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Captain of HMS Victory in 1818

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:49 pm
by neophyte
Hello, I am new to this forum so apologies in advance if I do something wrong.

I am an antique glass dealer and am in possession of two early 19th century drinking glasses (rummers) that display an engraved (named) representation of HMS Victory, the date July 1 1818 and the letters "ML". My understanding is that HMS Victory had been recommissioned as a ship of the line at this time but I can find no record of her officers or crew after 1812. My belief is that the date and initials may relate to the appointment of the aforesaid ML as captain or senior officer of the Victory at the date in question. If anybody on the forum could give me a clue as to how I might find out the ship's muster at this time I would very much appreciate it.

Best wishes, Neil

Re: Captain of HMS Victory in 1818

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 3:08 am
by Navclio
According to Rif Winfield, British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates (London: Chatham Publishing, 2005), p. 3, which includes operational careers of ships after 1817 if they were in the navy in 1817, Victory was in ordinary from 1813 to 1823, undergoing a "large repair" from March 1814 to January 1816. Ships in ordinary did not have captains; they had three "standing" warrant officers: a boatswain, a gunner, and a carpenter. These men were nominally responsible for overseeing the maintenance of the hull and what little rigging a ship in ordinary would have, but my understanding is that their appointments were sinecures in lieu of retirement pensions and they only rarely visited their ships. I think each ship in ordinary might have had a few seamen assigned, also, perhaps to sound the well daily and pump out the bilges from time to time, or signal the need for assistance to do that when necessary, but I am not sure of that. It might be that "the ordinary" in general had some seamen who berthed on one accommodation ship and assisted the various standing officers on their rare inspections.

It would seem, therefore, that the glasses were inscribed for use on some special occasion, perhaps a reunion of former officers, that occurred on July 1, 1818, but did not have anything to do with a commissioning or appointment of a captain.

Re: Captain of HMS Victory in 1818

Posted: Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:44 am
by Cy
To confirm that Victory was not in commission in 1818, the captain's log records cease on 18th Dec 1812 and do not restart on 2nd Feb 1824.

Re: Captain of HMS Victory in 1818

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 1:25 am
by Navclio
The fact that there two glasses with the letters ML indicates that each attendee on July 1, 1818 did not get one with his initials. ML = 1050 doesn't make any sense. I did not see a captain of Victory in Winfield with the initials "M.L.", either. However, when Victory was a flagship, Winfield sometimes provides only the name of the admiral, not also the name of the captain. I took a flyer on Google to try to find a list of Victory's captains but nothing came up. Neophyte, I think you are going to have to contact the current commanding officer (a lieutenant commander, probably not in line for promotion to commander, filling out some time to qualify for a pension) and ask him for a complete list of captains—or visit the ship in Portsmouth and ask for one there. I am sure they have one.

If the glasses were made for some kind of event in memory of or commemorating a former officer of Victory, it need not have been the commanding officer. I can't think of any notable event in the ship's history whose initials would be "ML." (E.g., "AB" could be "Aboukir Bay" = the Battle of the Nile, CT could be "Cape Trafalgar," etc.; but what would "ML" be?)

It's also possible that "ML" was the host for some commemoration or other event held on July 1, 1818, and the initials are his. Maybe he had a bunch made and these were left over after a couple of the invited guests failed to appear.

The fact that there is a representation of the ship also engraved into the glass indicates that the glasses were made for some event related to the ship. Neophyte, do the glasses actually have the words "H.M.S. Victory" with the representation of a ship, or are you assuming that it's Victory because that's the most famous sailing warship or the only one you know about?

Re: Captain of HMS Victory in 1818

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 10:54 am
by neophyte
Hello, thank you all for the replies. Most helpful. Some web sites have stated that Victory was recommissioned as a first rate ship in the period within which 1818 sits but I am sure you are right that it was In Ordinary at the time.

The engraving of the ship actually has "Victory" inscribed on the stern. I cannot see how to attach images of the engraving on this post or would otherwise do so. Three masted ships of the line are not uncommon on glasses of the period but are usually unnamed.

Best wishes

Re: Captain of HMS Victory in 1818

Posted: Mon Feb 11, 2019 11:26 am
by Cy
If by
Some web sites
you mean Wikipedia and their assertion that "Active service was resumed from February 1817 when she was relisted as a first-rate carrying 104 guns", then that is plain wrong.

In February 1817 the Victory was re-rated as a 1st rate by having her nominal armament increased from 98 guns (making her a second rate) to 100 guns (by including the 2 68-pounder carronades which were previously excluded from the nominal gun count), but this was part of a wholesale redefinition of the rating system to include carronades generally. See ... ship_rates for full details.

She was not recommissioned at that time.