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Maritime Heritage of Great Britain
For nearly a millennia Britannia has ruled the waves and over many centuries tales have been told of great sea heroes, from military commanders like Admiral Lord Nelson, to the swashbuckling rogues of Tudor England. Marvel at the 'Victory' and the 'Warrior', or experience Second World War conditions aboard HMS Belfast or HMS Cavalier. Anticipate a leisurely trip on one of the last operating British paddle steamers, or feel the claustrophobic chill inside a cold war submarine.
This book explores 30 preserved vessels, each article comprising of a colour photograph, an historical overview, and an information panel containing opening times, grid reference, address, telephone number, and web site details (where applicable). This work also contains a brief overview of 9 other major maritime attractions.
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98 pages; ISBN 9781904877059
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* * For the purposes of this excerpt the photograph and information panel have been removed * *
A decision was taken by the government in 1758 to build 12 new ‘Ships-of-the-Line’, the largest being a First Rate of 100 guns. The HMS Victory was that First Rate, and is also the last remaining Ship-of-the-Line. Arguably the most famous ship in British history, her keel was laid down in Chatham Dockyard on 23rd July 1759. Constructed in elm and oak, she measures 227ft (69m) in overall length, with a beam in excess of 51ft (15m), and a staggering 2,162 tonnage.
Following her launch in 1765, the Victory was put into reserve until 1778 when she was first commissioned for action in the American War of Independance. She was given a refit in 1793, before serving in the French Revolutionary War, and a further refit two years later. By 1797 she was considered old and ‘battle-weary’, and was sent to Chatham while her fate was decided. Designated unfit for service, she was utilised as a hospital ship for the next two years. Then, in an extraordinary reversal of fortunes, she was suddenly given a new lease of life, and underwent a major refit over the next three years. When she sailed out of Portsmouth in May 1803, Lord Nelson was in command.
On the second occasion that HMS Victory left Portsmouth with Nelson, they were both to make history. After a month at sea, the combined French and Spanish Fleet was sighted on 21st October 1805. As the British Fleet approached, Admiral Nelson ordered a signal to be sent - “England expectes that every man shall do his duty” - which has since become almost as famous as the battle itself. By lunchtime the battle of Trafalgar had commenced. Little more than twenty minutes into battle, Admiral Nelson received a fatal shot from a lone musketeer in the mizzentop of the French ship ‘Redoubtable’. Covering his face, so as to ensure that the morale of his crew was not lowered, Nelson was taken below decks, where he later died. A brass plaque now marks the spot where Nelson fell on the Quarter Deck.
Despite Admiral Nelson’s tragic death his seamanship and military skill had won his country a glorious victory, with no loss of British ships. The Victory returned to Portsmouth in December, and was subsequently repaired at Chatham before being recommissioned in March 1808. Four years later she sailed back to Portsmouth,being paid off on 20th December 1812. With her seagoing career ended, she served for over a century as a floating depot ship in Portsmouth harbour. In 1824 HMS Victory became the flagship for the Port Admiral, and in 1889 she became the flagship for the Commander-in-Chief, and is still in commission today.
Under pressure from the Society for Nautical Research, her future was resolved in 1922 when she was towed into the dockyard and given a home in No 2 dry dock. Soon work was under way to bring her back to her appearance of 1805, when Nelson and Victory had their finest hour at the Battle of Trafalgar.
HMS Victory continues to stand proud and strong, her striking paintwork and gleaming brass giving her a spectacularly clean, sharp profile - quite unexpected for a wooden man-of-war designed nearly two and a half centuries ago. Regular tours of the ship run throughout the day, and the experience is like stepping back in time to a lifestyle that is barely comprehensible.