A retired sailor is finally completing his painstaking model of HMS Victory – 51 years after he started it.
Michael Byard first began work on the five feet long replica of Nelson’s flagship in 1969.
But after two years he was forced to put the ‘labour of love’ aside as he concentrated on his career and raising a family.
Retired sailor Michael Byard, 80, has almost completed work on his 1:48 replica of HMS Victory which he started in 1969
Mr Byard started his mammoth project with the stem section, pictured here in 1969, though within two years he was forced to put the project on hold for more than 40 years
Here is a section of the bow which Mr Byard fashioned by hand, pictured around 1969, which he used to build his boat
Mr Byard, pictured here around 1960, on the real vessel in Portsmouth, Hampshire, decided to make his model 4ft11 inches long, 14 inches wide and 16 inches tall
Each part of the replica had to be hand carved and glued together in a painstaking process which he was only able to complete over the summer months because of arthritis in his hands
After it languished in his garage for almost four decades the pensioner finally decided to pick up his tools once again six years ago when he was 74.
But because of the arthritis in his thumbs he was then only able to work on it during summer months.
Now Mr Byard is finally on the verge of completing the replica – which consists of over 3,000 pieces, the vast majority of which he cut himself.
HMS Victory, launched in 1765, achieved lasting fame as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Nelson in Britain’s greatest naval victory in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Mr Byard’s model, which features gun ports, life boats and cannons, is 4ft 11inches long, 14 inches wide and 16 inches tall.
Wearing his reading glasses – sometimes even a visor with magnified glasses – he would use tweezers to fit together the most intricate parts.
The model is made with over 300 tiny wooden planks – all hand carved to size – which make up the floor and body of the ship.
The father of two – who estimates he has spent 600 hours working on the model – cut each plank to measure a quarter of an inch to an eighth of an inch before gluing them together with special wood glue.
But arthritis in his thumbs has made it difficult to work constantly on the model, with Michael deciding to stick to building the ship in the summer months for up to five hours a day.
The former naval reserve and shipping company worker, who lives with his wife Anne, 65, in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, said: ‘I’ve had to stop working sometimes because the arthritis gets too bad. Other times, it seemed to ease the pain with use.
‘Over winter I wouldn’t touch the model at all, it was under a cloth in the garage in my workshop and I’d leave it until the next year. It was too cold because the garage isn’t heated. Cold weather doesn’t help with the arthritis very much.’
The HMS Victory model includes 104 brass cannons on the upper deck, which Mr Byard bought from a specialist model maker in Devon.
When he resumed the project in 2014, the lower part of hull had been completed as well as some of the interior frames
In the late 1950s, Mr Byard, pictured in his Royal Navy uniform, was living in Australia but returned to Britain in the early with his wife, Anne
In August 2014, Mr Byard was working on the ship’s upper deck, in an effort to complete the massive project
A year later, in September 2015, Mr Byard was in a position to fit cannons inside the day cabin of his model
It was necessary to improvise while completing his project, using these plastic clothes pegs to hold together the stern section while the glue used during construction to go off in September 2015
This view of the quarter deck from October 2015 shows the intricate work that went into the individual planks used for the deck
For each cannon, he hand-made carriages out of wooden planks to hold them – even cutting small steps either side and making the wheels out of doweling-, with each one taking about half an hour to make.
‘It was very fiddly,’ he said. ‘I was learning as I was going along. There were thousands of pieces, I’ve never kept a record of how many. There were more planks than anything else.
‘There were times when it was frustrating but I enjoyed what I was doing and I had an end goal in sight – it was just a question of working on it.’
Mr Byard made intricate ladders by hand out of one millimetre plywood – and would spend hours cutting and fixing the wood.
‘HMS Victory has so much history and really she’s the only surviving ship of the Napoleonic era in the Royal Navy so she’s very special,’ he said.
He began building the model in 1969 when he was working at a shipping company in Melbourne, Australia, where he had emigrated as a child.
But he packed it away 18 months later before moving back to England with his wife. He had been able to complete the hull up to the Gun Deck level.
Mr Byard, who joined the Royal Australian Naval Reserve as an Ordinary Seaman in 1958, based his model on a book called ‘HMS Victory, Building Restoration and Repair’ which included detailed drawings of the 1797 refurbishment of the Victory in 1:48 scale plans.
He built his ship using the plans at the same size and scale, and began to build it from scratch by cutting out the frames.
Mr Byard was forced to buy the cannons from a model shop, but he made the carriages holding them himself
In August 2017, he was building the port side cranes which would have been used to load supplies and weapons on the ship
Also in August 2017, Mr Byard continued work on the stern timbers and poop deck, pictured
By May 2018, he had completed three anchors, which are built to scale along with the rest of his replica ship
Now Mr Byard’s replica, pictured in July 2020 is almost completed, with cannon along the gun deck
Speaking about his 51 year journey of building the model, he said: ‘It’s been a labour of love. I hung it up in my garage for over 45 years what with working in London and children coming along.
‘And when I was 74 I decided that I better do something about trying to fix it. So for the last six years that’s what I’ve been working on. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.’
His daughter Anni, an archeologist, gave her father a small toy cannon from the 18th century to put on his ship.
She said: ‘It’s from around 1750 to 1850 so it’s bang on the era that he’s reconstructed the Victory for. It’s a really lovely thing to give Dad something of that period to put on his model. It’s a nice touch really.’
The 41-year-old, from Oxford, said she remembered the hull of the ship being left in their family garage for years.
‘One of my longest memories is that the hull of the ship just hung in the garage for years and as kids we would play in the garage and it was always there,’ she said.
‘And then to see him finally get it down and start working it and to see him putting it together is heartwarming.
‘He would sit there concentrating intensely with his magnifying glass and tweezers in his hand to try and put tiny pins into things,’ she added. ‘When he got the anchors up, he was like a little boy just smiling, grinning from ear to ear.
‘Every time I’d go and see him, he’d say ‘Come and look at my model’. His dedication and patience is incredible and the joy he’s got out of it, I’m so proud of him. It’s been lovely to see it evolve.’
HMS Victory: Lord Nelson’s flagship during Britain’s victory over the French at the Battle Of Trafalgar
HMS Victory first floated out from the Old Single Dock in Chatham’s Royal Dockyard on May 7 1765.
During 206 years in service she would gain recognition for leading fleets in the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic War.
HMS Victory in its dry dock in Portsmouth, where it is viewed by thousands of visitors each year
HMS Victory is renowned for being the flagship of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, Britain’s most celebrated naval leader, fighting in the defeat of the French and the Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
However, her service was not to end here – in 1808 she was recommissioned to lead the fleet in the Baltic, but four years later she was relegated to harbour service – serving as a residence, flagship and tender providing accommodation.
In 1922 she was saved for the nation and placed permanently into dry dock where she remains today, visited by 25 million visitors as a museum of the sailing navy and the oldest commissioned warship in the world.
Source: Royal Navy National Museum
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CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Sad-face emoji, but the writing might be on the wall for reading
The Write Offs
Britain’s Biggest Dig
Dr Lydia Wilson told us on Monday in The Secret History Of Writing on BBC4 that man’s greatest invention is the alphabet.
It enables us to send words around the world, she said, and set down ideas on paper for future generations to discover.
It upsets me to say this, but Dr Lydia’s grand insight is too late. Literacy has never been less important, and Sandi Toksvig proves it inadvertently with her two-part series, The Write Offs (C4), as she helps eight adults learn to read.
Sandi Toksvig (centre) helps eight adults learn to read in her two-part series, The Write Offs
Brainy Sandi, whose own son struggled with reading, can’t imagine life without the printed word. Neither can I — for a start, I’d have to go back to my first job: scrubbing pots in hotel kitchens.
Though illiteracy is certainly an obstacle for Sandi’s students, technology helps them overcome it. One man, 30-year-old Craig, uses an app on his smartphone to do his reading: the camera scans the words and an automated voice speaks them aloud.
Great-grandfather Tommy, 66, asks the ‘digital assistant’ Alexa to spell tricky words for him. Dean, 34, couldn’t easily read a map, but why should he? We’ve all got satnavs these days.
The truth is that reading has become optional, and spelling is downright irrelevant. Nothing marks you out as a fuddy-duddy faster than using correct grammar in texts and emails.
Every millennial can hold entire conversations without writing a word, just by stringing together ’emojis’ — cartoon doodles of faces depicting all possible emotions. And if emojis fail, there are ‘gifs’ or two-second film clips.
Only a social media nerd would bother writing, ‘I am fed up to the back teeth with lockdown,’ when you can say it on WhatsApp so much more pungently with an animated picture of Mr Bean tearing out his hair. No words required.
Full-frontal format of the day:
Channel 4, home to Naked Attraction and shows about swingers, has announced a new competition… called Drawers Off. Five painters will do ‘life studies’ of each other in the nuddy. Well, it’s art, innit?
Sandi’s well meaning experiment has come precisely at the moment when reading has ceased to be essential. Worse, I worry that in the future it will become a source of embarrassment, a sign of educated ‘privilege’. When gifs and emojis are the universal language, the written word will be seen as snobbish.
And TV reviews will be condensed to a couple of symbols — a thumbs-up, a thumbs-down and, occasionally, one of those silly faces with boss-eyes and a lolling tongue.
Sandi, for all your good intentions, your show gets a thumbs-down, plus a sad-face emoji.
It’s a thumbs-up with a skull-and-crossbones, though, for Professor Alice Roberts and her graveyard archaeology series, Britain’s Biggest Dig (BBC2).
Work on the HS2 rail link from London to Birmingham means major excavations on the sites where each terminus will eventually be built. This involves digging up hundreds of coffins and moving the remains. Apparently, it’s illegal to leave human bones in place, however ancient.
The cemetery at Euston boasted well-known names, including the former slave and champion bare-knuckle boxer Bill Richmond. But the Brummies had the best stories. Many of the children’s skeletons were riddled with rickets. One set had been sawn up, the victim of Victorian anatomists who paid body snatchers to bring them corpses for dissection.
Oddest of all was the woman buried with a Wedgwood plate. Prof Alice discovered it was piled with bread and salt after she died. The food soaked up her bad deeds, before being consumed by a ‘sin-eater’ – a poor man who was paid a few pennies to swallow the bread and take the sins of the departed upon himself.
How macabre… or, as the young people say, a ghost-emoji plus a sickly green smiley-face.
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Revellers enjoy night out before Boris’s Covid crackdown comes into force
Scores of revellers descended onto the streets of Leeds and Birmingham to enjoy a night out tonight before the Government’s new restrictions to stop the spread of a second wave of coronavirus came into force.
Party-goers, including those who had recently arrived to the UK cities to begin their academic year at university, swapped a night in at home to hit the numerous pubs and bars in the area and celebrate with their friends.
Crowds of alcohol-fuelled revellers appeared in high spirits as they huddled in large groups without face masks and walked onto the streets of Leeds city centre into the small hours amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile others were spotted queuing outside The Bristol Pear pub in Selly Oak, Birmingham, to enjoy a drink and mark the start of the academic year.
The scenes came just hours after the Prime Minister set out a raft of measures designed to clampdown on the disease, including imposing a 10pm curfew on all pubs, bars and restaurants in England from Thursday.
Revellers hit the streets of Leeds and party into the small hours just hours after the Prime Minister set out a raft of measures designed to clampdown on the coronavirus
A group of students hit the streets in Leeds just hours after the Government announced its tougher measures to help stop the spread of coronavirus
Scores of revellers and students break social distancing guidelines as they gather together in the city without face masks into the small hours
Revellers and students arrived to The Bristol Pear pub in Selly Oak, Birmingham, to enjoy a night out before the new 10pm curfew came into force
In September, students arriving to Birmingham were urged to stick to social distancing rules and Covid gathering guidelines to prevent outbreaks of the virus at universities in the city.
It came after the city, which is home to more than 1.5million people, was hit with draconian lockdown rules after the number of coronavirus patients being admitted to hospitals in the city soared.
This month people in Birmingham and neighbouring Solihull and Sandwell were banned from mixing with anyone outside of their own household in private homes, pubs, restaurants or in gardens.
The move followed two days of crunch talks between the Government and local health leaders after Birmingham’s seven-day infection rate rose to 78 cases per 100,000.
Meanwhile Leeds was teetering on the brink of a local lockdown and was placed on Public Health England’s list of areas of concern after the Yorkshire city, which is home to half a million people, saw its infection rate rise to 32.4 new cases per 100,000 people.
Earlier this month thousands ministers discouraged young people preparing for university from attending Freshers’ events, with Health Minister Lord Bethell urging freshers and returning university students to resist going to mass social gatherings ‘in pubs, clubs and bedrooms’.
Meanwhile, Universities Minister Michelle Donelan furiously warned large event organisers that police will take ‘serious action’ against them, following reports that some companies have been advertising mass social Freshers’ events.
And Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, pleaded with students to ‘follow the rules’ for ‘the sake of your education and your parents’ and grandparents’ health’.
Health Minister Lord Bethell said: ‘We are deeply concerned about the spread among students. Some of that spread will take place in universities, and I pay tribute to the efforts of vice-chancellors to put in place social distancing arrangements in universities; we hope that they will have an impact.
‘However, some of the effect is in their social life – in pubs, clubs and bedrooms up and down the country.
‘That is the responsibility of the students themselves, and we are looking at measures to enhance and enforce the social-distancing measures that will stop the spread of this disease.’
Groups of revellers appeared in high spirits as they huddled in large groups without face masks and celebrated into the small hours
Revellers flout social distancing guidelines as they hit the streets of Leeds and enjoy a night out amid the coronavirus pandemic
A group of revellers hit the streets of Leeds without masks and enjoy a night out just days before the 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants comes into place
Crowds of people stand outside a pub in Leeds to enjoy a night out despite the Rule of Six measures now in force
People cross a street in Leeds as scores of revellers hit the streets of the city to enjoy a night out amid the coronavirus pandemic
Party-goers gather on the streets in Leeds to enjoy a night out and party into the small hours just days before the new curfew is kicked into force
People gather on the streets of Leeds to enjoy a night out just days before the new 10pm curfew comes into force
People queue outside The Bristol Pear pub just hours after the Government toughened its coronavirus measures
Crowds of students flout the Rule of Six as they huddle in large groups without face masks in a nearby par
The scenes come as Boris Johnson today announced a new wave of Covid-19 restrictions that could last up to six months- including a 10pm curfew on bars, pubs and restaurants in England.
The 10pm curfew on the hospitality sector has sparked an immediate industry backlash as the UKHospitality group said it was ‘another crushing blow’.
There are also fears the move could have unintended consequences amid warnings of a potential ‘surge of unregulated events and house parties’.
Tory MPs also expressed concerns about the curfew plans, describing them as a ‘terrible blow’ for the hospitality industry and warning there must not be another ‘major lockdown’.
It was claimed overnight that Mr Johnson had initially backed a total shutdown of the hospitality and leisure sectors before Chancellor Rishi Sunak persuaded him to take a less severe course after warning of economic carnage.
Under the new measures, plans for a partial return of sports fans to stadiums from October 1 have been ‘paused’ while the number of people allowed to attend weddings is being reduced to 15.
Mr Johnson also announced the end of the Government’s back to work drive, urging Britons to work from home if they can.
Pub-goers at the Westminster Arms pub in London watch the Prime Minister address the nation regarding new coronavirus restrictions
Customers at the Westminster Arms pub in London watch Boris Johnson issue an emotional plea to the country
Face masks will also have to be worn on public transport and in many indoor spaces, including shops, shopping centres, indoor transport hubs, museums, galleries, cinemas and public libraries.
Those who fail to wear face masks could face a fine of £200.
Just hours after setting out the new measures, the Prime Minister issued an emotional plea to the nation and warned Britons they faced a long hard winter of police-enforced curbs on their freedom to see off coronavirus.
He also hit out at his critics – including Tory MPs and business leaders who warned of the economic impact of the tough measures, adding: ‘To those who say we don’t need this stuff, and we should leave people to take their own risks, I say these risks are not our own.
‘The tragic reality of having Covid is that your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell.
The Prime Minister said it was necessary to reintroduce the measures to avoid a dramatic surge in deaths and a second, economically devastating total lockdown
‘And as for the suggestion that we should simply lock up the elderly and the vulnerable – with all the suffering that would entail – I must tell you that this is just not realistic.
‘Because if you let the virus rip through the rest of the population it would inevitably find its way through to the elderly as well, and in much greater numbers.’
Despite the PM’s new crackdown, some experts have already warned the measures will not be enough after Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said yesterday the UK could hit 50,000 cases a day by mid-October and 200 plus daily deaths by November unless Britain changes course.
DO CURFEWS WORK AT SLOWING THE SPREAD OF THE VIRUS?
From Thursday evening, bars, pubs and restaurants across England will be required to close from 10pm every night.
The move is an ‘intermediate’ step in the fight against the virus, and follows in the steps of Thailand.
When Thailand imposed a 10pm to 4am curfew on April 3 it was counting just over 100 cases of coronavirus a day. By the time the curfew was removed on June 15 this number had dropped into the low tens.
Although the country’s success has been attributed to the curfew, some scientists dispute this, saying that the lockdown and other social measures in force at the time had a greater impact.
The UK is hoping that its curfew may help it mirror the success of the South-east Asian nation.
Linda Bauld, professor of public health at Edinburgh University, told HuffPost curfews are used because ‘we know that night time economy generally is risky’.
‘There have been outbreaks linked to nightclubs and to bars and restaurants,’ she said. ‘We’ve known this for months.’
‘The longer people are in these venues, the more they probably let their guard down and the mix of social distancing and alcohol is not a good one despite the best efforts of publicans and venue owners.’
Behavioural expert Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said she thought the 10pm time had been chosen to balance the needs of the night-time economy with the need to control the virus.
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Sir Paul McCartney speaks about the first time he met John Lennon
Sir Paul McCartney has spoken about the first time he met John Lennon and reveals how he reflects on the moment ‘like a fan’ and tells ‘how lucky’ he was to meet him.
The Beatles star, 78, revealed how the the pair ‘complemented each other’ after he was introduced to John, aged 16, on July 6 1957, in Liverpool.
The singer-songwriter spoke to Sean Ono Lennon, 44, the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, for a two-part documentary on BBC Radio 2, to mark John Lennon At 80.
Candid: Sir Paul McCartney has spoken about the first time he met John Lennon and reveals how he reflects on the moment ‘like a fan’ and described ‘how lucky’ he was to meet him
Speaking about his memories of meeting John, Sir Paul said: ‘I look back on it now like a fan, how lucky was I to meet this strange teddy boy off the bus, who played music like I did and we get together and boy, we complemented each other!’
However the Hey Jude hitmaker revealed that ‘there were a few songs that weren’t very good’ during his writing partnership with John.
He added: ‘There were a few songs that weren’t very good… you know, clearly young songwriters who don’t know how to do it’.
Close: The Hey Jude hitmaker revealed that ‘there were a few songs that weren’t very good’ during his writing partnership with John
Sir Paul picked up his guitar during the interview and played an example of a Lennon-McCartney track called Just Fun which they never recorded.
‘Eventually, we started to write slightly better songs and then enjoyed the process of learning together so much that it really took off,’ he continued.
Speaking about the Let It Be period, the Beatles’ final studio album, Sir Paul revealed that he always believed it was a gloomy time until he saw a picture taken by his late wife Linda that reminded him of the strength of their friendship.
Open: The singer-songwriter spoke to Sean Ono Lennon, 44, (pictured) the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, for a two-part documentary on BBC Radio 2, to mark John Lennon At 80
Band: The Help! singer also spoke candidly about John’s insecurities and revealed that his confidence was a ‘shield’
The Help! singer also spoke candidly about John’s insecurities and revealed that his confidence was a ‘shield’.
He said: ‘Wait a minute, there’s this guy ‘John Lennon’ who’s like a genius, clever, witty, confident, and everything why would he have insecurities? Because we’re all fragile beings.’
Sean also spoke with his godfather Sir Elton John who revealed that he cycled eight miles to buy a copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in Hatch End, North West London.
Fan: Sir Elton John revealed that he cycled eight miles to buy a copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in Hatch End, North West London
The Tiny Dancer hitmaker, 73, who performed with John in Madison Square Garden in what was to be his final live gig appearance, said: ‘When I met your Dad I felt like I’d known him all my life and that’s the biggest compliment I can pay him.’
John was murdered by obsessed fan Mark Chapman outside his New York apartment on December 8, 1980, aged 40.
The two-part documentary hosted by his youngest son Sean is to mark what would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday on Friday 9 October.
John Lennon At 80 will broadcast on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October, 9-10pm on BBC Radio 2.
Group: Speaking about the Let It Be period, the Beatles’ final studio album, Sir Paul revealed that he always believed it was a gloomy time until he saw a picture taken by his late wife Linda
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