I'm honoured to welcome Katherine Bone, a friend of the Salon for many a long month, with a post on the iconic ship, HMS Victory!
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Piracy, romance, and adventure is a FABulous combination, don’t you think, Madame Gilflurt? After all, pirates were mercenaries, expert sailors sportin’ swagger. Whether they were born to the life and knew little else or were simply looking for adventure and the promise of gold, they upheld the code and put their brawny bodies and briny hides to good use. Only one thing contributed more to a pirate’s prosperity than surviving untold hardship — a ship with extraordinary speed acting as a mighty sword unsheathed. Add a black flag for terrifying effect and readers have swashbuckling magic.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, seafaring men with hearts of gold swore to uphold duty, honor, and country. In my Nelson’s Tea Series, Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson has been charged with protecting England’s shores. During his recuperation from another bout of malaria, he enlists the aid of Lord Simon Danbury, a former naval officer who once served with him aboard the Agamemnon. Together, they scour the country for scoundrels of every persuasion who’ve charted England’s coasts, lords, captains, and pirates, first sons above suspicion, willing to serve King George in clandestine operations from 1801-1806. A diligent tea drinker, Nelson nicknames his mercenary group ‘Nelson’s Tea’.
When I was looking for a setting and plot for my characters, I quickly got swept away by the passionate intrigue and hot-blooded accounts of heroism Horatio Nelson experienced. He wasn’t a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but his sense of duty was infallible. From the moment he first stepped onto a pristine battle ready ship at twelve years old, he won a place in history. A born leader, he turned life-altering moments into tests of humanity. No one, and nothing, rivaled Nelson’s tactical genius.
Consider this: Nelson launched his career without sonar and radio. His uncanny nautical skills propelled him from motherless seasick midshipman to malaria-plagued, one-armed, partially blind Admiral aboard the HMS Victory and a fate unifying generations of Britains. To this day, toasts are given in his honor to celebrate the victory at Trafalgar and the Royal Navy’s rise to power.
Give a man a good ship and he can do extraordinary things.
That ship is the 7th Victory and it survives as a lasting legacy of what courage and one man’s determination can do. When the Senior Surveyor of the Navy, Sir Thomas Slade, was given his 1st and last opportunity to design a First Rate Ship, he laid the HMS Victory’s keel at Old Single Dock in Chatham Royal Dockyard on July 23, 1759, without knowing his ship would sail into legend. Displacing 2,000 tons, the Victory was the largest warship ever built for the English fleet. Measuring 227 ft 6 inches long (with 186 ft long decks), and a 52 ft beam, she drew 25 ft of water ‘at mean load’.
She inspired song. Hearts of Oak is a seafaring tune written during the Victory’s construction. Her hull consists of 6,000 oak trees (roughly 100 acres of woodland or 300,000 cubic feet, enough to build 400 single family dwellings). Heavy clay found in the Weald forests of Kent and Sussex provided robust British Oak, 90% of the Victory’s timber. Acorns take 100 years to grow tall and strong enough for ship building. Amazingly, some of the stockpiled timber at Chatham dated back to 1746, which means her timbers can be traced to oak planted during Oliver Cromwell’s time. Other trees used in various sections of the Victory’s five decks were pine, fir, spruce, and beech.
HMS Victory is so colossal it took 6 years and 2 months at Chatham, under a temporary roof at £63,176 to build her. She requires approximately 22,880 fathoms of hemp rope (26 miles) in 19 inch down to ¾ inch circumferences and carries 37 sails, including 22 spares. It would take 83 days for 22 men to create one suit of sails by hand at an estimated 64,000 yards of seaming, each man completing 3,200 yards of work. No wonder she carried an average crew of about 850 during war and 650 during peace, depending on the availability of men at her service.
She was a lucky charm. Admirals appreciated her combined firepower, speed, size, maneuverability, and her capacity to shrug aside heavy seas, not to mention her cargo space. Provisions included: 300 tons of Water, 50 tons of Fuel (Coal and Wood), 20 tons of Timber, 30 tons of Salt Meat, 45 tons of Biscuits, 10 tons of Flour, 15 tons of Pease, 2 tons of Butter, 50 tons of Beer, 35 tons of Powder, and 120 tons of Shot stored in wooden barrels, 4 ½ ft long and 3 ft wide. Added to this weight was 257 tons of pig-iron ballast. Positioned over that, 200 tons of shingle for bedding down the lowest tier of water casks.
HMS Victory’s historical timeline:
- On May 7, 1765, the Victory floated out of dry dock before several lords of the Admiralty and government ministers, including William Pitt, the Edler.
- “Yesterday was launched at Chatham His Majesty’s Ship the Victory, esteemed the largest and finest ship ever built.” — A London Newspaper, The Public Advertiser, May 8, 1765
- Several immediate setbacks forced her to be laid up in reserve — Ordinary — for 13 years.
- In December 1776, she was brought back into service and docked for repairs, becoming, for the first time, a fully-fledged warship.
- When her updated provisions were finalized in 1778, the Victory sailed into history displacing 3,500 tons with all 36 sails set (almost 4 acres of canvas). Her baptism under fire occurred at the battle of Ushant in 1778 with another confrontation to follow there in 1781.
- She was the flagship of Admiral Samuel Hood off the coast of Toulon in 1793.
- Off the coast of Corsica in 1794, Captain Horatio Nelson was treated by the Victory’s surgeon after losing sight in his right eye.
- HMS Victory saw action against France and Spain in the early hours of February 14, 1797 off Cape St. Vincent under Admiral Sir John Jervis.
- After the battle of Cape St. Vincent, the Victory was paid off at Chatham on November 26, 1797. As her crew scattered to the four winds, she appeared destined for hospital duty or as a prisoner of war ship.
- In December 1799 repairs were ordered and when she was recommissioned in 1803, she was paired again with the man who would make her famous — Admiral Horatio Nelson.
- Nelson celebrated his 47th birthday on board the Victory on September 29, 1805 at a dinner with 15 senior officers. At the gathering, Nelson explained his battle plans for Trafalgar utilizing the Nelson Touch, an all-out aggressive assault to cut through the enemy line in more than one place to divide and conquer.
- The day to enact his strategy came on October 21, 1805 with a storm threatening off the coast of Trafalgar.
- 9 a.m. — The Victory beat to quarters
- 11:40 a.m. — Nelson sends the signal, “England expects that every man will do his duty”. “But you must be quick, for I have one more signal to make which is for close action.” Being, “Engage the enemy more closely.”
- As the battle progresses — the Victory devastates ships around her from every angle. Her upper deck is raked for mass boarding as Nelson and Hardy paced the quarterdeck, the image of poise.
- 1:15 p.m. — Nelson is hit by a sniper’s bullet. “They have done for me at last, Hardy… My backbone is shot through.” Marines and sailors help Nelson below, masking his face to keep anyone from losing morale.
- News of the enemy’s surrender reaches Nelson — He cries, “Oh, Victory! Victory! How you distract my poor brain.”
- 4:00 p.m. — Cold, struggling for breath, Nelson says, “Thank God, I have done my duty.”
- 4:30 p.m. — Almost at the exact time gunfire ceases, Nelson breathes his last breath. According to the surgeon, “a victory been reported to the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Nelson, he then died of his wound.”
Nelson’s death plunged England into mourning. The method of transferring his body on the long journey home — pickling him in brandy — shows how steadfast his men were in honoring their fallen admiral. As a reward for her service, Victory resides at No. 2 Dock in Portsmouth as a living monument to the bravery and courage shown at Trafalgar and by countless sailors who served on her decks until March 20, 1922.
Give a man a good ship and he can do extraordinary things.
Without HMS Victory, Nelson may not have carved out a lasting niche in history or launched his tactical genius. Without Sir Thomas Slade, the Admiralty Board, Admiral Nelson, and the stanch conservation of the British people, the Victory would not be what she is today — a 256 year old living legend.
It’s my fervent hope that I do Admiral Horatio Nelson justice in my Nelson’s Tea Series. I have no doubt Nelson and HMS Victory will continue to fascinate countless people for years to come.
Give a historical author passionate intrigue and hot-blooded accounts of heroism and he/she can do extraordinary things.Blessings,
MY LADY ROGUE, A Nelson's Tea Novella #2 by Katherine Bone
Everything Simon and Gillian have done has led to this moment… Will it be too late?
Baroness Gillian Chauncey thought she’d seen everything during her years of devotion to England. But as war escalates and political bonds are severed, a devastating betrayal forces Gillian to make a life or death decision to save the man she loves.
Lord Simon Danbury’s loyalty to the crown has never been questioned — until now. As death’s darkening veil cascades over London, a hostile mole inside Nelson’s Tea tries to assassinate him. Surrounded by the greatest spies in England, only one thing stands to defeat him — losing the one woman who has made life worth living.
About the Author
Bestselling Historical Romance Author Katherine Bone has been passionate about history since she had the opportunity to travel to various Army bases, castles, battlegrounds, and cathedrals as an Army brat turned Officer's Wife. Now she lives in the south where she writes about Rogues, Rebels and Rakes, aka Pirates, Lords, Captains, Duty, Honor, and Country and the happily ever afters every alpha male and damsel deserve.
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Written content of this post copyright © Katherine Bone, 2015.