Thursday, April 16, 2015
HMS Victory Cutaway
HMS Victory is a 104-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, ordered in 1758, laid down in 1759 and launched in 1765. She is best known as Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
She was also Keppel's flagship at Ushant, Howe's flagship at Cape Spartel and Jervis's flagship at Cape St Vincent. After 1824, she served as a harbour ship.
In 1922, she was moved to a dry dock at Portsmouth, England, and preserved as a museum ship. She is the flagship of the First Sea Lord since October 2012 and is the world's oldest naval ship still in commission.
In December 1758, the commissioner of Chatham Dockyard was instructed to prepare a dry dock for the construction of a new first-rate ship. This was an unusual occurrence at the time, as the Royal Navy preferred smaller and more manoeuvrable ships, and it was unusual for more than two to be in commission simultaneously; during the whole of the 18th century, only ten were constructed. Then Prime Minister Pitt the Elder placed the order for Victory on 13 December 1758, along with 11 other ships.
The outline plans were based on HMS Royal George which had been launched at Woolwich Dockyard in 1756, and 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 designed to carry at least 100 guns and was established with that number of guns; in practice, her armament varied from 104 to 106 guns and carronades. In January 1808, the Victory was reduced to a 98-gun second rate, but was reclassed as a 104-gun first rate in February 1817.
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. In 1759, the Seven Years' War was going well for Britain; land victories had been won at Quebec and Minden and naval battles had been won at Lagos and Quiberon Bay. It was the Annus Mirabilis, or Year of Victories, and the ship's name may have been chosen to commemorate it or it may have been chosen simply because out of the seven names shortlisted, Victory was the only one not in use. 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 built, it was normal to cover the ship up and leave it for several months to season but 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, the equivalent of £7.53 million today. Around 6000 trees were used in her construction, of which 90% were oak and the remainder elm, pine and fir, together with a small quantity of Lignum Vitae.
On the day of the launch, shipwright Hartly Larkin, designated "foreman afloat" for the event, suddenly realised that the ship might not fit though the dockyard gates. Measurements at first light confirmed his fears: the gates were at least 9½ inches too narrow. He told the dreadful news to his superior, master shipwright John Allin, who considered abandoning the launch. Larkin asked for the assistance of every available shipwright, and they hewed away enough wood from the gates with their adzes for the ship to pass safely through. Larkin petitioned the Navy for some reward for his decisive action, "he having a large family": but, he was denied. He retired on a small pension in 1779, and died in 1803.
Because there was no immediate use for her, she was placed in ordinary—in reserve, roofed over, dismasted 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 March 1778 under Captain John Lindsay but he was transferred to HMS Prince George in May 1778 when Admiral the Honourable Augustus Keppel decided to raise his flag in her, and appoint Rear Admiral John Campbell (1st Captain) and Captain Jonathan Faulknor (2nd Captain).
The Victory was armed with smooth bore, cast iron cannon. Initially she carried thirty 42-pounders (19 kg) on her lower deck, twenty-eight 24-pounders (11 kg) on her middle deck, and thirty 12-pounders (5 kg) on her upper deck, together with twelve 6-pounders on her quarterdeck and forecastle. In May 1778, the 42-pounders were replaced by 32-pounders (15 kg), but the 42-pounders were reinstated in April 1779; eventually, in 1803, the 42-pounders were permanently replaced by 32-pounders. In 1782, all the 6-pounders were replaced by 12-pounders. Later, she also carried two carronade guns, firing 68-lb (31 kg) round shot.