The 25 millionth visitor has been welcomed aboard Nelson's flagship HMS Victory, which has been open to the public for 84 years.

John Dunaway, and twin sons Dylan and Freddie, aged five, from Langstone, near Havant, claimed the honour as they visited the legendary warship at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy (formerly Royal Naval Museum) has been keeping a count of the number of visitors since the ship opened in 1928.

Mr Dunaway and his sons were greeted at the gangway with balloons and party poppers and were welcomed on board by the director general of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Professor Dominic Tweddle, and 1st Lieutenant Helen Wright, the ship's executive officer.

Mr Dunaway said: ''We're really honoured to be the 25 millionth visitors, it's an incredible number and I decided to bring the boys along today as they are just about the right age to understand it all.

''We're really lucky to have Victory on our doorstep, it's something to be proud of.''

The family have been awarded a prize of tea with the commanding officer and a personalised tour of the ship plus a tot of rum for the adults in the officers' mess.

Visitor records at the museum date back to 1928, when it welcomed 17,135 people on board, and now the ship attracts on average 350,000 visitors a year.

HMS Victory was launched in 1765 at Chatham Dockyard and was commissioned in 1778 and served for 34 years.

Its most famous moment was the triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 under the command of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson who was killed on board.

In 1812, the Victory was retired from frontline duty and anchored in Portsmouth Harbour following a warrant from Thomas Hardy, captain of Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar who had then become First Sea Lord at his wife's request, to save the ship from disposal.

For the next 110 years HMS Victory remained in Portsmouth Harbour fulfilling a combination of practical and ceremonial roles.

In 1922, amid fears for its continued survival and following a national appeal led by the Society for Nautical Research, Victory was put into its present dock and restoration work began.

HMS Victory is still in commission as the flagship of the First Sea Lord and is the oldest commissioned warship in the world.