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T2, R2, Prng 74: English 2-Decker & Great Ship vs English 3-Decker Great Ship

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  • T2, R2, Prng 74: English 2-Decker & Great Ship vs English 3-Decker Great Ship

    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.

    55: English large 2-Decker & Great Ship (3-4 rate) 1601-1700

    As noted above, the English equivalents of the Dutch two-deckers and/or great ships tended to be a little larger and they drew more water; but otherwise there was usually not a great disparity in fighting power and they performed much the same role in battle.

    For our first example, I found this photo (further below) of a very appealing scale model showing well the lines and features of an English 2-decker. In this case, it's a representation of Warspite, launched in 1666. As we can see it already has a more "modern" and streamlined (relatively speaking) appearance, than typical 2-deckers of just a few decades before.

    Although the English and most other leading navies were already starting to move towards 3 full decks for their ships of the line, 2-deckers continued in service; the larger and better armed ones still being viable for a place in the line of battle and classified at the appropriate rating. There had been a system of rating in place for some time but this became more formalized when "line of battle" tactics started to become the norm.
    Rating systems were not exactly the same for all navies but what they had in common was a fairly realistic idea of how many guns and/or what weight of gunpower a warship needed to be viable in the line of battle.
    Naturally, as warships evolved and became more powerful, the benchmarks moved upwards accordingly. For example, the gun-power of a 1st rate ship of the mid-to-late 1600's would have been the equivalent of, perhaps, a 3rd rate of the mid 1700's and a 4th or even 5th rate of the early 1800s. Not that warships usually lasted that long; far from it in some cases but we get the idea. (We'll see a few exceptions, though.)

    Our first example for England is Warspite, launched in 1666; the second of no less than seven English/British warships to bear this name.
    Unlike many warships, Warspite had a very long service life which included a number of rebuilds. She was re-named HMS Edinburgh in 1721 and had her final rebuild commencing in 1741, being re-launched in May 1744. She was finally broken up in 1771, with about one century of service to her credit!

    Warspite had begun her active life as a 70-gun third-rate ship of the line. Her first action was during the Second Anglo-Dutch War (March 1665 - July 1667). In July 1666 she helped to defeat a Dutch fleet off North Foreland in Kent. Not long after that, she undertook convoy protection and was recognized as having performed with distinction. Subsequently, Warspite took part in the first major action of the Third Anglo-Dutch War, the Battle of Solebay, which ended inconclusively but again, Warspite fought very well and successfully fended off at least two Dutch fireships.
    Some subsequent battles did not end so favorably but Warspite and her crew consistently performed well and she survived them all.

    Hull model of Warspite, 1666

    Warspite 1666 70 gun 3rate renamed Edinburgh.jpg

    Kingfisher was a smaller warship launched in 1675 as a 4th rate displacing 663 tons. She carried 46 guns (nominal), up to a maximum of 54 guns. She was designed specifically to counter Barbary corsairs and in particular, those from Algeria who were proving to be the greatest problem at the time. Kingfisher's often used "modus operandi" was to disguise herself as a merchantman by hiding her armament behind false bulkheads. She was also rigged in such as way as to be able to change her appearance more easily.
    In her most famous action in May 1681, she fought and defeated no less than seven Algerine men-of-war and an armed settee.
    However, the British did suffer some crew losses as well as the life of her captain, Commander Morgan Kempthorne.

    Kingfisher (right) fighting Algerine warships, 1681

    Kingfisher 1675 (probly) vs Algerine warships 1681.jpg

    Our third example is HMS Monmouth, launched in 1667. Monmouth was another successful warship with the good fortune to have a long career; taking part in a considerable number of battles from the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-74) onwards.
    She may be best known for her pursuit, defeat and capture of the French flagship Foudroyant in February 1758, at the battle of Cartagena, near Spain during the Seven Years War.

    Monmouth (centre) vs Foudroyant, February 1758

    Monmouth Battle of Cartegena 1758 capture of Foudroyant 1.jpg

    56: English 3-Decker Great Ship 1-2 Rate

    In common with the other major naval powers, England was developing "great ships", soon to be known as ships of the line, during the 17th century. The concept was for opposing naval forces to form a parallel line or lines of battle at fairly close range, so they could blaze away at each other until one side or the other was destroyed or gave up.
    Of course, it was often not that simple and in any case, all the major navies of this period were developing and testing ideas not only to make their own lines of battle more effective but also to find ways of breaking or otherwise disrupting - and thereby defeating - the line of their enemy without ending up with too much loss or damage to their own ships.

    The use of fireships was already established but apart from the fact that sufficient "spare" ships and substantial quantities of flammable materials were required, conditions were often not suitable for their use anyway.
    Over the next couple of centuries, improved tactics and methods for defeating an enemy line of battle were gradually refined.
    In any event, the ship of the line would be the ultimate power on the World's seas and oceans for the better part of two centuries.

    We'll start off with HMS Sovereign of the Seas, launched in October 1637. She was re-named Sovereign in 1651 and finally, Royal Sovereign in 1685. As originally conceived, she was a 90-gun 1st rate displacing 1,522 tons. By the time of her launch, this had been upgraded to 102 guns.
    In 1660 she was rebuilt for 100 guns (nominal) and other improvements were made. By this time her official displacement was 1,605 tons. A further rebuild in 1685 was more for overhaul than upgrade as such, so the specifications remained similar. The ship served from 1638 until 1697, when she was destroyed by fire at Chatham, in what appears to have been an accident or perhaps negligence.

    Sovereign of the Seas was not only a very powerful warship but also very richly decorated with extensive gilded carvings. At the time, she cost 65,586 which is equal to more than 10,000,000 in today's money. The gilding alone cost 6,691; the equivalent of over 1,000.000 today.
    After her launch, some effort was made to lighten her to improve handling. Further efforts were made in 1651. After that, she was regarded as handling well for her size.
    Sovereign of the seas fought in the First Anglo-Dutch War, during which Dutch captains were enticed with extra prize money of an additional 3,000 guilders if they managed to "ruin the ship named Sovereign". In the Battle of Kentish Knock during that war, she ran aground. Ferocious fighting ensued, with the Dutch taking her as a prize and then the English re-capturing her. This happened repeatedly and each time, the fighting was merciless. In the end, the English managed to win her back for the final time. She had survived, and went on to serve both in the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch wars, as well as some other engagements, before being laid up at Chatham where she met her end.

    A nice model of Sovereign

    Sovereign 1637 model 2a.jpg

    Next we have HMS Prince, launched in 1670. Prince was a 100-gun 1st rate ship of the line, built at Deptford dockyard. She served as the flagship of The Lord High Admiral the Duke of York (later James II and VII). In the battle of Solebay, 1672, during the 3rd Anglo-Dutch War she was badly damaged by the Dutch flagship De Zeven Provincien. Prince was recoverable but had to be extensively repaired and rebuilt. After the rebuild, she was re-named as HMS Royal William.
    From there, she saw action in 1692 at the Battle of Barfleur against the French, by which time the Dutch were siding with the English. The outcome of the battle was inconclusive. As Royal William, she served in a number of further conflicts and actions, the last of these being during the Seven Years' War, 1756-63. She was not broken up until 1813. Notwithstanding the number or rebuilds that would have been necessary over her lifespan, this is an exceptional length of service.

    Prince 1670 (aka Royal William)

    Prince 1670 (aka Royal William) before the Wind.jpg

    Our final example is HMS St Andrew, launched in 1670. St Andrew displaced about 1300 tons and as originally built was a 96-gun 1st rate. She was comprehensively rebuilt in 1703 as a 100-gun, with a substantial increase in displacement to 1,700 tons. At this point, she was re-named to HMS Royal Anne. In 1707, she served as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir George Byng and saw a limited number of actions, as well as surviving one disaster in which four British ships were lost in a severe storm. She was broken up in 1727.

    St Andrew 1670, 96 guns

    St Andrew 1670 96gun 1rate p17 onv183.jpg

    Time to decide between these two English types:
    Will you vote for the handier 3-4 rates or the heavy-hitting 1-2 rates?

    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).
    55 - English 2-Decker & Great Ship (3-4 rate)
    56 - English 3-Decker Great Ship (1-2 rate)
    Last edited by panther3485; 21 Oct 18, 06:08.
    "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

  • #2
    The 2 decker, although unable to throw as much shot as the larger great ship, in my opinion had more mobility and maneuverability thus giving it the advantage in any weather.
    ARRRR! International Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19th


    • #3
      That's an excellent argument for the 2-decker and I almost voted for it.
      On the other hand however, the 3-deckers of the 1600's pointed the way to the future of the ship of the line so I went that way.
      Could easily have gone the other way, though.
      "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)


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