HMS Victory

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Ship data
flag United KingdomUnited Kingdom (Naval War Flag) United Kingdom
Ship type Ship of the line
Shipyard Chatham Dockyard , Chatham
Launch May 7, 1765
Commissioning March 12, 1778
Ship dimensions and crew
69.3 m ( Lüa )
width 15.8 m
Draft Max. 8.76 m
displacement 3500 ts
crew 850 men, including 31 powder monkeys
Rigging and rigging
Rigging Frigate rigging
Number of masts 3
Sail area 5440 m²
under sail
Max. 9 kn (17 km / h)
  • 2 × 68-pounder carronades
  • 30 × 32 pounder
  • 28 × 24 pounders
  • 44 × 12 pounder

The 1765 HMS Victory is the oldest ship in British naval service. The Victory gained fame as the flagship of Vice Admiral Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar . She is now a museum ship in Portsmouth , but also serves the First Sea Lord for official receptions and events.

Origin and name

The Victory , which still exists today, is the sixth ship in the Royal Navy to bear this name .

In 1758 the ministers of King George II launched an ambitious project to build twelve new ships of the line . At the top of the list was a ship - at the time without any name - of the 1st rank with over 100 cannons , which was to be built in Chatham . The keel was expected to be laid for the following year.

The year 1759 was the "year of victories" for Great Britain. In terms of military successes, it was the climax of the Seven Years' War . In the country, British troops and their allies in triumph Surat ( India ), Minden and Quebec . The battles won at Lagos and Quiberon were recorded at sea . Out of the euphoria about the victories, the ship was given the name Victory ( English for victory). The Victory was designed by Sir Thomas Slade . It was based on that of the Royal George of 1756.


The Victory was commissioned on July 14, 1759 and in the same year, on July 23, 1759, the keel was laid in a dry dock of the naval shipyard in Chatham , made of elm trunks with a diameter of up to 50.8 cm. On this were frames built and as well as planked inside outside, so that a "three-layer hull" ( English "three-ply hull") was born. John Lock, master shipbuilder at the naval shipyard, was responsible for the construction. When he died in 1762, Edward Allin succeeded him. On October 30, 1760, the ship was entered as a Victory in the ship list of the British Royal Navy.


Completion of construction and reserve service (1765 to 1778)

On May 7, 1765, almost six years after the keel was laid, the Victory was undocked. At that time it would have been possible to complete the construction of a first-rate ship of the line within five years, but the previous overwhelming victories had so clearly manifested British naval power that the urgency originally stated was ignored. The construction costs up to that date amounted to 63,176 pounds sterling .

From 1768 to 1778 the Victory was stationed in reserve service in Chatham. At this point a ship of this size was not needed. When France entered the American Revolutionary War , the Victory , which had previously been in reserve for 13 years without its masts and covered in the Medway River , was activated and made seaworthy so that it could be put into service on March 12, 1778.

In March 1778 John Lindsay became the first captain of the Victory . He switched to HMS Prince George in May 1778 after Admiral Augustus Keppel had his flag set on the Victory . As Lindsay's successor, Rear Admiral John Campbell was appointed first captain and Captain Jonathan Faulknor was ordered to the warship as second captain.

First sea battle of Ouessant (1778)

Admiral Keppel set sail with the Victory on July 9, 1778 from Spithead together with a fleet of 30 ships of the line, after a French fleet of 29 ships had been sighted 160 km west of Ouessant . The French admiral Louis Guillouet d'Orvilliers had orders to avoid any engagement; However, he was cut off from the important base of Brest , so that he could no longer avoid an argument. While two of his ships were able to flee to the port of Brest, the remaining 27 ships now had to face the British armed forces. The weather conditions were very bad for a battle with changing winds and heavy rain in the days before the battle. On July 27, the day of the battle , the conditions were more favorable. The British managed to sail an approximate line of battle while the French failed to position themselves in an orderly formation. In fact, although the fastest French ships did manage to sail past the British line, the Victory came within combat range and was able to open fire on the 110-gun ship Bretagne and the 90-gun ship Ville de Paris . Keppel signaled his ships to take up the chase, which apparently could not obey this order, so that there was no further fighting. Keppel later had to justify himself in front of a military court before the incident even degenerated into a party-political dispute in the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Second naval battle of Ouessant (1781)

In March 1780 was awarded the underwater hull of the Victory a fitting from 2,923 copper plates to the hull with better protection from pest infestation.

On December 2, 1781, the Victory was commanded by Captain Henry Cromwell under the flag of Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfelt . She ran out on December 10, 1781 together with eleven other ships of the line , a 50-gun ship 4th rank and five frigates to intercept a French convoy coming from Brest .

Kempenfelt ordered the pursuit after the first enemy ships were sighted. He overlooked the fact that the convoy was accompanied by 21 ships of the line under the command of Admiral de Guichen . This marked the beginning of the second battle of Ouessant. When Kempenfelt finally recognized the enemy superiority, he was satisfied with the capture of the 15 convoy ships and withdrew with these prizes . The French escort ships were widely scattered by an emerging storm and could no longer intervene in time. Therefore, they went back to their native waters without further fighting.

Reserve service (1782 to 1789)

From 1782 to 1789 the Victory did reserve service in Portsmouth , then until 1791 service in the English Channel . From 1792 to 1796 she served as the flagship in the Mediterranean. She took part in the decimation of the French fleet in Toulon , in the conquest of San Fierenzo and Bastia , in the battle of Hyères and in the battle of Cape Spartel .

On December 3, 1795, Admiral Sir John Jervis set his flag on the Victory .

Sea battle at Cape St. Vincent (1797)

Admiral John Jervis, 1st Earl of St. Vincent

In 1796, Captain Robert Calder commanded the Victory under the flag of Admiral Sir John Jervis . The Kingdom of Great Britain was at this time at war with the allied nations France and Spain . On January 18, 1797, Jervis sailed from Tajo and received reinforcements on February 6, 1797 by 5 other British ships from Great Britain, so that his fleet now consisted of 15 ships of the line and 6 frigates.

The crew of the Portuguese frigate Carlotta , which happened to cross the path of the Victory on February 14, informed Jervis that a Spanish fleet was nearby. Jervis had his own ships maneuvered accordingly in the direction of the enemy position last sighted, so that the two fleets finally met for the sea ​​battle at Cape St. Vincent . Jervis, who was outnumbered, was forced to attack the Spanish fleet before it could combine with the French fleet in an even greater superiority, as this would have ruined the chances of victory. From the British point of view, an attack was also an option, since the Spaniards had not yet formed a battle line, but were sailing in two lines.

The naval battle of St. Vincent. Painting by Robert Cleveley from 1798

The warship Principe de Asturias , which led the Spanish Lee Line, tried  to break the British keel line  - in front of or behind the Victory . The Victory , together with other British ships, was able to fire such brute broadsides into the enemy that the Spanish commanders sailing towards the British, completely demoralized, turned their ships off and let them sail away in different directions without coordination. Because this Spanish retreat was disorderly and the Lee Line split into several smaller groups, Jervis decided with his Victory to pursue a relatively larger Spanish group and ordered his ships to pursue them as well.

Horatio Nelson , who was ordered to the Victory himself a few years later , was at this point in the same battle on board the Captain and was able to conquer some ships in a spectacular way.

A large part of the Spaniards escaped, however, so that the battle was without any decisive consequences for either side.

Nevertheless, Jervis was raised to the nobility ; Nelson received the knighthood and also the rank of rear admiral .

Decommissioning, hospital ship, major overhaul, Mediterranean service (1797 to 1805)

In October 1797, structural damage was found during an inspection of the ship. The Victory was then decommissioned and struck off the Royal Navy's list of ships . She then served as a hospital ship until 1799 , before the Navy Department decided to overhaul her. From 1800 to 1803 the shipyard in Chatham underwent a complete overhaul combined with major renovations. Between 1803 and 1805 she was stationed in the Mediterranean Sea and sailed under Vice Admiral Lord Nelson .

Battle of Trafalgar (1805)

From May 1805 to August 1805 she took part in the pursuit of Vice Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve's French fleet to the Caribbean and back.

The Victory in action with several French ships of the line
Horatio Nelson

On October 21, 1805, the Victory took part in the Battle of Trafalgar under Vice Admiral Lord Nelson and Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy and acted here as the flagship . Thanks to the reconstruction carried out by 1803, the ship had 104 cannons on board at that time.

The Victory had a not inconsiderable influence on the battle, which is as follows:

Nelson had the signal set on the Victory at 6:40 a.m. to take up the agreed sail formation: His plan was to sail towards the enemy in two lines and to cut the opposing battle formation. The Victory should lead the northern line and the HMS Royal Sovereign the southern line. Both lines then sailed eastwards towards the enemy traveling in a northerly direction. The Commander in Chief's flag was hoisted on the Victory , which is why Nelson and his staff assumed that the enemy would do something to set it as a preferred target and fight it. For this reason, the British HMS Temeraire drove slightly offset to port in front of the Victory in order to be able to secure it accordingly. The British flagship wanted to break into the small gap between the French Bucentaure and the Spanish four-decker Santissima Trinidad and came under the heaviest fire:

At 12:20 p.m. the Bucentaure opened fire on the Victory and was able to shoot three broadsides at the British flagship, causing it to lose its main end-of-line . Nelson's ship was then in the crossfire of the Héros , Santissima Trinidad and Redoutable for 40 minutes without being able to respond to the attack.

It was not until 12:45 p.m. that the Victory succeeded in cutting the enemy line and approaching the Bucentaure .

The ship constellation and order in the Battle of Trafalgar

At 13:00 o'clock the Victory could record the first hits with its carronades on the French Bucentaure . The Victory fired a complete broadside into the transom , the weak point of the warships at the time, and was able to, as Villeneuve later explained, take out a crew of around 400 and 20 cannons, so that the Bucentaure was severely weakened after only two minutes in the first battle. However, neither the sails nor masts of the Bucentaure were hit, so that at least it remained maneuverable. The Bucentaure was the French flagship of Vice Admiral de Villeneuve, which was not marked as such, but only revealed itself as the flagship by hoisting the admiral's flag when the Victory slowly crossed her stern.

The Victory in action at the Battle of Trafalgar

The French Neptune then rushed to the Bucentaure 's aid and involved the Victory in a violent exchange of blows, in the course of which the latter received serious damage to the foremast and the bowsprit. The Victory then fell off to port , but failed to lay directly alongside the Bucentaure . Now the French Redoutable also intervened and in turn attacked the Victory , which was now attacked by three ships at the same time. Captain Hardy then decided to leave the battered Bucentaure behind and instead concentrate the fire on the redoutable . The two ships approaching each other then collided and were now directly next to each other.

Nelson's death. The painting is currently on board the Victory - exactly on the frame that can be seen in the picture

In the subsequent boarding battle, the much higher structure of the Victory paid off , so that the British had advantages in the fight man against man. During the boarding battle between Victory and Redoutable , the British Temeraire reached the scene and drew the gunfire of the French Neptune , who had previously fired even further at the Victory .

The Victory and the Temeraire finally managed to join forces to take the already weakened Redoutable into the crossfire, so that it was defeated. However, a French musket ball hit Lord Nelson, who was brought below deck, seriously wounded. Here he died a little later towards the end of the battle.

The British fleet finally managed to repel an attack by the newly formed French and Spanish ships. The French flagship Bucentaure could eventually even be captured by the British ships Neptune , Leviathan and Conqueror , so that Vice Admiral Villeneuve was forced to remove his flag. The battle had ended successfully for the Royal Navy - Lord Nelson, dying on board, was able to take this positive news with him to his death.

The Victory then returned to England via Gibraltar for repairs .

Baltic Sea Service, post-war period, World War II period (1806 to 1945)

The Victory in 1884

From 1806 to 1808 she did routine service on the Medway . During this time the Victory was downgraded to a 2nd rank ship of the line.

After she served in the meantime as a troop transport, she did 1808-1812 service in the Baltic Sea.

In November 1811 she was assigned to a Baltic convoy of 130 British ships as escort together with other liners . The Victory was supposed to be sailing from Sweden to Great Britain along with the other ships when a series of severe storms hit the convoy in Danish waters. The storms caused one of the most loss-making shipping disasters in British maritime history. During the stranding of the two accompanying ships of the line HMS Defense (74 cannons) and HMS St. George (90 cannons) on December 24, 1811 on the west coast of Jutland , 1407 sailors died, only 18 could be rescued; the ship of the line HMS Hero (74 cannons) sank near Texel , but only 8 of the 550 crew members survived (according to other sources, there were no survivors). A large number of merchant ships were also lost, with a total of more than 2,000 British seamen killed - more than in combat in all of the Napoleonic Wars . In addition to the delayed departure of the convoy due to adverse winds, the insufficient equipment of the Royal Navy with modern navigation instruments was named as the cause of the tragedy. The Victory survived the storms and managed to return to England on December 26, 1811 after a difficult crossing.

In 1812 she was retired in Portsmouth, so retired from active service. Another major renovation and reclassification as a 1st rank ship with the aim of putting her back into service took place in Portsmouth. The win at Waterloo made it unnecessary.

1824-1836 she did mostly service as the flagship of the Portsmouth Admiral. In the meantime it was also used as accommodation for captains. In 1837 she was the flagship of the Admiral's administration in Portsmouth. She was moored in Gosport for a while . From 1847 to 1869 she was the flagship of the Fleet Commander in Portsmouth, and from 1869 to 1889 supply ship and support ship. She then served again as the flagship of the Fleet Commander in Portsmouth and later the Commander in Chief Naval Home Command.

On October 23, 1903, she was rammed by the decommissioned tower ship HMS Neptune and almost sunk. It was docked and repaired. Until 1922, the Victory was moored in Portsmouth harbor. At that time, however, the condition of the ship was so bad that it was brought to its current berth, Dock 2, the oldest dry dock in the world, and was extensively restored there. As far as possible and known, the situation at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar was restored. This restoration was completed on July 17, 1928.

In World War II, a damaged aircraft bomb the ship.

Post-war period (1945 to today)

Vice Admiral Nelson's uniform in the Admiralty mess on board the Victory

Filled with history and naval tradition, the Victory was awarded the title "The Westminster Abbey of the Royal Navy " by Philip Watts . She still serves the Commander in Chief of the Royal Navy for official receptions and events. In addition, she is still - in the spirit of British tradition - the official flagship of Her Majesty's First Sea Lord.

The Victory can still be seen in Portsmouth . It is located in the Historic Dockyards in a dry dock and is completely accessible from the keel pig to the upper deck - only the admiralty fair and captain's cabin can only be viewed through a small passage. A faithful replica of Lord Nelson's uniform is on display in the Admiralty Fair (the original can be found in the Marine Museum in Greenwich ). Only a few of the guns on board are real cannons from that time (approx. 8 pieces, including three 32 pounders from the lower cannon deck). The rest was replaced by dummy guns (e.g. on the outer deck) in order to visually enhance the museum ship and to ensure the impression of a fully equipped warship. The use of dummies also has static reasons, as the load-bearing capacity of the wood has decreased due to the drainage. If the full weight of the old number of cannons were placed on the decks, damage could result. The rigging is also incomplete. Only the lower masts up to the donkey's head are rigged.


  1. Hackney, Victory, p. 10
  2. Regarding the losses after the first battle between the Bucentaure and the Victory, there are different statements. Vice-Admiral Villeneuve is said to have stated the losses of 400 men and 20 cannons specified in the article after the Victory had fired its broadside into the stern of the Bucentaure . Other sources name 197 dead and 85 wounded - Captain Magendie was among the seriously injured.


  • Noel CL Hackney: HMS Victory . VEB Hinstorff Verlag, Rostock 1985.
  • John McKay: Victory . Delius Klasing, Bielefeld 1994. ISBN 3-7688-0866-1
  • John McKay: The 100-gun-ship, Victory. Anatomy of the ship. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis Md 1987. ISBN 0-87021-890-5 (English original)

Web links

Commons : HMS Victory  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 50 ° 48 ′ 6.3 "  N , 1 ° 6 ′ 34.6"  W.