Let's make her shipshape: Workmen swing into action as ten-year restoration of Nelson's flagship HMS Victory begins
Last updated at 2:52 PM on 6th July 2011
The finishing touches to HMS Victory were made 246 years ago in Chatham Dock before she set to sea and went on to cover herself in glory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
She served for a total of 47 years - a period of time seldom matched by any modern warship - before being taken out of service in 1812.
Since then she has remained on display at Portsmouth harbour and now a ten-year battle to restore Lord Nelson's flagship to her full glory has begun.
Glory restored: Rope access technician Rob Tucker begins work on the restorations, which will be the most extensive since 1805
It will combine the ship-building skills used on wooden craft with cutting edge technology used on modern warships.
Action was prompted by a recent survey which revealed the ship was leaking and suffering from rot, while the weight of the ship was threatening to pull her apart.
Commissioned in 1778, three years after slipping into the waters around Chatham she was the ship on board which Lord Nelson was mortally wounded by a French sniper during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Tourist attraction: The ship, which is moored in a dry dock in Portsmouth, attracts a steady stream of visitors
Scaling the heights: The ship's masts are being removed for the first time since 1844
HISTORY OF THE SHIP WHERE LORD NELSON WAS FATALLY WOUNDED
Victory was retired in 1812 and has since been moored in Portsmouth.
In total it was in service for 47 years, a period of time which has seldom been matched by any modern warship.
Victory was moved to a dry dock in 1922 after its condition began to deteriorate, and has gone on to become one of the area's main tourist attractions.
However recent survey work on the ship revealed that she was leaking, and suffering from rot, while the weight of the ship was threatening to pull her apart.
The Ministry of Defence is setting up a new 10-year contract for repairs and maintenance of the ship, which will be seen without its top masts for the first time since 1944 during the repairs.
Much of the operation will be carried out by master shipwrights and other specialist staff employed by BAE Systems who, while operating on the cutting edge of technology on modern warships, maintain the age-old wooden shipbuilding skills.
John O'Sullivan, BAE Systems project manager, said, 'We will remove the upper sections of all three masts and bowsprit, booms, yards and spars, including 26 miles of associated rigging and 768 wooden blocks, some of which are 100 years old.
'We will then catalogue and document everything for future surveying, design and replacement.
'When the rigging is replaced, a decision will be made as to whether the wooden rope blocks can be re-used, recycled or replaced.
'Our team will carefully manage this major restoration project, keeping disruption to a minimum.'
A new interactive exhibition is to be opened at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which is adjacent to Victory in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Hampshire, to coincide with the works.
Professor Dominic Tweddle, director general of the museum, said, 'We are delighted that the MoD has given the go-ahead for the work on Victory.
'Preserving a wooden warship is a battle, a battle against nature and just as epic in its way as the Battle of Trafalgar.
'To be able to witness how that battle is fought will be a big draw to visitors. Both Victory and the museum will remain open to the public throughout the restoration work.'
Other restorations have been carried out on the ship over the past year, with members of the local womens' association making new curtains and other drapes displayed in the ship's interior.
The original fixtures and drapes, created by Nelson's mistress Emma Hamilton, were used to disguise the fact that officers on board the ship slept in boxes which resembled coffins - in which they would be buried if they died at sea.
Commitment: The Ministry of Defence has set up a new 10 year contract for repair and maintenance of the historic ship
In glory days: This painting by 18th Century maritime artist Francis Swaine shows how HMS Victory looked when it was in service
In total, HMS Victory was in service for 47 years, a period of time which has seldom been matched by any modern warship
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2011749/Lord-Nelsons-flagship-HMS-Victorys-10-year-restoration-begins.html#ixzz1RKmyYRWv