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T2, R2, Prng 70: Dutch Small Warship vs French Bomb Vessel

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  • T2, R2, Prng 70: Dutch Small Warship vs French Bomb Vessel

    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.

    48: Dutch small Warship (up to 34 guns) 1601-1700

    The Dutch built excellent warships, although they typically tended to be a bit smaller than those of many other navies, as well as having less draft with, usually, a somewhat broader beam to compensate. This allowed them to more easily navigate their generally very shallow coastal and estuary waters. A broader beam could also - to some extent at least and for a ship of any given length - make for a more stable gun platform.

    The Dutch fought a number of rival navies during this period; perhaps most notably the English, against whom their principal conflicts were the 1st Anglo-Dutch War 1652-54; the 2nd 1665-67 and the 3rd 1672-74. In a substantial number of the battles of these wars, the Dutch gave as good or better than they got but in the end, it was to little avail. Nevertheless, they had proven themselves as opponents to be greatly respected.

    Raid on the Medway

    By February 1667, a few months before the end of the 2nd Anglo-Dutch War (4 March 1665 - 31 July 1667), the financial situation for the English Crown had become desperate. Simply put, the English at this time lacked the finance to keep their entire fleet in fighting condition. Consequently, it was decided that the majority of their heavier ships - which were the most expensive to maintain - should be "laid up" at Chatham, on the River Medway, just south of the River Thames and not far from London.
    This financial parsimony had followed close on the heels of two major disasters which seriously impacted the English but in particular, the inhabitants of London. The first was the Great Plague of 1665-66; the second was the Great Fire of London, in September 1666. The Dutch raid on Chatham was to be a massive humiliation and a "last straw" for the English. Taking them entirely unprepared over several days starting on 19 June 1667, the Dutch - in a bold and brilliant stroke - brazenly sailed a flotilla of their warships up the Medway and created havoc and destruction in their path.
    The Dutch bombarded and temporarily captured the town of Sheerness, then sailed via the Thames estuary up the River Medway to Chatham and Gillingham. They engaged fortifications with cannon fire, burned or captured thirteen of the most powerful English warships and then captured & towed away the flagship of the English fleet, HMS Royal Charles. This was a disaster for the English and one of the worst defeats ever to be suffered by the Royal Navy. It brought a quick end to the war and a negotiated peace favorable to the Dutch.

    Dutch equivalent to a small corvette.
    Participating in the attack on Chatham, raid on the Medway, June 1667

    Corvette equiv Chatham 1667.jpg

    Dutch equivalent to a small frigate.
    Bombarding a British fort during the Medway raid.

    Sml Frig equiv bombard Brit fort 1667.jpg

    Beside the English, the Dutch inevitably found themselves at war with other naval powers through the 17th century. In particular, they already had difficult and sometimes hostile relations with the Spanish from the mid 16th through to the early 18th century. Spain effectively exercised control over much of what is now the Netherlands during that period. For this and other reasons such as competition for colonial resources and trade, conflict with Spain boiled over on a number of occasions. (The Dutch and the English were far from always being enemies and there were occasions when they were on the same side against the Spanish.)
    I selected the image below because it is of a very fine painting, that seems to capture a "Dutch vs Spanish" action at sea very well:

    Dutch galleon ramming Spanish galleys, English Channel, October 1602

    Sml galleons ram Span galleys Eng Chnl 3 Oct 1602 1.jpg

    67: French Bomb Vessel 1601-1860

    Sailing bomb vessels, as such, were a French development. They were designed mainly for bombardment of enemy shore fortifications or other fixed targets covering a definable area. Often they were based on a type of small sailing ship called a ketch. These tended to be two-masted variants, which - when reinforced with extra heavy bracing - were of suitable size and strength. This made them a favored choice for conversion. Therefore, the term "Bomb Ketch" is commonly encountered.
    (Note: If you open the linked wiki article below, scroll down to the lower half for the historical section. The last illustration right at the bottom shows a square-rigged ketch. These were the general type favored for conversion.)

    The French had originally developed these vessels to bombard enemy targets on the Barbary Coast of North Africa. This was part of an effort - shared by many of the maritime powers - to subdue the activities of the Barbary Pirates or Corsairs, which had been a serious problem for centuries. Inevitably, they were also put to good use elsewhere.

    Bomb ketches and other small sailing vessels equipped for the same purpose, could be a bit more challenging to sail compared to a standard version. This was due to the weight of the mortars (typically concentrated near the front of the vessel) and at least a little re-arrangement of the sail plan and rigging that was necessary in most cases. Some attempts were made to distribute the mortars more evenly along the length of bomb vessels (as per the British example above) but these solutions had drawbacks too; not least of which was greater restriction on the firing angles for one or more of the weapons. So, it was a case of "win on the roundabouts and lose on the swings", so to speak, and compromise was inevitable. Nevertheless, the benefits of such a useful vessel were such that it was considered worthwhile.

    The bomb vessel Salamandre is an excellent example of the type and fortunately, enough information is available to get a fair idea of how well it should have functioned as well as for the building of accurate models. All three illustrations are of the same vessel; the second two being accurate scale models:

    Painting of French bomb ketch Salamandre, 1752

    Bomb vessel Salamandre 1752 1024px.jpg

    Accurate scale model of Salamandre's hull, showing the general layout and configuration.
    Salamandre had what may be regarded as the more "conventional" bomb vessel layout, with both mortars forward of the masts in the front portion of the hull. While this presented a certain degree of challenge regarding weight distribution, it was certainly a better solution when it came to the usability of the full main armament.

    Bomb vessel Salamandre 1752 model 1b.jpg

    "Look down" view of the model, showing the structure of the forward portion of Salamandre's deck.
    Two equal size mortars were mounted here but one has been removed for the photo, to show part of the heavy timber supporting platform. Additional stout vertical members lower down, braced into the main hull framework (not visible here), further supported this platform structure and helped to distribute the recoil shock of these weapons.

    Bomb vessel Salamandre 1752 model 1g.jpg

    Time to decide: Which type deserves to go on to the next round?
    The Dutch small warships or the French bomb vessels?

    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).
    48 - Dutch Small Warship
    67 - French Bomb Vessel
    Last edited by panther3485; 21 Oct 18, 00:10.
    "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
    This one was another "no-brainer" for me, as IMO the Dutch warships were much more useful in the overall sense. The French bomb vessels obviously had a purpose and were good within that role, being specialized for it. However, outside of this they were of relatively little use.
    "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.


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