HMS Victory Commanding Officer Visits USS Constitution

Story Number: NNS071121-09Release Date: 11/21/2007 12:41:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Clay Weis, USS Constitution Public Affairs

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (NNS) -- The commanding officer of the oldest commissioned warship in the world, HMS Victory, joined the captain and crew of USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat, for three days in the Charlestown Navy Yard in what might be a history-making visit Nov. 5-7.

"We've done a bit of research, and I think I'm the first [commanding officer] that's come to USS Constitution," said Royal Navy Lt. Cdr. John Scivier, who toured the local facilities with Cmdr. William A. Bullard III, "Old Ironsides" commanding officer.

Bullard called the wooden American frigate and the British ship of the line "the most important warships in Western history, if not history itself."

HMS Victory was commissioned in 1765, fought in the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic wars, serving as Lord Nelson's flagship at the decisive Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and now resides in permanent drydock in Portsmouth, England, where she is visited by 350,000 visitors annually.

Constitution was commissioned in 1797, fought in the Quasi-War with France, the Barbary Wars, and the War of 1812. Nearly half a million tourists visit her yearly, and she typically sets sail twice every summer.

"There's a lot of synergy, but also a lot of differences in the way that the Americans and the British both promote," observed Scivier. "Constitution is very much a working ship - and looks it - but to teach history, you need to show people more what it was like. Conversely, on HMS Victory, we need to look at ways in which we can show people how [Victory] worked."

Bullard echoed Scivier's enthusiasm, saying, "I've got a boatload of ideas on how I can better utilize naval heritage in my mission of reaching out to my country and my Navy."

Tours of the ship, the USS Constitution Museum and Constitution's maintenance and repair facilities gave Scivier an opportunity to grasp the public and private sides of Constitution's daily life, but it was his address to the crew of "Old Ironsides" that made an immediate impact.

Scivier's in-depth training on the key structural, historical and practical characteristics of Victory woke a desire in Constitution's Sailors to visit the ship across the sea.

Constitution crew member Damage Control Fireman Chris Richardson said the differences between the ships, such as Victory's seven decks to Constitution's four, were the main motivators.

"It made me really want to go visit HMS Victory even more so than I wanted to before," Richardson said. "Seeing their shipyard and their setup is the big thing."

Although Richardson and the rest of Constitution's current crew may have to travel to Portsmouth on their own to visit Victory, both commanders would love to arrange an exchange program between the two ships.

"Hopefully, as a result of what goes on this time, every two years we can get [commanding officers] cross-decking, and it's not just about COs. It's about the lowest Sailor right up through the command," Scivier predicted.

Whether they're British Sailors visiting Charlestown or U.S. Sailors crossing the Atlantic, either group should recognize the similarities in both commands' missions. Constitution crew members strive to preserve, protect and promote the ship, and Scivier said Victory shares the same goals.

"We say 'protect the past, promote the present; embrace the future.' We're taking what's gone on before to what's going on now to what's going to happen in the future, and trying to instill that not just in the public, but in the Sailors we've got running through," he explained.

Although Constitution and Victory never went yardarm-to-yardarm, which Bullard notes was lucky for "Old Ironsides," they did come within sight of each other off the northern coast of Africa in the early 19th century. Lord Horatio Nelson, then aboard Victory, is credited with saying "[I see] in the handling of those trans-Atlantic ships a nucleus of trouble for the navy of Great Britain."

In addition to a mutual respect between commanding officers, Constitution and Victory share several other historic connections: Constitution launched Oct. 21, 1797, which was eight years to the day before the Battle of Trafalgar, and Capt. John "Mad Jack" Percival served aboard Victory under Lord John Jervis before commanding Constitution from 1844-1846.

For more news from USS Constitution, visit

Seventy Medal of Honor Recipients gets underway aboard USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned ship afloat, for a Medal of Honor flag presentation in Boston Harbor.
Official U.S. Navy file photo of USS Constitution.
October 5, 2006
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