and it's third career!

We all know about the culmination point of her first career which is recorded in a stunning [yes, beautiful] oil painting called "The Death of Nelson" which sadly, very few people with a genuine love of our naval history ever see or have seen. Certainly those who visit naval museums [in whatever form] and wherever, never see, regrettably. Even if they were in a position to see it, the viewing experience is somewhat curtailed by the nearness one is allowed to the picture and the enormity of scale. It is contentious, though why I don't know, having two women nurses, and a black man who witnessed the crack of the rifle in the rigging of the Redoubtable which conveyed the bullet [ball] which killed Nelson,  and is seen guiding a marine with his rifle pointing to the assailant still visible in the rigging. The ship's manifest, the list of those in the vessel,  shows two North African's in the crew, and as for the women, stowaway's {?} turning their hands to useful endeavour [the second black man is shown with the two white nurses}. Using modern techniques it is far better viewed on-line, where every inch of the canvas can be visited in great detail, at a speed commensurate with enjoyment and clarity. Victory's first career was of course her fighting career; her second a floating hulk and her third, a national and much loved shrine. The picture is on view in central London and in Liverpool. 

Like ALL historic events [British of otherwise] recorded AFTER the event depicted, one has to allow for poetic or journalistic licence introduced [or claimed] by the author or the painter. This applies notwithstanding to all events occurring before the advent of the camera in whatever form. Moreover, a so-called historic scene, painted by more than one painter, has so many variations on a theme that the end products can not, and should not be trusted as a reliable representation of the event. In so many cases depicting our history, "romance" is added to heighten the patriotic fervour, especially when dealing with our most loved and admired heroes.  To make a point, one of several but I choose one only, in my opening paragraph I have mentioned the black man attracting a marine's attention and directing his rifle to shoot down Nelson's assailant. That he was shot down is not in doubt, but not by the marine assisted by the black man!

A comment made about the picture "Death of Nelson" is that Nelson died in the cockpit deep down inside the Victory and not on deck as shown, without regard that on being shot Nelson fell to the deck, and this painting captures the period between falling and being carried below. In my mind, a perfectly orderly chain of events.

 The collection of Nelson's Dispatches by Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas reveals much and many great and grand events. It takes the form of seven volumes from different dates. Volume 7 contains Nelson's last will dated 1803 and a number of codicils added, the last just an hour or so before the Battle of Trafalgar commenced in 1805. It is a moving document and gives one a good understand of how his mind and thoughts were being focused, ever conscious of eternal war and the great possibility of his own mortality. It is a rather long document which I offer as a pdf version. It starts with the will covering thirteen pages and concludes with the codicils covering several but fewer pages. I have shown this here as an introduction to Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas' notes, and when you close the pdf file down and return to this point, I will continue with the story of who killed the assassin of Nelson. However, if you wish to follow the story, you can always come back to read any of the following stories at leisure. They are not to be found elsewhere on a routine basis on the internet!



3.   Report on the reason for the surrendering of the French ship Le Redoubtable.htm

4.   navy league 1907.pdf



According to the great antiquarian Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas who had full access to the writings and edicts of Lord Nelson as well as to those issued by his senior and some less senior officers, Nelson was a great humanitarian equalling his great battle skills/attributes, and during the battle, on two occasions he had order a cease fire against the French ship of the line Redoubtable because her guns had fallen silent and he couldn't tell whether she had struck [her colours]: to save lives, he exercised his humane instincts, but we know that it was from this vessel that the fatal shot which mortally wounded Nelson was fired. Redoubtable was perceived to be protecting the French Admiral Villenuve in his flagship the Bucentaure, after she had been badly damaged by the Victory, the Bucentaure fighting only a short war before she was captured and Villenuve was taken as a POW.

When Nelson was shot it is calculated that the distance from Victory's quarterdeck to the shooting position on the mizzen mast of the Redoubtable was no more than fifteen yards. The shooter had an excellent view of Nelson, as the two ships remained locked [roped] together. Nelson covered his face with a handkerchief so as not to show it to his crew as he was carried below to the cockpit. The mizzen top was the action station for marine/infantry soldiers from the Tyrol in French 74-gunners and above, but almost immediately from the deck of the Victory a volley was fired from rifles into Redoubtable's mizzen rigging which killed all but two of the marksmen. One of them was recognised by an old quartermaster as the man who had wounded Nelson from his wearing of a white frock and a glared cocked hat. Two midshipmen, Messrs Collingwood and Pollard kept firing at the maintop of the Redoubtable until one of the only two French militia men on it, attempted to make his escape down the rigging. Mr Pollard, not more than sixteen years of age, fired and shot him in the back when he fell dead on the Redoubtable's poop. His companion then came forward to fire again.  "That's him, that's him" cried the quartermaster, whereupon he was shot in the mouth and was killed. The two midshipmen fired simultaneously at the remaining man in the rigging and he fell immediately dead in the top. When Victory took prize of the Redoubtable, the two midshipmen went aloft and found their quarry lying there, one bullet in the centre of his forehead and one central chest. 


Now before you rush to change pages, this is NOT the well known story printed/published a million times over, of HMS Victory being moved from Portsmouth's mid-harbour berth to No 2 dock in Portsmouth's dockyard in the year 1922.

In fact it is a story not at all well known about the ship's preservation, and that's something different, very different as you will see!

It will be apparent to all, that the 1922 event just didn't happen perchance, on the spur of the moment, and had it not been for the turbulent years of pre 1914 followed by WW1 itself, Victory's preservation would have been completed before the bells of Portsmouth sounded their first peal and the ships sirens of vessels in its dockyard, sounded their shrill warning, both and jointly welcoming in the new year of 1922.

In my story I will be mentioning people by name who have never knowingly been mentioned in the Victory story that I have read and believed to be finite, and the first of these is a man called John Poole. Poole was as famous in the 19th century as Agatha Christie was to the 20th/21st centuries. He was a playwright and scripted a play which ran in London from 1825 until 1876 at various theatre's called 'Paul Pry' [greatly patronised by royalty, courtiers, the well-shod and the influential: you will remember that our Agatha wrote a play called the 'Mouse Trap' and that is still running in London [with a couple of theatre changes] which was first staged 64 years ago in 1952. Although the Mouse Trap has out-performed Paul Pry, they share this link of longevity for live-theatre work, and that's where the comparison ends. Poole and his followers saved the Victory from either the breakers yard or from a major remodelling in 1831, by lobbying his influential admirers and gaining the support of friends in high places, not to mention more than a handful of august admirals on the Board of the Admiralty. However, between approximately 1823 and 1830 one of Poole's great friends was George IV whose Brighton home, the Royal Pavillion, he frequented on a continuous basis, often writing and performing little plays for the guests attending the Kings lavish party's. All Poole really required in the saving of the Victory was that personal friendship which he got in great measure. Even in 1830 at the death of George IV, that Royal Patronage continued with King William IV, who, by virtue of his service as a younger man as the Duke of Clarence in the Royal Navy was [and still is] known as the "Sailor King" - as a coincidence, he it was who knighted Nelson's and HMS Victory's surgeon, William Beatty to become Sir William Beatty in the early 1830's. No single person saved the Victory, but having such a powerful patron was all that was needed to gag those lesser persons who would dare to suggest an alternative fate for this iconic vessel.  

What follows is a condensed story of HMS Victory after its long years at sea fighting many battles under many admirals.

 Drake's Golden Hind, after putting a girdle around the earth, was, by Royal Command of Queen Elizabeth, laid up at Deptford in a dock of her own as a perpetual and everlasting memorial of a tremendous achievement. For eighty years she had her vogue, and made a fashionable rendezvous for water parties on the Thames. But when 100 years were accomplished, competent surveyors announced that neglect had gone too far and that the vessel could no longer be preserved. Consequently, she was broken up. The story of HMS Victory is different. She was kept on the active list for ten years after Nelson's death, and in 1815 without more recognition of her past services that most other gallant ships received, was consigned to the ship breakers yard. That she escaped her fate was down to John Poole the English playwright, and throughout his endeavours, the ship remained in commission. The pragmatic mind of 1815 cared little enough for the preservation of ancient monuments. If the Victory was to remain at Portsmouth she must continue to work; and thus it came about that she has carried a Commander-in-Chief's flag ever since Nelson's own was lowered, and has fired salutes until her very timbers groaned under the strain that her labours entailed, and  scholars have lost count of the number of courts-martials it has staged over the years since 1814. But such activities could not be indefinitely extended, and in 1914 the Secretary of the Society for Nautical Research called attention to the fact that something immediately ought to be done.

   The moment was inopportune and the outbreak of war put on hold any plans for the future of the ship.

Just a little before WW1 started, a gem befell the naval/nautical world. King George III, the monarch during the French Revolutionary Wars/Napoleonic Wars [and before] had commissioned his own living history artist. His name was Nicholas Pocock [d.1821] and he painted scenes of all the warships which had taken part on the British side at Trafalgar having first been recorded/sketched by the officers serving in them and passed to him for a professional paint job. When wrongly interpreted by Pocock, the submitting officer[s] guided Pocock' hand to get the true picture. All agreed that Pocock had an uncanny knack of getting the scene and environment exactly right. Nicholas kept as many pictures as went to court, and they were passed on down through his own family, until 1913, when on Wednesday April 2nd, they were put on sale by Messrs Hodgson & Co. The British Library has the Hodgson catalogue's from those days. Pasco in particular praised the pictures of Victory as did [a] Captain James Robertson Walker [b] Rear Admiral Sir George Westphal a midshipman on Trafalgar [c] Commanders Carslake and Lancaster [d] Lieutenants Rivern and Pollard. With the damage done at Trafalgar, the repairs rendered by Gibraltar Dockyard clearly visible and authenticated by many ship's officers, HMS Victory's record was sealed. All they needed was the Chatham build-plans and the UK repairs could be remedied with speed, cost effectiveness and accuracy.

 Much tooing and froing took place in the WW1 years, with planning meetings and innovative thinking by many able and eminent people continuing [but with an air of realism as to whether their designs and aspirations would ever be adopted], and by early 1919 with the navy in a state of great flux, ideas were beginning to gel. Overt meetings of the grandees of the Society of Nautical Research began in earnest to formulate plans, costs, venues and man-power, so by the time April 26 1921 came around, the very first meeting of the willing, able and available took place, and the venue was bursting at the seams. At that meeting, it was unanimously agreed to ask the general public to dig deep into their pockets to support what all agreed was a worthwhile project, yet a Herculean task by any measure. The Society was willing to take on the project with private funds, and the Society's President made himself responsible for the whole affair. He was the 1st Marquess of Milford Haven and the second man I will mention. The Marquess was non other than Lord Louis Mountbatten's father, formerly HSH [His Serene Highness] The Prince Louis Alexander of Battenburg and now the Most Honourable 1st Marquess of Milford Haven. The war years for him personally were cruel and he lost most of his money and possession, even his beautiful home in Kent, having recourse to selling much to live on including his many medals. His Russian possessions were confiscated by Lenin and his German assets render valueless by the crash of the now worthless Mark, the German currency. 1921 started as a good year for him being promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on the 1st January, his up and coming prominence as the President of the Society of Nautical Research especially from 26th April onwards, but tragically on the 11th September he died of heart disease in the Naval and Military Club in Piccadilly London; our Louis Mountbatten was aged 21 at the time. After John Poole, it can rightly be claimed that the Marquess was the next in line to save HMS Victory for the nation. Sir Philip Watts, a brilliant and internationally acknowledged naval architect who designed warships for many many nations including great battleships for the Royal Navy [Dreadnought, Queen Elizabeth, Rodney and Nelson] and was a leading light in the Society, produced a pamphlet of the Victory to assist Their Lordships in understanding what was about to happen to the great vessel.   News that the great ship was to be moved from the tideway mid-stream in the Portsmouth harbour caused great resentment among the many water-boatmen, and out of this resentment grew stories, widely circulated through the press that the good old ship was as strong as ever and would remain in the water for another one hundred years.

In late November 1921 a text was approved which read:- As a result of an examination of HMS Victory's hull as a consequence of the late Marquess of Milford Haven having drawn attention to her condition, it is probable that the Admiralty will eventually decide to place her in dry dock permanently. For this purpose a dock at Portsmouth has already been provisionally selected, the scheme being to float the Victory into the dock and build a supporting cradle round her hull. The dock would then be pumped out, leaving the ship resting on the cradle.  The Admiralty now have before them the results of the survey recently made of the vessel. Until this report has been considered by experts, no action will be taken. Nevertheless, the belief is growing that in the end, the scheme for permanently dry-docking the Victory will be officially approved.  As we all know that wonderful approval was given and Victory had/has pride of place. 

  The following year in 1922, under the plans and directorship of the Society of Nautical Research, still without the necessary cash to fulfill their promise to the nation, the Victory was towed and nudged by tugs into dry dock on Thursday 12th January. The Society were quick to tell the public about the successful arrival of the ship attaching a summary and cost sheet of what path the restoration work would take. The difficulty of the restoration and shortage of money were recurring themes but never the more difficult than to stomach that there were *no build-plans available despite a thorough search at Chatham and the Admiralty - no guide lines, measurements, stresses & strain calculations even back to her major refit and part rebuild at Chatham post Trafalgar in 1806-1808.

Her masts, yards and spars look rather sad and disheveled. The date of this picture was the 16th December 1921 and the Basin was No1 Basin next to No 2 Dock. In this Basin all of Victory's ballast was removed. This press picture certainly does not tell all. Nor can any contemporary images of the day. Britain's masters of all things maritime, the Wyllie family, but on this occasion Wyllie Senior, captured the scene on canvas whilst we have to imagine the "modern" ships berthed alongside in the harbour on that day witnessing Victory's penultimate move, from the title of the picture which is "With Drums and Rolling Music, Like a Queen: Ships of the Atlantic Fleet Play the Victory into Dock" [or possibly towards 'shore'!]  Wyllie was a founder member of the Society of Nautical Research and a founder member of the Save HMS Victory Fund. As such he must rank alongside the Marquess of Milford Haven as the first of the greats who saved Victory for the nation.

This is the picture courtesy of RMG.

The text which accompanies the picture above is worth noting. After this text snippet, I have added data which will detail the route taken by the Victory on the 16th December 1921 which you can view after the snippet.

Nelson's final flagship, 'Victory', is shown to the right, in bow view, moving under tug control up Portsmouth Harbour i.e. away from the entrance. Although she had spent over 100 years afloat there since her final sea-going commission, the ship was brought into the Dockyard's No. 1 Basin on 16 December 1921 to have her ballast removed. On 12 January 1922 she was then moved the few yards to what has since been her permanent home in the No. 2 Dry Dock [my comment - No 1 Dry Dock is used as the permanent home of the monitor M33]. From the main and foremasts she flies the flags of St George and St Andrew as well as the red ensign. She also flies the white ensign from the stern. The royal crest can be seen on the bow [my comment - although not the same as at Trafalgar which was shot to pieces]. There are a number of "modern" WW1 warships shown moored up on the left of the painting. The nearest, alongside Pitch House Jetty is the 'Thunderer'##, used as a cadet training ship from May 1921. [my comment - Victory's entrance to Basin 1 is immediately in front of the Thunderer so she is doing her final approach the tugs with starboard wheel/rudder to enter at 90 degrees to Thunderer's prow]. By the port bow of the 'Thunderer', sailors in a ship's boat have raised their oars to salute 'Victory'. The ship astern of her and alongside Boat House Jetty may be the battleship 'Barham'. The other vessels berthed alongside the Kings Stairs and South Railway Jetty are too indistinct to be positively identified. There is land dimly discernible in the far background which includes the shore base, HMS 'Dolphin', positioned on the west side of the harbour entrance [my comment - more or less central distant background just being approached by the starboard bow of Victory's starboard steam paddle tug. However I have never seen a mast at HMS Dolphin [Fort Blockhouse, owning several picture of the Fort from 1905 onwards] The 'Victory' was regarded as a national icon and Wyllie's response is to show the ship in an atmospheric study of golden sky and grey shipping. There is an emphasis on the expanse of sky, in which a watery winter sun is thinly veiled on the left. The artist differentiates between the greyness of the modern steel ships and the old sailing ship positioned against the golden glow from the sky. In the water ahead of her, the path is also bathed in brilliant light with seagulls flying low over the surface. There is also a contrast between the streamlined and uncluttered steel ships and the detailing of the masts and rigging of the 'Victory', evoking a sense of loss and inviting comparison with Turner's 'The "Fighting Temeraire" tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up', of 1838.[my comment - on the 11th July 1929 Mrs Mary Elisa SYKES died.  She was the last surviving child of Captain Swain Price RN who served as a midshipman in the Temeraire. He boarded the French Flagship Bucentaure and hauled down her Flag. She spent most of her life staying in touch with many senior officers of the navy. When the King opened the restored Victory to the public, Mary sent a wreath which was placed in the cockpit. The King saw it, read the accompanying card and commented to Admiral Sir Oswald Brock [who, as C-in-C Portsmouth, used Victory as his flagship] with regard to the sensitivity of the gesture. Admiral Brock duly wrote to Mary to tell her of the King's comments]. The golden sunset also emphasizes this sense of loss as the old warship passes. The son of an English genre painter, William Morrison Wyllie, the artist was a painter and engraver. He spent most of his childhood summers in France, where his parents owned houses on the coast, first at Boulogne and later at Wimereux. He entered the Royal Academy schools in 1866 and won the Turner Gold Medal for Landscape in 1870. His interest in the sea developed into a continuing career as a marine painter. He was elected ARA in 1889, following an exhibition of 69 watercolours at the Fine Art Society. In the 1890s his development as a watercolourist reached its peak. He worked on paintings of shipping throughout World War I. Thereafter he is best remembered for his series of small etchings and drypoints of London views in the 1920s, and for his large but only partly successful panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar, painted shortly before his death for what is now the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth. This was previously 'The Victory Museum' and was developed in parallel to the restoration of the ship in the adjacent dock from 1922, a project headed by the Society for Nautical Research. Wyllie, a founder member of the Society, was also a leading supporter of the 'Save the Victory' campaign, this painting being one manifestation of that support, as was his work on the panorama. During the preparation of this painting, Wyllie made many drawings including some showing the shot-holed topsail of 'Victory', stored since the ship returned from Trafalgar. The painting is inscribed 'W.L.Wyllie 1922', bottom right.
## Just a few years later in 1927, the Admiralty introduced ships' crests [sometimes called badges]. HMS Thunderer was unique in this area for she was/is the only naval unit [afloat/ashore] to ever have no fewer than THREE such crests assigned to her name. The previous ship bearing the name Thunderer to that shown in the painting [namely commissioned 1877 and scrapped 1909] was deemed to be the unluckiest ship in the navy. 1 - The ship had left Portsmouth for the three mile trip to the 'Measured Mile Seaway' at Stokes Bay Gosport to do her post-build full speed trials. The captain had gone below to see the boiler rooms and engine rooms and have them explained to him and hour before the full speed trial, where he was given a confident "Yes Sir", by 'engines'  [the pet name for the senior mechanical engineering officer onboard] when asked by the captain if we were ready to go? Minutes afterwards the boilers exploded killing 45 instantly [including the captain] and severely injured many others. 2 - At a later period after the boilers were replaced and the damage righted, it came the time to fire the guns for the first time. One of the turrets completely exploded killing 12 instantly, many crew members in the vicinity of the gun and badly injured many more. It certainly lived up to its name, making lots of loud thundery noises! Have a look at this file. Open the file, then on the top menu bar click on EDIT and then on FIND ON THIS PAGE. Add HMS THUNDERER in the find box and then click on the PREVIOUS and NEXT choices if relevant. Read the text in the returned section. Enjoy.

Now for the data I promised. First, in simple form is a plan of berths at Portsmouth Dockyard c.1950's but of course little changed from before that date. To orientate you, Victory with her tugs in the canvas above is heading north [upwards] up the left hand side of the drawing here, and outside of the naming of the berths as per the red arrow. I've also chucked in a little explanation in blue of Basin, docks and access to them from the open sea/harbour.  Two points. Note the route Victory will take which is between SHEER JETTY and PITCH HOUSE JETTY. Now pick-up on the length of the overall jetty formed by two jetty's BOAT HOUSE JETTY  and PITCH HOUSE JETTY combined which I am led to believe will be the berth of our new carrier[s]. You can clearly see that Basin 1 leads directly into Dock 2 shown with Victory in it and not by number.

Now have a look at my big picture and the panorama of Portsmouth's Yard here!.htm

In the picture of Victory being tugged above, you will see, what appears to be a tall white tower, almost an obelisk, over on the far side [west] of the harbour. In fact it is a church steeple made of red bricks. Look to the right of Victory's port tug to the shore line at the back. It is worthy of a mention because the church, Holy Trinity, has a wonderful organ which has a brass plate stating that Handel played this organ in this church from 1715 to 1721 - finishing his playing years thirty seven years before Nelson was born in 1758. Whilst he certainly did play this organ and moreover composed on it, the church was the private church of the Duke of Chandos whose stately home was called CANNONS at Stanmore Middlesex, with a private chapel/church attached. This organ now at Gosport belonged to the Cannons House and it was there that Handel wrote his famous Oratorio Ester. The organ was sold to Holy Trinity for £117.12.0 in 1748, meaning that it was in the Gosport church ten years before Nelson was born and all the time Nelson was in and out of the Port. The church is further unique in that the steeple is not attached to the church and is built very close to it, appearing at a distance to be an integral part. Those who used to walk the path of pneumonia bridge, sadly not many today [used to be to HMS Hornet, RNH Haslar, HMS Dolphin, and the MOD Fuel Laboratories] would have past this lovely building, and my wife and I attended a wedding there, having ourselves been married in Gosport [I was a submariner] but the next church up into town in 1962.


Enter a new name into Victory's story.

Nelson has no peers, no equals, no comparisons: he is unique. However, we can come close-on uniqueness and one such admiral gloried in being very special, and certainly he had some of Nelson's characteristics. Some years ago I wrote a webpage about him simply because I admired his performance in the House of Commons when his adversary was Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, falsely playing-up a-not-fit-for-purpose-navy against an admiral with fire in his belly, telling fellow MP's that it was manifestly very unfit and ill-prepared for war. Have a read of this page to get a measure of Lord B.!.htm

Lord Beresford died in the same year and same month [September] as 1st Marquess of Milford Haven [1919], and like the Marquess he was an active devotee of preserving the Victory for national posterity. I don't know whether he was a member of the Society of Nautical Research but I'll wager he was. He had many friends pan navy and few if any enemies apart from Fisher:  I have read that Fisher succeeded and Beresford didn't because he was a Whitehall-man working directly with politicians and senior civil servant whereas Beresford was a fighting man of the sea and the active navy, who, job for job, knew far more about the men of the Fleet and its ships than any officer driving desk after desk in London, however grand they were. Given his gift of the gab and his get involved attitude to most things, I would like to see Beresford come after the Marquess as my number three man who we should thank for the Victory today BUT there is/was a black mark against his name which was an issue I cannot find a resolution to, but I am sure there was one?

*Between 1830 and 1833 as Vice Admiral Beresford, he was appointed as C-in-C Nore and whilst at Chatham and over a period, it is alleged that he gathered in all references and plans pertaining to HMS Victory and parceled them up for his own ends. Indeed they were found to be apart of his personal papers at a latter period after his death.  His motive was pretty clear [and somewhat selfish] and I can't excuse him or any body else for doing such a thing! On the other hand, it is the norm when a VIP dies having personal papers [and most do] they are normally left to the nation at places like the British Library, National Museum's or the National Archive, so did he circumvent them being stolen to a source which wouldn't one day give forth back to the nation? Dying in 1919 was an opportunity for the Society of Nautical Research to get those most needed plans for them to be able to proceed on restoration work without being 'in the dark'. Knowing Beresford, I am going to reinstate him as number three in the list of those who saved the Victory after the Marquess, Lord Mountbatten's father. The Victory-bundle had not be found at the draining of the dry dock and the docking-down of our national treasure. His papers, true to form were lodged at Duke's University in Durham [which he once attended], at the NA and also at Greenwich. Incidentally, the Society of Nautical Research was based at BRNC Dartmouth, but had its meeting mainly in London's finest academia based buildings.

In addition to missing Victory documents, my research reveals gaps in the knowledge of Chatham's archives, and the frustration Sir Philip Watts [the naval architect who master-minded the restoration work] must have felt on a continuous basis. In 1966 there was a major fire in Chatham Yard which destroyed a covered slipway some thought to be the launching-pad of the Victory. Nobody seemed to know!

QUOTE - from House of Commons debate

HC Deb 13 July 1966

Mr. Burden (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement regarding the fire at Chatham Dockyard on 12th July.

The Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu)

As hon. Members will have seen in the Press, a major fire broke out in Chatham Dock-yard yesterday morning. A covered slipway containing stores was completely destroyed.

I am glad to say that there were no deaths or serious injuries, but 41 people received minor injuries in trying to put out the fire.

This slipway was of considerable historic interest. A machine shop and 16 private cars were damaged. A Board of Inquiry is being convened.

Mr. Burden

Is this not the slipway from which H.M.S. "Victory" was launched? Is it not regrettable that this historic link with the past has been broken? Is the Minister aware that the greatest benefit which can accrue to Chatham would be if this slipway were in some way modified or rebuilt to ensure that nuclear submarines are built there in future?

Mr. Mallalieu

The slipway from which the H.M.S. "Victory" was launched was close by, but I do not think that this is the one. This is a very useful site and we shall make the best possible use of it.


Then the two MP's which represent the Medway areas said this in Parliament:-


Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

It is a very great pleasure for me to follow the right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley). I do so with added pleasure because my constituency forms the other part of the Medway towns. Since we each represent a part of the area which houses the workers in Chatham Dockyard, it is inevitable that in matters which affect this area we must often find ourselves in agreement, and I find myself in complete agreement with a good deal of what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

We have our differences, of course. I maintain that the greater part of Chatham Dockyard is in my constituency of Gillingham—and there is always a disagreement between us on the question whether H.M.S. "Victory" was built in that part of the dockyard which is in the Chatham area or in that part which is in Gillingham. I am convinced that she was built  in the part of the dockyard which is within my constituency boundaries.


It could be argued that Chatham appears to have lost the plot as regards their building [and repairing/refitting post Trafalgar] of HMS Victory and to my mind I would have thought that anything remotely connected with Victory would have had a durable monument placed upon it, not least from 1806 onwards! Victory, from 1766 [date of commencement of first commission] in it first 39 years which was relatively young in those days un 1805, quite often laid-up with its officers on half pay and with virtually no crew of any permanency during peace time, was just a ship, yet another ship of the line, immensely valuable in time of war but an expensive [or potentially so] white elephant otherwise; no more valuable than any other ships except perhaps of a recent victorious battle however small? With its arrival back in Chatham in late 1805, I would imagine every under-employed dockyard matey busying themselves around the yard with a paint pot and brush daubing buildings, slipways, chandlers, scaffolding etc with the words 'Victory was made 'ere', but clearly they didn't.  Conjecture and/or supposition about Victory's build has supplanted irrefutable evidence, the type we Brits are good at, some say, boringly so, specially in other naval yards in England!   

Now, well before Victory left the waters of Portsmouth harbour to begin her second career the strongest of all bodies had a voice  in what should happen to the Victory once it had had  her belly dried out. This body was so effectual that even the Board of the Admiralty had to take account of what it did and said. Its members were the learned of the land, the august, the meritocracy, with many senior naval officers, engineers, architects, bankers, and the like as active, and I mean ACTIVE members. It was [and still is although no longer feared or even known about] the **NAVY LEAGUE. Every year since Nelson's Column was erected in Trafalgar Square London, amazingly not until 1843, and up to WW2, the Navy League, over a period called Trafalgar Week, would decorate the plinth, the lions and up to a goodly height on the column itself, in bunting and sometimes lights to commemorate the 21st October, the day of the Battle of Trafalgar. The Navy League [in its hey day] was a fiercely patriotic group of men and women whose support for the navy was, sorry to say it, as good if not better than the tiny MOD[N] {Ministry of Defence [Navy]} is today, and at their prime, the navy was massive in materiel size, personnel size and punching power: today we are not so! Whilst they had a splendid magazine, they spoke authoritatively and from a central lectern so to speak - so, no loose cannons. What follows resounded throughout the land, equally bewildering to land-lubbers as to mariners, naval or mercantile.
** Trafalgar Square, an area of central London well recorded from the 13th century onwards as part of Charing Cross, became in 1820 the Kings Mews, the King being George IV. He set the wheels in motion to use the area to commemorate the memory of Lord Nelson, somewhat late I would have thought!  The work took for ages to complete, seeing out George IV and William IV, finally opening in 1844 in Victoria's reign, with Nelson's Column completed the year before, opened as Trafalgar Square, an amazing thirty nine years late! The area dates back to 1290 when the Kings wife, Queen Eleanor of Castile, travelling from London to Scotland to be with her warring husband, died in the Midlands. He rushed south to the Midlands to bring her body back to London. The Journey took many tiresome days and at each nightly stop-over, her ordered that a shrine should be built which became known as Eleanor Crosses.  Twelve were built, but only three remain, and only one of them is looked after by English Heritage. When the funeral party arrived in the then village of Westminster, the last ornate stone cross was erected at the very top of Whitehall [in the Charing area]. It stood for 357 years and was a point of pilgrimage over the centuries. During the English Civil War, Cromwell had it destroyed in 1647 [probably because it was by then falling to pieces] and the piece of land remained empty for 28 years. Charles II returned as King in 1660 ridding the land of each and everything symbolic of the Commonwealth and Cromwell's rule [father and son] and when all had been destroyed he ordered the building of an effigy to his executed father Charles I, and the site chosen was at the top of Whitehall where the original Charing Cross had once stood. It is the only monument to the Stuart King in London. The sentimental Victorians couldn't have a London Charing Cross without a cross, so they built a "romantic" stone replica Cross in the forecourt of Charing Cross railway station which itself is ageing?

This is a letter written from the Navy League's HQ - 13 Victoria Street SW1 - written by Rear Admiral Ronald A Hopwood.
Letter to The Times published 7th July 1921

Sir - may I make a proposal with regard to the fate of HMS Victory when the time comes when she can no longer remain afloat.

With the object to preserving her remains as long as possible, and of enabling them to carry their special message to as many of the crew of the Ship of State as may be, I would suggest that her timbers be fashioned into lecterns, or reading-desks to be placed in as many churches of various denominations as could be arranged.  A ship in ancient times was the symbol of the Church whose founder Himself taught the people out of one, and I think that a ship so specially associated with the spirit of sacrifice and service without which victory was unattainable in any walk of life, could find no better resting place. Indeed, when the real things for which she stands are borne in mind she might in this way still serve her country by contributing in some small measure to the unity which is so earnestly desired today, and thus establish a perpetual memorial to those who fell on her decks.

Different? However, in the last thirty years [could be more] many churches have closed down to become carpet shops or worse still, mosques] where the desired indigenous masses are becoming more and more secular, and the grossly undesirable immigrants are zealots, fanatics, Jihadists and un-Godly people, wanting buildings in which they kneel down and face east ten or so time per day. It is just as well that the wishes of the NL expressed by the rear admiral didn't take off and fortunately fell on deaf ears. Shudder the thought? Admiral Hopwood goes into my negative people box. What, I wonder would happen to all the things which cannot be made into wooden lecterns and desks, like anchors, chains, ropes, cannons, small arms, cannon balls, steering wheel, masts-spars-rigging, and a whole lot more. Would they be ditched at sea or dumped in a corner of the dockyard?                 

In 1923 after a great deal of dock preparation work and well over a year since arriving in her dock, work finally [officially] commenced on the restoration of HMS Victory, under the new President of the Society of Nautical Research Admiral of the Fleet Sir Doveton Sturdee now wearing the hat 'Chairman of the Save the Victory Campaign', certainly and jointly another number three man to praise for efforts in restoring the Victory. Admiral Sturdee was the victor of the 1st Battle of the Falklands SEE   in WW1 and completely destroyed a large German force in the South Atlantic including the death of Admiral Graf Spee and two of his sons embarked in German ships. In fairness, though fairness is not always fair [?} Sturdee was the most successful naval commander in WW1 far out performing the Admirals associated with Jutland etc. After WW1 Sturdee was appointed as C-in-C Nore [1918-1921] - Nore being the birth place of the Victory - and this was his rank and appointment when he took over the Presidency of the Society of Nautical Research at the death of the Marquess of Milford Haven.   In 1923 there were three media issues on the progress being made, two in June and one in September. This is the first of three:-

2nd June 1923. On this "Glorious First of June" [the famous battle of 1794 when Admiral Lord Howe defeated the French {not again - can get boring}] the work of restoring HMS Victory - Nelson's Immortal Flagship - was ceremoniously begun in Portsmouth Dockyard. The chief personages at the ceremony were Lord Howe a descendant of the renown Admiral Lord Howe, who flew his Flag in Victory 140 years ago [of course before Nelson] as C-in-C of the Channel Fleet, and Lady Freemantle wife of Admiral Sir Sydney R Freemantle C-in-C Portsmouth.  Admiral of the Fleet Sir Doveton Sturdee Chairman of 'Save the Victory Fund' was also present along with other distinguished people. There were large assemblies of the sailors and artizans of the Dockyard, and a selection of patriotic airs were played by the Band of the Royal Marines. The gallant old ship lies in the dry dock which has been assigned by the Admiralty for her permanent occupation - a national memorial of glorious memories to be safeguarded and venerated for all time. She looks somewhat outwardly battered in her white and black lines, but considering her great age of 158 years she was launched May 7th 1765 - she is still in good heart.

The second update [28th June 1923] was delivered by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Doveton Sturdee from the United Service Institution in Whitehall, told how generous subscribers had been to the Save the Victory Fund and how the restoration was progressing. Over £60,000 had been raised but that a further £80,000 was much needed before the end of the year. A great deal more propaganda was needed to achieve this figure.  The Lord Mayor London had opened a Fund, but he was disappointed that other mayors had not followed his example. He thought that seaside towns with lots of visitors should set an example to salute and honour the navy. Appeals were being made to schools throughout the land and from one town, £65 had been received in pennies. Sir Philip Watts, the official in charge of the restoration work said that 70 men were now employed. The aim was to restore her to as she was on the morning of the 21st October 1805 at the start of the famous battle. Steel masts and spars and iron rigging will be used. Despite the material used, the appearance would be a like-for-like restoration. Real guns were being sought from corporate and private owners and the ships anchor adorning Southsea Beach near to Clarence Pier might be given over to the restoration. There was to be a British Empire Exhibition and it was hoped that in the Admiralty section, much to do with the fund and the restoration could be exhibited. Admiralty was being contacted. However, the Admiral sounded a cryptic note by saying "if the Save the Victory Fund is still in existence"?

14th September 1923.

In the theme of 'disappointment' allied to innovation, Admiral of the Fleet Sturdee writes an open letter from the official offices of Victory [23 High Holborn, London WC1]. In it he states that he had received correspondence from a recent visitor to HMS Victory.  He was told that practically every part had been renewed before the present reconstruction, so that we now have only a vessel of the same shape as that which was in action when Nelson was killed. The recent visitor then advocates the reconstruction of the vessel by means of the use of ferro-concrete. Unfortunately, says the Admiral, the visitor was entirely misinformed by his contact[s] on the ship during his visit.
The true facts as to the condition of Victory immediately prior to her present reconstruction are stated by Sir Philip Watts KCB, FRS, late Admiralty Director of Naval Construction, in a paper and in remarks made by myself, in the discussion on the paper, which will shortly appear in the 1923 volume of the "Transactions" of the Institute of Naval Architects. This paper was read in abstract before the Institution on March 21 last, and the abstract was more or less fully published in the technical journals appearing shortly after that date. I suggest that the visitor [named] and all others interested in the restoration of this noble ship should read Sir Philip Watts's paper before making any public statements on the subject. Sir Philip's paper stresses "that it is still true that much of the material of the old vessel still remains." Only Sir Philip's paper can set peoples minds at rest and to assure them, subscribers and would-be subscribers that their money is being well spent on restoration of ageing timbers, and not on timbers per se which are sound. This object could not be achieved by the use of ferro-concrete.

Admiral of the Fleet Doveton Sturdee worked wonders in raising funds and worked very hard, day and night nursing the Victory project such was his love of Nelson, the ship, the navy and the country. Commitments were made by him on behalf of the project and he must have had many worrying times when the funds did not match his or the Society of Nautical Research aspirations. His health was beginning to be affected by his total devotion to the task and finally failed when he was only 66 on the 7th May 1925 with still over three years to go to the finish of the restoration.  His passing was much lamented and deeply saddening when one reflects that he never saw his dreams come true. The nation willed something special for him and this is a picture of his lonely grave at Frimley in Surrey. The wooden cross was taken from the old timbers of the Victory.

 Admiral of the Fleet Sturdee had many friends in the hierarchy of the Admiralty and afield, non more than Admiral of the Fleet 1st Marquess Milford Haven, and in addition to his illustrious career and ultra brave time as a sea commander, he was followed eventually by two further Admirals of the Fleet, both of whom I served under, namely his grandson and grandson-in-law respectively William Staveley and Edward Ashmore.

I have no proof, but it is possible that soon after his death, the Admiralty, conscious of the financial strain placed on the project, decided it was time for them to take over the project fully, over-seeing the funding and the restoration work.

For six long years, the dockyard workers toiled and finally, on July the 17th 1928, King George V and Queen Mary came to Portsmouth to unveil a plaque giving details of the restored ship. In the next year 1929, every Tom, Dick and Harry visited the Victory including the King and Queen of Afghanistan. For 58 years [1928 - 1986] entry to the ship was free and in 1986 a charge was imposed.  

By late 1928 the Admiralty were fully responsible for the restoration and upkeep of the ship. This was a media report shortly after that event.

 14th June 1929.

Appeal for £7,000

As the Society of Nautical Research has been relieved of further financial anxiety in regards to HMS Victory, by the decision of the Admiralty to take over and maintain that historic flagship, it is turning its attention to the establishment of the Victory Museum which it has long felt is an essential companion to the ship for the housing of the many gifts with Nelson Associations presented by donors. The decision of the Admiralty to give two buildings in Portsmouth Dockyard adjacent to the birth of the Victory for the purposes of the Museum has already been announced, and the Society of Nautical Research is appealing for subscriptions to the amount of £7000, the estimated cost of the necessary structural alterations. It is proposed to equip the Victory only with such furniture, navigational instruments and the like, as were onboard her in Nelson's time, and have been given to the Society as gifts, and to reserve the Museum for articles illustrating the history of the ship and those who sailed in her.
          Mr W.L. Wyllie R.A.,is painting a panorama of Trafalgar for exhibition in the Museum.  An alcove will be erected, fitted up as the stern cabin of the French ship Neptune at Trafalgar, and through its window's visitors will see the foreground of the panorama depicting the duel between the Victory and the Redoubtable, the ship from whose mizzen-top was fired the ball which gave Nelson his mortal wound.
 The death-mask of Nelson which the Queen acquired in 1924, has been presented to the Museum by Her Majesty, and the King has presented the original scale model of the Victory which was made to guide the builders of the ship and in turn, greatly assisted the Society in its work of restoration. In the Victory herself, a beginning has been made of assembling in the more important cabins the actual furniture which was there on the eve of the great battle. The furniture includes the admiral's dining- table, sideboard and wine-cooler which were removed after Trafalgar and disposed of in Portugal in order that the fore-cabin might be converted into a mortuary chapel for Nelsons lying-in-state.
There is also a cabinet for holding confidential papers belonging to Nelson's secretary John Scott who was the first officer killed at Trafalgar. The cabinet is said to have been made onboard Victory.  Another gift is Mr W.L. Wyllie's picture of the restoration of the Victory in Portsmouth from the academy of 1925 presented by Sir James Caird.

Since 1929, in varying degrees, Victory has been in a permanent state of repair and restoration. It has managed the skills available to the Yard without detriment to the naval functioning of the Yard, and the voted-in budgets, which have been spent fully but wisely. As the years have passed by, more and more remedial work has been necessary and funds have been stagnant and at times in deficit. I have mentioned the need to start charging entrance to the ship from 1986, and the support the ship has received from the clever ticketing now used to gain entry to the various exhibitions [not to the Yard which anybody can walk into free of charge to use toilet facilities, the restaurants, and the shops. External viewing of the Victory and M33 [Docks 1 and 2] is also free of charge.

Now a new approach is being tried which emulates that already well used on HMS Warrior [also at Portsmouth], namely that the Victory can be hired for official functions, private [in requisite numbers] or corporately. It all helps the ships coffers which like the on-going maintenance are now managed by a private company, keeping the money raised and in turn giving the Dockyard authorities and the general public a worthwhile, safe, relevant and much patronised tourist facility/job, whilst at the same time keeping the Flagship of the Second Sea Lord/C-in-C Naval Home Command, ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Note. Until 1969 Victory was the Flagship of the Commander-in-Chief Portsmouth. The owner of the ship is, from 2012 onwards, the

Restorers face last chance to preserve HMS Victory

HISTORIC The battle is on to preserve HMS Victory

HISTORIC The battle is on to preserve HMS Victory

1052 Friday 02 Jan 2015

Andrew Baines, curator at the National Museum of the Royal Navy and project director of HMS Victory, said they face a battle to maintain the ship as she is.

He said: ‘We are probably at the last opportunity to truly save the ship and make sure that significant historic material is going to survive in her.’

Since taking ownership of Victory in 2012, the museum has taken a slow approach to the work, as fears grow this is the final chance of a project this size can be done on the timber ship.

Mr Baines and his team are looking to make the top deck waterproof.

Rainwater is currently leaking through, causing the lower decks to rot and mould, and making the wooden beams decay.

The museum said it wants to maintain the ‘historical integrity’ of the ship, rather than just replace parts of her.

It conducted a ship-wide survey – at a cost of £550,000 – to give it a better understanding of the warship’s condition.

This found that the keel of the ship has been dropping half-a-centimetre each year, causing her to bulge and putting pressure on the 90-year-old cradle she sits on.

Because of this her top masts have yet to be reinstalled, as the pressure of reintroducing these 25-ton masts could compromise the structure of the ship.

Mr Baines added: ‘The problem we had when we took over the ship was she had water pouring into her and was beginning to collapse, albeit slowly, it was still enough to raise our awareness of it.

‘We are moving as fast as we can, money isn’t an issue, it’s just the complexity of Victory and the issues that she holds. No-one has ever dealt with a conservation project this size and we don’t want to experiment with a prized museum artefact.

‘We aim to avoid putting her in a big building like the Mary Rose Museum, closing her off to the public. This is why it is essential that we take a slow approach and important to preserve her heritage.’

‘The last time a large-scale conservation project took place on Victory it took them 50 years.

‘It is a very long and expensive process, so when we started we needed to be certain that we got it 100 per cent correct.

‘We are probably at the last opportunity to truly save the ship and make sure that the historical material she holds survives.’

Since taking ownership of Victory in 2012, the museum has been working along guidelines set by National Historic Ships, to establish it is taking the correct measures in conducting a task of this magnitude.

It all started with £1m investment, caulking the decks of the ship, to make sure that the whole ship is watertight.

This was a huge problem as the ship was leaking a huge amount of rain water, leading to mold and rot.

A major part of protecting the vessel was the commissioning of a ship-wide survey costing £550,000.

The results produced 3D images of Victory and gave the conservation team pointers to significant damage that needed attention.

It showed that the keel has been dropping by half a centimetre a year due to water damage.

It also found that the current dry dock cradle was putting stress on Victory’s hull.

‘From February we have been working on a re-designed berthing cradle to better support the ship,’ added Mr Baines.

‘This will help us develop our long-term plan.

‘Once the ship is stable, we can make sure there is no more water leaking in, then move onto the big part of the project, which would be re-rigging the whole ship.

‘We don’t want to close off areas of her, paint over them and pretend like nothing has changed. We want the public to be aware of the efforts taken to preserve this historical artefact.’

Victory has been in dry dock since 1922 and has seen more than 25m people walk along her decks.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city, with the appeal of standing where Nelson died during the Battle of Trafalgar a major draw for tourists.

The museum has made it clear it wants to keep Victory open to the elements, at all costs, and is hoping to avoid closing her off to the public like the Mary Rose. Head of communications and operations at the dockyard, Jacquie Shaw said: ‘Along with the Mary Rose Museum, Victory is certainly one of the most visited attractions in Portsmouth.

‘We’ve got to continue to make her accessible to visitors so that we can carry on telling her story, but we have also got to be mindful, as we have been gifted this wonderful asset and we have to maintain her for future generations.

‘She’s had a long career and she’s had a lot of re-fits and our primary purpose it to secure her long-term security.’

Along with the protection of the ship’s structure, the museum is working on a new strategy of how to display the historical artefacts she holds.

The idea is to make this time-weary ship’s tale more accurate and presented in such a way that it engages the public.

Mr Baines and his team are currently looking through archived research and a new archaeological survey so that the full story of Victory can be told.

The curator expects this element of the project to be complete by 2016.

Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Jones, says the preservation of HMS Victory is vital for the city, as it is such a prominent figure of heritage in Portsmouth.

As a regular visitor to the Historic Dockyard, Cllr Jones has witnessed first-hand the extent of the work the conservation team has to do, from fixing portholes on the north side, to reinstalling her top masts, which have been down since 2011.

Cllr Jones said: ‘It is absolutely vital that Victory stays the way she is, as the historic dockyard would not be the same.

‘HMS Victory is one of the greatest assets of heritage this city has, therefore holds special significance to the people of Portsmouth.

‘In terms of the economy, Victory is a huge part of bringing tourists into the city.

‘I have seen the work they are doing first-hand on the ship and fully support everything they are doing.’

The main aim for Mr Baines is to make sure that the ship’s structure is stable before any further work, which could potentially compromise her, is done.

This is why Victory’s top mast are yet to be reinstalled, weighing 25 tonnes per mast, which would put extra weight on the ship’s keel.

The curator has insisted that there is no rush to get her mast back up, saying even though they add to the aesthetics of the warship, it is more important to preserve her historical integrity.

The museum has not forecast a completion date for when the project will be finished, however, it said it intend to take a slow approach, as to make the ship 100 per cent secure.


Back to FIRST CAREER.  This was the first report about the first deployment for the Victory after her major repairs done at Chatham 1806-1808 post Trafalgar.


Thursday 21st April 1808

We mentioned some days since that an expedition was in preparation, and that vessels were collecting for that purpose in the Downs. [my comment: the Downs is a sea area between North and South Foreland where warships of the Nore Command mustered, rather like Spithead for Portsmouth based ships].

The reasons which then prevented us noticing its object and destination  still subsist, but will cease in a day or two.

All we can at present observe is that the result if successful will add to the honour and security of the Kingdom.

It was yesterday generally announced that the expedition is destined for the Baltic.

This certainly is not the case, at least not in the first instance; but we have reason to believe it will proceed thither ultimately.

The naval strength of the expedition consists of seven sail of the line, several frigates, gun-brigs, and some boats of peculiar construction, built for the purpose of the enterprize.

The whole will be under the command of Admiral Keats and Sir James Saumarez.  The latter officer has already gone to Chatham to hoist his flag on board the Victory.  The land-forces will be under the command of Sir John Moore and consists of the 43rd and 52nd regiments, the German Legions, and part of the troops latterly returned from Sicily, forming altogether about 7000 men.

By an express which reached town yesterday morning, we were informed that the whole would be embarked and set sail in the course of yesterday providing the wind was fair.  We are sorry to say that the wind shifted in the course of the morning to an unfavourable quarter.  On Tuesday the utmost activity was observed on board the ships comprising the expedition.  The pilots and captains of the smaller vessels received their final instructions  from the admiral. Amongst the ships of the line employed on the occasion are the Minotaur , Tigre, Mars, Polyphemus, Audacious  etc, etc.  The troops at Bexhill were to commence their march yesterday morning.  They are to embark last and if not on board when time to sail in company with the expedition they will follow shortly after. Some of the evening papers state the number of troops larger than we have done, viz 6000 British 4000 Germans. They give the command to Sir John Moore and mention the following regiments as employed on this service; the 4th, 25th, 59th, 79th, 92nd and  95th.

Back to FIRST CAREER.  After the defeat of the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar there was a major French enquiry into the magnitude of the terrible defeat which resulted in the French admiral being captured as a POW, the Spanish admiral DOW [died of wounds], many ships captured as "prizes" or destroyed or sunk in the mighty storms which followed the battle. Not surprising for those days, the truth was out supported by logs and gentlemanly/honourable behaviour when telling the truth was expected.

 French officers were called and some found it necessary to fabricate the battle to make it look as though the British were lucky and nothing more. In 1853, Rear Admiral John Pasco died in the November having first passed through the Fleets [Blue, White and Red] as a rear admiral. He, you will recall was a midshipman in Victory at Trafalgar and acted as Nelson's signal officer [well from approximately two hours before the battle commenced] reputably having some influence of Nelson's famous flag hoist that England expects that every man will do his duty. Pasco was a member of the crew chosen to attend the funeral of Lord Nelson in January 1806. Eventually, although possibly considered a dead-end job but better that than to be abandoned on half pay and forgotten about, he was appointed as the commanding officer of HMS Victory [sitting in Portsmouth harbour going nowhere but with many many vivid memories of 1805] and kept that appointment for eighteen months [1st April 1846 to 22 September 1847] when he was promoted out of the ship as a rear admiral of the Blue, the junior Fleet. Before he died, he wrote an open letter refuting what the French officers were saying about the battle, chief of which was that crew members of the French ship Redoubtable boarded the British flagship, Victory. He was extremely upset at hearing of these accusations and revolting lies. Whilst refuting their story, he asked other officers who had served on Victory to support him. This they did. Here are just three examples.

What you need to know you will not readily find on the internet if at all.

 Monsieur la Contre-Amiral Verninac as named in the first letter below 7th may 1853 [translated here as Mr The Contre-Amiral Verninac - note there is no letter 'd' in Admiral] but his real name to French history is Raymond-Jean-Baptiste de Verninac Saint-Maur, became a Government Junior Minister of the French Marine {their equivalent of our MOD[Navy]}, never acquiring higher rank than Contre-Amiral = Counter Admiral [the 'd' in admiral now for our benefit] = rear admiral. He joined the French navy in 1812 [a Novice = Cadet = inferior midshipman] as France, still licking its Trafalgar wounds and still thinking that Napoleon would win the ultimate land battle [Waterloo] and thus the Napoleonic War, and about to enter a new phase of the Napoleonic War on the side of the American in the Anglo/American War of 1812 which we lost. At the Battle of the Chesapeake which led the British army to surrender Yorktown, our navy was defeated by the French under Admiral de Grasse. However, within twelve months the table was once again tipped in our favour when Admiral Rodney soundly defeated and capture Admiral de Grasse at the Battle of Saintes.

From day one in the French marine he was taught the French version of Trafalgar, which told all marine-sailors, except those of the marine who were actually at the battle and suffered accordingly against the might of the British, that the British sailor wasn't invincible and could be easily beaten whenever desired. He learned all the lies and digested them as truths, and the more senior he became in the marine, the more he thought that the French would have and should have won the battle but for.........? He progressed in the marine to, as I have said, a rear-admiral and saw several pieces of French action, not universally recognised or famous outside France, except, that for one brief period, the Anglo-French treaty [entente cordiale] held to allow the French and British forces to fight as one during the Crimean War [1853-56]. Just before this association was established, the French Government called in the Marine Ministry to explain the state of the marine and rear admiral Verninac appeared before them to explain. In 1852 he spouted out all his long held views about a Trafalgar which he never served at or was even in the marine in 1805. He told the French Government about how the French sailors had boarded HMS Victory and in great numbers and were not far off from taking charge through hand to hand fighting using naval weapons [cutlass, sword, dagger] and small arms. That 1852 story, belatedly told after forty seven years of pent-up envy of Nelson and his men, and I suspect detestation of the performance of the 1805 French Fleet, forgetting the Spanish Fleet, is what thoroughly upset Rear Admiral Pasco who of course was present at Trafalgar and witnessed all that went on. Clearly this admiral had a massive chip on his shoulder and lived his life trying to wipe the slate clean, but he never got the opportunity. Had it occurred, I feel sure that he would have been very disappointed, yet again!  If you ever have a need to get rid of your chewing gum whilst visiting Paris, go to the Place de la Concorde, look for the obelisk from the Temple of Luxor on the River Nile, and look on the base. There you will find VERNINAC's name, in shame today, because he was accused by Frenchmen even, of stealing the object of Egyptian antiquity. Mask it with your discarded gum.

Now read on.




In this space, I will add stories as and when, and the first is a general extract of the press of late 1805, who by this time many publishers had increased their print to two runs per day.


That, good folks, ends my rather different approach to the story of the much beloved HMS VICTORY. Even, if, one day, inevitably, we have to say goodbye to an artefact, wouldn't it be wonderful to think that we will always keep and readily know his image, his sacrifice and that of British naval men and what they did for our country and for all who put themselves into danger fighting against despots and rulers with illusions of grandeur, wherever and whenever.

Yours aye and God Bless

MMXII with later additions