Monday, November 12, 2012

HMS Victory - GHQ 1:1200

I don't know why it is, but some models end up sitting around for awfully long periods of time before successfully commanding my attention. It isn't necessarily that I have forgotten they are there, though that happens sometimes, but often enough the will to complete them just isn't there, even while very similar projects speed on through to completion. Why is that? Finishing this GHQ kit of HMS Victory is all the more satisfying then, for having sat idle so long on my work table.

I've given this model the same treatment as the others I've done - thin plastic sheeting underneath, cut to the contour of the hull, to raise it up just a little bit; booms and dolphin striker added to the bowsprit; photo etched brass rat lines from Langton; Langton sea base. I've also started mounting the models on Litko black acrylic bases, and added magnetic sheeting underneath. I've lined a big cigar box with flexible steel sheeting, and now am able to transport them much more easily.

Once again I have copied the National Maritime Museum's (Greenwich) excerpt from Dr. Colin White's (no relation to myself) 'The Nelson Encyclopedia.'

Now the last surviving example of a ship of the line of the sailing era, the Victory owes her survival mainly to her close association with Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. But he served in her for just over two years and by that time she was already a distinguished ship in her own right, with more than 20 years of active service to her credit and a number of battle honours.
 The orders for the building of a new first-rate were given by the Board of Admiralty on 13 December 1758 and her keel was laid in Number Two Dock at Chatham Dockyard on 23 July 1759. She was designed by Sir Thomas Slade, Surveyor of the Navy, a particularly able naval architect who was responsible for some of the most successful ships of the Royal Navy of that period. Over 2000 oak trees were used in the construction of her hull – equivalent to some 60 acres of forest – and the final cost was £63,176 (over £50,000,000 today).
 The proposal to name her Victory was not universally popular. The previous ship of that name had sunk with all hands off the Scillies in 1744 and so sailors believed that the name was unlucky. But the new ship was begun at the height of the Seven Years War 1756-63, and 1759 saw such a remarkable series of British victories on land and sea, that the year was nicknamed the annus mirabilis ('wonderful year'). Suddenly, the name seemed appropriate after all.
 Building proceeded very slowly, so she was not launched until Tuesday 7 May 1765 and even then the hull remained at moorings 'in ordinary' (reserve) without being fitted out. This long period of weathering meant that her hull timbers were very well seasoned, which is one of the main reasons why she has survived for so long. When war with America broke out, she was completed and prepared for active service, being commissioned for the first time in March 1778. Fitted for the first time with a full set of masts, she was given some 27 miles of rigging and four acres of sail. She was equipped with 104 guns.
 She quickly proved a most successful ship. The excellent design of her underwater lines made her easily manoeuvrable despite her size; and in the right conditions she could sail faster than many of her smaller consorts. These qualities made her a popular ship and she was constantly requested by admirals.
 Following a refit and a period in ordinary during the peace, the Victory was recommissioned in 1793 as the flagship of Lord Hood in the Mediterranean, and took part in the capture of Toulon in 1793 and of Corsica in 1794. After another refit during the winter of 1794-95 she returned to the Mediterranean and on 3 December 1795 became the flagship of the new commander-in-chief, Sir John Jervis. Under him, she was present at the Battle of Cape St Vincent, 14 February 1797, and played a key role in the opening stages of the battle when her broadsides repulsed a determined Spanish attack on the British line of battle. Badly battered in the action and in any case now quite an elderly vessel, the Victory was sent home at the end of 1797 and converted into a hospital ship. It seemed that her active service days were over.
 However, when war broke out in 1803 following the brief Peace of Amiens, there was an urgent need for first-rate battleships and so the Victory was given a major repair and fitted out as Nelson's flagship, in which role she served throughout the long campaign that eventually culminated at Trafalgar in October 1805. During those two years she was never docked. All necessary repairs were carried out by her own ship's company, either at sea, or in the sheltered waters of Agincourt Sound in the Maddalena Islands in Sardinia.
 At the Battle of Trafalgar the Victory led Nelson's line into battle, coming under the concentrated broadsides of six French and Spanish ships during the long, slow approach. She was badly damaged, both in her masts and in her hull, so when she returned to Britain with Nelson's body on board in December 1805, she was again given a major refit. In 1808 she was commissioned as the flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez for service in the Baltic, continuing in this role until November 1812 when she returned to Portsmouth and was again placed in ordinary.
 After a period when her future seemed uncertain, the Victory was recommissioned in 1823 as the flagship of the Port Admiral at Portsmouth, lying permanently at anchor in the harbour. Sentiment played a key role in ensuring her survival and her association with Nelson was emphasised in a number of ways. A plaque on the quarterdeck marked the spot where he fell; the words of his famous signal were inscribed around the ship's wheel, and the cockpit where he died was arranged as a shrine. There was even a collection of Nelson relics on board, including the royal barge in which his body had been conveyed up the River Thames in the state funeral procession. She became a tourist attraction – visitors were rowed out to her by watermen and then conducted around the ship by old sailors. At around the same time the custom grew of marking Trafalgar Day with special ceremonies on board and a dinner in the evening at which the toast to 'The Immortal Memory' was drunk. Later in the mid-1890s, the custom began of flying the flags for 'England Expects' from all her masts and yards on Trafalgar Day.
 However, time was taking its toll and by the early 1920s Victory was in such poor condition that she was in danger of sinking. By now, successive refits and repairs had changed her appearance so much that Victory bore little resemblance to the ship that Nelson had known. So the decision was taken to move her to a permanent home in drydock in Portsmouth Dockyard and to restore her to her condition at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar. Eventually, after six years of careful research and restoration led by the Society for Nautical Research, Victory was opened to the public by King George V on 17 July 1928. However she retained her status as a fully-commissioned ship in the Royal Navy and to this day continues to serve as the flagship of the Second Sea Lord.

Here is a shot to give a better sense of the scale of the model.

And here is Victory seen between two more GHQ ships, HMS San Josef on the left and HMS Centurion on the right.

2 comments:

  1. Another very impressive job!
    Are you custom building bowsprits? My GHQs didn't come with sprits'l yards or martingales. Did you add those in yourself?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Carl, glad you like it. I have indeed added pieces to the bowsprit that GHQ supplies. The longest yard is steel rod, clipped from a longer piece I bought to supply spears for 28mm figures. The shorter yard is a piece of brass rod. And the dolphin striker is a brass nail with its point clipped and filed, and the head narrowed. I don't know why GHQ doesn't include any of those details, it seems to me like a strange omission. Hope that helps! - James

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