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Published: March 22, 2021

HMS Victory – Her crew at the Battle of Trafalgar

One of the most common questions we are asked about HMS Victory is how many men served on board and who were they? We’re very fortunate that the muster roll for HMS Victory is held in the library archive at the National Museum of the Royal Navy. From it we know the names all the crew that were serving during the Battle of Trafalgar, with each man on the list being awarded ‘prize money’ for the enemy ships destroyed or captured during the battle. With 820 crew members in addition to Lord Nelson and Captain Hardy, and the percentage of money awarded dependent on their rank, accurate records were a necessity to ensure everyone got a fair cut.

This list also includes men who were killed during battle as their share of the prize money would have been paid to their families. The official documents say that 57 were killed on the Victory, which is the greatest number of fatalities on any of the ships in the British fleet. As you can imagine, for the families of the lower rankings this money could make a huge difference in their ability to survive.

From the muster list we also know where these men originated from, with many visitors to HMS Victory are surprised to learn that the crew was made up of at least 22 different nationalities at Trafalgar. At the time it was very common for the Royal Navy to enlist and to press men from ports all around the world, and there was no need to be British to fight on a British warship.

The table below lists the different nationalities represented among the crew, which shows the great diversity on board just this one ship of the fleet! It is important that we recognise the HMS Victory not just as a piece of English history, but as an artefact of the history of the Royal Navy, and all the men who served on her.

English Maltese Brazilian
Irish Dutch Norwegian
Scottish German Indian
Welsh West Indian Danish
American Jamaican Manx
Italian Swiss Canadian
French African 48 Listed as “Unknown”
Swedish Portuguese