£1m sprinkler system will help preserve the world’s most famous warship for generations
It is the most famous warship in the world and for years reigned supreme on the high seas, terrifying enemy fleets as it hoved into view.
The 250-year-old vessel led the Royal Navy in battles during the Napoleonic Wars, the French Revolution and the American War of Independence.
However, HMS Victory is most famous for being the flagship of Lord Horatio Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar and the ship on which the legendary seaman died in action.
Now this iconic relic of British naval history has protection against future dramas and can continue to inspire awe in visitors for generations to come, thanks to the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS).
The two organisations have worked together to ensure this national treasure, which has presided over key moments in the country’s naval history, does not go up in flames.
Work to create a cutting-edge fire safety system started after a blaze ravaged the historic Cutty Sark in 2007 while it was undergoing conservation work.
The wooden construction of the Victory, and the fact that it is subject to an ongoing programme of maintenance work, puts it at risk.
However, the flow of air through the ship and its traditional gun ports would cause water droplets to be blown away if the usual method of spraying mist was used.
The organisations also had to work together to come up with a design that would sensitively fit into the aesthetics of the ship, and introduce ultra-modern necessity without sacrificing its historic charm and majesty.
Eventually, a bespoke sprinkler system was installed that would release different-sized water droplets on different decks, with the larger, heavier droplets being more resistant to the wind.
The pipework and sprinkler heads were positioned with painstaking care to avoid spoiling the character of the vessel.
The project was managed byBAE Maritime Services, with technical advice being provided by BRE with AMF Systems carrying out the installation.
The total cost of the system, including research, design, development and installation was £1 million.
HFRS Group Manager Dave Smith said: “It is a privilege to work so closely with the Royal Navy and the National Museum – and, of course, the Victory.
“Being from a naval family, I feel a personal affinity with the ship and as a firefighter I am extremely proud to be able to help influence decisions to ensure its future.
“The sprinkler system will complement our firefighting technique should a fire break out.
“We enjoy a close relationship with the The NMRN and the Royal Navy, and this gives us the opportunity to affect fire safety on vessels ranging from the Victory to its modern-day equivalents, such as the destroyers.”
Group Manager Smith added that countries from across Europe and beyond have contacted the service to seek advice or ask about the its pioneering work in this field.
He said: “We are seen as a leading light. Our work in the field of maritime fire safety really helps put Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service on the map.”
Head of Historic Ships at The National Museum of the Royal Navy, Andrew Baines, said: “The idea to provide this kind of specialised fire protection started after the fire on the Cutty Sark.
“It cannot be put into words how important the Victory is; it is truly iconic. It is an overused word but in this case it is true.
“It is a sole survivor from a bygone era of sailing, made by the hand of man.
“Every pipe, head and bracket had to be signed off to ensure it didn’t look out of place.
“The best I can say about the fire protection system is that I don’t notice it – which is the most important thing.
“I sleep easier in my bed knowing this system has been installed. The Victory came to us having survived for centuries. It is our job to ensure it lasts for another 250 years plus.”
For more information, go to www.hantsfire.gov.uk