Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ye 1:1200 scale Anglo-Dutch Wars: British Armed Merchant

...Whereupon ye Protagonist showeth ye armed English shippe of 40 gunnes, and continueth ye naval project for ye XVII Century.

Langton's AD4: British Armed Merchant, 40 guns.

Yet another fine product from Langton Miniatures, in this case AD4, the British Armed Merchant, 40 guns. As you might guess, this ship is meant to be generic. This is very much a good thing, since making a different model for each of the innumerable ships that took part in the mammoth Anglo-Dutch wars would be prohibitively expensive, for both sculptor and for anyone who would feel obligated to collect them all.

Looking for trouble... or running from it? Hired merchant captains were not always renowned for conspicuous bravery.
As to whether or not this particular model is typical of an English merchantman of the time is difficult to say (the term 'British' is anachronistic). Drawing up construction blueprints was all but unheard of at the time, and consequently even similar ships from the same yard could vary widely in detail. Compared to the other purpose-built warships in the Langton line, the armed merchant is decidedly long and sleek-- not necessarily what you would expect in a merchant vessel, but given the lack of hard data and Langton's reputation for meticulous accuracy, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Stern view. Notice the narrow beam compared to the ship's length.
 Then again, the ship's design is in many ways ambiguous. The taffrail is relatively austere compared to the warships, lacking much of the heavy carving, not to mention the absence of the near-ubiquitous Stewart royal arms of the English men o' war. The design of the quarter galleries, the clinker-built upperworks, narrow poop and transom stern appear downright Dutch, while the comparatively low stern, high length-to-beam ratio, and the location of the catheads are more characteristically English. The aftmost gunports are also mounted lower than the rest of their respective tiers, indicating a "downhill" shear of the deck aft, which is--as far as I know--also characteristic of some English shipping.

Profile view. The low stern and oddly-placed gunports aft are clearly evident.
All in all, the ship is most useful as a merchantman hired or purchased by the navy; the full tier of guns visible on the upper deck wouldn't likely have graced the decks of an honest trader. A fair number of merchant vessels, mainly of the 4th rate (at the time, roughly 30 to 50 guns) were hired by the Royal Navy during the Dutch Wars to bolster the battlefleet, despite their decidedly chequered record. The merchantmen were frequently found to be slow, unhandy, lightly built, and, since they were often captained by their owners, rather shy of taking risks in battle. In hindsight, the hiring of merchant ships may seem odd, but at the time it was a common expedient; in fact until the crash warship-building programmes of 1665-66, the largest Dutch fighting ships were East Indiamen chartered from the VOC!

Starboard quarter.
The model itself is, like Langton's 7 Provincien, one of the earlier offerings in this range. The main drawbacks on this particular unit are clunky, difficult to install rudder, and the decidedly oversized guns on the deck. Not that these are major problems; at any kind of normal gaming distance they fade to insignificance.

The hull clocks in at just under 4 cm or 1.5 inches in length.
 Reflecting its origins as a privately-owned ship, I opted to forgo the usual gold/red/black/varnished wood colour scheme I've been giving to the King's ships. Instead, the upperworks have been painted a dark green, and I've made the insides of the rails a darker burgundy. I also used a much smaller red pennant; red flags and pennants were flown by the senior squadron of the Royal Navy, as well as by any warship not sailing with the main battlefleet. I'm not sure whether these flags and pennants were provided to each ship ready made, or whether they were produced aboard ship; certainly in the latter case any enterprising merchant captain might be sorely tempted to sew a smaller flag and sell off the excess scarlet cloth! I've also given the ship an English flag rather than a Union one; I guess the skipper of this particular ship just doesn't like Scotland.

Copper Currency Comparison: she's only about two pennies long!
One more for the road.

Next time: an English 5th rate frigate.


  1. Lovely work. What rules will you be using?

    1. Hi fireymonkeyboy,

      I've been playing FJGaming's "Ship of the Line"-- mainly because it's quick, cheap and fun. I have a couple of more complicated rulesets kicking about, but I'm not sure when I (or my gaming partner) will have the time to try them out.

  2. That's a beautiful piece of workmanship.

  3. Lovely work indeed - looking forward to seeing the rest of the collection

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