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‘Victory’ in shipshape

Thanks to Lankan seafarer:

Lord Nelson commissioned his flagship H.M.S. Victory in 1778. Two hundred years later, Captain Shanti Goonewardene, serving as Master of the merchant vessel Lanka Rani purchased the model kit of “Victory” from a model Shop when the ship docked at Liverpool in the U.K.

The miniature replica of H. M. S. Victory

Now completing 49 years as a seafarer with the merchant navy, he has assembled the miniature replica of H.M.S. Victory. “I bought the kit with 13 plans of the ship in Liverpool in 1978”, Capt. Goonewardene said. “For 22 years, the kit lay in a cupboard and I decided to build it. This is an actual scale model done in wood to the scale of 1:98.”

The kit produced by Mantua Models of Italy cost him Sterling Pounds seventy five. It was recommended for the more advanced builder, being a rather advanced and intricate model. Today, this kit is available at U.S. $ 400.

“After taking the plans out of the box, building the ship took eight years because I had been sailing in and out of ships. I finished the last part of the ship, staying at home for ten months. I worked about eight hours a day, four in the morning and four in the afternoon doing the masts and the rigging. It takes about three years to build a model like this, working continuously. It is very intricate work with the inside of the ship too built to scale,” Capt. Goonewardene said.

When Lanka Rani sailed from Liverpool and called at Hamburg in Germany, he showed the vessel’s local agents M/S. Unimar Seetransport GmbH the kit containing the model. “The next day the Management of Unimar presented me with a book titled ‘Fighting Sail’ which was all about the Battle of Trafalgar, the life of Lord Nelson and H.M.S.

Victory.” Later, he downloaded photographs of “Victory” from the internet which helped him in his work of building the model. Capt. Goonewardene said that 18 frames, according to the plans, had to be cut out and slotted onto the Walnut keel to show the decks. “They came in boxwood. Its Norwegian Danish wood, coming with the kit and does not decay.”

Captain Shanti Goonewardene
Pictures by Ruwan de Silva

The first step of assembling the model was to cut out all the frames for which purpose, he had to purchase an electric table model scroll saw. The 13 plans displayed how to build the ship at each step. The final plan showed the rope work and the rigging. “The rope work is exactly how it is in the original vessel, now preserved at Portsmouth in the U.K.,” he said.

Capt. Goonewardene served in the Lanka Rani for a spell of six and a half years with no break. His wife Santi too was on the ship for four and a half years. “It was like our home,” she said. “Ships in that era were like old bungalows.” When a ship was at a port, it usually would be anchored for about three weeks, giving the occupants time to look around. But the modern container vessels arrive at a port in the morning and leave in the evening.

Capt. Goonewardene said that being locked up in a cupboard for 22 years, the wooden parts that had come apart, had to be re-glued.

The intricate interior of H. M. S. Victory

In the years of 2001 and 2002, he was sailing and visited the Australian ports of Adelaid and Fremantle wherein he obtained the necessary tools and high quality glues. “The copper sheet that covered the hull of “Victory” below the water level to protect it from insects was not supplied with the kit. I got the copper sheeting from a ‘bothal kade’ in Maradana. To obtain the riveting effect, I used my wife’s dress making tracing wheel.” Work started on the model in 2000 was completed in September 2008.

“I will never sell ‘Victory’,” says Capt. Goonewardene. “We have no children so it might go to a nephew or to the maritime Museum in Galle.

“If anyone wants to build a model like this, my advice is that you must have all tools. I have a comprehensive collection of model making tools. You can’t borrow them,” he points out.

“The second requirement is you must have a very patient wife. Having lunch at 1500 hrs and dinner at 2300 hrs is not healthy for a person of my age but that was the case.”

What would be his next project? “I have the hull of a ship which I picked up on a ship I was sailing on. It is a modern container vessel. I have no plans on that and will have to improvise and build it in the way I think it should be done”. He used to build model aircraft but due to the present day security situation, he has called it a halt.


The battleship H.M.S. “Victory”, a first rate 104 Gun Ship designed by Sir Thames Slades, a Surveyor of the Navy, became famous during the Battle of Trafalgar when she was commanded by Lord Nelson. The only ship of its class built in 1759-1765 at the Chatham Dockyard for the Royal Navy, she was commissioned in 1778 and was a fearsome fighting machine with almost thirty years of hard service.

As a “first rater”, she commanded the power of 102 cast-iron Cannons ranging from 12 to 32 pounders lining three gun decks, plus two short range Carronades that could fire an immense 68 pound ball. In a single devastating broadside, she could let loose half a ton of Iron shot propelled for more than a mile by 400 pounds of gunpowder.

Even at that extreme range the round shot from a 32 pounder could smash through two feet of solid Oak. Aside from her keel, which was constructed of Elm because it could be obtained in the large size required, the Victory’s Hull was built entirely of Oak.

It took 2,500 prime trees - equivalent to 60 acres of century old forest - to fashion her massive ribs, some two feet thick and her heavy double planking. Her rudder an Oak Blade six feet wide at the base and 38 feet tall was controlled from the double wheel on the quarter-deck by ropes and pulleys connected to a 29 foot tiller on the lower gun deck. Both the rudder and the Hull below the water line were sheathed in Copper as a guard against borers and speed-retarding barnacles.

The tallest of the Victory’s three masts towered 205 feet above the water line. The masts were made of Fir for its flexibility, and were constructed in three sections for ease in maintaining and because no trees were tall enough by themselves. These spires up to three feet thick at the base were secured to the Victory’s Hull by five miles of standard rigging. From their yards could be hung 32 sails - four acres of canvas when she was under full sail. The Victory could plough along at 10 knots in a stiff breeze.

Fair weather or foul, the Victory was a mobile fortress-city stocked with 35 tons of powder and 120 tons of shot, and capable of staying at sea for several months at a time.



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