Royal Naval Museum



Frequently Asked Questions on HMS Victory and Trafalgar

1. When was HMS Victory first launched?
2. What was her first active service?
3. How many men could the ship carry?
4. Was she ever damaged while on active service?
5. When was her last active service?
6. When was she last afloat?
7. What is her current role today?
8. Where is Trafalgar?
9. When did the battle of Trafalgar take place?
10. How many ships were lost at the battle?
11. How did Britain get to hear the news about the battle?

For more information on the ship, please see our information sheet.

1. HMS Victory was built at Chatham dockyard and first floated 7 May 1765. She was designed by Sir Thomas Slade, Surveyor of the Navy and her keel was laid on 23 July 1759.

2. Her first active service was not until February 1778 when she was commissioned as Admiral Augustus Keppel's flagship. Her first action was the battle of Ushant on 27 July 1778.

3. HMS Victory could carry up to 850 men. At Trafalgar, her complement was 820.

4. The most serious damage she received was at the battle of Trafalgar when she lost her fore topmasts and yards, studdingsail booms and yards, jibbooms and her mizzen mast as well as hull damage caused by gun shot. She had to be towed to Gibraltar after the battle for repairs to return to Britain.

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5. Her last service was in the Baltic as flagship to Admiral Saumarez. She returned home to Portsmouth on 4 December 1812 and paid off from active service. She was in reserve between 1816-1824 and then became flagship of the Port Admiral at Portsmouth. After a period of being a tender to HMS Duke of Wellington, she became the flagship of the Commander in Chief, Naval Home Command in 1889.

6. She was last afloat in Portsmouth harbour in 1922. On 12 January 1922, she was taken into dry dock where the restoration work to her 1805 configuration proceeded.

7. As well as being a museum ship, listed on the National Historic Ships Register, she is still in commission as Flagship of the Second Sea Lord. She is commanded by a Lieutenant Commander with a small complement of naval staff. A civilian staff help to run the ship as a museum. As she is still in commission, she wears the White Ensign and flies the Admiral's flag. She is the oldest commissioned warship in the world, the next being the USS Constitution, which was commissioned twenty one years after Victory. However, the Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat.

8. Cape Trafalgar is off the south west coast of Spain between Cadiz and Gibraltar.

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9. The battle of Trafalgar took place on 21 October 1805 between the British fleet under Lord Nelson and a combined French and Spanish fleet under Admiral Pierre Villeneuve. The senior Spanish Admiral, and Villeneuve's second in command was Admiral Fredrico Carlos Gravina. The British fleet had 27 ships and the combined Franco-Spanish fleet had 39 ships, excluding smaller ships such as frigates.

10. The British did not lose any ships during the battle. The French lost a total of 18 ships, of which 8 were captured by the British. The Spanish lost 15 ships, of which 9 were captured by the British. In terms of men, the British casualties were 449 killed and 1,214 wounded (a total of 1,663 out of 17,000) while the Combined fleet lost 4,408 killed and 2,545 wounded ( a total of 6,953 out of 30,000). Of the seventeen British prizes, or captured ships, only four made it to harbour at Gibraltar.

11. Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Nelson's second in command, sent his dispatch of the battle back to Britain on HMS Pickle, a schooner commanded by Lieutenant John Lapenotiere. The ship arrived in Falmouth on the morning of 4 November 1805 and the Lieutenant took a post chaise carriage to London, arriving at the Admiralty at 1 am on the 6th November. The news was taken to the Prime Minister, William Pitt and the King and Queen and the dispatch was published as an extraordinary edition of the London Gazette, the Government's newspaper.

If you have any further questions about the ship, battle or any other aspect of naval history, why not see our research collections pages

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