Britain's most iconic warship is rotting away and needs a multi-million-pound repair to save her.
Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, is leaking and is being gradually pulled apart at the seams by her own weight, according to maintenance documents and a structural survey undertaken by the Ministry of Defence.
The report, branded 'shocking' by Alistair Thompson, the Portsmouth councillor who led a bid to save her being sold off, shows her woeful condition for the first time.
Cllr Thompson said: 'As it was explained to me, where normally there would be water around the hull of the ship and the weight of it would keep the hull together, that isn't there and she is clearly starting to pull apart.
'There are very serious problems that need to be resolved, but given the age and the importance of the ship, it's going to be very expensive.
'We know from the Warrior, when they replaced the teak deck, that cost 1m. The repairs to Victory will have to be done very sensitively, so I believe it will be many times that figure.
'HMS Victory must be saved.'
The main problems rest in the 245-year-old ship's knee joints, the brackets that hold the sides of the ship to beams.
In some cases they are 10cm away from the sides of the ship – and the gap is growing.
Historical documents also reveal that during past restoration work, some bolts used to hold the knees in place only go into the ship's wooden inner skin, not to the planks that hold the sides in place.
Another report reveals that rainwater is getting into the vessel, leading to extensive woodrot, including the cabin used by Captain Hardy.
It states: 'Very little work has been requested and approved to alleviate this.'
There is some doubt over how the future of HMS Victory will be funded, as the MoD currently meets its 1.5m annual maintenance budget, but cannot continue to do so because of swingeing defence cuts.
But the department has vowed not to sell the vessel, which is a major tourist attraction at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
A spokeswoman said: 'HMS Victory is the oldest commissioned warship in the world and there is an ongoing programme of repair and investment to ensure that this iconic vessel is preserved for future generations.
'We are currently considering a number of options for how she will be funded in the future, but there are no plans for her to be sold and she will remain a commissioned warship.'