The sheer scale of the restoration about to begin on HMS Victory is staggering. The work will take 10 years, and involve the temporary removal of the upper sections of all three masts, 26 miles of rigging, more than 700 wooden blocks and a lot more beside.
It is a huge project that will cost £20m to complete – and every penny of that will be well spent. It’s a far cry from three years ago, when the Government appeared ready to palm off Nelson’s famous flagship – and the costs she incurs.
There was understandable public consternation that the ship could pass out of the ownership of the nation, and the Ministry of Defence should be commended for committing itself to the preservation and improvement of the historic vessel.
For the Victory is no ordinary ship. She is of course a major tourist attraction that generates huge sums of money for the area’s economy each year.
She is an integral part of the Historic Dockyard that is one of the south’s biggest visitor attractions (and it is good to note that, despite the extensive work to be carried out, she will remain open to the public throughout).
She is a living link with a bygone maritime age in which sea power was the key to Britain forging her strong standing in the world community.
She is a testament to the bravery and professionalism of the many men – and some women and boys – who served in her.
But more than any of those, she is an embodiment of that which is great about our country.
Visitors from America, the Far East, and, dare we say, even France, stand in awe because she is like nothing they have at home.
She was built here by craftsmen whose skills are legend. She served as flagship to Admiral Lord Nelson, perhaps the greatest hero this island race has ever produced. For many, she carries the very soul of this nation.
She must be preserved for future generations and, although £20m is a sizeable chunk of public money, we say that it will be well spent on ensuring that the ship, now approaching 250 years of age, is fully protected against the ravages of time.