H.M.S. Victory, perhaps the world's most famous man-o-war.
In 1805 Napoleon had determined on the invasion of England with his all-powerful army. All that stood in his way were 27 ships of the Royal Navy. Matched against them were 33 heavily-gunned French and Spanish ships of the line, including the biggest warship of the day, the 130-gun Santissima Trinidad.
At 7am on 21 October 1805, as the enemy fleet bore down, Nelson signaled 'Prepare for battle', followed shortly by the immortal 'England expects every man to do his duty'. Next came Nelson's standard command when challenged to fight 'engage the enemy'.
At the head of the British column, Nelson's flagship Victory sailed directly into the centre of the combined fleet cutting it in two, holding fire to conserve ammunition. Badly damaged by enemy fire, her steering was disabled, her sails were full of holes and she was partially dismasted, but Victory came straight on. Commissioned in 1778 she was a fearsome fighting machine, a three-decker with 102 cannons. In a single devastating broadside, she could fire half a ton of iron shot more than a mile to smash through two feet of solid oak. She was a fortress city, stocked with 35 tons of powder and 120 tons of shot. She could remain at sea for up to six months at a time.
Now, while turning to run down the line of the French formation off Trafalgar, Nelson gave the order to open fire. Victory slashed through the enemy's line of ships, taking great punishment, but leaving disaster in her wake. At one point she was locked alongside the French flagship, Redoubtable, with both ships pouring volleys of 32 lb cannon shot into each other. Sharpshooters were picking off crewman on deck while marines used grappling hooks to climb over the sides. Nelson, waving his sword, was struck by a mustketball in the back. Mortally wounded, he was informed that he had won a great victory, with 25 enemy ships already captured or sunk. He died with the words 'thank God I have done my duty'. When the news got back, bells pealed all over England to honour Nelson and give thanks for salvation.
Honoured and preserved over the years, Victory now rests at Portsmouth, England, a symbol of loyalty, courage, and devotion to duty.
H.M.S. Victory, scale 1:95, length 1m