HMS Victory repainted in grey and salmon pink

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    Malcolm Lewis

      I note (from the National Museum for the Royal Navy’s website) that, after much research into paint samples found aboard Victory which have accumulated in layers for centuries it has been established that the correct colours to replicate the famous “Nelson chequer”, as she was painted at Trafalgar, are a graphite grey and creamy-orange.To quote Curator Andrew Baines, the latter “ranges to salmon pink in certain lights”.
      Seemingly Captain Hardy came up with the combination using the cheapest ingredients on board. Nelson had all his fleet painted in this manner to try to avoid accidents with “friendly fire” in the ensuing battle. I recall at the Battle of the Nile English ships were painted in eight or nine different colours depending on the whim of their captains.
      It must have been a challenge for the captains of Nelson’s Trafalgar command to match Hardy’s choice of colours which may have needed to be applied whilst the fleet was actually assembling off Cadiz.
      Maybe there is a record of the flagship’s signals organising this major paint job.
      I can’t wait to see the results of the latest repainting which I guess has created a few interesting discussions in the Victory Technical Committee.
      Malcolm Lewis

      Malcolm Lewis

      Malcolm Lewis

        According to Nelson’s instructions issued to his fleet in 1805 flagships were to be painted four times per annum, the other rated ships three times annually (HMS Victory-Owners’ Workshop Manual page 108 – Peter Goodwin). Is it known whether old paint was removed before a new coat was applied?
        A coat of paint must have added considerably to the weight of the ship and Victory was already some nine inches lower in the water than designed when launched.
        Generally speaking hardwood such as oak does not accept paint well. Is this the reason for the frequency of painting?

        Frank Scott

          Those wishing to know more about this subject should read the Mariner’s Mirror article that really kicked this all off. Peter Goodwin, ‘Application & scheme of paintworks in British men-of-war in the late eighteenth & early nineteenth Centuries’, Mariner’s Mirror Vol 99:3 (2013), 287-300.

          Malcolm Lewis

            Thank you Frank for reminding me of this article.
            Reading ‘The Application and Scheme of Paintworks in British Men-of-War in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries’- Peter G. Goodwin, The Mariner’s Mirror Vol 99:3 August 2013 page 291, Peter refers to “notes made by Colonel Walter Fawkes at the battle of the Nile 1–3 August 1798 where he observed the colour schemes of both fleets in some detail (table1 page 292)”. He continues “That nothing is recorded for L’Orient (The French flagship) indicates that Fawkes made his record in daylight the day after the battle as L’Orient had blown up during the night”.
            Walter Ramsden Fawkes (1769 – 1825) of Farnley Hall in North Yorkshire was a close friend and patron of artist William Turner who was a frequent guest. Fawkes gained his military title as commanding officer of the West Yorks Militia, a local defence unit. He was M.P. for Yorkshire 1805-7.
            In the references in Peter Goodwin’s article is mention of an article by SNR member Louis Paul (marine artist) entitled “An Artists Notes at The Battle of the Nile” (Mariner’s Mirror 4:8 1914). Paul bought them from a London bookseller around 1900 and discovered they contained notes and sketches made by Walter Fawkes at the actual battle – quite a find. Paul was impressed with the detail of the sketches which indicated Fawkes was no mean artist himself. Paul’s researches established that Col.Fawkes was absent with leave from his regiment during July and August 1798.
            Looking at accounts of the battle I can find no other references to Fawkes presence. Nelson had been watching the French fleet since April and prior to eventually discovering their fleet in Aboukir Bay had been constantly at sea searching. The puzzling thing is how did Col. Fawkes come to be at the battle at the beginning of August? Why was he there? How did he travel? How did he find Nelson? Which ship was he in?
            It was such a significant victory applauded by the nation as a whole one would think that Col. Fawkes would have provided greater detail of this amazing experience, not just a detailed account of the colours ships of both sides were painted.
            Have any historians of the period any suggestions please?

            Sam Willis

              For those interested, the articles are here




              Does anyone know where those sketches that Louis Paul wrote about now are? It would be excellent to get images of them.


              Malcolm Lewis

                In Peter Goodwin’s article regarding “The application and scheme of paintworks of the British Men of War in the 18th century” he refers to the book ‘The Ship of the Line – a history in ship models – 2014’ by Brian Lavery. I obtained a copy from my local library and so enjoyed the contents with its wonderful reproductions of beautiful ship models, mainly from the NMM collection, that I had to have a copy of my own. It is a most useful history of ship design and the purpose of models in ship construction. Seemingly what we know as “Board Models” were not used by shipwrights but were probably made as gifts
                to influence members of the Establishment and encourage their support for the Royal Navy, such as Samuel Pepys. More likely the practical workaday “Block Models” were produced quickly in the ship yards from designer’s draughts. They were of “Bread and Butter” construction where the shape is formed horizontally rather than vertically as in Navy Board models. The block models were sent to the Navy Board office for approval but even these fell out of use by the mid-18th century as the drawn plans of ships became more accurate and trusted by the dockyards plus the need for urgency to meet the pressing demands of the Navy for building more ships.
                As the Board Models were more for display and decoration Lavery says “If we discount the theory that they were made for consideration of the design, we are left with the conclusion they were purely decorative. Indeed, it is necessary to consider they were made for the Navy Board at all”” The colours of their paintwork are probably no indication of those used in actual service. Certainly the fine Board Models took a great deal of time to produce. The model of the fourth Victory L.1737 took four years to make. She foundered in a gale in 1744 with the loss of eleven hundred men – probably due to poor design.

                Malcolm Lewis

                  Re my post of 3 September I have had contact with a descendant of Col Walter Fawkes namely Guy Fawkes (yes, true!) who is the present owner of Farnley Hall near Otley in Yorkshire. He has kindly searched what are left of family records of Walter Fawkes but can find no reference to his being present at the Battle of the Nile. It seems that most of the family records of the time were destroyed after Walter’s death so sadly it seems the quest ends here.
                  Farnley Hall does open to the public for conducted tours which include a collection of Turner’s paintings mainly of the Yorkshire Dales.

                  Gary Morgan

                    In resurrecting this post I was wondering if anyone has had sight of further particulars as to the nature of the research undertaken in establishing Victory’s new colours that they could share.


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