in 1824. In 1889, the ship was fitted out for use as the Naval School of Telegraphy and later the Signals School. These remained on board until 1904, when they were moved HMS Hercules and then to the Royal Naval Barracks.

By 1921, Victory was in poor condition and a campaign was started to raise money for the ship’s restoration. Moved to the oldest drydock in the world, No. 2 Dock at Portsmouth, on January 12, 1922, Victory underwent a massive six-year restoration which returned the ship to its 1805 appearance. Victory saw its last wartime action in 1941, during World War II when it was hit by a Luftwaffe bomb which caused some hull damage. Under constant restoration,Victory is still in commission and is open to the public as a museum ship at Portsmouth.

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