Portsmouth’s HMS Victory needed 600-man team just to crew guns

A view looking forward along the length of HMS Victory's port lower gun deck. Photo: Jonathan Eastland/Ajax
A view looking forward along the length of HMS Victory's port lower gun deck. Photo: Jonathan Eastland/Ajax
Dick Dimon, from Doncaster, who was an able seaman leading torpedo operator in HMS Delight, laying a wreath at the war memorial on Southsea Common at the first reunion of the survivors of the ship.

THIS WEEK IN 1978: Delight survivors meet after 38 years

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Did you know that at the battle of Trafalgar, HMS Victory boasted 104 guns and that an astonishing 623 men were needed to man them?

In addition to these gun crews, more than 100 other men and boys, who took no part in the firing of these weapons, were needed to keep them armed.

HMS VICTORY (JW) MRW  6/9/2012 '//PETERSFIELD//''Michael Prior (78) of Horndean, a retired Lieutenant who was once based on HMS Victory has written a booklet entitled 'The Great Guns of HMS Victory' ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (128023-4729) ENGPPP00320120709002051

HMS VICTORY (JW) MRW 6/9/2012 '//PETERSFIELD//''Michael Prior (78) of Horndean, a retired Lieutenant who was once based on HMS Victory has written a booklet entitled 'The Great Guns of HMS Victory' ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (128023-4729) ENGPPP00320120709002051

These are just two snippets from a recently-published booklet which contains a wealth of information about the armaments on Nelson’s flagship.

The Great Guns of HMS Victory has been written by Michael Prior, from Horndean, a retired naval officer who spent six years as second-in-command in the ship.

If you’ve ever wondered how her guns always sparkle, the booklet goes on to explain how the paint was made and applied to make them shine like ebony.

It also describes the way the guns were operated when gun crew members were injured or killed.

The Great Guns of HMS Victory by Michael Prior, is published by Chain-Shot Books at £3.99. It’s available from the One Tree Books, bookshop, Petersfield, or from Chain-Shot Books at 136 Hazleton Way, Horndean, PO8 9DP, for £4.20 which includes postage and packing. E-mail chainshotbooks@yahoo.co.uk.

And as for those shiny guns, here’s how they did it: Take a quarter of a pound of iron rust and mix it with eight pints of vinegar. Leave to stand for a week.

Add 1lb lamp black, three-quarters of a pound of copperas (iron sulphate) and stir regularly for two or three days.

Apply to the barrel using a sponge in five or six coats. Polish with a woollen rag and linseed oil.