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Inside HMS Victory - the Royal Navy’s most famous warship

HMS Victory Owners’ Workshop Manual An insight into owning, operating and maintaining the Royal Navy’s oldest and most famous warship
12 April 2012
Peter Goodwin
April 5th 2012

When launched in 1765, the HMS Victory was the ultimate warship design of the Georgian era, and she now receives the classic Haynes manual treatment.

The HMS Victory was Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and has since become inextricably linked to the memory of Britain’s greatest naval hero, who was killed on deck by a French sniper at the height of the battle.

Now the world’s oldest commissioned warship, the Victory used to sail with a crew of 850 men and the firepower of 104 guns.

Born into the pre-industrial age, the ship was an organic structure, wholly reliant on the sweat and toil of her crew and the wind in her sails to bring her to life.

Built almost entirely of wood and other natural materials, it took timber from some 6,000 oak and elm trees alone to build her hull.

The Victory was planned and built in the 18th century with an intended life expectancy of no more than 18 years, so the fact that she survives today - almost 250 years later - is remarkable.

With the aid of specially commissioned photographs and an authoritative narrative, the reader is taken below decks to discover the innermost workings of the warship. There are chapters on how to sail an 18th century man-of-war, gunnery and tactics, and the £16m conservation programme that will ensure she continues to be a top visitor attraction well into the 21st century.

Designed by Sir Thomas Slade, the Victory’s lines were heavily influenced by the more scientific approach of French warship design, which Slade surveyed and used to good effect.

The author Peter Goodwin was an advisor on the Russell Crowe film Master and Commander, one of the most accurate depictions of the Georgian Navy that has appeared in popular film.

He is also responsible for bringing new insights into nearly 150 years of naval history, by discovering the true location where Nelson died, below decks in the Victory.

Goodwin used the original ship’s drawings, contemporary letters and a famous painting by Arthur Devis called The Death of Nelson to analyse the location of his death, and disprove the long established view.

A memorial stone (quarried from near Cape Trafalgar) is now located where Nelson died on 21 October 1805, it bears the logo of the Nelson Society, and is mounted upon original Victory oak timber. This exact location is 25 feet further forward on the orlop than originally believed.

The Haynes HMS Victory Manual is published with the full co-operation of the Royal Navy.

About the Author

Peter Goodwin, MPhil, IEng, MIMarEST, followed a career as a marine engineer in the Royal Navy in both surface ships and nuclear submarines. After leaving the Navy he worked as a design engineer before being appointed the first Keeper and Curator of HMS Victory in 1991.

His interest in 18th century ship construction began in childhood, since when he has written widely on the subject and is now generally acknowledged as a leading authority on the sailing man-of-war. As a private historical consultant he most notably worked as advisor for the 20th Century Fox film, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, the TV adaptations of Hornblower, and the BBC’s Persuasion. He has also worked as a topman in various square-rigged ships including the replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavour. Peter lives in Southsea, Hampshire.

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