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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425

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Books for Adults - Nonfiction

Cover Art: HMS Victory
        -- First Rate 1765
HMS Victory: First Rate 1765
By Jonathan Eastland and Iain Ballantyne
Seaforth, 2018, ISBN 978-1-84832-094-9, £14.99 / US $33.25

The first Victory was an Elizabethan merchant ship that was transformed into a race-built galleon. Over the years, a total of seven have borne the name, but it is the last that is most remembered and remains “the oldest warship still in commission in any navy.” (10) This stately lady participated in several notable sea battles, including Trafalgar, and witnessed the death of many, particularly that of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson. Her keel was laid in July 1759; it took the oak from 6,000 trees to build her (10-15% of which remains original to this day); and her hull cost £63,176 when completed in April 1765. She spent the next thirteen years in Ordinary, waiting for the day when the Royal Navy would need her. That day arrived in 1778, the same year in which she first fired on the enemy (the French) at Ushant in the English Channel.

Reminiscent of coffee table books of yore, HMS Victory is a fascinating, “you-are-there” guide that explores this legendary warship deck by deck from bow to stern and keel to masthead. Your journey begins the moment you open the cover, inside of which is a labeled diagram of her different decks from poop to hold. A wealth of fabulous color photographs enrich your tour and illustrate every page from the front endpaper to the resource list.

The book is divided into two sections. The first is a narrative summary of her history which opens with a fascinating comparison between Victory, the most technologically advanced warship of her day, and today’s HMS Daring, a destroyer that can attack an enemy from sixty miles away. The next twenty-two pages discuss:

The Line of Battle
With a Heart of Oak
Off to War
Trafalgar: The Battle and After
The Immortal Ship
Subsequent pages, 96 in all, are devoted to splendid color photographs of the ship, accompanied by explanatory captions and brief summaries of Victory. This portion of the book explores:
The Hull (including special segments on Ship’s Carving and Anchors)
The Lower Deck (including special segments on Capstans and Guns)
The Orlop Deck and Hold
The Middle Deck (including special segments on Feeding the Navy, In the Heat of Battle, and Gun Tackle & Equipment)
The Upper Deck (including a special segment on Gunports)
The Quarterdeck, Waist, Forecastle and Poop (including special segments on Ship’s Boats and Flags & Signals)
The Masts and Rigging
Legacy and Restoration
Throughout the book, the authors explain the nautical lingo whenever it appears, so readers easily understand what’s being discussed. Measurements are given in feet and inches, as well as meters. Even though the text summarizes, rather than explaining in great detail, it contains a host of wonderful details and historic tidbits to please mariner and layperson alike. The bibliography lists published works, archival resources, and websites, but a number of the latter – including the one given in the picture credits – are no longer viable.

First published in 2011, this entry in Seaforth’s Historic Ships series remains a vital resource and a wonderful tour of HMS Victory. This reprinting allows new readers to explore, learn about, and understand how important she was and is to maritime and naval history.  Whether you’ve had the pleasure of visiting this grand lady and want reminders of what you saw, or just want to experience what she must have been like when her officers and crew walked her decks, HMS Victory: First Rate 1765 is a worthy treasure without a significant monetary sacrifice. It is a book you will savor and enjoy for years to come.

Meet Iain Ballantyne

Review Copyrighted ©2018 Cindy Vallar



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