HMS Victory is/was a 104-gun first-rate ship of the Royal Navy, ordered in 1758, built-in 1759 and launched in 1765. She is best known for her role as Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.
She additionally served as Keppel’s flagship at Ushant, Howe’s flagship at Cape Spartel and Jervis’s flagship at Cape Vincent. Admiral Lord Nelson, probably the biggest name in the British Navy served on HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson had already made his plans, to break the enemy line some two or three ships ahead of their commander-in-chief in the centre and achieve victory before the van could come to their aid. At 0600 hours, Nelson ordered his fleet into two columns. Fitful winds made it a slow business, and for more than six hours, the two columns of British ships slowly approached the French line before Royal Sovereign, leading the lee column, was able to open fire on Fougueux. Around 30 minutes later, Victory broke the line between Bucentaure and Redoutable firing a treble shotted broadside into the stern of the former from a range of a few yards. At a quarter past one, Nelson was shot, the fatal musket ball entering his left shoulder and lodging in his spine. He died at half-past four. Such killing had taken place on Victory’s quarter deck that Redoutable attempted to board her, but they were thwarted by the arrival of Eliab Harvey in the 98-gun HMS Temeraire, whose broadside devastated the French ship. Nelson’s last order was for the fleet to anchor, but this was countermanded by Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood. Victory suffered 57 killed and 102 wounded.
Victory had been badly damaged in the battle and was not able to move under her own sail. HMS Neptune, therefore, towed her to Gibraltar for repairs. Victory then carried Nelson’s body to England, where, after lying in state at Greenwich, he was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral on 9 January 1806.
After 1824, she was relegated to the role of harbour ship. In 1922, she was moved to a dry dock at Portsmouth, UK and preserved as a museum ship. She has been the flagship of the First Sea Lord since October 2012 and is the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission, with 241 years’ service as of 2019.