HMS Victory was the flagship of Lord Nelson, Vice Admiral of the British Navy. At Trafalgar, he and his ship won the day, but Nelson lost his life. Today Victory sits at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard where she’s been carefully preserved providing a fantastic porthole into Navy life.
I’ve been to Victory a number of times, but recently she’s had a refresh so you can see more of her uniqueness. The self-guided tour uses rather space-age laser activated voice guides to tell you what happened on the ship during her most famous fight.
And whilst there’s been many stories written about this ship, her Commander and the Navy around this time, there’s always room for one more. So if you’re a writer who’s interested in this type of historical fiction, this floating museum is a source of inspiration and research.
Life below decks is evoked in detail, with tables laid for dinner, squeezed between the giant cannons, with tiny seeming hammocks strung across the ceiling. The Victory was the height of technology back in the day. This wasn’t just a ship, it was a floating town, one that had to be completely self-sufficient.
The main kitchen has a massive oven to be able to serve its large crew. Further below carpenters and doctors worked, whilst swathes of ropes, guns, ammunition, and hoards of stores were kept. These included water, beer, ships biscuit, cheese, and oats.
Fresh vegetables were a luxury, but Victory could send out supply ships if land was close enough.
The tour gives a good description of the chaos and terror that was involved in the battle, focusing in on Nelson’s last hours after he was hit by a shot and his back broken.
It’s the lower decks where you can really feel the atmosphere, the cramped conditions must have been hellish during battle, with cannonballs blasting through the side, the wounded screaming and men dashing up and down decks laden with supplies. The lights were dim here as they would have been during sea life, so it was hard to capture too many good photos (no flash allowed!)
As someone who’s not really into military history, it’s still a fascinating place to visit. And I got a handy notebook with the HMS Victory timeline on it for my collection!