Bakers Head To Victory

A press gang was not required to recruit a crew of Baker’s Company liverymen and their guests to join up and journey south for a tour and dinner on board Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory. For the 20-strong group, led by The Master Colin Reece QC it proved to be an evening to remember on the world’s oldest naval vessel still in commission.

The event was held to recognise the long and fruitful relationship the Company has had with the London University Royal Naval Unit and the generous support it has given over many years to the Senior Service.

Members of the immaculately turned out Unit were led by its new Commanding Officer Lieutenant Stephen Dodds, who had only been in the job for two weeks!

The evening began as dusk fell over Portsmouth’s famous dockyard with an atmospheric tour of Victory, her low-height decks soberly illuminated by swinging lanterns. A member of the ship’s company provided a myriad of facts about the ship and fascinating gory details about life and death on board the 104 gun vessel he described as a killing machine.

After hearing how phrases such as slush fund, nipper, rub salt in the wounds and let the cat out of the bag were all terms that have their origins in the navy of late 18th and early 19th centuries, the tour ended on the orlop deck.

It was to the cockpit here that Admiral Nelson, after having been shot, was carried. He spent three hours in great pain as the battle was fought around him before dying. Being a poor sailor who constantly suffered from seasickness it was his express wish that he was not buried at sea so his body was placed in a cask of brandy and transported home for a state funeral at St Pauls Cathedral.

Today Victory has a dual role as the Flagship of the First Sea Lord and a living museum to the wooden world of the Georgian Navy.  The evening in what can only be described as being held in truly historic surroundings, concluded with dinner and a passing of the port in the Senior Rates Mess.

A splendid occasion!