Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Nelson's Flagship at the Naval Dockyard - Portsmouth

The Naval Dockyard - Portsmouth


Today, 29th February 2016, Carole and I decided to go to Portsmouth. We were in the New Forest and decided a trip to the historical dockyard where HMS Victory is docked as a museum would make a great start to our week holiday. Also, I was dying to get a look at the Mary Rose; King Henry VIII’s flagship built in 1511. She sank in 1545 during the Battle of the Solent when she mysteriously capsized after firing a volley from her guns. As the ship came about she leant too far over and sea water entered her open gun ports making her keel over with five hundred men on board. The Mary Rose was in service for 34 years before this accident and took part in three wars. Two with France and one with Scotland.

Of all the souls aboard the MaryRose only between 25 and 35 men survived the disaster out of the 500 men aboard. Many were soldiers and archers. Boarding crew for close quarter fighting. The shipwreck was raised in 1982 after almost 450 years under water. Before being raised, there were years of underwater archaeological work. The pains taking effort brought the remaining half of the ship into a Museum close to where HMS Victory is docked. For many years the half section of hull has been sprayed with water and wax to create a preservative condition. Thus enabling tourists, like me, to visit.

Unfortunately, when I got to the museum, The Mary Rose display was closed for refurbishment until summer of 2016. Therefore my ticket can be re-used when summer comes. I was so disappointed, but did go inside the Mary Rose shop part of the museum and took some photos of the model display. I will return in June to see the ship’s inner hull.

Instead, we contented ourselves with a tour around the HMS Victory. The grand galleon of Nelson. His flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar back in 1805. This was fun and I managed to get some fine photos. The guide that showed us around was an ex-Royal Navy man retired. He told us a few shocking stories of the battle and showed us many of the things used in day to day life. While on board and inside the Victory, most of the photos were taken on my mobile. These I can’t put on the blog yet. However, I’ll add the inner section photos when I return home to the Fenland. The Wi-Fi in the hotel is pants.

One of the stories our guide told was rather grisly. It was of Nelson’s secretary. His name was John Scott. Nelson had two secretaries. One at sea and one on land, back at base; so to speak. Both had the same name ‘John Scott.’ In one of the photos on the top deck, you can see the office of John Scott’s room below quarter deck. The John Scott on land was the luckier of the two secretaries, for the John Scott secretary at sea was the first man to be killed on board the Victory. It was as the first opening shot was fired. John Scott came out on the open deck and was standing on the very spot where Nelson would be shot hours later, during the height of the battle. A cannon or round shot from a French ship hit John Scott in the stomach and spine decapitating him instantly. His upwards section of body or torso was lifted by some marines and his abdomen and legs by others. Both sections of his body were unceremoniously thrown overboard into the sea as the fusillade of galleons began to rip into each other. The Victory had some 821 men on board. Of this crew, 59 lost their lives according to the guide, but there were also injuries and amputees who survived the battle too. Of course, Admiral Lord Nelson was one of the 59 who perished. He was standing close to where John Scott was killed some hours later when a French sniper, in the rigging of an enemy ship, shot him through the shoulder. The musket ball travelled down through his lungs and broke his ribs to become lodged in the small of his back by his spine. He was carried below and took over three hours to die. Before he passed away, he learnt of his victory over the French fleet.

I saw a lot of things of interest in the dockyard museum as well. There were a multitude of models and I bought a couple of small wooden replica display ships for my living room at home. One was the Sovereign of the Seas from around the 1640s. The other was a replica of the Mary Rose. (My little fad and passion at the moment)

I also got some snaps of HMS Warrior. A huge ironclad built in 1860. This ship’s decaying hull was being used as a jetty/pontoon in south Wales. When someone discovered the makeshift jetty was once the Warrior, the national trust bodies decided to renovate the ship to its former glory. The hull was towed to Hartlepool and restored. This was in the 1980s so I’m told.


I never went aboard the Warrior. I only took shots outside the docks. Unfortunately, my wife Carole came over very ill. In the end, we had to go back to the hotel in Ringwood so she could rest. Still, we can go back another day in the week, because our ticket lasts the year and we can come and go as much as we like in that time. It was a very interesting place and one could easily wonder about the historical dockyard for hours. Across the Solent is Gosport and our tickets are valid at the Submarine museum over here too. Therefore at least two more ventures are due. One more this week and another in June to see the Mary Rose.



The last time I went aboard the HMS Victory was in 1974. I was thirteen and on a day trip with the Army Cadets. I remember thinking the ship was massive, but when I saw her again on this leap year day of 29th Feb 2016, she did not seem so huge. I have been on cruise liners since the first time and perhaps my horizons have broadened since that time. Still the ship was impressive.


I walked around the ship clicking away trying to get the old sailing man o war from as many angels as possible.


As one can see. Some sort of renovation work was being done to the ships bow. There was scaffolding and sheeting around one side.


She looked a sight to behold with her gun ports open. By the time she came to fame at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, she was already forty five years of age.


There are several decks on board Victory as the lines of cannon would suggest. However, my wife is five foot three inches in height and she had to duck her head to get past some of the beams on the lower deck.


As I was about to board I took another shot of the ships line of guns along the port side going towards the bow.


As I followed the other tourists towards the entrance we all had to duck to get inside. If you were five foot, you would still have to duck or bang your head.


Once inside, the guide allowed us to view the stern of the ship where Nelson's living quarters were. There was also the Captain's table in front of us. This could be packed away when going into battle.


This was the secretaries quarters. John Scott came out of these rooms and stood roughly where I'm taking this photo. Right next to the spot where Nelson would also die during the battle. John Scott died from the first salvo as the battle commenced. He was standing at the very spot where I'm taking this picture. His top half and bottom half were thrown into the sea with a double splash as the rest of the crew got on with the Battle of Trafalgar.


Our tour guide was a retired Royal Navy man. He told many stories as we went about the ship. Above are the two toilets used by the rank and file of the crew. One can see two holes on the top of the seat at the stern of the ship. One had to go in full view of every one, while sailors defecated into the sea. There was a rope hanging down with a rag tied to the end. This was dangling in the sea constantly. Therefore it was being washed as the ship ploughed through the waves. It was known as a tow rag. Hence the swear word 'you old tow rag' as a derogatory term that came from sailors and spread among the local population as a form of swearing insults. This was told to us by the guide.


The rear of the ship displayed the man-o-war's famous name. I had to get a shot of that and the more luxurious quarters at the stern of the ship.


The great stove was where all the meals were prepared. The guide also told us why the plates were square. It was to stop them rolling about when stacked as the ship tossed and turned at high seas. Hence the saying; 'Three square meals a day.' There were also huge wooden buckets containing slabs of meat. These were lying close by ready to cook. They were dowsed in salt which ran down the meat and collected at the bottom of the barrel. This was scrapped up, hence; 'scrapping the bottom of the barrel.' A saying we also use today. The salt at the bottom of the barrel was gathered and sold at port. The money acquired went into the ship's slush fund.



Each of the lower decks had lines of guns along the port and starboard side. There was usually twelve men to a gun if firing from one side. However if both sides (port and starboard were maned) it became six men to a gun. The British crews could fire, reload and fire again within ninety seconds. They practised constantly and were the quickest among all nations when it came to sea warfare in this day and age. 


The thick ropes were upon all guns because of the kick back when each gun was fired. There was a very disciplined drill to keep all of this in check.



When the thick ropes started to ware, many of the sailors would start to unravel them to get at the inner bindings that were still of use and less worn. They could sell the inner old rope once ashore and get more money for the ship's slush fund, hence; 'money for old rope.' another of our sayings we still use to this day.


There were also punishment apparatus like the cat o nine tails and other canning devices that our guide delighted in showing us. He said everyone due punishment by the cat o nine tails was tied to a rake and given up to twenty five lashes. It could not be done below deck because there was no room, hence the saying, 'no room to swing a car.' This of course is the cat o nine tails. The flogged men were taken to sick bay afterwards and wrapped in brown vinegar paper. Afterwards salt was rubbed into the scars. Hence; 'rubbing salt into the wound,' another saying we still use today.



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