UK: Work Begins on HMS Victory


NELSON’S flagship will be ‘dismasted’ for the first time since the Normandy landings as HMS Victory undergoes the most comprehensive overhaul since her finest hour.

The ship’s three masts are all being removed this month as work gets under way on a mammoth restoration project.

Those involved with the Herculean task say it’s the biggest rebuild carried out on the ship of the line – today a living tribute to Nelson and his age enjoyed by upwards of 400,000 visitors annually – since she was repaired after the battering she took at Trafalgar and the subsequent storm in 1805.

The upper sections of all three masts, the bowsprit, booms, yards and spars, 768 wooden blocks – some of them 100 years old – and 26 miles of rigging (enough to stretch from Portsmouth to Littlehampton) will be carefully removed by experts, catalogued and documented, assisting future restorers of Victory when she needs work doing again. The last time the legendary ship was minus her masts was 1944.

Victory is still a serving RN vessel – she acts as the flagship of the Second Sea Lord, has a Royal Navy ship’s company and frequently hosts official events from ceremonies to dinners.

A ten-year restoration programme is planned for the ship, with an interactive exhibition soon opening in the neighbouring National Museum of the Royal Navy showing how Victory was built in Chatham 250 years ago, how she has been cared for since during her active career and, more recently, as one of the nation’s most treasured historical icons.

Preserving a wooden warship is a battle – a battle against nature and just as epic, in its way, as the Battle of Trafalgar. To be able to witness how that battle is fought will be a big draw for visitors,” explained Prof Dominic Tweddle, Director General of National Museum of the Royal Navy.

Both Victory and the museum will remain open to the public throughout the restoration work.”

Most of the highly-skilled restoration work will be carried out by master shipwrights and other specialists from BAE Systems who are also currently working on the Royal Navy’s super-carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth Naval Base.

As well as possessing the cutting-edge skills required to build the 65,000-tonne leviathan, the workers also maintain traditional wooden shipbuilding skills required to look after Nelson’s flagship.

They hope to re-use as many wooden blocks in the rigging as possible during the restoration, or if it not recycle them.
Source: royalnavy, July 11, 2011