HMS Victory is a floating gun platform. The first decision taken when designing the ship centred on the number of guns she would carry. Once this was set at 100, the number of guns on the lower gun deck could be calculated, and the other dimensions of the ship were derived from this. On Victory, the gun is king.
At the Battle of Trafalgar, the ship carried 104 guns spread over four decks. Whilst fewer than the 161 guns the British army had at the Battle of Waterloo, Victory’s guns were far larger and therefore more powerful; all of the cannonballs in Victory’s first broadside fired at the Battle of Trafalgar weighed 1.25 tons!
Today, relatively few guns from Trafalgar survive, and due to Victory’s age the majority on board are replica – made of either wood or fibreglass. The ship, however, does still have 8 of the guns she used during her most famous battle. One of these, a 24-pdr weighing over 3 tons, is displayed on Victory’s middle gun deck. At the height of battle the gun’s 12-man crew achieved a rate of fire of one round every ninety seconds.
In Battle this deck was surrounded by noise. Lewis Roatley, Victory’s 20-year-old 2nd Marine Lieutenant wrote ‘A man should witness a battle in a three-decker from the middle deck, for it beggars all description: it bewilders the senses of sight and hearing.’