The life of the sailor revolved around meals. The mess, typically 4 to 8 men, constituted the social organization aboard ship and meals provided the high points in days filled with monotony. Each mess was assigned a number, HMS Victory, for instance, had 165 separate messes. As a former infantryman, I can attest that the single hot meal we received daily on extended deployments was a similar high point.
Meal times were sacrosanct. According to Janet MacDonald in Feeding Nelson’s Navy, when Sir Edward Pellew took over the East Indies squadron in 1805 all meal times were dictated by signals from his flagship and Nelson’s standing orders stated musters and drills could not take place during meal times.
68-pounder carronade on HMS Victory
Warfare through the ages has been driven by the measure-countermeasure struggle between armor and armament.
Sometimes a breakthrough significantly shifts the balance one way or the other and changes warfare at least temporarily. Castles and armor dominated for a while but were driven into obsolescence by gunpowder. In our own era we’ve seen the tank reign supreme (World War II), have it’s death proclaimed with the advent of the man-portable guided missile and shaped charge (the Sagger missile during the Yom Kippur War) and then reemerge to dominate the battlefield thanks to the high velocity smoothbore cannon, reactive armor, and other advances in armor (the M1 Abrams).
The same saga played itself out at sea where naval architects had to deal in the assorted trade offs of weight distribution, handling, and the tensile strength of their basic construction material, wood.
On October 4, 1744 a British fleet led by HMS Victory carrying the flag of Admiral John Balchen encountered a ferocious storm in the Western Approaches of the English Channel. The fleet was dispersed with all ships arriving in port save Victory. A search was mounted. Captain Thomas Grenville, HMS Falkland, landed at Guernsey to replenish his supplies and discovered that wreckage from Victory had washed up there. This led to the belief that Victory had struck Black Rock, part of the Casquets, during the night and gone down with all hands.
Now Victory has been found.
Just came across this video clip of HMS Victory firing a broadside at dusk. It is probably the first broadside fired by Victory since Trafalgar. It is impressive even when one considers the cartridges are undoubtedly the equivalent of salute cartridges and not full charges.