Tag Archives: HMS Victory

The Issue of Provisions

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.

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Filed under Age of Sail, naval food

The Christmas Gale of 1811


England’s lifeblood during the Napoleonic Wars was naval stores to keep its fleet at sea. The primary source of those stores was Scandinavia and Russia and the convoys carrying them traveled via the Baltic and North Sea. As we’ve already seen, this area was so vital that England was willing to expand its war with Napoleon to encompass heretofore neutral powers in order to keep this supply line secure.

The route was treacherous. The relatively shallow depth created significant wave action. The North Sea also caught incoming waves from the Atlantic which then collided with other wave action originating in the English Channel. The Baltic, in particular, was narrow. The weather often prevented accurate latitude calculations and longitude calculation, in the era before the chronometer, was decidedly problematic. A gale, from any point of the compass, immediately placed a ship in danger of being driven onto a lee shore.

This was never more clearly demonstrated than on Christmas Eve, 1811.

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Filed under Age of Sail, Navigation and Seamanship, Shipwrecks and Marine Archaeology

Introducing the Carronade

68-pounder carronade on HMS Victory

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.

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Filed under Age of Sail, Alan Lewrie Novels, Naval Architecture, Naval Fiction, Naval Gunnery, Naval Weapons

The Loss of HMS Victory

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.

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Filed under Age of Sail, Famous Ships, Shipwrecks and Marine Archaeology

Victory Firing a Broadside

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.


Filed under Age of Sail, Famous Ships, Naval Gunnery