HMS Victory (1765)

Victory in her drydock in Portsmouth, 2008. Author photo.

Laid Down

Ordered in 1758, HMS Victory is arguably one of the most famous ships in the world. While she gained much of her fame as Admiral Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, Victory began her career nearly thirty years earlier. Her first fight was the Battle of Ushant in 1778, which didn't go so well for the Royal Navy, but the follow up three years later was better. Victory received a copper sheathing to her hull to help prevent marine growth, in 1780. She would later fight in the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1797, but after returning to England, was found to be rotting in the stern. Victory was converted for use as a hospital ship for prisoners of war, but was given a reprieve when HMS Impregnable failed to live up to her name in 1799. Victory was refitted extensively, and returned to service in 1803. Nelson made Victory his flagship that May, and she retained this position until his death at Trafalgar 21 October, 1805. During that battle, Victory was largely disabled, but survived the following storm and returned Nelson's body to England after repairs in Gibraltar. Victory was initially deemed not worth repairing, due to her age, and she saw use in a variety of support roles. In 1831, she was ordered broken up, but was saved by public outcry. A series of visits from Queen Victoria helped to increase visitors, but in 1854, Victory sank after she sprang a leak. She was raised, but no further work was done, and she nearly sank again in 1887. That finally got the Admiralty to provide maintenance funds, but it wasn't until 1922 that she was pulled from the water. A publicly funded major restoration was begun but took decades. It was held up during World War II, and the Luftwaffe scored a near miss that damaged a mast and bracing cradle. Victory was finally fully restored to her Battle of Trafalgar state in 2005, in time for the bicentennial of the Battle. I had the honor of visiting her in 2008, and she is an awesome sight to behold.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: Victory is the oldest commissioned warship in the world. USS Constitution is the oldest afloat.