Historic paint traces may reveal the true colours of Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory

HMS Victory
HMS Victory
Lord General Richard Dannatt

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LORD Nelson’s flagship could be repainted if the discovery of a different ochre hue on some of HMS Victory’s original timbers proves accurate.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy, which owns the still-commissioned warship, has embarked on a project to find out as much about the ship as possible.

As part of the investigation, they called in experts from the University of Lincoln to examine the ship’s paint.

Now the analysis of a section of foremast from the Battle of Trafalgar may have revealed the famous bumblebee stripes are actually a paler colour than their current vivid shade.

Experts from the museum, which is based in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard, say it is too early to tell if they have indeed found a more accurate hue.

But if it is found to be the true colour of HMS Victory, she may be repainted.

Andrew Baines, the project director for HMS Victory, said: ‘We think we have found on a fragment of foremast a match for the specific ochre and it is a different hue to the orange we have now.

‘It is very early days and we have lots to do before we can be certain, for example we need to make sure the mast is definitely from HMS Victory, and we need to make sure they didn’t paint the mast a different colour to the rest of the hull.

‘When we change it, we want to know this is right, so we want more evidence before we change it.

‘Everyone accepts the colour at the moment is not as accurate as it might be, but we want to make sure it’s correct.

‘There is a model of HMS Victory on mantelpieces around the world, and I would hate to make people repaint it twice.’

HMS Victory has been painted in her current colours for hundreds of years, although time may have varied the hues slightly. Elsewhere on the ship, it is thought the gun deck – currently painted white – could have actually been a duck egg blue.

Historians are now working to discover the most accurate colours in which to paint the ship to display her as she was at the time of her service.

That includes working out whether the newly-discovered paint layers were permanent or just temporary.

Examining the colours of the timbers in some parts involved analysing 72 layers of paint, in a process likened to looking at the rings of a tree.