A couple of weeks ago I stood on the deck of HMS Victory and gazed down at the plaque which marked the spot where Nelson fell.
So immense was the impact of the great ship, I had to wipe the tears from my eyes.
I can honestly say I have never been so awed by a tall ship in my life.
The sheer size of Victory is amazing. The length of its decks, the number and size of its guns.
And below decks the area where the everyday life of the ship was conducted: the quarters, the cabins, the sickbay, the huge staterooms – one Admiral Lord Nelson, another other for the Captain Hardy; the furnishings, including the original round table used by Nelson in his day cabin; and a replica of his hanging cot with its delicately hand-embroidered drapes.
Launched from the Chatham dockyard in Kent on 7th May 1765, it is said that Victory was then more ornate than she is today.
That is hard to believe!
She carried a crew of 850 and a complement of 104 guns including two 68 pounder carronades, and remained in service until 1812.
At 3500 tons, this formidable fighting machine could sail at a speed of 11 knots under a spread of 37 sails.
What a sight she would have been!
Victory was brought to her present berth at Portsmouth’s Royal Naval Dockyard in1922 where she stands proudly as the centre piece of a remarkable collection of true nautical heritage.
To one side she is flanked by the HMS Warrior – Britain’s first and last iron hulled warships (1860) – on the other, the remains of King Henry V111’s ship, the Mary Rose (1510).
I will write more on these in a later entry.
If I had seen nothing else on my visit to England, I would have been satisfied in having visited this magnificent ship.
Over 33 million visitors have trodden Victory’s decks before me and I am sure most will have left with feelings similar to my own.
If you love tall ships or history, a visit to the naval dockyards at Portsmouth is a must.
More info at http://www.hms-victory.com/
Photo by M Muir