Friday, September 26, 2008

H.M.S. Victory

H.M.S. Victory
Portsmouth, England

The British Navy's most famous fighting ship, H.M.S. Victory, was built between the years 1759-1765 but was not commissioned until 1778. With some 230 years having passed it is the oldest commissioned naval vessel in the world - in drydock. (The U.S.S. Constitution is the oldest naval ship in the world still afloat).

The H.M.S. Victory is also the only remaining 18th century ship of the line still in existence. A British ship of the line was a main or rated ship, one that carried between 50 and a 100+ guns. The Victory was a first-rate ship, as she carried an armament of at least a hundred guns. This made the Victory one of the super battleships of her day, a ship that very few enemy vessels could match in firepower. (In contrast the U.S.S. Constitution is a frigate and not a ship of the line and carried between 46 - 60 guns).

The H.M.S. Victory is best known for being Lord Admiral Horatio Nelsons flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar. On 21 October 1805 Lord Nelson met and defeated a combined French-Spanish fleet off the coast of Spain. On that day the British fleet sank 22 enemy ships of the line without losing a single ship. This victory ended Napoleons plans to invade England and led to complete British dominance of the seas.

Unfortunately, Admiral Nelson was mortally wounded during the battle as he stood upon the quarterdeck of the Victory. Shot by a French Marine, he died shortly after learning that the battle had been won. Nelsons body was transported to England where he was given a state funeral and honored as a national hero. He is buried in St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

In 1812 the Victory's active career came to an end and she was berthed in Portsmouth harbor. In 1922 due to the ships poor condition she was placed in N0. 2 Drydock in the Royal Naval Dockyard. H.M.S. Victory is now a museum ship with an active duty crew and is open to the public for tours.

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