HMS Victory in the 21st Century
The hugely complex work in restoring HMS Victory and consequently returning the ship to her original design and condition she was at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 is virtually complete. The ship now takes pride of place in Portsmouth's historic dockyard where as well as her official naval role she is also a major heritage attraction, with over 350,000 visitors each year coming to see this historic, wonderfully restored and the last remaining first-rate 100 gun warship in the world.
Listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, HMS Victory has been the flagship of the First Sea Lord since October 2012. Prior to this, she was the flagship of the Second Sea Lord. She is the oldest commissioned warship in the world and attracts around 350,000 visitors per year in her role as a museum ship. The current and 101st commanding officer is Lieutenant Commander Brian Smith Royal Navy, who assumed command in May 2015.
In December 2011, Defence Equipment and Support awarded an initial five-year project management contract to BAE Systems, with an option to extend to ten years. The restoration is worth £16 million over the life of the contract and will include work to the masts and rigging, replacement side planking, and the addition of fire control measures. It is expected to be the most extensive refit since the ship returned from Trafalgar. In her current state she has no upper masts and minimum rigging. It is expected that it will be over 12 years before these are replaced.
Since this contract was placed, the most significant change has been on 5 March 2012, when ownership of the ship was transferred from the Ministry of Defence to a dedicated HMS Victory Preservation Trust, established as part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy. According to the Royal Navy website, the move was "heralded by the announcement of a £25 million capital grant to support the new Trust by the Gosling Foundation – a donation which has been matched by a further £25 million from the MOD".
HMS Victory has also undergone emergency repair works to prevent the hull decaying and sagging. The hull is moving at a rate of 0.5 cm each year, about 20 centimetres over the last 40 years although there are plans to create new hydraulic supports that will better fit Victory.
HMS Victory now rests on specially built cradles so that her normal water line is level with the top of the dock giving her the appearance of being afloat which also now makes it possible for visitors standing at the bow to see her beautifully restored lines, which was used as a pattern for future warships design for many years after her launch.
Sadly however today only about 20 % is now left of the original vessel built in 1765. However the further down the ship decks you go the more original the ship becomes with around 90% of the lower gun deck being original, the or lops lower gun deck is 75% original and part of the stern and much of the keel are the same original timbers.
Restoration continues to the present day by a team of highly skilled shipwrights who can still often be found using the traditional tools such as axes and adzes, removing the rotten and worm damaged timbers and then replacing them with exact replica's made from teak or Iroko. Whenever possible the ship has been restored and maintained using the correct methods and materials with special emphasis on returning the ship in design, colour and layout to how she was on the morning of the Battle of Trafalgar.