It is one of the most famous vessels in the world. Now, visitors to HMS Victory will be able to see the ship in a way they never have before.
A new hull walkway, opened in August of this year, allows enthusiasts to descend into the base of the ship’s dry dock and view the vast craft from below.
HMS Victory, first laid down in 1759, was the flagship of Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson, and is best known for her role during the Battle of Trafalgar. Under Nelson’s command, the British Royal Navy defeated the combined forces of the French and Spanish navies on 21 October 1805, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars.
The ship has been docked at Portsmouth since 1922, and now forms part of the city’s Historic Dockyard museum, which was closed for many months due to the pandemic. It has since been reopened to visitors.
The unveiling of the walkway is part of a £35 million restoration project lasting 13 years. The ship had long been sagging under her own weight, with the hull being squeezed out of shape. The 136 newly installed support beams are intended to prevent further deterioration.
The next step in the restoration involves the removal and repair of the ship’s two main masts.
Commenting on the unveiling, Matthew Sheldon, spokesperson for the museum, told ITV News, ‘You’re looking at 250+ years of history. The oldest part of the ship, the keel, was laid in 1759; you can see that in all its splendour.’
He added, ‘You can get close up to the copper, the iron, the oak in a way you’ve never been able to before.’
But this is not the first time Victory has needed servicing. In 1941, the ship was hit by a bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe, which broke her keel and required a hasty repair job under the cover of war.
This latest restoration took place in rather less challenging conditions.
This article was published in the October/November issue of Military History Matters. To find out more about the magazine and how to subscribe, click here.