Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
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 Post subject: Bombing of Victory
PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:21 am 
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I received this 'Google Alert' on HMS Victory this morning. Most of the content will not be new to most viewers; I was intrigued, however, by the mention that Victory was damaged by a stray bomb in World War ll. I had never heard this before. Portsmouth, of course, was heavily bombed, so it must have been a constant anxiety for Victory's custodians during this period that she might be irreparably damaged or destroyed.


http://www.emcalmontecarletonplace.ca/2 ... ck+to+1759

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 Post subject: Re: Bombing of Victory
PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:36 pm 
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I always enjoy coincidences - and this is a good one!!

A couple of weeks ago there was a question in the Answers to Correspondents section of the Daily Mail which read as follows:

Quote:
How was HMS Victory protected from enemy action during World War II when Portsmouth was a high priority target for the Luftwaffe?


I knew I could send in a bit of info but other things kept getting in the way. Since nothing had been printed in reply by Tuesday I eventually got round to firing off an answer. Then on Wednesday morning a reply was printed from a guy who had obviously got his in well before mine.

In fact there was quite a similarity between my answer and his so I was quite happy with that.

Anyway this was my answer - so hope it is of some interest:

Quote:
Since the precise location of H.M.S. Victory was well known to the Germans, no serious attempt was made to hide or disguise her. The only action taken was the removal of the upper masts and most of the rigging for the duration of the war.

The ship was not open to the public but received many visitors including King George VI, other members of the royal family and all the allied leaders who came to England.

In a way Victory was once more on active service, for she was used as an accommodation ship for junior ratings from the Royal Naval Barracks, together with gunners of the anti-aircraft defences, and when Admiralty House was hit in 1941 the then Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Sir William James, moved his offices into her.

The enemy claimed to have hit her in one raid and, although untouched on that occasion, she narrowly escaped destruction in March 1941; a 500-pound high-explosive bomb fell inside the dry dock and burst just under her port bow, blowing a hole eight feet by fifteen in the ship and a twenty-foot gap in the dock masonry. Portions of her steel cradle were picked up hundreds of yards away.

In November 1945, she was reopened to visitors and in 1946 rerigged and floodlit for the victory celebrations.


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 Post subject: Re: Bombing of Victory
PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:21 pm 
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Here is an interesting image of Churchill walking down the gangplank of H.M.S. Victory during the war years.

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Bombing of Victory
PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 6:14 am 
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Many thanks for that information, Mark.

I can't resist noting here that Churchill had a cat named Nelson. Sir John Colville, Churchill's secretary, noted in his memoirs that Nelson disgraced himself by hiding under a chest of drawers during an air raid on London. Sir John found Churchill, who was dressing for dinner, on his knees, in his underwear, addressing the quivering Nelson thus: 'Shame on you, the bearer of a noble name, that you should so cower in the face of the enemy.'

Nelson was sent to Churchill's country house, Chartwell, safe from the bombing, and lived there to a ripe old age.

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 Post subject: Re: Bombing of Victory
PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 12:49 pm 
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Anna, Mark,

In addition to Mark's reply, the bombing happened on the night of the 10th-11th March, 1941, during an air raid on the Dockyard. The bomb dropped into the dry dock, in what was officially described as a 'near miss', hitting the steps in the port side of the dock wall. I would imagine that many have thought it 'lucky' that it wasn't a direct hit; just imagine the destruction that would have caused – perhaps even to the loss of the ship herself! Even so, it did cause considerable damage to the dock and of course, the Victory, although I would imagine that the bomb was a stray and the ship wasn't specifically targeted.

According to 'HMS Victory - Her Construction, Career and Restoration', by Alan McGowan, the first four transverse sections of her dock cradle were destroyed on the port side and also damaged sections on the starboard side. Half of the breast shores on the port side were also dislodged and around 18' of the concrete plinth supporting the keel was also damaged. The ship herself suffered a hole 8' long, by around 15' in height, torn in the hull planking and timbers. There was also damage to the orlop and lower gun deck. In respect of the latter, the bitts on the lower deck appear to have been displaced by the blast, which damage from which can be seen in some photographs of the early fifties. This was when the first major post war restoration was carried out, there obviously being little money or manpower available to do it beforehand. Until then the repairs were, of course, only makeshift and temporary.

Referring to the newspaper report, I am constantly surprised that the writers of such pieces are surprised, that such a ship as the Victory could be built in those days. Ok, its not high tech as in the modern world, but they did know one or two things! Unfortunately this writer also appears to be under the illusion that all of the Victory extant today was at Trafalgar, whereas in actuality very little of the ship remains from that time.

Thanks for the info regarding the rigged-down state of the Victory during the war. I would have imagined that were the case, but there seems to be very little information about it and few photographs.

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 Post subject: Re: Bombing of Victory
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 4:13 pm 
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There is an interesting follow-up letter in today's Daily Mail which reads as follows:

Quote:
Further to the earlier answer, in August 1941, having finished my naval training in Malvern, Worcs, I was posted with several of my colleagues to HMS Vernon Barracks, Portsmouth.
On arrival, we were seconded to the Royal Marines Fire Brigade in the dockyard, close to HMS Victory. We worked a 48-hour shift system and night watches.
At that time, many ships were in harbour having repairs and refits, including several destroyers and the cruiser HMS Manchester, moored close to the Victory.
On the night of the heaviest raid the yard experienced, we were called out after several incendiary bombs had been dropped on the Victory. Fortunately, using buckets of water and boxes of sand, a colleague and I managed to defuse one bomb and make it safe, while others dealt similarly with the rest.
The next day we saw a burn mark, the size of a bomb, on the deck planking alongside the brass plate fixed to the spot where Nelson had been struck down at Trafalgar.
A few days later the King and Queen visited the dockyard and thanked us for our devotion to duty.
When I visited the Victory a few years ago, the burn mark had disappeared. Apparently, because of wear and tear, a large amount of the decking had since been replaced, not with real English oak - deemed too expensive and scarce - but with Burmese teak.


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 Post subject: Re: Bombing of Victory
PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2012 11:23 pm 
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Further to the photo of Winston Churchill above. It has kindly been pointed out to me that the same occasion was captured by Pathe News.

See here:

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/mr-ch ... ry/Victory

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 Post subject: Re: Bombing of Victory
PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 10:03 am 
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Also to add to this..when they were building the new shipbuilding hall for BAE..the drydock where they were building the foundations, a WWII bomb was found embedded and bought the Dockyard to a standstill and thus giving us a day off.

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