||100-gun 1st rate ship-of-the-line
- Launched in May 1765.
- Nelson's most famous ship, she was his flagship from the beginning of the Trafalgar Campaign in 1803, until his death during the battle on 21st October 1805. She conveyed his body home, and has been preserved in Portsmouth ever since.
|Presence at Nelson's battles:
- Cape St. Vincent: Present, was the flagship of Admiral John Jervis, with Captain George Grey.
- Trafalgar Campaign: Nelson's flagship, with Captain Thomas Hardy.
- Trafalgar: Nelson's flagship, with Captain Thomas Hardy.
- 27th July 1778: Fought at the 1st Battle of Ushant (100 miles from the French island of Ushant in the far western end of the English Channel). She was the flagship of Admiral Augustus Keppel, with Captain John Lindsay. A fleet of 30 British came up against 27 French, and though the French wanted to avoid battle, a change in the wind forced them into it. After the action, Keppel signalled for the British ships to re-form and chase the French. Vice-Admiral Robert Harland in the Queen led the van division and obeyed the signal, but Vice-Admiral Hugh Palliser did not do the same with his division, and so the battle wasn't resumed. Keppel and Palliser were both court-martialled and both acquitted, but Keppel resigned from the navy.
- 12th Dec 1781: Fought in the 2nd Battle of Ushant, and was the flagship of Rear-Admiral Richard Kempenfett, with Captain Henry Cromwell. 13 British ships attacked a convoy of 20 French transport ships accompanied by 11 ships-of-the-line, one 50-gun ship, and 5 frigates. There wasn't a battle as such, but the British were able to cut off the convoy from their escorts, and carry off 15 transports with supplies and troops intended for the West Indies.
- 20th Oct 1782: Battle of Cape Spartel (in Morrocco). Flagship of Admiral Richard Howe, with Captain Henry Duncan. The action was fought between a fleet of 34 British against 46 Franco-Spanish, led by Admiral Luis Córdova. Howe escorted a merchant convoy to Gibraltar, which was being blockaded by the French/Spanish. The convoy managed to evade the blockade and get into Gibraltar. Cordova chased after Howe and tried to force a battle, but the British ships were faster and escaped.
- 1793: Joined the Mediterranean fleet under Vice-Admiral Alexander Hood.
- April 1794: At Bastia, which was taken on the 21st of May (with Nelson in the Agamemnon). (Capt. John Knight)
- June 1794: At Calvi, which was taken on 10th August (with Nelson in the Agamemnon). (Capt. Knight)
- August 1794: Left Bastia to chase a French squadron which got into Gourjean Bay (at Ile Sainte-Marguerite, off Cannes in France). Hood then went back to Corsica, leaving a squadron to blockade the French - however, the French ships escaped during a storm and got to Toulon.
- Nov 1794: Took Hood back to England.
- 13th July 1795: Fought at the Battle of Hyères Islands; flagship of Rear-Admiral Robert Mann, with Captain John Knight. With the Culloden and Cumberland, Victory attacked the French 74 Alcide, which later exploded as Victory prevented French frigates from towing her to safety. But the end result was indecisive. See the Agamemnon for more details.
- Nov 1795: Admiral Hotham was replaced by Admiral John Jervis, who took Victory as his flagship and cruised between Toulon and Minorca.
- 14th Feb 1797: Fought at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent as the flagship of Admiral Jervis, with Captain George Grey. Nelson was present in the Captain.
- 1797-99: Became a prison ship at Chatham.
- 1800-03: Underwent a major repair and refitting.
- 1803-05: Nelson's flagship throughout the Trafalgar Campaign and Battle.
- 22nd Dec 1805: Arrived at Chatham with Nelson's body.
- May-Oct 1808: With Vice-Admiral James Saumarez's fleet in the Baltic (Captain George Hope); in August, was with the Swedish fleet blockading the Russians in Rogerswick.
- From 1812, she was out of commission in Portsmouth. She was drydocked in January 1922, and remains there to this day, under restoration.
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Types and Classes of Ship
Bomb Vessel (or just 'bomb'): These ships were specifically designed (or converted) to be able to bombard (hence the name) enemy towns and ports, and carried mortars capable of firing explosive shells a long distance. No other type of ship in the navy carried explosive shells. Because of the powerful recoil of the mortars, the hulls of bombs were heavily reinforced, and for that reason they were used for arctic expeditions (as was the Carcass) because they were better able to push through the ice. Bombs were often named after volcanoes or had some other suggestion of fire or explosion, like the Vesuvius and Meteor (but there was also one at the Battle of Copenhagen called the Zebra, which doesn't really fit the pattern!).
Cutter: The smallest commissioned vessels of the Royal Navy. They had one mast, and the design of their rigging meant they were extremely quick and manoeuvrable. They usually had around 10 guns. They would be commanded by a Lieutenant, and used for patrols and carrying despatches.
Schooner: Similar to cutters, but had two or more masts. A 10-gun schooner called Pickle, commanded by Lieutenant John Lapenotiere, carried the news of the victory (and Nelson's death) to England after the Battle of Trafalgar.
Brig: Brigs were larger than schooners, and had two masts. They usually had 14 guns and, like cutters and schooners, would be commanded by a lieutenant.
Brig sloop: Larger than brigs, though still with two masts, with between 10 and 18 guns. They were sometimes used in place of frigates as they were cheaper to man, but as they were equipped with short-range guns (carronades), they were vulnerable in long-range actions against frigates with long guns. They had a relatively shallow draft, so they could be used for inshore raids.
Sloop: A sloop of war was defined as any vessel with between 10 and 18 guns, commanded by an officer of commander rank. There wasn't much difference between sloops and brigs, but sloops had three masts instead of two. They were also used in place of frigates at times, for patrols and providing escorts for merchant vessels. The Navy built a lot of sloops during the wars with France, because they were relatively quick and cheap to build, and because protection of trade, as well as attacks on enemy trade, became an important aspect of the war.
Frigate: Frigates were a general purpose warship with many important uses. They had three masts, and between 32 and 40 guns on a single gundeck. They would often operate alone or in small groups, on independent operations away from the fleet. A frigate would be expected to engage directly with enemy frigates, but not a ship of the line. Frigates would be present during fleet actions, but a ship of the line wouldn't open fire upon one unless provoked. Frigates were faster and more manoeuvrable than ships of the line, so could usually escape from them. Because of their combination of firepower and speed, they were often used for reconnaissance by fleet commanders. Nelson called his frigates his 'eyes' and placed a high value on them, and grew frustrated when he felt he didn't have enough. He blamed the fact that he had trouble finding the French fleet before the Battle of the Nile on his lack of frigates, but was able to use them to great effect pre-Trafalgar.
The role of frigate captain was seen as quite glamorous, and some, such as Edward Pellew, became famous for their daring and earned a lot of money from the prize ships they captured. Some captains chose to remain in frigates rather than transfer to the larger, prestigious ships of the line.
Ship of the Line: The largest and most heavily-armed ships of the Age of Sail, of between 64 and 120 guns. The standard naval tactics of the time for a fleet action were for the fleet to form a 'line of battle' - hence the name. The lines would form up parallel to each other, and exchange broadsides (shots from all the guns along the side of the ship) until one side surrendered. So ships of the line were built like floating fortresses.
The smallest ship generally considered suitable for a line of battle had 64 guns, though the Leander, at the Battle of the Nile, had 50 and did pretty well. But all ships of the line had to have at least two gundecks. They were ranked as first, second, third or fourth rates.
Fourth rates weren't very common by Nelson's time. They were two-decked with 50 or 60 guns, and considered too small to be ships of the line, but too large to be frigates. They were often used for patrols or in small squadrons.
64-gun third rates weren't much liked. They were relatively cheap to produce, but didn't have the firepower or even the sailing qualities of a 74, and no more were built after the American War of Independence. Nonetheless, Nelson was very fond of his ship Agamemnon, a 64, and was quite successful with her. Agamemnon saw a fair amount of fleet action, and at Trafalgar her small size proved to be an advantage as the shots of four larger enemy ships which had surrounded her, mostly passed over her.
74-gun two-decker third rates were by far the most common and most versatile ships of the line. Their proportions meant that they sailed quite well, and they had enough guns to pack a real punch. They were also a compromise on cost, being less expensive in time and money to produce, compared to the first rates. They became the standard ship of the line.
Second rates were an odd and not popular class. They had three decks and carried between 80 and 98 guns. Their design meant that they didn't sail well and weren't as useful as a 74 despite having more guns. They were more expensive to produce than 74s, and they were not enough of an improvement to justify the extra cost.
First rates were the largest ships in the Navy, with three decks and 100 to 120 guns. They were incredibly expensive to produce, maintain, and man. There weren't very many of them, with perhaps only one or two in a large fleet. Being so large and heavy, they were difficult to manoeuvre and sailed slowly, though Victory was known to be a better sailer than others of her size. Though they were immense powerhouses of firepower and able to withstand a lot of damage, in practice their most significant role was as the Admiral's flagship. Being the largest ship in the fleet, they were able to provide large accommodations for an admiral and his staff. Their magnificence and splendour emphasised the rank of the admiral and were an imposing sight to the enemy.
The monstrous Spanish ship Santissima Trinidad was the largest ship of her time, with an immense four decks and 130 guns. But she was exceedingly difficult to handle. Due to her size, she was a much sought-after prize by British officers.