HMS Victory model ship wins praise from Navy chief

An 80-year-old man who created a model replica of the historic ship HMS Victory has been praised for his "dedication" and "skill" by the head of the Royal Navy.

Michael Byard began creating his model of Horatio Nelson's flagship while working for a shipping company in Australia 50 years ago.

The Oxfordshire pensioner decided to pick up where he had left off when his daughter asked him six years ago if he was ever going to finish it.

Once completed, his daughter posted images of the model on Twitter, where it has gained over 14,400 likes.

Mr Byard said he is "over the moon" and "in a way, overwhelmed" by the reaction he has received from all over the world.

"To me, I’m just an ordinary person. I’ve made a model boat," he said.

One of the people who saw the viral post was First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin.

He tweeted: "This is an absolutely amazing achievement, demonstrating dedication, persistence and skill. You have done HMS VICTORY proud."

Mr Byard said getting praised by the Royal Navy chief was "phenomenal… really got to me".

If the total amount of time he has spent creating the model was condensed, he says it has taken "probably eight years to do it".

He started the model in early 1970 and finished it up to the gun deck in 1972.

When he returned to the UK in 1973, the model was transported by sea in a wooden box.

It was then left hanging up in the garage for "a while" – which ended up being 41 years.

Michael Byard around 1960 on the real HMS Victory in Portsmouth, Hampshire before making his own model of the ship (Picture: Michael Byard).
Michael Byard around 1960 on the real HMS Victory in Portsmouth, Hampshire before making his own model of the ship (Picture: Michael Byard).

He worked on the model, which is 4ft 11in (1.25m) long, 14in (35cm) wide and 26in (66cm) tall, from April to September each year.

The scale is 1ft to 48ft and includes a working toy model of a cannon, which dates from the same period as HMS Victory - the 18th century.

Mr Byard has painted her in Admiralty black and ochre but said he had recently found out that historians believe the vessel had been painted "slightly pink". 

He has no plans to change his paintwork though.

The original HMS Victory, which took part in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, is now at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

"It’s been a labour of love," Mr Byard reflected.

"In a way I’m quite sad I’ve finished it."

His next mission is the building of a model MTB (Motor Torpedo Boat) 451 from the Second World War.

His parents bought the boat after it was decommissioned and lived on it in Lymington.

"It’s not going to take another 41 years - I don’t think I could live until 120 to do it!"

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