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T2, R2, Prng 79: Russian Ship of the Line vs Spanish Ship of the Line

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  • T2, R2, Prng 79: Russian Ship of the Line vs Spanish Ship of the Line

    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.

    85: Russian Ship of the Line 1701-1860

    When it came to building large warships entirely from their own resources, the Russians were relative latecomers. Prior to the very late 1600's, unless such ships were purchased from another country they were built with technical assistance from hired foreign experts. By the end of that century, however, the Russians were ready to go it alone. Their first large warship built entirely without foreign assistance or expertise was Goto Predestinatsia. (This translates to "God's Predestination"; meaning literally, The Providence of God.)
    Goto Predestinatsia, launched in April 1700, is also important as being Russia's very first ship of the line. It is quite reasonable to consider her as one of the more significant "milestone warships" of history.
    She was a 2-decker with a crew of 253 officers and men, carrying 58 guns as follows: 26 x 16pdr, 24 x 8pdr and 8 x 3pdr

    Goto Predestinatsia served in the Azov fleet for about a decade, after which she was sold to the Ottoman Empire in 1711, going on to render useful service in the Ottoman-Venetian war 1714-18.

    In this photo, we see some tourists admiring an authentic modern reconstruction of Goto Predestinatsia.

    SoL Goto Predestinatsia replica 2.JPG

    For a second Russian example, we can consider Azov, launched in 1826 and taking us to the opposite end of our time-span here.
    Azov was a large ship of the line rated for 74 guns (nominal) and displacing about 3,000 tons, with a crew of 600 officers and men. Her armament usually exceeded that number and typically consisted of the following:
    24 x 36pdr, 30 x 24pdr, 22 x 24pdr carronades and 4 x 40pdr licornes*.
    (*Licornes were a type of howitzer; in this case adapted for shipboard use.)

    Azov was a successful warship, performing well in battle; but her career was relatively short and she had to be broken up in 1831 after little more than 4 years of active service. The main reason for this was the combination of battle damage and deterioration of her timbers, which had begun to rot.

    Perhaps her most remarkable achievement was during the Battle of Navarino in 1827. The Russians were allied with Britain and France, to support Greek independence against a combined Turkish/Egyptian armada. Azov was at one end of the Russian line, next to the British. A number of enemy ships were trying to force a gap between them. At one stage, Azov had no less than eight enemy ships attempting to engage her (but probably getting in each others' way in the process). The nearest British ship, HMS Albion, was also fighting very bravely and desperately. Azov's captain, Mikhail Lazarev, made sure to focus as much of his firepower as possible on one enemy ship at a time. Azov ended the fight very badly damaged but she survived.
    The Allied ships, as a whole, fought much more effectively than the Turkish fleet, which was soundly defeated.

    Painting depicting Russian ships destroying Turkish ships at Navarino.
    Azov is to the left.

    Battle of Navarino 1827 Azov is larger ship at left 1.jpg

    Just for a change, I chose something completely different for the third Russian image. In my studies preparing for this tournament and especially when looking at images of paintings, it was necessary to learn about the flags used by the navies of many different countries at different points in history.
    The chart below shows a variety of Russian flags (of all kinds; not just naval ones) from 1668 to the current time. For example, the flag at top centre - dating from 1710 - is most significant as the Russian Naval ensign during this particular period.

    Russian flags.jpg

    89: Spanish Ship of the Line 1701-1860

    One of the most distinguished Spanish ships of the line was San Juan Nepomuceno, launched in 1765. She was a very large 2-decker and a 3rd-rate, originally fitted with 74 guns as follows:
    • Lower gun deck - 28 x 24pdr
    • Upper gun deck - 30 x 18pdr
    • Forecastle & Quarterdeck - 8 x 12pdr + 8 x 8pdr.
    At full strength, San Juan Nepomuceno carried a crew of 530:
    8 Officers, 11 Midshipmen, 19 Leading Seamen and 492 Able Seamen.
    She was a well built ship with good sea-keeping qualities. Among her more notable exploits were the following:
    • Distinguished service in the Caribbean until 1779
    • Anglo-Spanish occupation of Toulon, 1793
    • Fought against the British at the battle of Cape St. Vincent, 1797
    • In alliance with the French, fought the British at the Battle of Trafalgar, 1805
    It was at Trafalgar that she put up her most valiant fight, even though it ended with her defeat. Here is a partial (edited) extract from the account:

    In spite of being dismasted by HMS Victory, she achieved glory in this battle under the command of Don Cosme Damian Churruca and constituted for the Spaniards a handsome example of the heroism of their nation and the bravery of their sailors.
    ..... San Juan Nepomuceno was one of the last Spanish and French ships still fighting, as by this stage in the battle most had either been captured, destroyed or had surrendered. Churruca ordered his flag to be nailed to the highest possible point on the mast. (Among most seafaring nations, it was commonly accepted that lowering one's flag was a signal of surrender; otherwise known as "striking the colors" or simply, "striking".) Nailing the flag in this way was a message to one's own crew, as well as to the enemy, that it should be a fight to the bitter end.
    From this point as time passed, Churruca sustained mortal wounds including having one of his legs torn off by a cannonball. Under continued British gunfire, the carnage was terrible and the decks became covered in blood, entrails and gore; yet, those of his crew who were still able continued the fight. Knowing that his death was inevitable, Churruca forbade his officers to surrender the ship as long as he remained breathing.
    Upon Churruca's death, his second-in-command - Francisco Moyna - continued the fight until he himself was killed.
    In turn, Moyna was replaced by the next officer in command, who also refused to surrender the ship.
    However, by this stage the Spanish ship's ability either to fight or to maneuver was gone and there was no chance of breaking the encirclement of fire which at this point included no less than six British ships. The toll of dead and seriously wounded men on the Spanish ship now exceeded 400 out of a complement of 640.
    In order to prevent further pointless loss of life, the last officer left alive on San Juan Nepomuceno surrendered and the British took her as a very battered and bloody - but still repairable - prize.

    San Juan Nepomuceno was repaired and taken on Royal Navy strength for a number of years. Initially, she was re-named as HMS Berwick; but shortly afterwards this was changed to HMS San Juan, in honor of the exceptional courage of Churruca and his crew. For a time at least, the cabin he had occupied bore his name on a brass plate and all who entered it were required to remove their hats as a mark of respect for a gallant enemy. The ship was used mainly for secondary duties until being paid off and sold in January 1816.

    Model of San Juan Nepomuceno 1765

    SoL San Juan Nepomuceno 1765 2.jpg

    Next, we have Montanes, another 3rd rate of 74 guns (nominal); but she generally carried about 80. Launched in 1794, she was the name ship of her class. Montanes was of good build quality and a well-balanced, fine handling ship. Also, being among the first Spanish warships of this era to be fitted with copper plates to her hull, she was faster than average. She carried a crew of 715 officers and men.
    Montanes had a good career and performed very well at Trafalgar despite being on the losing side. She also suffered relatively low casualties during that battle and was able to re-capture two ships (Santa Ana - a 112 gun 3-decker and Neptuno - another ship of her own class) that had been captured by the British. Montanes' relatively successful career was cut short when she ran aground in 1810.


    SoL Montanes 1794-1810.jpg

    We end this Spanish trio with the behemoth Neustra Senora de la Santisima Trinidad (Santisima Trinidad for short) launched in 1769. This ship started as a 3-decker with 112 guns (nominal) ranging from 36pdr to 8pdr but by 1796 had been upgraded to 130 guns. This was achieved by closing over the spar deck (between the forecastle and quarterdeck); effectively providing the ship with a fourth full gun deck. Furthermore, in 1802 the number of guns was increased to 140. However, the weapons on the 4th level were all relatively small. Nevertheless, in terms of her sheer weight of shot, Santisima Trinidad was the most heavily armed ship in the World at the time of her final rebuild and carried the greatest number of guns of any warship in the Age of Sail. After the 1802 upgrade she displaced almost 5,000 tons. Her complement was about 1,000 officers and men.

    Santisima Trinidad became the flagship of the Spanish fleet. Her sheer gun-power made her formidable in battle but she did have an extremely close encounter prior to her final demise at Trafalgar in 1805. This was also against the British at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797 (following her first major upgrade). As a result of some very intense fighting, Santisima Trinidad became so badly damaged she actually struck her colors. However, the British failed to take possession of her and she was able to be rescued, returning to Spain for badly needed repairs.

    Her final demise, as mentioned above, came at Trafalgar; her enormous size and position in the order of battle making her the target of a concentrated attack by several British ships. Santisima Trinidad eventually surrendered and at first was taken in tow but due to the severity of her damages, was later scuttled by her captors.

    Image from an excellent painting of Santisima Trinidad in the later years of her service. I think it conveys the impression of her sheer size very well.

    SoL Santisima Trinidad 1769 2.jpg

    So, whose ships of the line do you favor in this pairing?
    The Russians or the Spanish?

    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).
    85 - Russian Ship of the Line
    89 - Spanish Ship of the Line
    Last edited by panther3485; 21 Oct 18, 10:09.
    "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
    Even though Spain was on the decline as a naval power (compared to other European countries) and Russia was on the ascendant, I think Spanish warships overall were still more important in the global context - compared to those of Russia - for most of this period. It arguably starts to swing the other way just before the end of the age of sail (IMO) ... or at least, my reading so far seems to point that way.
    "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.


    • #3
      You've done it again,Panther:- excellent stuff.
      "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
      Samuel Johnson.


      • #4
        Thanks mate. It seems to be rolling quite smoothly now. Looking to go to Round 3 next weekend.
        "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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