Last week, I blogged about my visit to the Mary Rose in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard with my partner Emma. We spent more time than we expected and after a late lunch, we had just enough time to see one other exhibit. It had to be HMS Victory.
As every naval enthusiast knows, HMS Victory was Nelson's flagship at the battle of Trafalgar, where the British defeated the combined French and Spanish fleet. The excellent audioguide focussed exclusively on the lead-up and the battle itself.
However, HMS Victory has a very rich history before Trafalgar. Laid down in 1759, she was launched (after a little delay) in 1765. She fought at the first battle (1778) and the second battle of Ushant (1780), at the siege of Gibraltar (1792) and the Battle of Cape St Vincent (1797).
As stated previously, the audioguide concentrated on the voyage and the battle of Trafalgar itself. The pace of the guide is quite slow at first but really picks up when describing the events of the battle itself from the Victory's perspective.
I really got a feel what it would have been like below decks as enemy fire raked the hull. The air would be filled with acrid smoke and the scent of blood.
The guide also went into some detail on the fate of the casualties taken below decks, including the most famous of them all, Lord Nelson. The guide also covered the efforts to save the crippled ship after the battle, with a gale approaching, it was a near run thing.
The bottom part of the hull, where the stores and gunpowder were kept, was very low. I hit my head a few times and was bent over for most of the lower deck, so be warned.
We really enjoyed our tour. I'm not a big naval gamer but I found the history fascinating. While quite expensive at £18.00 per person, if you have any interest in Napoleonic or naval gaming, HMS Victory is a must to see.