Raising Victory

The BBC today has reported that the Wreck of HMS Victory is to be recovered from the sea bed.  The Victory was launched in 1737 and was a hundred gun first rate. The First rates were the Aircraft carriers of the day. Ships of the line like victory would be used in a naval battle by forming a line of battle and engaging the enemy by firing broadsides until the other side capitulated.

This Victory incorporated timbers from the Previous Victory which had burned to the waterline whilst undergoing maintenance. It was built at a cost of around £50,000.

'Loss of HMS 'Victory', 4 October 1744' by Peter Monamy

She was wrecked with the loss of her entire crew while returning to England as the flagship of Admiral Sir John Balchen after relieving Sir Charles Hardy, who had been blockaded in the Tagus estuary by the French Brest fleet. As the fleet reached the English Channel on 3 October 1744 it was scattered by a large storm. At around 15:30 on 4 October, the ships accompanying Victory lost sight of her near the Channel Islands. For over 260 years she was believed to have been wrecked during the night on Black Rock just off the Casquets, with the loss of her entire complement of around 900 crew.

The Sunday Times says the Maritime Heritage Foundation is set to manage the wreck’s raising. It also reports that the charity will employ Odyssey Marine Exploration to carry out the recovery.

The American company found the ship four years ago, with the ship’s identity confirmed by a bronze canon. The guns and other reclaimed artefacts will be displayed in British museums, however under the laws of salvage, Odyssey is likely to receive the bulk of any treasure found, according to the newspaper.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: “Efforts to protect key parts of British Naval history such as the wreck of HMS Victory 1744 are very welcome and we hope to make an announcement shortly.” The chairman of the foundation, Lord Lingfield, is a relative of Admiral Sir John Balchin, who was onboard the warship when it sank.

The Tory peer, formerly known as Sir Robert Balchin, told the newspaper that he would not profit from the ship’s cargo. He added: “We will have the satisfaction of solving a great maritime mystery that has been part of my family history since the 18th Century.”

The 300ft (90m) ship was discovered by the Florida-based firm in May 2008, nearly 65 miles (100km) from where it was historically believed to have sunk.

At the time, the company’s chief executive, Greg Stemm, said: “HMS Victory was the mightiest vessel of the 18th Century and the eclectic mix of guns we found on the site will prove essential in further refining our understanding of naval weaponry used during the era.”

It was also thought that large quantities of silver and gold coins would have been on board HMS Victory from enemy prize ships captured by Balchin, worth £120,000 at the time.

The remains of the ship’s hull, an iron ballast, two anchors, a copper kettle and rigging have been spotted on the sea bed.

(Main source BBC News)

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