Probably the most famous ship in British history and the last remaining 'ship-of-the-line' lies in a permanent berth in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Built at Chatham Dockyard, Kent and launched on 7th May 1765, a first rate of over 100 guns, HMS Victory was the largest ship ever ordered by the Navy. The latter years of the 18th century were times of threat and tension for Britain, and these culminated in the sea battle that was to become Admiral Nelson's, and his flagship HMS Victory's, finest hour.
On the morning of 21st October 1805, the combined French and Spanish fleet was sighted. As the British fleet approached, Admiral Nelson ordered a signal to be sent, which has become almost as famous as the battle itself
"England expects that every man shall do his duty"
By lunchtime the Battle of Trafalgar had commenced. Twenty minutes or so into the battle, Admiral Nelson received a fatal shot from a lone musketeer in the mizzentop of the French ship 'Redoubtable'. A brass plaque on HMS Victory now marks the spot where Nelson fell. Covering his face to ensure that his crews morale was not lowered, he was taken below decks, where he later died. Despite Admiral Nelson's tragic death his seamanship and military skill had won his country a famous victory, with no loss of British ships. From that moment on French and Spanish naval power had been severely broken, and this gave the British clear supply lines for Wellington's European campaign, which resulted in another famous victory over Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815.
After campaigning under the flag of Sir James Saumarex, HMS Victory was withdrawn from active service in 1812. She served for over a century as a floating depot ship in Portsmouth harbour until, under pressure from the Society for Nautical Research, she was towed into the Dockyard and given a permanent home in the No. 2 dry dock. Today, HMS Victory still stands proud and strong in her berth at Portsmouth, her striking paintwork and gleaming brass clearly defined in the south coast sun. Tours of HMS Victory run several times a day, and the experience is like stepping back in time to a lifestyle that is barely comprehensible. A great day out for all the family.