HMS Victory

Mick Manise


A ship found by divers in the English Channel has been identified as HMS Victory. The ship, the fourth of six HMS Victories, sank with its 1,150 sailors in October 1744 around The Casquets, a group of rocks off the Channel Islands. Among other valuable artifacts, it is thought to contain 100,000 gold coins. After months of secrecy, the US company Odyssey Marine Exploration is expected to confirm on Monday that the ship, codenamed "Legend" found in the area in May last year is in fact HMS Victory . The announcement at a press conference at Canary Wharf in London is set to open a row over the contents of the ship, which is thought to be lying in international waters. Because it is a military wreck, the ship is protected by ´sovereign immunity´ and belongs to the state.


It is thought that the salvage company struck a deal with the Government over a $500million (£346million) haul recovered from the wreck of the 17th-century HMS Sussex in the Strait of Gibraltar in 2007. The issue infuriated the Spanish government, which suspected the treasure - 500,000 gold and silver coins - had been taken from Spanish waters without permission. If the British Government arranges a similar agreement over the Victory, it could be in breach of a UN convention on nautical archaeology, which aims to preserve underwater heritage. Britain will soon be a signatory to the convention and has agreed to abide by it in the meantime.


A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence was reported to have told a newspaper that the Government would ´negotiate ´with the company. A spokesman would only say that ´no intrusive action may be taken without the express consent of the United Kingdom´. Odyssey has raised at least 16 brass cannon from the wreck. Experts estimate the ship's 100 guns would now be worth between £10,000 and £20,000. It is also thought to be searching for the ship's gold coins.


PS The 5th HMS Victory is the most famous ship in the history of the Royal Navy. It is best known as Horatio Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. Today Victory is docked at Portsmouth and as flagship of the Second Sea Lord and Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command is the oldest commissioned warship in the world.