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HMS Victory

HMS Victory, 100 is the oldest ship still in commission, rivaled only by USS Constitution, three decades younger and still afloat and seaworthy. Victory is permanently drydocked.

Victorys keel was laid down in Chatham on July 23, 1759, and she was launched on May 7, 1765. She weathered at the dock for 23 years until she was commissioned in 1778 under the command of Rear Admiral John Campbell (1st Captain) and Captain Jonathan Faulknor (2nd Captain), with the flag of Admiral the Honorable Augustus Keppel.

Keppel put to sea from Spithead[?] on July 9, 1778, with a force of 30 ships of the line and, on July 23rd, sighted a French fleet of 29 sail 100 miles west of Ushant[?]. The French Admiral, the Comte d'Orvilliers, who had orders to avoid battle, was cut off from Brest but retained the weather gage[?]. Two of his ships to windward escaped into port leaving him with 27. The two fleets manoeuvered during shifting winds and a heavy rain squall until a battle became inevitable with the British more or less in column and the French in some confusion. However, the French managed to pass along the British line to windward with their most advanced ships. At about a quarter to twelve Victory opened fire on Bretagne, 110, followed by Ville de Paris, 90. The British van escaped with little loss but Sir Hugh Palliser's rear division suffered considerably. Keppel made the signal to wear and follow the French but Palliser did not conform and the action was not resumed. Keppel was court-martialled and cleared and Palliser criticised by an enqiry before the affair turned into a party political squabble.

On December 2, 1781, Victory, now commanded by Captain Henry Cromwell and bearing the flag of Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfeldt, sailed with 11 other ships of the line, a 50 and five frigates, to intercept a convoy which sailed from Brest on December 10. Ignorant of the fact that the French Comte de Guichen had twenty-one ships of the line, Kempenfeldt ordered a chase when they were sighted on December 12 and began the Battle of Ushant[?]. When he noted the French superiority he contented himself with capturing 15 sail of the convoy. The French were dispersed in a gale and forced to return home.

In 1796 Captain R. Calder (First Captain) and Captain George Grey (Second Captain) commanded Victory under Admiral Sir John Jervis's flag. Sir John sailed from from the Tagus on January 18, 1797, and after being reinforced on February 6 by five ships from England, his fleet consisted of 15 sail of the line and six frigates. On February 14, the Portuguese frigate Carlotta, commanded by a Scotsman named Campbell with a Portuguese commission, brought news that a Spanish fleet was close. Jervis maneuvered to intercept, and the Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797) was joined. Principe de Asturias, leading the Spanish lee division, tried to break through the British line ahead or astern of Victory but that ship poured such a tremendous fire into her, followed by several raking broadsides, that the whole Spanish division wore round and bore up. Horatio Nelson, in HMS Captain[?] (primarily), also played a decisive role in this action.

In February 1798, Victory was stationed as a prison ship at Chatham under the command of Lieutenant J. Rickman. In 1799, Rickeman was relieved by Lieutenant J. Busbridge. In 1801, Victory was rebuilt.

Lord Nelson hoisted his flag in Victory in May 1803 with Samuel Sutton as his flag captain. His Lordship sailed to assume command in the Mediterranean on May 20 but removed into the frigate Amphion[?]. On May 28th Captain Sutton captured the French Embuscade, 32, bound for Rochefort from San Domingo. Victory rejoined Lord Nelson off Toulon on July 30 when Captain Sutton exchanged with Captain Thomas Hardy into Amphion.

Victory was passing the island of Toro[?] on April 4, 1805, when Phoebe[?] brought the news that the French fleet under Pierre-Charles Villeneuve[?] had escaped from Toulon. While Nelson made for Sicily to see if the French were heading for Egypt, Villeneuve was entering Cadiz to link up with the Spanish fleet. On May 7 Nelson reached Gibraltar and received his first definite news. The British fleet completed their stores in Lagos Bay, Portugal[?], on May 10 and two days later sailed westward with ten ships and three frigates in pursuit of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet of 17 ships. They arrived in the West Indies to find that the enemy was sailing back to Europe where Napoleon Bonaparte was waiting for them with his invasion forces at Boulogne.

The combined fleet were involved in an indecisive action in fog off Ferrol[?] with Admiral Sir Robert Calder's squadron on July 22 before taking refuge in Vigo[?] and Ferrol to land wounded and abandon three damaged ships. Calder on August 14 and Nelson on August 15 joined Admiral Cornwallis's Channel Fleet off Ushant. Nelson continued to England in Victory leaving his Mediterranean fleet with Cornwallis who detached 20 of his 33 ships of the line and sent them under Calder to find the combined fleet at Ferrol. On August 19 came the worrying news that the enemy had sailed from there, followed by relief when they arrived in Cadiz two days later. On the evening of Saturday, September 28, Lord Nelson joined Lord Collingwood's fleet off Cadiz, quietly, so that his presence would not be known.

When Admiral Villeneuve learned that he was to be removed from command he took his ships to sea on the morning of October 19, first sailing south towards the Mediterranean but then turning north towards the British fleet, beginning the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson had already he made his plans: to break the enemy line some two or three ships ahead of their Commander in Chief in the centre and achieve victory before the van could come to their aid. In the event fitful winds made it a slow business. For five hours after Nelson's last manoeuvering signal the two columns of British ships slowly approached the French line before Royal Sovereign[?], leading the lee column, was able to open fire on Fougueux. Twenty-five minutes later Victory broke the line between Bucentaure and Redoubtable firing a double-shotted broadside into the stern of the former from a range of a few yards. At 25 minutes past one Nelson was shot, the fatal ball entering his left shoulder and lodging in his spine. He died at half past four. Such killing had taken place on Victorys quarter-deck that Redoubtable attemped to board her, but the marines and small arms men repelled them. Nelson's last order was for the fleet to anchor but this was rejected by Vice Admiral Collingwood. Victory lost 57 killed and 102 wounded.

Victory took Nelson's body to England where, after lying in state at Greenwich, the burial took place in St. Paul's Cathedral on January 6, 1806.

Victory bore many Admiral's flags after Trafalgar, and sailed on numerous expeditions, including two Baltic campaigns under Admiral Saumarez. Her active career ended on November 7, 1812, when she was moored in Portsmouth Harbour off Gosport[?].

Over the next century, Victory slowly deteriorated at her moorings. A campaign to save her started in 1921 and in 1922 the fragile hull was moved into the oldest drydock in the world: No.2 dock at Portsmouth. Restoration continued and in 1928 King George V was able to unveil a tablet celebrating the completion of the work, which still continues.

HMS Victory is still in commission as a flagship of the Royal Navy.

Originally from http://www.cronab.demon.co.uk/V.HTM, with the author's permission.

Admirals who have hoisted flags in Victory

Admiral The Honorable Augustus Keppel

May 16, 1778

October 28, 1778

Admiral Sir Charles Hardy

March 19, 1779

May 14, 1780

Admiral Geary

May 24, 1780

August 28, 1780

Rear Admiral Francis W Drake

September 26, 1780

December 29, 1780

Vice Admiral Hyde Parker

March 20, 1781

May 31, 1781

Commodore John Elliot

June 1781

August 1781

Rear Admiral John Kemperfelt

September 10, 1781

March 11, 1782

Admiral Lord Howe

April 20, 1782

November 14, 1782

Admiral Lord Howe

July 1790

August 1790

Admiral Lord Hood

August 1790

August 1791

Rear Admiral Sir Hyde Parker

February 6, 1793

May 1793

Admiral Lord Hood

May 6, 1793

December 15, 1794

Rear Admiral John Man

July 8, 1795

September 27, 1795

Vice Admiral Robert Linzee

October 1795

November 1795

Admiral Sir John Jervis

December 3, 1795

March 30, 1797

Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson

May 8, 1803

October 21, 1805

Admiral Sir James Saumarez

March 18, 1808

December 9, 1808

Admiral Sir John Moore

December 1808

January 23, 1809

Admiral Sir James Saumarez

April 8, 1809

December 1809

Admiral Sir James Saumarez

March 11, 1810

December 3, 1810

Rear Admiral Sir Joseph Yorke

December 1810

March 1811

Admiral Sir James Saumarez

April 2, 1811

December 25, 1811,

Admiral Sir James Saumarez

April 14, 1812

October 15, 1812

In Ordinary

December 18, 1812

January 31, 1824

Commissioner Sir Michael Seymour


Paid off

April 30, 1827

October 21, 1831

became Flagship of Port Admiral

Rear Admiral Sir F L Maitland


Rear Admiral D Pleydell Bouverie


Rear Admiral Hyde Parker


Rear Admiral W H Shiffeff


Admiral Sir C. Ogle

March 20, 1848

December 19, 1848

Admiral Sir T B. Capel

December 20, 1848

December 19, 1851

Admiral Sir Thomas Briggs

December 20, 1851

March 19, 1853

Vice Admiral Sir Thomas J. Cochrane

March 20, 1854

March 19, 1856

Vice Admiral Sir Geo F Seymour

March 20, 1856

March 19, 1859

Admiral William Bowles

March 20, 1859

March 19, 1860

Vice Admiral Henry Bruce

March 20, 1860

December 19, 1864

Vice Admiral Sir Michael Seymour

December 20, 1864

March 19, 1866

Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley

March 20, 1866

March 20, 1869

Tender to Duke of Wellington

December 20, 1869

September 1, 1891

Admiral The Hon Earl of Clanwilliam

August 1, 1891

September 17, 1894

Admiral Sir Nowell Salmon VC

September 18, 1894

August 31, 1897

Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour

September 1, 1897

November 17, 1900

Admiral Sir Charles F Hotham

November 18, 1900

September 30, 1903

Admiral Sir John A Fisher

October 1, 1903

March 18, 1904

The Port Admiral's flag moved to Hercules and on February 1, 1905, to Firequeen[?]

Admiral Sir Archibald L Douglas

March 18, 1905

March 1, 1907

Admiral Sir Day H Bosanquet

March 2, 1907

March 17, 1908

Admiral Sir Arthur D Fanshawe

March 18, 1908

April 30, 1910

Admiral Sir Assheton Gore Gurzon-Howe

May 1, 1910

March 17, 1911

Admiral Sir Arthur W Moore

March 18, 1911

July 31, 1912

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Hedworth Meux

August 1, 1912

February 17, 1916

Admiral The Hon Sir Stanley Colvill

February 18, 1916

April 17, 1919

Admiral Sir Cecil Burney.

April 18, 1919

June 17, 1920

Admiral Hon Sir Arthur Gough-Calthorpe

June 18, 1920

May 31, 1923

Admiral Sir Sidney Robert Fremantle

June 1, 1923

April 1, 1926

Admiral Sir Osmond de Beauvior Brock

May 18, 1826

April 30, 1929

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes

May 1, 1929

June 17, 1931

Admiral Sir Arthur Waistell

June 18, 1931

February 17, 1934

Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Kelly

February 18, 1931

August 31, 1936

Admiral of the Fleet The Earl of Cork and Orrery

August 18, 1937

June 30, 1939

Admiral Sir William M James

July 1, 1939

September 30, 1942

Admiral Sir Charles Little

October 1, 1942

September 28, 1945

Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton

September 29, 1945

June 29, 1947

Admiral Lord Fraser of North Cape

June 30, 1947

April 18, 1949

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Algernon Willis

April 19, 1949

October 17, 1950

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur J Power

October 18, 1950

October 17, 1952

Admiral Sir John Edelsten

October 18, 1952

October 17, 1954

Admiral of the Fleet Sir George E Creasy

October 18, 1954

July 17, 1957

Admiral Sir Guy Grantham

July 18, 1957

July 17, 1959

Admiral Sir Manley L Power

July 18, 1959

January 17, 1962

Admiral Sir Alexander N C Bingley

January 18, 1962

January 17, 1963

Admiral Sir Wilfrid J W Woods

January 18, 1963

September 9, 1965

Admiral Sir Varyl C Begg

September 10, 1965

June 9, 1966

Admiral Sir Frank E Hopkins

June 10, 1966

October 30, 1967

Admiral Sir John B Frewen

October 31, 1967

February 27, 1970

Admiral Sir Horace R Law

February 28, 1970

February 28, 1972

Admiral Sir Andrew Lewis

February 29, 1972

June 29, 1974

Admiral Sir Derek Empson

June 30, 1974

October 30, 1975

Admiral Sir Terence Lewin

October 31, 1975

October 30, 1976

Admiral Sir David Williams

October 31, 1976

October 30, 1978

Admiral Sir Richard Clayton

October 31, 1978

June 30, 1981

Admiral Sir James Eberle

July 1, 1981

December 31, 1983

Admiral Sir Desmond Cassidi

January 1, 1983

October 30, 1984

Admiral Sir Peter Stanford

October 31, 1984

October 30, 1987

Admiral Sir John Woodward

October 31, 1987

October 30, 1989

Admiral Sir Jeremy Black

October 31, 1989

March 30, 1991

Admiral Sir John Kerr

March 31, 1991

March 30, 1993

Admiral Sir Michael Layard

March 31, 1993

March 30, 1994

Admiral Sir Michael Boyce

March 31, 1994

March 30, 1997

Admiral Sir John Brigstocke

March 31, 1997

January 18, 2000

Vice Admiral Sir Peter Spencer

January 19, 2000


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