The story of this extraordinary ship is told very ably by the author and lavishly illustrated with fine colour photographs and excellent drawings and sketches. In addition to describing the methods of construction, the author has included much detail on the work to maintain and preserve Victory. It is difficult to imagine any self-respecting private library not including a copy of this Owners’ Workshop Manual. No other work has captured the full history of this outstanding warship and provided an anatomy of great detail and clarity. If a novice in naval history was restricted to buying just one book, this is the book to buy. Highly commended.
NAME: HMS Victory, 1765-1812 (First rate ship of the line), Owners’ Workshop Manual
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Peter Goodwin
BINDING: Hard back
PRICE: GB £21.99
GENRE: Non fiction
SUBJECT: Naval architecture, line of battle ship, 100 gunner, Nelson’s flagship, victor of Trafalgar, advance technology, premier weapon system
DESCRIPTION: There is a school of thought that suggests book reviewers should look for things to criticise when reading a new book. That seems a rather negative approach to the creative work of an author who may have spent years researching and a lifetime building experience. It also seems inappropriate when readers look for reasons to buy a book rather than excuses for not buying. Haynes broke new ground when they began to produce books in the general style of their world famous vehicle owners’ manuals to cover famous vehicles, of land, sea and air. These new books provided a mass of information in a relatively small volume with lavish illustration. Even with subjects already covered from virtually every possible angle, the manuals produced new information and met the needs of novices and expert enthusiasts in one book. That was a major achievement and this manual is no exception. The only area that is slightly confusing is in the use of the descriptions Enthusiasts’ Manual or Owners’ Workshop Manual. Having just reviewed the excellent Black Cab Enthusiasts’ Manual, that contains information valuable to owners restoring retired Black Cabs, where the availability and cost of reasonable condition vehicles makes ownership practical for private individuals and groups, describing the HMS Victory book as an Owners’ Workshop Manual may seem odd. It might have been more logical for the FX4 manual, had the publisher produced and currently listed a full workshop manual for the Black Cab with all of the detail expected in the famous high quality vehicle owners’ manuals. In that case, the Enthusiasts’ Manual would have provided historical overview and introduction to a famous class of vehicle and an Owner’s Workshop Manual would have provided all of the detail necessary to restore and maintain a Black Cab, the respective descriptions avoiding confusion. Even so, it might have remained strange that the HMS Victory book was described as an Owners’ Workshop Manual when this vessel is unique and remains a commissioned warship in the Royal Navy. However, that aside, the HMS Victory book lives up to all expectations as a very original and effective review of a unique and world famous vessel. The author has provided a comprehensive review that may surprise many readers because HMS Victory is really world famous for one day in its life when Nelson died in the moment of his greatest victory aboard his flagship HMS Victory. It is the stuff of legend and so appropriate that the flagship should carry the name Victory. The Royal Navy may have ascended the French and Spanish Navies during the Seven Years War, the first year of that war seeing Victory take to water for the first time, but the Battle of Trafalgar removed any uncertainty and cleared the way for the British dash for Empire and a Century of Royal Navy supremacy at sea without any challenge. The result is that HMS Victory is seen as a Napoleonic War vessel, when it is more accurately a Seven Years War vessel, and a part of its Admiral Nelson’s legend. That disguises the real history of the vessel and its part in the development of naval technology. Warships of the period were the pinnacle of military technology. They represented a significant investment and they included all of the latest developments in shipbuilding, sailing technology and weapons technology. By 1805, Victory was already an old ship, having been launched on Tuesday 7th May 1785. The date was the first available day of Spring tides when there was sufficient water for the ship to float off, building work having completed on Tuesday 23rd April. At that time, few vessels of any size were launched from a slipway. The cost of construction in current values was £46.5 million. At the time of her design and construction, HMS Victory was technically advanced and marked a step forward for the Royal Navy. Her underwater sections had been designed carefully and were much more efficient that previous line of battle ships. Classed as a 100 gun super warship, Victory carried 104 guns. The gun decks carried increasing weight as the decks descended to keep metacentric height within acceptable bounds. The upper gun deck and the forecastle carried 32 long 12-pounder guns and two brutal 68-pounder carronades on slide carriages. The carronades or smashers were short barrel guns designed to pound the enemy at close quarters. The quarterdeck carried 12 short 12-pounder guns. The middle gundeck carried 28 medium 24-pounder guns and the lower gundeck carried 30 short 32-pounder guns. With the exception of the two carronades, all guns in the main armament were mounted on truck carriages. In addition, Victory carried small arms and swivel guns for use in the ships boats and for boarding or repelling boarders. The main armament was used for long range engagement and short range attrition. In long range use, it became common to skim cannon balls off the sea surface to extend range and strike at or below the water line. 6,000 oak and elm trees were used in the construction of HMS Victory. In addition, pine, spruce fir and beech were also used. The underwater hull was plated with copper to resist boring worms and a huge quantity of iron nails and spikes, iron and copper bolts and roves were used. Iron and steel was used for a variety of fittings and Victory was equipped with a selection of boats to suite the purposes of a major warship. The towering masts were supported with miles of rope and equipped with acres of canvass sails. By 1805, Victory may have been an old vessel, but she was still effective as she proved. During her working life as a weapon system she would have been impressive to landsman and sailor alike. Between 1814 and 1816 she underwent a major refit that saw a round bow introduced. Whether this expense was justified is debatable because she was placed in ordinary in 1824, serving as a flagship for the Port Admiral in Portsmouth. She would have been broken up in 1831 had not the wife of First Sea Admiral Hardy, her commander at Trafalgar not begged him to save the ship. From there she was destined to be preserved as a flagship in port and underwent a series of repairs and refits that eventually saw her opened to the public but retained in commission with a commander and an Admiral. The story of this extraordinary ship is told very ably by the author and lavishly illustrated with fine colour photographs and excellent drawings and sketches. In addition to describing the methods of construction, the author has included much detail on the work to maintain and preserve Victory. It is difficult to imagine any self-respecting private library not including a copy of this Owners’ Workshop Manual. No other work has captured the full history of this outstanding warship and provided an anatomy of great detail and clarity. If a novice in naval history was restricted to buying just one book, this is the book to buy. Highly commended.