HMS Victory with Cannon and Lifeboat at Portsmouth Historic DockyardLaunched in 1765, HMS Victory is the centrepiece at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The Dockyard became England's chief naval station in 1540, when it was expanded and its fortified sea walls were strengthened by Henry VIII to protect the Navy from the threat of invasion from France and Spain.

HMS Victory, Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar

The most famous naval hero connected with HMS Victory is Vice-Admiral Viscount Nelson who, on the afternoon of 14 September 1805, boarded HMS Victory at Portsmouth before it set sail to confront the Franco-Spanish fleet. The Battle of Trafalgar ended Napoleon's dream of commanding the seas. Nelson's battle plan was to use a method of attack never tried before, which became known as 'Nelson's touch'. It relied heavily on the ability of the Victory's gunners to fire a broadside every 80 seconds - a rate unmatched by any other ship in the world.

Five weeks later, Nelson had smashed the enemy fleet at Trafalgar and was dead. The battered Victory returned in December 1805 with Nelson's body and was refitted at Chatham. It was retired from service in 1824 and now stands in dry dock at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, one of Britain's great tourist attractions.

Touring the HMS Victory

A tour of the Victory is not to be missed. The ship is beautifully preserved and knowledgable guides are on hand to fill in details of the layout and history. You will be able to see the sailors' hammocks and the cramped conditions of their living quarters, cannons on the gun decks, Nelson's Great Cabin and the place where he fell. The smell of the hemp ropes evokes a sense of what it was like to be on a fighting ship in the 18th or 19th century. It should be noted that passage between decks is by steep wooden stairs and the disabled may find it difficult to tour certain parts of the vessel.

See also Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.