HMS Victory and her crew at the Battle of Trafalgar

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A question we are often asked at the museum is how many men were on board, and who were they?  The muster roll for HMS Victory is held in the archives at the library here at the National Museum of the Royal Navy. It names all the crew of the ship at the Battle of Trafalgar, each man on the list being awarded prize money for the enemy ships destroyed or captured during the battle.  Besides Lord Nelson and Captain Hardy, there are 820 crew on this list.

This list also includes men who were killed during battle, and their share of prize money would have been paid to their families.  The official documents say that 57 were killed on the Victory, which is the greatest number of fatalities on any of the ships in the British fleet.

So where did they come from?  Many visitors to HMS Victory are surprised to learn that the crew was made up of at least 22 different nationalities at Trafalgar.  At the time it was very common for the Royal Navy to enlist and to press men from ports all around the world, and there was no need to be British to fight on a British warship.

The table below lists the different nationalities represented among the crew, which shows the great diversity on board just this one ship of the fleet!  It is important that we recognise the HMS Victory not just as a piece of English history, but as an artefact of the history of the Royal Navy, and all the men who served on her.
 

English  Maltese  Brazilian
Irish Dutch  Norwegian 
Scottish  German  Indian 
Welsh  West Indian Danish 
American  Jamaican  Manx
Italian  Swiss  Canadian 
French  African (48 listed as unknown) 
Swedish  Portuguese