This large but frag­ile arte­fact from lord nel­son’s iconic ship and bat­tle is now on dis­play in portsmouth

History of War - - MUSEUMS & EVENTS -

Although it has not been seen for six years, Portsmouth His­toric Dock­yard is dis­play­ing the ‘Trafal­gar Sail’ for a lim­ited pe­riod. Mea­sur­ing 24 me­tres (79 feet) at the foot, 16 me­tres (52 feet) at the head and cov­er­ing an area of 1,102 me­tres (3,615 feet), this iconic sail is the only sur­viv­ing fore-top­sail from HMS Vic­tory and was used at the Bat­tle of Trafal­gar in 1805.

Such is the sail’s size that it cov­ers the equiv­a­lent of two ten­nis courts when it is fully laid out and is pock­marked with 90 shot holes. It has had a che­quered dis­play his­tory over the last 200 years and is in a very del­i­cate con­di­tion. Now tem­po­rar­ily dis­played at Portsmouth His­toric Dock­yard, the sail is laid flat and ac­com­pa­nied by a short au­dio and light­ing pre­sen­ta­tion fea­tur­ing footage from the Os­car-win­ning film Master And Com­man­der: The Far Side Of The World.

Matthew Shel­don, di­rec­tor of her­itage at the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Royal Navy, says, “HMS Vic­tory, Nel­son and the Bat­tle of Trafal­gar are key to our his­tory. The sail is an amaz­ing ob­ject, scarred by bat­tle and, like HMS Vic­tory her­self, a proud sur­vivor of an iconic bat­tle. But it is also a vast, hand­made ob­ject from Ge­or­gian times that re­quired great knowl­edge and skill to cre­ate it. See­ing it is a real treat.” Com­mis­sioned in 1778, HMS Vic­tory is still on ac­tive ser­vice as the old­est com­mis­sioned war­ship in the world. It is pre­served in a dry dock at Portsmouth His­toric Dock­yard

Se­nior con­ser­va­tor Diana Mccor­mack makes fi­nal checks on the Trafal­gar Sail be­fore it goes on dis­play

The Trafal­gar Sail is ac­com­pa­nied by au­dio and vis­ual footage from ‘Master And Com­man­der’. Ac­tor Rus­sell Crowe vis­ited HMS Vic­tory as part of his re­search for the film, set dur­ing the Napoleonic Wars

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