HMS Victory – An Audio Tour Part 3: The Weather Deck and Visitor Book

October 2022

This is Part 3 of a three-part special audio tour of HMS Victory, Horatio Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and a First Rate ship of the line which, by 1805, had already acquired a significant history. This, the final episode, looks at everything open to the elements – the weather deck, quarter deck, poop deck and forecastle and includes a look through HMS Victory’s remarkable visitor book, signed by dignitaries for generations, including the late Queen Elizabeth, her mother and her sister. The first episode explored the lowest two decks, the hold and the orlop deck, both below waterline; and the second episode looked at the gun decks where the sailors lived and fought Victory’s 104 guns. Dr Sam Willis was taken on a tour of Victory by Tony Noon, one of HMS Victory’s tour guides, and by Rosey Thornber, Principal Heritage Advisor for HMS Victory.

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    Sam Willis
    From the Society for Nautical Research in partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation, I’m Sam Willis. And this is the Mariners Mirror podcast, the world’s number one podcast dedicated to all of maritime history. Hello everyone and welcome to the Mariners Mirror podcast. And to this the third and final episode in our audio tour of HMS Victory. Episode One was on the decks below the waterline, the hold and the orlop deck. Episode Two was on HMS Victory’s three gun decks, and today the final episode is on everything else, the bits exposed to the elements, the forecastle, weather deck, quarter deck, poop deck and rigging. If you haven’t listened to those previous episodes I’d urge you to do so first to get a little background on this magnificent mid 18th century first rate ship of the line. After our tour I was also lucky enough to be taken to see HMS Victory’s visitor book where dignitaries of the past have signed their names. It was quite a moment as it came just days after the death of the Queen was announced and we were able to look at the numerous occasions that she signed the book, both as a princess and as a queen. I’m joined on my tour by one of HMS Victory’s excellent tour guides, Tony Noon, and also by Rosey Thornber, the principal heritage adviser for HMS Victory. As ever, I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I enjoyed talking with them. So join us on board. We’ve just walked up the gangway from Victory’s upper gun deck into the light of the quarter deck. We’ll start start with the cabins again, going back to the stern of the ship.

    Tony Noon
    So on our left, we’ve got John Scott’s sleeping cabin, so the Secretary, and on our right the smaller cabin is the sailing Master’s. And then we walk into the three cabins that make up Captain Harley’s area, similar to Nelson’s, although a lot lot smaller. And you can see again all the side panels are hinged so they all fold up out the way. And you’ll notice that the windows in here are actually gunports. We have 12 pounders on this deck, they’re at 90 degrees against the side of the ship. So once the ship is clear for action, these guns are then just spun into position; I say just, they’re one and three quarter tons each in their carriages on this deck. And these are 12 pounder so fire a 12 pounds shot. But again, it looks nice. You’ve got the checkerboard floor. So it’s posh for the officers for their entertaining and wining and dining. But it can all be stripped down and cleared down for battle.

    Sam Willis
    Yes, and the key difference, I suppose is from being inside, you can look out and you’re looking onto the weather deck, you’re much part of what’s going on with the sailing of the ship

    Tony Noon
    Exactly. Yes that’s why the captain is here. If he’s needed, he can be called straight out. He doesn’t have to

    Sam Willis
    Let’s pretend we’ve been called out, there’s a crisis on deck.

    Tony Noon
    And you notice we have a lot of headroom, we can both just about stand up here. Whereas Harding, six foot four,

    Sam Willis
    Another tall one, full of monsters

    Tony Noon
    Pretty much

    Sam Willis
    And so the first thing you see when you come out here is this huge wheel.

    Tony Noon
    Yes, so we have the ship’s wheel, it’s looks like two stuck together. With the ropes that go down that we saw in the steerage area below, these ropes go down all the way to the lower gun deck where the tiller arm would be, which then obviously connects to the rudder. Between two and eight men, depending on weather conditions, battle conditions, always one on each side, up to four on each side if it is bad weather. In front of us, we have the binnacle. The binnacle, as you can see, it’s got three glass windows, and you’ve got two compasses in it, and there is a lantern in the middle with a smokestack tube coming out as well. It’s just being repainted at the moment. But that’s where the binnacle is. We have two compasses; if you had a single compass in the middle, because of the width of the wheel, if you had just one compass you’d be looking at it from two different angles. So by having a compass on each side of the binnacle, the men have their own compass to look at on each side of the wheel, so they’re getting a true reading.

    Sam Willis
    Let’s walk out onto the deck. Now as I said before it’s all covered over, we’ll find out a bit more about the conservation. Now the key thing here is that there are no masts, well there’s a bit of a formast and there’s a bit of a mizzen mast. But what we’re missing is the the sheer scale of the rigging. So tell us about the rigging of HMS Victory.

    Tony Noon
    Yes, so obviously the masts are each made in three sections. You have your lower, your top and your topgallant. Then you have your yards and you have your two types of rigging. You have your standing rigging, which is your thick, black heavy tarred stuff. Those are the ones that support your shrouds, the triangular ropes that will come up to brace each mast up, and then your stays which are the ones that run the centerline of the ship fore to aft to help brace the mast. And then you have your running rigging which is obviously everything you need to sail the ship, so they’re the ones to haul your sails, etc. About 26 miles or so of rigging to go back on, miles of rigging to go back on to Victory, it will all go back. But until the new support cradle underneath was finished the masts were lowered because of the weight considerations. And now we have this structure over the top. So the main mast is out completely at the moment, 23 tons of wrought iron, the lower main mast section, that’s just the lower part on its own. And that’s a hollow tube, but those date from 1894; Victory had timber masks originally,

    Tony Noon
    Let’s walk up towards the bow.

    Tony Noon
    So we’re walking down a narrow section on each side of the port and starboard side of the ship. These are called the waists. We’ve got the trestles for the ship’s boats in the middle; there’d be four ship’s boats here, and they’ve got a white canvas. Now we’ve covered the ship with this white canvas around the trestles to help preserve the ship and stop water penetrating the ship lower down. So the white canvas in this whole middle section here wouldn’t have been there. So onto the deck below,

    Tony Noon
    Onto the upper gun deck, you have this large rectangular area which would have been completely open to the elements. Normally it’s just rain and spray dropping in but at Trafalgar it also meant that the grenades being thrown onto us from the Redoutable are also dropping onto the deck below because it’s a large open space.

    Sam Willis
    Oh, we’ve got the funnel here from the stove down below. Yes, it’s very noisy. There’s a lot of stuff going on. That sounds to me like people building scaffolding rather than working on the ship.

    Tony Noon
    We’re just close to finishing the scaffolding, now they’re just starting to put the gable ends on. So we can seal the whole middle section of the ship up completely to get it watertight and as bone dry as possible. So we’re nearly there with it finished.

    Sam Willis
    Now it’s a very noticeably different type of cannon here. What are we looking at? This is right up in the the bow.

    Sam Willis
    What is a carronade?.

    Tony Noon
    A Carronade looks like a very short stubby gun. It’s effectively a very close range high damage weapon; it fires a 68 pounds solid round shot. So twice the size of the 32 pounders, has no real distance or range, it’s just for getting in close. And they nicknamed them spat smashers because you find a sensitive solid part of the enemy hull, you fire the 68 pound ball and it will go through, it will splinter it. And at Trafalgar when they loaded it they put the gunpowder charge in first, then a tub of 500 musket balls.

    Tony Noon
    So here we have a carronade. Victory actually picked her carronades up a month before Trafalgar when she came back to Portsmouth. They put two of the 12 pound guns, one and three quarter tons each, into the rowboats, rowed them up from Spithead to Portsmouth, got rid of them and put two of these two ton Carronades in, and rowed them back to Portsmouth.

    Sam Willis
    Wow.

    Tony Noon
    And then your 68 pound ball. So if you’re on the receiving end, first the 68 pound ball comes through, and if that doesn’t get you and the splinters don’t get you, there’s 500 musket balls following through afterwards.

    Sam Willis
    And again, a clear example of technological innovation where the British were better than the French and the Spanish in terms of their guns, particularly in terms of the carronades.

    Tony Noon
    Carronades are new, Victory only picked hers up the month before Trafalgar. They tried various experimentations on ships over the years, the Royal Navy. They tried equipping a ship mainly with carronades, but the problem is, if you can get in close, you can do huge amounts of damage. But you have to get in close. So all the enemy has to do is pretty much sail in a circle around you out of range of the carronades. So the Navy soon learned that you need a balance between the two, the closed in smashers and the ranged standard guns that you see.

    Sam Willis
    Yes, looking over the edge of the bow say, we’re looking at the cat head, let’s have a closer look at these. So this is a an enormous timber which is sticking out at sort of 45 degrees from the ship’s hull with three very clear shifts for a pulley on that, tell us about this.

    Tony Noon
    So the cat heads work in conjunction with a fish hook which isn’t on at the moment. But that’s another piece of iron that sticks out to the side of the ship. And these are used for helping to bring the anchors up. So once you’ve got the anchor to the sea level, the guys in a boat down there, they would rehook the anchor from the anchor cable onto cables coming through this cat head here. And that’s used to pull it up against the side of the ship. And then about 15 feet further along to our right will be a fish hook which is a large iron hook, which sticks out at about a 60 degree angle at the side of the ship. And that’s the one you then pull the anchor up onto to bring it up and hoist it onto the side of the ship. As I said, with seven anchors, and we can actually see some of the anchors just at the front of the ship on the docks.

    Sam Willis
    Can you describe how big those anchors are.

    Tony Noon
    I don’t know, just the most enormous things.

    Tony Noon
    Yes, from the dock level they’re coming up to the level of the heads of the toilets of the men. And they’re at a 45 degree angle leaning against the side. Yes, it’s four and a half tons, I couldn’t even try and give you a high estimate.

    Tony Noon
    I’m going to try;, I think they’re probably 20 feet.

    Tony Noon
    Something like that at the angle they’re at, Yes.

    Sam Willis
    So enormous things, actually enormous. It makes me wonder how you get the angle to pull them up. So there has to be a rope that’s coming from the end of this cat head going upwards.

    Tony Noon
    Yes, So again you’re rigging everything, the yard arms on ships are incredibly important because you use those for effectively forming cranes, etc.

    Sam Willis
    Oh I see, you just swing around the lowest yard or the foremast.

    Tony Noon
    Yes, and you can then swing it again onto the cat, the fishhook again, but it’s all back breaking work and it’s all by hand. It’s not like the new carriers. You press a button and it comes up.

    Sam Willis
    Or it doesn’t. Right, let’s walk back down aft and see if we can find the spot where Nelson died. Not died, shot..

    Tony Noon
    The bell we’re passing in the belfry here isn’t Victory’s original bell. Victory’s original bell was lost at Trafalgar. That bell is actually from a ship called HMS Africa at Trafalgar, commanded by Captain Henry Digby. She’s the ship that found herself completely out of position at the start of the battle. So instead of being in one of the two lines attacking, she was all on her own, pretty much at the top end of the French and Spanish line. So Nelson signalled for her to come back round to rejoin the line, which would have taken hours and hours sailing against the wind. So Captain Henry Digby decided rather than sail around, he would sail straight down the line of the French and Spanish ships swapping broadsides with them all until he could rejoin the line, so that’s why we have Africa’s bell on here and not Victory’s.

    Sam Willis
    OK. So we’re here we are standing on a very well polished plaque that says ‘here Nelson fell 21st of October 1805′.

    Tony Noon
    So immediately at the top of the stairs when you first step out onto the quarter deck on the visitors’ route you see this plaque down here to your left. The quarter deck is where you command the ship from in battle. Nelson and Hardy are just pacing back and forth along this deck while the battle is going on around them. And we’ve ended up finding ourselves directly alongside the Redoubtable there on our starboard side. From up in the rigging, about 45 feet up or so, a marksman shoots down and Nelson had just turned and was just starting to walk towards the aft of the ship towards the ship’s wheel. And the musket ball came through his shoulder, through his lungs, snapped his spine and lodged in the muscle at the back. The French sailor was a sharpshooter, we say it’s a lucky shot. But because this is where you command the ship from in battle we’re concentrating our fire on to their quarter deck and they’re concentrating their fire onto ours, yes, vice versa sort of thing. You’re aiming for the soft targets effectively, the senior officer ranks, so lucky shot or sharpshooter,. We’re not sharpshooters as we know on ships really at that time, so I go with lucky shot.

    Sam Willis
    So then he was carried down below from here?

    Tony Noon
    Yes, one of the Marines and a couple of sailors took him down, they placed a handkerchief over his face just so that the sailors wouldn’t know who it was being taken down so they wouldn’t be demoralised, although he’s in his undress.

    Sam Willis
    One wonders how much that works.

    Tony Noon
    Yes, lots of gold braid and medals you know, the sewn in gold and silver threads. So it would have been a bit difficult to hide it actually with a napkin or a silk tissue. Just who exactly was going down the sailors would have known.

    Sam Willis
    And then he was taken all the way down to the surgeons.

    Tony Noon
    Yes, back down to the surgeons and the orlop deck there.

    Tony Noon
    The surgeon came to look at him, he knew his back was shot through and the surgeon realised there was nothing they could do and they just tried to make it as comfortable as possible for him. The Reverend Scott was there with him, the Purser was there with him. They fanned him, they gave him sips of lemonade and wine and water and it’s just over three hours. No pain relief really until he actually died. But he did live long enough to find out the battle had been won. Hardy came to see him ‘my Lord, you know we’ve captured so many ships, 17’. Nelson was disappointed because he wanted to capture 20 ships. It’s an important thing to note though; Nelson died about half four, the last shots of the battle were fired about quarter to five or so. Although the battle itself was four and a half hours, you’ve got another two and a half weeks of stuff that goes on, and some of the ships that were involved at Trafalgar including the Duguay Trouin, that was actually captured on the third of November, so although it escaped the battle it was recaptured. You got the large storm for two or three days after the battle, and all these skirmishes and things that happened. So actually, you can consider the extra two and a half, three weeks, up until the third of November to actually be included as part of the Battle of Trafalgar. It’s not just that four and a half hour intense burst.

    Sam Willis
    So we’re looking astern here, we’re looking at the wheel and some splendid fire buckets.

    Tony Noon
    Yes, so fire buckets, GR on them for George Rex. Obviously at the time of the Victory it’s George III. So fire buckets; some would have water in, some would have sand, so water used for firefighting, keeping the guns cool, and sand for spillages. We mentioned John Scott earlier, pretty much in the same spot where Nelson was shot where we’re standing now. Slightly before that John Scott was hit by round shot and it popped him into two halves. Unfortunately, that tends to leave quite a lot of mess. Because he’s in the way, he’s in the command area, the two halves were picked up and they threw the halves over the side. And that leaves a lot of spillage on the deck. So the sand you used to put down onto the decks to absorb some of that. And if you go and see the uniform Nelson was wearing which is up at Greenwich Maritime Museum you’ll see the silk stockings he was wearing as well at that time.Those silk stockings, the bloodstains on those, is actually that of John Scott, it’s not of Nelson, it’s not Nelson’s blood, it’s actually of his aide.

    Sam Willis
    Interesting, let’s walk up onto the onto the poop deck.

    Tony Noon
    So because of the scaffolding construction at the moment the poop deck’s actually out of bounds for the public. As you can see, you’re having to duck to to avoid this scaffolding, and it’s going to be sealed in soon as well. So this is probably one of the last chances for the next four or five years you’ll be able to get up this high

    Tony Noon
    yes, we’ll try our best.

    Sam Willis
    Lucky me, God, I’ll be nearly 50 by the time it’s exposed again; I’ll have to make sure that it’s all done by then please.

    Tony Noon
    So poop deck, poop from the Latin word puppis, the stern of the ship and nothing else from that though the kids love it. It’s also the signalling area, you’d have your halyards going up for the signal flags to go on from here, and at the very stern of the ship here against the taffrail you can also see we’ve got lockers here for the flag lockers. So it’s from here that Pascoe takes his flags to make the signal ‘England expects’; obviously we all know the original message was going to be ‘England confides every man will do his duty’. Pascoe doesn’t have confides in his dictionary, it takes eight flags to spell it, so instead he says, I’ve got confides, expects in the dictionary. So instead of England confides, that’s where we get the message England expects just to save flags,

    Sam Willis
    Two very distinctive lanterns on the stern here. They are quite striking to me because I was in Venice the day before yesterday at the Naval Museum, where they have the stern of a Venetian galley from the 16th century. And it’s remarkably similar, the shape of the lanterns.

    Tony Noon
    Yes, and these also, rather than tallow candles, these burn whale oil, because they’re also your signalling lanterns for at night. So if you’re sailing in a line of battle, he needs to signal the fleet. So they burn a lot brighter using the whale oil. So you actually have three, there’s only two in place at the moment, there would actually be a third as well. And then we have the flagstaff, again, which is out at the moment, but the flag would normally be flying off the flagstaff here. That’s another thing under restoration.

    Sam Willis
    Yes, I mean, it’s extraordinary we’re having so much space above your head, where usually you need to think of these weather decks as being completely three dimensional, and there’s so much above you. And it’s extraordinary having this space here, isn’t it?

    Tony Noon
    It is yes. Normally the boom would come out above us here this side at the back, plus the yards and some of the rigging would come up around the sides to enclose us a bit, but right at this back stern here it is quite open and quite strangely invigorating just to stand up here to see a ship sailing past.

    Sam Willis
    Yes it is; I mean these ships all have lives of their own and Victory is going through a really important part of hers. I tell you what, let’s go and find out from Rosey what the conservation project is. So Rosey, here we are on deck and there is a roof. Tell me why is it important that the ship is protected from the elements while all this work is being undergone?

    Rosey Thornber
    Well, basically, as part of this phase of work, we’re taking off external planking. So we might be making internal pieces of the ship vulnerable to the elements. So this scaffolding is really a very good protection to ensure that those pieces of the ship remain dry and as unaffected as possible.

    Sam Willis
    In terms of the masts, we talked earlier, when we were on the gun decks, about removing the main mast, but we’ve got the lower mast ,the mizzen mast, and the foremost, which are still here and of course the bowsprit, are they staying?

    Rosey Thornber
    They will be coming out over the next phase or so. We took out the main mast for its condition, but also to make sure we could get the roof on over the scaffold for this area. But sure enough, the condition of the foremast and the mizzen mast are found to be equally a little bit precarious. So yes, they will be coming out in order for the conservation works to proceed.

    Sam Willis
    I think pulling that bowsprit out is going to be quite difficult. How is that going to happen?

    Rosey Thornber
    That’s a good question. A lot of planning. It’s sort of attached as far as I understand it to the foremast in some way. I think it’s supported by it. So if the foremast comes out the bowsprit has to come out, but we have photos of it coming out in the 1980s., So it has been done, So there must be a way, a method of doing it.

    Sam Willis
    Yes, I wonder if they left any notes. And so tell us more about this project, how long is it going to last? And what’s it going to involve?

    Rosey Thornber
    So, we’re planning that this particular phase is a four year phase, and it will involve removing as I say, external planking from both the starboard side where we are and the port side opposite. So this bit’s four to five years.

    Sam Willis
    Once that planking is removed what happens; are you conserving the original planking and putting it back or are you replacing the planking?

    Rosey Thornber
    We are replacing the planking I forgot to say because a lot of the planking is from the 1970s to 1990s and it’s made up of layers of different woods, for example, teak and iroko. Now we want to use oak, because Victory was made of oak originally. We can’t get massive bits of oak for each plank now so we will make it in sections glued together as a laminate. So yes, we will be replacing the planks with new oak planks, made up of layers. And we are attempting to correct the fair lines of the ship. So the ship has sort of hogged or sunk to either end while it’s been in the dock from 1922. So the replacement planking from the late 20th century followed the lines of the deck, so now we’re going to try and replace with new planking aligned as it would have been, as Victory should have been basically at the time. So

    Sam Willis
    It was a fantastic project; you said that this phase is four years long. What’s the entire project going to be?

    Rosey Thornber
    It should be roughly about 10 to 12 years, there may be some elongated bits, but we’re aiming for that.

    Sam Willis
    Ten to 12 years.

    Rosey Thornber
    Yes,

    Sam Willis
    Hopefully I’m still around but I can’t wait to come back and see what it’s like. Best of luck to you, and I think it’s fantastic. And really even though the the rigging is down it makes it particularly unique and interesting to come and visit Victory while it’s in this state and while this very important work is being undertaken.

    Rosey Thornber
    Yes,, thanks very much.

    Sam Willis
    So I’ve come now to what was the officers’ wardroom and is now the Chief’s mess and I’m here with Simon who has got something rather special that he’s going to show me; what are we looking at here?

    Simon Willerton
    So we’re looking at the Visitor books for HMS Victory. So every time somebody comes on board for a dinner or a visit, typically VIPs, they sign the Victory’s Visitor book. And the first one we have here is from 2005 on the 21st of October, so the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. And that’s when the Queen dined on board, Queen Elizabeth.

    Sam Willis
    So we’re looking at a double spread here; it says dinner in the great cabin on the 21st of October 2005 attended by Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. And then we have Elizabeth’s splendid signature. I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth’s signature looking very majestic there on the left hand page, and Phillip’s, also quite stylish, not a scrawl, but it’s also quite stylish, very good with his Ps on the right hand side. Now these visitor books are magnificent. How far back do they go?

    Simon Willerton
    As far as I’m aware, they go back to about 1922 when the ship was first put into drydock. Just check on this one actually. So the one I have in front of me goes back to 1923, so it’s right from when the ship was first put into the drydock.

    Sam Willis
    Wow, fantastic. I’d love to have a really good look through here but you’ve gone through and you’ve picked out some choice visitors.

    Simon Willerton
    So we have 26th of July 1938.. We have the Queen Mother, or Queen Elizabeth as she was at the time, and then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.

    Sam Willis
    Ah, so she comes with the daughters. Takes them on a trip down to Portsmouth so that’s also interesting, so that’s the Queen Mum.

    Simon Willerton
    Yes.

    Sam Willis
    And Elizabeth’s signature becomes remarkably like her mother’s signature when she becomes queen

    Simon Willerton
    They are very, very similar. Yes, I noticed that the other day that they were very similar.

    Sam Willis
    The Z, it changes doesn’t it?

    Simon Willerton
    Yes

    Sam Willis
    And Margaret has got very similar handwriting and it makes me suspect they have the same handwriting tutors, think that’s what going on 1938, that’s lovely to see. July the 26th, it doesn’t say why they were there

    Simon Willerton
    We’re not 100% certain, but I think it might have been around the time that the Victory gallery was opened. So they were either there when it was opened, or they visited very soon after.

    Sam Willis
    Interesting, I tell you what, I reckon there’s a chance that some relatives of my good self are in this book. I’ll have to have a hunt through that later. So what are we going to look at next?

    Simon Willerton
    So we also have, of course,we should be able to find Winston Churchill.

    Sam Willis
    Oh Winston Churchill, there he is, Winston Churchill January 1941. Yes. Winston Churchill, and he’s put his job or reason, Prime Minister, which is good, that must be very satisfying. Also more Royals, here we are. So December of that year 1941, we’ve got Elizabeth again. And I wonder who that is ?

    Simon Willerton
    King George I would assume.

    Simon Willerton

    Sam Willis
    King George in 1941; 1944, he’s come back again.

    Simon Willerton
    Here, before trying to find it a bit earlier. I should have marked these.

    Sam Willis
    That’s alright. It’s part of the joys of these wonderful things, l ooking at everyone’s handwriting, then deciphering it and then going ah!

    Simon Willerton
    Anthony Eden

    Sam Willis
    Anthony Eden?

    Sam Willis
    Should be here somewhere.Let’s see if we can spot him. Yes, there he is.

    Sam Willis
    They definitely taught people how to do E’s differently back in the day.

    Sam Willis

    Sam Willis
    His E is almost identical to Queen Elizabeth’s . Foreign Office London.

    Simon Willerton
    That’s my address. Very sensible.

    Sam Willis
    US Naval Forces in Europe, Barry Bingham. It’s always interesting rather than their places to see where they’ve come from, what they’re doing.

    Simon Willerton
    It is rather difficult to read some of the signatures.

    Sam Willis
    it’s ironic, isn’t it? You think actually if people wanted to leave their name they’d make it legible? . Maybe they’d had several ports before they signed it.

    Simon Willerton
    The Crown Prince of Norway.

    Sam Willis
    And Prince of Norway?

    Simon Willerton
    Yes. So he’s in here. That was on the 5th August 1943.

    Sam Willis
    Interesting that they’re still coming here during the war? And I often find this where you find evidence of life going on, more or less as normal. And during the war it’s quite surprising, particularly during the First World War, but here we’ve still got plenty of visits. I wonder if it was on business or pleasure.

    Simon Willerton
    Hopefully a bit of both.

    Sam Willis
    So this is a bit more of a presentational copy. This is the first copy we were looking at, which has kind of calligraphy writing in the centre and then you are invited to sign the title.

    Simon Willerton
    So this is usually used by naval officers, senior naval officers, that come to the ship. So the supersession of the First and Second Sea Lords.

    Sam Willis
    Yes, It’s got a wonderful signature, whoever that is. That’s my favourite signature. That’s beautiful. Who is that?

    Simon Willerton
    Colonel?

    Sam Willis
    Oh, he’s Russian

    Sam Willis
    Or Ukrainian. On the occasion of Colonel General Olexander Ivonisovic Zatinayko First Deputy Defence Minister and Chief of the General Staff Ukraine 1997. Supersession ceremony of the Second Sea Lord and Commander in Chief Naval Home Command Friday, September 1997. Back to His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, that’s May 1997 as well.

    Sam Willis
    Princess Royal signed there, a very, very smooth Anne. I just wanted to have a look at the next one, the next page there. And we’ve got on the occasion of the visit of Admiral Jiang Ling Jong commander of the People’s Liberation Army and Navy July 1996, with a immensely complicated Chinese signature. Oh, here we are, dinner with his Majesty the King of Sweden 1995. It’s fantastic to get this scanned. Commander of the UAE Navy, United Arab Emirates Navy 1996. And similarly, Arabic script at the bottom of that one as well. And Charles, here we go on the occasion of the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales on the 10th of March 1995. Now Prince Michael of Kent, Crown Prince of Tonga, that is interesting. Various Lord Mayors, Lieutenant Commanders, this is where they relinquish their command. So David Harris, has stood down and signed, Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, it’s the good and the great of the world? Have you sneaked your signature in this?

    Simon Willerton
    I don’t think they’d let me, I’d love to be allowed to do it.

    Sam Willis
    Give yourself a page.

    Simon Willerton
    Yes, I would love to.

    Sam Willis
    And then the further back we go through the signature book, they just have signatures ; there’s one there, it doesn’t say who it was or why it was or when it was. So you just have a series of fairly random signatures. Well, actually, there’s a Chief of Naval Staff with the Spanish Navy there as well. So much history gone on in these walls. He realised what a significant location it’s been for entertaining, diplomacy, whatever it might been over the last quarter of a century or more. We’re back to the 80s now, so 40 years at least. Sandy Woodward, change of command, and also Peter Stanford. So that’s 1987, change of command ceremony, the Commander in Chief of Naval Home command. And Anne has been here several times, as has Margaret.

    Simon Willerton
    Yes, they have.

    Sam Willis
    ‘Lunch and visit’ – I wonder what they ate, I want to know more about it though? Do you know it’s quite annoying. It’s a peek into into a moment of history, but it just does need a bit more detail, and the Duke and the Duchess of York in 1986. And we just we got to the beginning here; it says this book for the signatures of distinguished visitors to HMS Victory was presented by Lieutenant Commander CP Abbiss MBE Royal Navy. It was a good idea. Well done, sir. Commanding Officer, sixth of January 1982, to the seventh of January 1986. Who’s our commanding officer at the minute?

    Simon Willerton
    PJ Smith, Lieutenant Commander BJ Smith.

    Sam Willis
    Well, what a wonderful thing. Thank you very much indeed for sharing your work. Thank you all so much for listening. Now, please do make sure that you go and check out the Mariners Mirror podcasts brilliant YouTube channel, where you’ll see some truly fantastic videos that showcase maritime history in a way you’ve never seen before. Most recently, we have a video of an interview from the Lloyd’s Register foundation archives, where we discussed the mysterious case of the SS Waratah, the ship that disappeared, a ship that totally vanished in the early years of the 20th century. It’s a remarkable story, and you can see some of the documentary material that survives relating to her ship plans, equipment surveys, as well as reports into her loss. You’ll also find the remarkable innovative videos we’ve created including some of the world’s most precious ship models filmed with the very latest camera technology; the results are quite mind blowing. This podcast comes from both the Society for Nautical Research and the Lloyd’s Register foundation. So please do check out both of those institutions, the Society for Nautical Research at sn r.org.uk and the history and education centre of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation@hec.lr foundation.org.uk

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