History of HMS Victory – Part One

HMS Victory, Portsmouth Dockyard, Oct 2006.
Chrono date: 
1765 May 07

EVERY Englishman, we imagine, knows that the “Victory” was the ship which bore Lord Nelson’s flag, and on board of which he received his death wound in the moment of triumph over the combined fleets of France and Spain, off Cape Trafalgar; but as very few are aware of her numerous and distinguished services, extending over many years, and preceding that sad yet glorious climax, this memoir of her career has been drawn up, with the hope of making her history from her launch to the present time better known; and that the hundreds who yearly visit her may carry away a record of their visit, to remind them of the classic ground they have been treading, and recall to their recollections some of the splendid deeds of the past, which gained for England the proud title of “Mistress of the Seas.”

There have been “Victory’s” in the English navy ever since the year 1570, and as each successive ship, from old age or misfortune, has disappeared from the list, another has soon after appeared to take her place.The 100 gun first-rate ship preceding the existing “Victory,” was, like her, a first-rate three-decker, carrying no guns, and was accounted the finest ship in the service.

In 1744 she was the flagship of Admiral Sir J. Balchen, a venerable officer of 75 years of age, who had been called from the honourable retirement of Greenwich Hospital to command a fleet destined to relieve Sir Charles Hardy, then blockaded in Lisbon by a superior French force, under the Count de Rochambault. On returning from the successful performance of this service, the fleet was dispersed in the chops of the Channel by a tremendous gale, on October 4th. The rest of the ships, though much shattered, gained the anchorage of Spithead in safety, but the “Victory” was never more heard of, though from the evidence of fishermen of the island of Alderney, she was believed to have run on to the Caskets, some dangerous rocks lying off that island, where her gallant crew of about a thousand perished to a man.

The previous HMS Victory sinking in a storm on the "Caskets" near the English Channel Isles, 4 October 1744. Artist Peter Monamy.

Principal Dimensions of the HMS Victory.

In 1765, on the 7th May, was launched from Chatham Dockyard the present “Victory, which had been built from designs of Sir Thomas Slade, then surveyor of the navy. Her principal dimensions are as follows :—

  feet ins.
Length from figure head to taffrail 226 6
Length of keel 151 3
gun-deck 186 0
Extreme beam 52 0
Depth of hold 21 6
Tonnage 2162 tons

Her armament was in 1778:—

Lower deck 30 long 32 pounders
Middle 30 long 24 pounders
Main 32 long 12 pounders
Upper 12 short 12 pounders

104 guns.


One of the gun decks with original decking. HMS Victory, Portsmouth Dockyard, Oct 2006.

In 1793 she had four 32-pr. carronades substituted on upper deck, and six 18-pr. carronades added on the poop, making her total number of guns at this time 110. The six last were subsequently removed, as at Trafalgar she had no guns on the poop. In 1803, two 68-pr. carronades were placed on the forecastle, instead of two 32-pr., when the weight of her broadside fired from 52 guns was 1160 pounds. It may here be mentioned, for the sake of comparison, that the weight of the broadside of the Monarch, a modern ironclad, carrying but six guns, (Not including one that only fires aft), is 2515 lbs., or more than twice that of the HMS Victory.

Name on the stern of HMS Victory, Portsmouth Dockyard, Oct 2006.

See Also

  • History of HMS Victory – 13 part history of HMS Victory by Captain W.J.L. Wharton, R.N., Royal Navy History Edition.


  • Captain W.J.L. Wharton, RN, A Short History of HMS Victory, Portsmouth, Griffin & Co,2, The Hard, Portsmouth.


History of HMS Victory  – Part One

History of HMS Victory, Early Career – Part Two

History of HMS Victory, Engagement with the French off Ushant – Part Three

History of HMS Victory, Siege of Gibraltar – Part Four

History of HMS Victory, Occupation of Toulon – Part Five

History of HMS Victory, Imminent peril of the Victory – Part Six

History of HMS Victory, Battle of Cape St. Vincent – Part Seven

History of HMS Victory, Blockade of Toulon – Part Eight

History of HMS Victory, Nelson’s pursuit to the West Indies - Part Nine

History of HMS Victory, Battle of Trafalgar – Part Ten

History of HMS Victory, Death of Nelson – Part Eleven

History of HMS Victory, Damage sustained by Victory – Part Twelve

History of HMS Victory, Victory again in Active Service – Part Thirteen

Established in 2003, Royal Navy History is the leading and official website for the History of the Royal Navy.
Copyright © 2017, Royal Navy History