The world’s oldest vessel in continuous
commission looks forward to the bicentenary of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar that
ensured her fame and preservation.
HMS Victory was ordered in 1759 during the
Seven Years War but defence cutbacks at the end of the war meant that she was
not launched until 1765. This long
period of seasoning for the timber has helped her long life. She is 69m (226ft) long from bowsprit to taffrail and 62m
(205ft) high from waterline to main mast. She
could spread up to 37 sails and has 42km (26 miles) of rigging cordage.
Displacement 3,500 tons. She
was sheathed with nearly 4,000 sheets of copper of 4ft x 14in nominal size
(1,220 x 356mm). Armament 104 guns. Of
the crew of 821 men who were on board at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, 22 were
Americans and 22 came from mainland Europe.
After the career that established affection
with the public, HMS Victory became the flagship for the Port Admiral in
Portsmouth but was listed for disposal in 1831.
Fortunately she was preserved by public acclaim and in 1889 acquired her
present title of flagship for the Commander-in-Chief. Routine maintenance continued but in 1903 she was
accidentally rammed, necessitating extensive repairs to be completed before the
celebrations of the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1905. In 1922 she was placed in her present permanent dry dock in
Portsmouth Historic Naval Dockyard. Now
we look forward to the bicentenary of Trafalgar in 2005.
Many copper souvenirs were issued in support
of the centenary celebrations, most of these being made by recycling copper from
the sheathing. Some brass items
such as doorknockers may have been cast at this time but the big impetus for the
production of brass souvenirs started when the public imagination was fired with
enthusiasm in 1922 and thereafter. These
items were available in far greater quantities than were retailed from
Portsmouth. It was fashionable to
fit ornamentation to most domestic tools such as fire irons, toasting forks,
crumb trays and shoe horns. Various
representations of HMS Victory were among those commonly included in the
catalogues of hardware manufacturers through the 1930s and again from the 1950s
onwards. Besides romantic marine
items such as galleons and ‘Mayflower’, alternative themes included
Dickensian and Shakespearian associations, cathedrals and other well known
architectural features in provincial towns and cities. Link to:
HMS Victory Brass