On my first visit to the Houston Maritime Museum over a year ago, I was delighted by the beautiful ship models on display, especially the models of wooden sailing ships, with their artful lines and fine workmanship. One model stood out as it was the largest of its type on display. The model is the HMS Victory, a “ship of the line,” a warship of the 18th and early 19th century of the British Royal Navy. It was brought into the collection by the museum’s founder, James L. Manzolillo.

Victory was British Royal Navy Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s flagship. Britain and the Victory were victorious at the Battle of Trafalgar in October, 1805. Both the French and Spanish navies were defeated, leaving Britain as the true and last standing ruler of the seas in that era. Key to Lord Nelson’s victory were his methods of engaging the enemy that differed from the typical broadside barrage from ships in a line (hence the moniker “ship of the line.”). Instead, Nelson divided his fleet and engaged the enemy closer in than normally done. A British warship of time had the same type of cannon as the enemy, but their sailors were known for extensive practice in timing and technique of cannon use, thus being able to out gun others firing upwards of 3 shots for their opponent’s 2. Nelson’s tactics and his sailors’ skill lead the day.

Lord Nelson was a brave and proud man. During the Battle, he stood on the deck of the Victory in full uniform with all his medals, despite warnings, he made a very visible target. Nelson was shot by a French marksman subsequently dying from the attack. His remains were preserved in brandy (in a barrel!) to allow for sailing time to have a suitable burial in Britain.

The model is approximately 5 ft. in length, not including the bow spirit, making it roughly 1:40 scale. The accompanying bow-section model, 1:78 scale, was built by Jared Matwiy.

The Victory exists today as a restored museum ship in Portsmouth, England. She was originally built from the wood of 6,000 trees, displaced 3556 tons, and carried 104 cannons. Her keel was laid in 1759, and she was first afloat in 1765.

Excerpt taken from The Anchor, June, 2016.

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