No announcement yet.

T2, R1, Prng 46: British Sloop vs French Corvette & Brig

This topic is closed.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • T2, R1, Prng 46: British Sloop vs French Corvette & Brig

    In your opinion, which of these two warship types was most significant, influential and/or effective?
    Feel free to apply those criteria as you please, along with any others you think appropriate.
    Note: Suggestions for some additional criteria are at the foot of this post.

    According to the criteria as you see and apply them, please vote for your preferred candidate in the attached poll.
    If your chosen criteria are significantly different from those suggested, telling us what they are and why you used them would be helpful.

    59: British Sloop of War 1701-1860

    Sailing sloops, as a general class, typically have only one mast. However, sloops built for war during the period we are discussing here, very often had two or three. Those with two masts are described in some sources as "brig rigged sloops" or "brig sloops" for short, while the three-masted variant is sometimes referred to as a "ship rigged sloop". The term "sloop of war" also comes into play during this time. In the British Royal Navy, this was a small sailing warship with a single deck carrying up to 18 guns. As a general rule, the largest sloops would be smaller than the lightest frigates and therefore, always fall below the rating system. These fighting sloops were typically square-rigged but there were exceptions.

    Sloops of war were fast and highly maneuverable; such that a suitably skilled crew was quite often able to evade or run away from an enemy ship that was obviously too strong for them to fight. (Enemy frigates, which could also be very fast as well as having good maneuverability for their size, were a common exception.) Sloops were also highly versatile and therefore capable of filling a very useful variety of roles.

    Our first example is a brig-sloop, dating around 1740.

    Brig-sloop small C 1740 .jpg

    Next we have Kingfisher; built at Chatham Dockyard and launched in 1770. Her displacement was about 300 tons, she carried a main armament of 14 guns (nominal) + a number of swivel guns; and was "ship rigged"; i.e three masts. She is recorded as having cost £6,503.11 to build!

    Kingfisher sailed for North America on 1 August 1771 and served in that region for the remainder of her career. Among her actions was assisting with the occupation of Rhode Island in December 1776 and the fight in Narragansett Bay in August 1777.

    In August of the following year, she was burnt at Rhode Island to avoid capture.

    Hull model of Kingfisher 1770

    Sloop Kingfisher 1770 model 1.jpg

    Our #3 British sloop is HMS Zebra, launched in 1780 and the "name ship" of her class. She displaced about 320 tons and was initially fitted with 16 x 6pdr guns; 2 x 4pdr being added a decade later, for a total of 18 guns. She was also fitted to carry 12 swivel guns. Her crew was 125. This combination of features would place her at or near the "top end" of the size and gun-power range for a sloop of this period.
    Zebra had a substantial career and took part in numerous actions, including the West Indies Campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars.
    In 1798 after nearly two decades of service as a Sloop of War, she was converted into a bomb vessel. In this capacity, she served in both the First and Second battles of Copenhagen.

    Perhaps one of her most notable actions was in 1794, as part of an expeditionary force undertaking the capture of Martinique in the West Indies, from the French.
    The British attack commenced in February and by the following month, only a few fortified positions were still holding out. Zebra and the 64-gun 3rd-rate ship of the line HMS Asia, were ordered to take Fort Saint Louis. Asia was unable to get in close enough to fire effectively but the captain of Zebra decided to tackle the enemy on his own. He ran his ship in as closely as he could to the enemy fort. While exchanging fire, he and the remainder of his crew used Zebra's boats to carry out an assault landing. The British successfully stormed and captured the fort. Zebra's total casualties were 1 man killed and 4 wounded; an extraordinary accomplishment! However, one might suspect that the French, knowing the island was already under British control and the outcome as good as decided already, put up little more than token resistance. Within the next couple of days, the remaining two French forts were also taken.

    Painting showing Sloop Zebra and the British assault; successfully capturing Fort Saint Louis, Martinique 1794. The much larger HMS Asia, unable to approach closely enough due to the shallow water, can be seen some distance away in the background.

    Sloop Zebra 1780 capture of Fort Saint Louis Martinique 1794.jpg

    70: French Corvette and Brig 1701-1860

    The first known reference to "corvettes" is in the Marine Nationale (French Navy) during the 1670's. Sailing corvettes of this period were quite similar to sloops, being warships with a single deck of guns and smaller than a frigate. Corvettes usually had three masts; the larger ones being generally somewhat bigger and having a greater displacement than the largest sloops, with up to about 28 guns. Nevertheless, either way across the leading navies of this time, they shared the general position of the sloop in representing a warship being "next size down" from a frigate. As with the sloops, sailing corvettes were fast and agile warships that proved extremely useful and could fulfill a considerable variety of tasks.

    Our first example is Bayonnaise, launched in 1793. Her displacement was about 580 tons. She was rated for 24 guns as her "nominal" main armament; beginning her career armed with 28 (24 x 8pdr & 4 x 4pdr).
    Later, this was changed to 24 x 8pdr, 2 x 32pdr carronades and the option for an additional 6 x 8pdr guns. With both arrangements, provision was also made for a number of swivel guns. Her complement varied from time to time but would usually not have been less than 220 officers and men.

    Her first major action was in the Croisiere du grand Hiver (Campaign of the Great Winter) in December 1794; an unsuccessful operation but for reasons that were no fault of Bayonnaise and her crew, who presumably did their duty.

    Coppering of a Ship's Hull

    In 1795, Bayonnaise was kept in dock for a time to have her bottom "coppered"; a process that began to be favored in a number navies during this period. The British had been the first to introduce the method. It consisted of a coating of many small thin copper plates, being fixed to the portion of the hull below the waterline. The purpose was to inhibit salt-water corrosion and the growth and destructive effects of various forms of marine life that invariably attached themselves to the hulls of ships. Given sufficient time, these could not only gradually weaken a wooden hull (some creatures, notably a type of marine worm, could bore into the timber); but the encrustations of general marine growth would also gradually make the ship slower and slower in the water, due to the "drag" they created when the ship was under way.

    Recognition of this problem and efforts to deal with it were far from new. Prior to the advent of coppering, some navies - and a few going back to ancient times - experimented with other solutions such as an extra layer of outer planking (that could be removed and replaced); and covering with thin lead sheets. However, in particular the excessive weight of lead was a performance killer. Other solutions included regular in-dock maintenance cleaning - if and when the opportunity arose - combined with re-coatings of various inhibitive substances and paints.
    However, it was discovered that copper plating worked far better and for substantially longer. Not only did it effectively prevent creatures boring into the hull but also, it had a considerable inhibiting effect on most forms of life attaching themselves to the hull to begin with. Therefore, the build-up of encrustation in itself was much slower. Although coppering was unquestionably expensive, in the long run it not only saved maintenance costs but also helped to preserve performance in the water for much longer than previous treatments. As little as one or two extra knots could mean the difference between defeat and victory in a moving engagement and the advantage could sometimes be considerably more than that; depending on factors such as the state of one's opponent's hull.

    Of course, there is far more to all of this than the very cursory coverage I've given here. For those starting out as I recently did (i.e. knowing almost nothing) and looking for a bit more detail, the wiki article is one possible starting point:

    Bayonnaise's most famous action

    This French corvette became famous when she reluctantly engaged and captured the larger and much more heavily armed 32-gun British frigate Ambuscade, off the West coast of France near the Gironde estuary. The British frigate, commanded by Captain Henry Higgins, was commencing blockade duty at the time. Initially the French captain, Jean-Baptiste-Édmond Richer, felt that discretion was the best option and began to withdraw from the area. However, as soon as this became apparent Ambuscade gave chase and eventually came within cannon range.
    After an exchange of fire lasting almost an hour, Bayonnaise had gotten the worst of it and was looking as if she would go down. However, while Ambuscade was maneuvering to Bayonnaise's stern in order to rake her, one of the British ship's guns burst. In the ensuing confusion, Bayonnaise attempted to make good her escape. However, Ambuscade soon resumed the chase and caught Bayonnaise a second time. With the British ship drawing alongside to port, to resume the exchange of gunfire, Richer finally decided that a desperate situation called for desperate measures. He ordered his ship to "back sail" and to turn towards the British and ram them. Bayonnaise's bowsprit broke the British ship's mizzen and the two vessels became locked together. Both ships then fired their last broadside and prepared for close-quarter combat!
    Under fire of some of the smaller guns and the exchange of musketry, grapples were used to bring the two ships closer together and an intense exchange of fire and melee lasting about 30 minutes, ensued. The French managed to gain the upper hand and eventually, the only British officer left standing - William Beaumont Murray - surrendered his ship.
    Both ships had been severely damaged but of the two, the captured Ambuscade was the more seaworthy so she was used to tow Bayonnaise back to a French port. Both ships were repaired and Ambuscade became Embuscade in French service.

    French corvette Bayonnaise ramming British frigate Ambuscade, December 1798

    Corvette Bayonnaise 1793 vs Ambuscade Dec 1798.jpg

    My chosen example of a French brig is Cygne of the Abeille class, launched in 1806. She displaced about 350 tons and was armed with 16 guns; 14 x 24pdr carronades and 2 x 6pdr chasers, having a crew of 84.

    Model of brig Cygne 1806

    Brig-Corvette Cygne 1806 model.jpg

    Cygne had a short career with a few successful engagements, under the command of her captain Menouvrier Defresne. Her final battle was a "last stand" against a British squadron in the Caribbean, in December 1808. The action took place over a couple of days, with repeated attempts to capture Cygne being repulsed and some British prisoners being taken. A brief opportunity for Cygne to escape came to nothing when she ran aground. With the British ships closing in, Defresne ordered her to be abandoned and destroyed by fire.

    Painting illustrating a moment during the 1808 battle. Cygne is to the left, with assault boats from the British ships attempting to capture her intact.

    Brig-Corvette Cygne 1806 vs Brit ships 1808 by Mayer.jpg

    So, your chance to make a difference:
    Which candidate progresses to the next round? The British sloops or the French Corvettes & Brigs?

    Suggested additional criteria you might wish to consider, along with any others you deem appropriate.
    (Note: Some of these could be considered already covered by Significant, Influential and Effective)

    Which warship type ...
    • was the best?
    • was the greatest?
    • was the most widely used?
    • had the greatest longevity in service?
    • was the most versatile?
    • represented the best value for the cost/effort invested ("bang for the buck" in today's language)?
    • was the easiest to operate?
    Any other criteria you have applied (please tell us what they were).
    British Sloop of War 1701-1860
    French Corvette & Brig 1701-1860
    Last edited by panther3485; 10 Sep 18, 07:31.
    "Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
    Vice Admiral Beatty to Flag Captain Chatfield; Battle of Jutland, 31 May - 1 June, 1916.

  • #2
    These French ships were very good and French build quality was outstanding. However, over this period British naval power waxed while that of France - comparatively speaking - began to wane. British sloops were extremely versatile and useful warships built and deployed in very substantial numbers, that are generally unsung and rarely spoken of. However, IMO in their own way they contributed significantly towards both establishing and maintaining British naval supremacy.
    "Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
    Vice Admiral Beatty to Flag Captain Chatfield; Battle of Jutland, 31 May - 1 June, 1916.


    Latest Topics