HMS Victory – Portsmouth Historic Naval Dockyard

Visiting and being able to walk through HMS Victory was definitely the highlight, of our visit to the Portsmouth Historic Naval Dockyard. For me, it was the culmination of a couple of previous visits on our current tour – the Battle of Trafalgar Exhibit at the National Maritime Museum and visiting Chatham Historic Dockyard, where the ship was built and refitted.

At over 250 years old, it is well maintained and in remarkably good condition, actually it is in better condition than many of the ships I sailed aboard.

Located in one of the old dry-docks, at the far end of the Dockyard, it is a short 5 – 10 minute walk from the entrance. While Judi sat and admired her, from one of the benches, I took a quick walk around the outside.

First sighting of HMS Victory

Seen from the Stbd side, it has a single gangway, but no public access is permitted from this side.

HMS Victory from right ahead

Admiral Nelson employed new naval tactics at the Battle of Trafalgar, heading directly towards the line of French and Spanish ships, eventually cutting their fleet in half. This is the view that the enemy ships would have seen as the British fleet approached.

Click here for a link to the Battle of Trafalgar from the National Maritime Museum

Click here for another link to a relevant HMS Victory website

HMS Victory Port Side

The above shows the entry and egress gangways. The tour through the ship is a set route, starting on the upper gun deck, up to the open deck and then down to the lower gun deck, storerooms and lower hold.

HMS Victory from astern

HMS Victory ship’s side and gun ports

HMS Victory entrance

This is the beginning of an incredible tour through a ship that is over 250 years old and survived many battles. The stairs lead to the Upper Enclosed Gun Deck, where you follow a set route, seeing almost the entire ship.

HMS Victory Coat of Arms and ship’s particulars

Upper Deck from the raised Quarter Deck

Once aboard, the tour route quickly takes you up 1 deck to the open deck, where you are free to wander. Once you have seen enough up top, you descend the fwd stairs to continue the tour.

Small 12 lb guns on the open deck

Bowsprit and Union Jack

Judi on the Quarter Deck

Ship’s wheel

Located at the aft end of the open deck, just below the raised Quarter Deck at the stern. The Admiral’s accommodation is immediately aft of the wheel.

The contrast in accommodation standards for the Admiral, officers and ratings is truly amazing. Although, even Nelson, when retiring for the evening shared his bedroom with a rather large cannon.

Nelson Day Cabin

Located at the aft end of the open deck, immediately below the raised Quarter Deck. This cabin stretches across the entire width of the ship and has windows across the rear bulkhead, which provides a bright space with loads of natural light.

Great Room

Located at the aft end of the upper gun deck, one deck below the Admiral’s day cabin, this room also stretches all the way across the ship and has windows across the rear bulkhead.

Nelson’s bedroom

While he had separate sleeping quarters, they were nestled between 2 large cannons. In preparation for battle, his sleeping quarters were dismantled.

Nelson’s Dining Room

Admiral Nelson’s dining room, which also doubled as a chart room, with 2 old charts on display.

Additional charts in Nelson’s Dayroom

Officer’s dayroom fwd of the Great Room

One deck below the Great Room was accommodation for the officers; can we say small cabins, but at least they did have cabins.

Accommodation area for officers

Typical officer cabin

The above bed was less than 6 feet long, so I hope they were all fairly short.

Officer’s pantry

While the Admiral was comfortable and the Officer experienced a reasonable standard of living, the same cannot be said the the ratings.

Crew hammocks strung above their cannon

Most of the gun crews worked, ate and slept together, with hammocks rigged, as above. This was taken on the lower gun deck, which had most of the gun ports closed, so it was rather dark. Above photo was taken at ISO 10,000, with a long exposure and resting camera on a ledge.

Crew mess facilities

Tables were set up between each gun, which is where each gun crew sat and enjoyed their meals. A member of each crew was assigned mess duties and retrieved the meals from the galley and delivered it to the table.

HMS Victory crew galley

Example of a ratings mess table used for eating and recreation

The square wooden plates above were standard issued to each rating. They were used for all meals.

Ship’s doctors office

When we descended to the Upper Gun Deck, a volunteer asked if we were interested in seeing the doctor’s office. As a retired RN, Judi was most appreciative. The ship carried a surgeon, who performed very rudimentary surgery and treated illnesses and injuries. The cots above were used as isolation.

Enjoy a gallery of photographs from the various gun decks. Click on any photo to view full size.

As you descend through the ship, the decks become progressively lower, with the lower gun deck having less than 6 feet clearance, and the lower hold even less.

Rope store

No doubt all the rope was made in Chatham Dockyard and I suspect that is still the supplier to this day.

Walkway around the lower hold

It was very dark down here, so all photographs are again taken with ultra high ISO (10,000) with the camera placed on a shelf or railing to permit long exposures.

Lower Hold

The beam going left to right across the photo, just before the lowest barrels is the keel. The lower hold was filled with many tons of solid ballast and barrels of preserved victuals, to last the crew for many months while at sea.

Sadly, as most are no doubt aware, Admiral Nelson was shot by an enemy sniper shortly after the start of the battle. He was taken down to the aft end of the lower gun deck, where the ship’s doctor tried to save his life. Nelson died about 1 hour before the end of the battle that resulted in a resounding victory for his fleet.

The lantern marks the spot where Nelson lay, as he died

To end on a more cheerful note, this was a truly remarkable tour, seeing how well they have restored this famous old ship. Yet again, many volunteers are located throughout the ship and they are more than willing to share their knowledge and explain what life was like for the more than 820 crew.



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