The oldest warship in commission in the navy, Victory
serves as flagship to the commander-in-chief, Naval Home Command. She was designed as a 100-gun ship by Sir Thomas Slade in 1759. Her 150-foot keel was laid that July, but she was not launched until 1765 and only first commissioned in 1778 during the American War of Independence
. Though a three-decker of over 2,000 tons with a complement of 850, Victory
sailed as well as a two-decker, and her endurance and longevity can be attributed to the six years between laying down and launching, which critically seasoned her timbers. She was the fifth ship of the name in the navy, wearing the flags of Keppel, Kempenfelt, and Lord Howe
hoisted his on 30 July 1803. As his flagship at Trafalgar
was severely damaged, but had further spells of service before being hulked at Portsmouth in 1824. In the 1920s she was dry-docked, and by the bicentenary of Trafalgar in 2005 it is expected she will have been returned to her state on the eve of the battle in every particular.
David Denis Aldridge