- Jarrett, Hugh
- 19th century wars, Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2002 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The Baltic Fleet
After her Battle of Trafalgar damage was repaired, Victory was placed in Reserve until 1808 when Russia and Sweden had allied themselves with Napoleon against England. Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez hoisted his flag in Victory and took command of the Baltic Fleet, but before Victory could join the Baltic fleet she was rushed to Spain, where she made a daring passage through dangerous channels, without a pilot, to rescue a Spanish army. Due to this delay, Victory missed the only action against the Russian fleet; but she was in time to silence a shore battery at Port Baltic before bad weather caused the fleet to haul away into the open sea.
When the winter iced up the Baltic, campaigning in the area ceased, so in December 1808 and January 1809 Victory was off to Spain once more to assist in the evacuation of Sir John Moore’s army from Corunna. In May she was off north again and her Marine detachment took part in the storming of the Anholt batteries and the capture of the island.
In June Victory was off Revel using a printing press to churn out news-sheets and pamphlets for distribution on shore to counter Napoleon’s propaganda.
Attempts to lure the Russian fleet out from Kronstadt to fight failed and the only sea-fighting occurred between ships’ boats and Russian or Danish gunboats and privateers.
When Napoleon forced Sweden to close her ports to British ships and declare war on Britain, Admiral Saumarez arranged with the Swedes not to fight them as they had no quarrel with each other. This agreement was honoured by both sides and that part of the war was bloodless. Nevertheless, convoys had to pass both ways through the Belt in the face of Danish attacks. In this area Saumarez was so successful that the enemy’s efforts to interrupt British trade failed completely.
Victory was back in Home waters early in December 1810. In Portugal Wellesley was wintering in the lines of Torres Vedras and the Peninsula War was deadlocked. The first side to be resupplied and receive reinforcements would be able to take the offensive in 1811. So March found Victory taking troops to Lisbon as part of the convoy which tipped the scales in favour of Wellesley. It was to be her last southern voyage. In the summer of 1811, Victory was back with convoys, fighting them through the Belt, and her boats were busy fighting gun-boats and capturing privateers.
The Danes set a trap in September, mounting a powerful battery carefully concealed on an island, with two privateers as ‘bait’. On 20th September 1811, Lieutenant St. Clair, commanding Victory’s boats guessed the strategy, ignored the ‘bait’ and attacked the battery and carried it by storm. This was the last action by men from Victory.
‘History- of Ships’ – New English Library.
‘The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1805’ by Alfred Thayer Mahan.
‘A Portrait of Lord Nelson’ by Oliver Warner.
‘The Encyclopaedia Britannica’.