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Saturday, January 31, 2009

HMS Victory

HMS Victory, Admiral Lord Nelson's flagship, is the oldest commissioned warship in the world and is still manned by Officers and Ratings of the Royal Navy.

HMS Victory is the only surviving warship that fought in the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars and is now the flagship of the Second Sea Lord and Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command. She lies in No 2 Dry Dock at Portsmouth Naval Base in Hampshire UK, where she has a permanent berth.

HMS Victory in Portsmouth harbour - circa 1884

HMS Victory in full regalia for the International Festival of the Sea, Portsmouth, July 2005

The famous figurehead on the bow of HMS Victory

Over the Yardarm

The horizontal spars up the masts of HMS Victory, from which the sails are hung, are called "yards" or "yard-arms". By tradition, when the rising sun had climbed in the sky to appear above the topmost yardarm, the Admiral calls for a tot of rum. The expression is still in common use when a tipple before lunch is desired. One will say to another "I think the sun is over the yard-arm", even on dry land when the sun isn't shining!

Here are the words of a song about HMS Victory by Steeleye Span, recalling the time when sailors were press-ganged to serve in the Royal Navy:

The Victory

I am a youthful lady
My troubles they are great,
My tongue is scarcely able
My grievance to relate;
Since I have lost my true love,
That was ever dear to me,
He's gone to plough the ocean,
On board the Victory.

And many a pleasant evening,
My love and I did meet,
He clasped me round my slender waist,
And gave me kisses sweet;
I gave to him my hand and heart,
And he vowed he'd marry me,
But I did not know that my love,
Would join the Victory.

Mourn, England, mourn and complain;
For the brave Lord Nelson's men,
That died upon the main.

My parents could not endure my love,
Because he was so poor,
Therefore he never did presume,
To come within the door;
But had he been some noble lord,
Born a man of high degree,
They'd ne'er have sent the lad I love,
On board the Victory.

There was thirteen on the press-gang,
They did my love surround,
And four of that accursed gang,
Went bleeding to the ground;
My love was overpowered,
Though he fought most manfully,
They dragged him through the dark, wet streets,
Towards the Victory.

Your ship she lay in harbour,
Just ready to set sail,
May Heaven be your guardian, love,
Till you come home from sea,
Just like an angel weeping,
On the rock sighs every day,
Awaiting for my own true love,
Returning home from sea;
It's not for gold that glitters,
Nor silver that will shine,
If I marry to the man I love,
I'll be happy in my mind.

Here's success unto the Victory,
And crew of noble fame,
And glory to the captain,
Bold Nelson was his name;
At the Battle of Trafalgar,
The Victory cleared the way,
But my love was slain with Nelson,
Upon that very day.


Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

It's cool to think of her still in service. A real connection to the past.

5:53 pm  
Blogger Barbara Martin said...

The poetry is how I like it: with bounce in the words.

The photographs of the HMS Victory are wonderful for a connection to the past.

When I resume my War of 1812: Canada posts I will be linking to this post as it has the best photo of a warship of the time.

Thank you for commenting on my blog.

2:13 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

I thought 'the sun's over the yardarm' meant that it had sunk, so it was time for the evening tipple.

8:14 am  
Blogger Shrinky said...

I never knew that origin of the Yard arm (though have been known to use the expression myself from time to time)!

There is a house over here with a circular blue plaque, which claims to have been the home Nelson's second-in-command (and it wasn't Hardy, either). I don't recall his name, but it starts with a Q..

11:22 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

Thanks for comments everyone.

Shrinky, I have doe a search but can't locate your "Q". Could you be thinking of John Pasco, he was Nelson's signalman who hoisted the famous "England expects..." signal.

Incidentally, Nelson had ordered "England confides..." but Pasco suggested that "expects" would be easier as it can be signalled with a single flag, where as "confides" would have to be spelled out letter by letter. With the Spanish fleet bearing down on them fast, Nelson was only too happy to comply and save time!

12:04 pm  
Blogger Shrinky said...

I think you may well be right, I will pay closer attention next time I go past to find out.

How fascinating to know history was changed due to a flag! You are a veritble treasure-chest of little known facts.

1:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One for Shrinky, she's right.
Follow this link for a list of crew and there's a young offcier there.

5:24 pm  

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