Below are some photos of GHQ's 1:1200 HMS San Josef, a 112 gun first rate ship of the line built by the Spanish, and the terminal point of 'Nelson's Patent Bridge for Taking First Rates' - a humorous phrase referring to the circumstances under which Horatio Nelson, commanding HMS Captain at the Battle of St. Vincent, captured the San Josef. I hope I will be forgiven for copying the National Maritime Museum's (Greenwich) excerpt from Dr. Colin White's (no relation to myself) 'The Nelson Encyclopedia. It will make much better reading than any summarizing on my part.
The San José was a three-decked Spanish first-rate battleship of one hundred and twenty guns, built in the northern Spanish port of Ferrol to the designs of the French-born naval architect Franciso Gautier in 1783. On 14 February 1797 she formed part of the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Cape St Vincent, when she flew the flag of Rear-Admiral Don Francisco Winthuysen. She was in the thick of the fighting and suffered badly from the heavy British broadsides. Over one hundred and fifty of her crew were killed or wounded, including her admiral who lost both legs and was carried below to die.
At the height of the action the San José was rammed by her next astern, the eighty-gun San Nicolas and the two ships became locked together. It was at this point that Nelson made his famous move, leading a boarding party onto the San Nicolas and capturing her by storm. Seeing the plight of their comrades, the Spanish in the San José tried to help them by firing on Nelson's men, only to find themselves assailed in their turn. This further blow was too much for an already demoralised crew and moments later, a dazed Nelson found himself receiving the surrender of all the Spanish officers on the quarterdeck of the San José. He handed their swords one by one to one of his barge's crew, William Fearney, 'who put them with the greatest sang froid under his arm'.
San José actually enjoyed a long active service in the Royal Navy as HMS San Josef – the only foreign first-rate battleship ever to do so. Her first service was as Nelson's flagship in the Channel in January 1801. Some of Nelson's biographers have suggested that this was done as a special compliment to him, and he certainly asked if she was available. But the most likely explanation is that she was brought into service hurriedly as a replacement for the British first-rate Queen Charlotte, which had been accidentally destroyed by fire the previous year. San Josef remained in active service and after Nelson's death, her association with him meant that she was preserved long after her useful life was over. She lasted until 1849 and when she was finally broken up, much of her wood was made into furniture and other relics.
And here is the San Jose very, very late in life, in a photo published in 'The Royal Naiy in old Photographs' by Wilfrid Pym Trotter. M. C. Naval Institute Press