Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ye 1:1200 scale Anglo-Dutch Wars: British 5th rate

...Whereupon ye protagonist showeth ye man-o'-war of 36 gunnes.

Langton Miniatures AD5: British 4th rate, 36-40 guns. As usual, the sails, shrouds and ratlines are photo-etched brass, and the base is resin. The flags and pennant are homemade.

Yes, here I am only a week into February, and my 2012 post count has already matched the impressive 2011 total of three (impressive, but not in the good way, you understand). Even more surprisingly, I'm delivering on my promise; this post is about an English 5th rate of the XVII century.

Side view. The upper gunports are mostly hidden by the shrouds. Much of the lower gundeck would have been buried in the waves in any kind of a sea.

The ship is another Langton Miniatures model, of course, in this case AD5: British 5th rate 36-40 guns. She's small. She's sexy. Okay, maybe that last is a bit of a stretch; in point of fact she's so small that her masts actually appear rather over-thick. But that's just niggling. On the plus side, with this code the Langtons seem to have gotten past their teething problems, and there is a noticeable improvement in sculpting and casting quality on product codes AD5 through AD21. Compare, for instance, the sharply defined ladders on this ship versus the ones on 7 Provincien. What's that, you say? 7 Provincien doesn't have any ladders? Yes she does, actually; they just didn't cast or paint very well, and are consequently nearly invisible.

The English royal arms on the stern. I'm not sure if I used to much primer, or if the lion and unicorn aren't quite as crisply rendered as on some of the larger ships. At least they're identifiable.
It's a quintessentially British ship of the day-- low poop (for the time), sleek lines, and the old lion-and-unicorn supporting the Royal Arms on the taffrail, indicating a King's ship. If not for this last, the model would serve equally well as a merchantman, particularly as there are no guns visible on deck. The sharp sheer of the deck aft would've been increasingly rare later in the 17th century, but would only have looked seriously old fashioned after the Dutch Wars were over.

The 5th rate men o' war were surprisingly uncommon during these wars, mainly because there were few jobs they could perform with any real success. These were not the speedy frigates of Nelson's day, purpose-built by the dozen for work as cruisers and scouts. Rather, they were miniature battleships, two-deckers with the same hull lines as their larger siblings, and with their gunports dangerously close to the waterline. Poor firepower kept them out of the battleline, but they also made poor cruisers; while they did tend to be more manueverable, their light weight and shorter masts actually made them slower than the big ships. With the added problem of low freeboard, their employment as cruisers was largely restricted to the North Sea and Mediterranean.

She's a little one: barely 4cm from the taffrail to the tip of the bowsprit.
One indispensible, specialized role was left entirely to the 5th rates, however: working alongside fireships. In the titanic sea battles of the 17th century, the fleets were divided into squadrons, each with its own small complement of fireships. These were small, lightly-crewed ships crammed with casks of oil, flammable pitch and resin, gunpowder and double-shotted cannon. The fireships' job was to sail up to an enemy ship, grapple it, and fire the cargo; under the best of circumstances, the enemy vessel would burn, while the fireship's crew escaped in a boat. The job of the accompanying 5th rates was to prevent enemy boats or frigates from towing the fireship off course, as well as the unenviable task of intercepting enemy fireships before they could be used against the English line of battle--a task which was pursued with understandably less enthusiasm.

The Copper Currency Comparison: a couple of pennies long.

Next time: an English 3rd rate.