Tuesday, 15 September 2020

All at Sea - Sloops and more Scratch Builds

Back in July I showed my proof of concept scratch build ship-sloop adapted from the Warlord brig model to produce a ship-rigged flush decked sloop or corvette.


Following that initial build, I completed two more and rigged them for French and Spanish options and thought you might like to see how they turned out.

As with all my model builds I am always looking to find better ways to build them and with my Spanish and French versions I used the brig ratlines for all masts instead of adapting a frigate ratline for the mainmast as used on my British version.

I simply left more of the clear acetate under the fighting top and painted it black grey to disguise the addition.

I have a few small ship engagements in mind where these small 20-gun ships played a part, particularly the French, with actions such as that fought off Ushant, 13th March 1795 between HMS Lively 32-guns and Tourtourelle 24-guns, with the Frenchman firing red hot shot using a small furnace on board, that burnt some of Lively's rigging during a two hour fight.

In addition, these small ships open up other interesting scenarios close to shore, cutting out actions and going up against merchantmen and Indiamen, where the smaller warship against a moderately armed merchantman can make for an interesting fight as illustrated in the header picture showing a hard fought little action off of Portugal between a Spanish brig-sloop and a British merchantman.

Of course if you do start chopping up your brig models, you might find you get the bug for all this cutting and gluing and you'll definitely have to find a use for the short sections of brig left over from the sloops.

Mast building becomes fairly straight forward once the first one is done and serves as a template. Furled sails as required can be added using some Milliput.

I decided to see if these hulls would work for some of the smaller brigs often used by privateers and common on the Great Lakes, but I wanted to avoid cannibalising masts from other models to build them.

So after ordering up some appropriately sized plastic rod and card I sat down to scratch build some mast sections for these small men-of-war and found the work surprisingly straight forward producing a robust mast section that can fit well with those supplied in the kits.

Once these are painted and rigged, I think they will be hard to tell which parts were scratch built and those that came ready prepared. 

I now feel confident at adding mast sections to other models and furled courses are easily added with the addition of some carefully sculpted Milliput or such like.

My concern was for the rigidity of the final build, but the liquid cement really welds the mast together and fully rigged will be fine

So finally, while I was messing about with craft knife and liquid cement I decided to have a go at a project long in the gestation.

A very famous British 64-gun ship of the line, HMS Agamemnon in action with Ca Ira - Geoff Hunt

The basic Warlord plastic third rate with its generic options of figureheads and stern galleries are fine as far as they go, but if like me you are interested in producing some multi-ship fleet/squadron type actions, and why wouldn't you with model detail such as this, then you are going to want to add further variations to your battle line, as the third rate ship category included 64's and 80's.

Below you can see my first efforts at transforming two 74-gun hulls into a 64-gun and 80-gun options set alongside a standard 74-gun for comparison and very pleased I was with the outcome that again was very straight forward, using the modelling saw and files together with liquid cement to get the seamless hulls you see below.

Next up was the 64-gun/80-gun mods seen above

The technique with these mods is to saw steadily and straight down through the hull and gently removing any excess plastic from the cut.

Then the liquid cement goes to work producing a seamless weld that will paint up a treat.

I'm not concerned with the spar deck irregularity as this will be lost to the eye once the ships boats are arranged and stacked over it.

From top to bottom, 80-gun, 74-gun and 64-gun

The 64-gun ship was still prominent in the British and Spanish navies right into the early nineteenth century as the smaller, cheaper to build, third rate was ideal for policing the empires of both countries, while the larger options were retained closer to home as part of the main battle fleets.

In the case of the Royal Navy in particular, the 64 makes an interesting addition, as these smaller ships could often give a very good account of themselves against larger opponents as illustrated in the picture of Nelson's Agamemnon going toe to toe with Ca Ira or HMS Africa at Trafalgar mixing it with the mighty Santisima Trinidad.

As the saying goes, 'it's not the size of the dog in the fight that counts, but rather the size of the fight in the dog!'

Once I have one prototype completed, its time to see if it can be easily reproduced

That included the third rates and so four boxes produced four of each size. I'm really pleased with the 64's in particular as they will be very distinctively smaller when seen in the line of battle

Likewise, with the 64, the 80-gun third rate was quite a significant option for all navies of the period, but particularly the French who often used these large two-deckers in preference to the small three-decker used by the Spanish and British as flag ships for their respective commanders.

The slightly longer hulls of the 80-gun ship should make imposing models when finished and will add impact to my French line. 

Having got all twelve hull variants built , I was keen to get on with adding these options to the collection, and priming and painting were well underway by the close of the weekend and I look forward to showing you the final look in a week or two.

A good weekend's work, now all I have to do is paint and rig them!

The first hulls sent to the paint shop with three 64's front, one 64, centre left and two 74s and at the back two 80's

Already with just an initial prime and base coat, the cut down hull of the 64 is taking shape with the shorter spar deck and hammock nettings indicating the shorter hull.

A standard generic 74 for comparison and a key addition to the collection

Again once these are painted and rigged as with the sloops, they should be very able to take their place in the line of battle, as smaller or larger third rates as required.

The long hull of the 80-gun variant

More anon, and I look forward to showing the new models once they are done, but before that I have nine third rates of renown to display, complete with new decks, stern galleries and figureheads, three from Britain, France and Spain.

Not only that but I have an interesting walk Carolyn and I did to a WWII coastal battery close to home, to report on, plus another book review and a roundup of Steve and my Vassal adventures.

And if that wasn't enough stuff, I'm off on another walk with Mr Steve to another famous historical battle site, so am looking forward to showing you all the fun of our little adventure.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Dartmoor Walk - Lakehead Hill

With Carolyn taking a week off from work in the Bank Holiday week of my birthday and Will home for a few more weeks before he starts working in Torbay in his final year at Medical School, I jumped at the opportunity for us all to get out onto Dartmoor and some further exploration of some of the amazing ancient sites that litter the National Park.

This time we were heading to Postbridge, favourite stop for holiday visitors to the region and the moor and giving its name to the ancient clapper bridge spanning the East Dart River.

Postbridge shown on the map was the start point of our walk across Dartmoor

However  as amazing as the clapper bridge is, this time it simply marked the start of our seven mile walk across the moor heading first to another favourite haunt of locals and visitors, Bellever Woods further along the river and a spot we regularly took the boys to with other friends when they were younger.

The ViewRanger OS Map recorded the route we walked as we made our way between the various sites shown and circled with pictures in the post.

Carolyn and Will enjoying the fresh air of Dartmoor as we began our walk up from Postbridge to Bellever, looking forward to stopping for lunch

Walking along the Dart to Bellever with plenty of fresh air in the lungs soon fired up an appetite for lunch and so we found a suitable bench amid the trees to fortify ourselves before heading out from the trees towards the higher ground of the lower slopes of Laughter Tor where we planned to find the double stone row indicated on the map

Bellever is a popular stop in the summer for families enjoying a day out on the moor, sadly spoilt this year as large groups of not very considerate visitors decided to trash the place, wild camping, starting open fires and leaving heaps of litter, forcing Park Rangers and Police to close the area for a few weeks, to clean up. No problems thankfully when we visited!

Feeling fortified after a lunch stop we followed the path up and out of the trees towards Laughter Tor

As the path started to climb up from Bellever, the trees started to thin out as we followed the valley of the East Dart

With some food on board we were eager to get going as this was quite a walk we had planned with plenty of climbs over broken ground and hopefully plenty of ancient ruins in the landscape to spot as we progressed.

As you leave the tree line the views open up over the eastern moor with the heather and gorse in full bloom at this time of year

'The road goes ever on' 

As the path climbed higher, the top of Laughter Tor hove in to sight on our right

The tors on Dartmoor are amazing sites standing out on the hill tops with their bare rocky outcrops and make excellent reference points when monitoring progress along the route.

Not only that but the views across the moor can be stunning and reward the climb.

On reaching the slopes of Laughter Tor we discovered an amazing double stone row with several large standing stones nearby.
Just along the lower slope of Laughter Tor we discovered the Neolithic/Bronze Age double stone row nestled among the heather, with standing stones beyond.

When looking at these monuments you can't help wondering, why?, Why here? Why like this? And what was its significance to the folks who heaved these rocks around and placed them just so. 

Just a bit further along the track lay this poor little chap, not a mouse but a common shrew. These little chaps only live about twelve months, give or take the odd kestrel or owl, but are fierce little rodents, hence Shakespeare's reference in 'Taming of the Shrew'.

Our walk from the base of Laughter Tor took us down to the road near Dunnabridge Pound Farm and entailed a circuitous route skirting a large area of boggy ground, with Dartmoor bogs notorious and worth avoiding if possible, just read 'Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles' if you doubt me.

All creatures great and small along the way, as we came upon these Dartmoor ponies, mare and foal making the best of the rough pasture.

Once around the bog we climbed to the top of Bellever Tor and the views towards Postbridge were stunning as seen in the picture below as we followed the path down before heading to the open ground to the left of the treeline in the valley below and climbing Lakehead Hill over which numerous neolithic remains were indicated on the map.

Three quarters of the way into our walk and we were feeling it in the legs as we crested Bellever Tor and followed the path down on the final leg. We were headed to the open ground to the left which leads up to Lakehead Hill and its neolithic sites.

Sure enough the map proved spot on as we soon started to see numerous standing stones, remains of stone circle huts and stone rows indicating a lot of people must have been living in the area two to three thousand years previously.

On the climb up Lakehead Hill we started to enter an area full of cairns and hut circles as well as yet more stone rows

Then just as we were about to descend to the road where we had parked the car we were rewarded with the final highlight of the walk which was an amazing burial cist set amid its own stone circle and with a stone row leading to it.

It didn't appear that large, which made me think it might have been for a woman or a child, as similar sites have indicated.

Again, I never fail to be moved by the age of these monuments and thinking about the people that built them.

The highlight of the walk came right at the end as we turned the path and discovered this amazing cist set amid a stone circle and row.

If you are interested in more information about this walk you can follow the links below and Carolyn and I hope to squeeze in some more before the weather makes moor walking a bit less desirable.

Plenty of things to come on JJ's as I have another book to review, sloops and scratch built 64-gun ships and my third rates of renown are built and rigged. More anon


Tuesday, 8 September 2020

All at Sea - On the Stocks in JJ's Dockyard, Spanish Builds Part Eight

The Spanish Mahonesas class frigate Ninfa was built in Port Mahon sometime in 1794 and launched the following year.

At launch she was one of the 34-gun 12-pounder frigates that formed the core of the Spanish frigate force in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars with a main armament consisting of 26 x 12-pounder long guns on her main deck, 8 x 6-pdr guns and 6 x 32-pdr carronades on her quaterdeck and 2 x 6-pdr guns and 2 x 32-pdr carronades on her forecastle.

Not much seems to be recorded about her early career, up until her capture by the British on the 26th April 1797 when she in company with Santa Elena, another 34-gun frigate, were intercepted off Cadiz carrying treasure back from Havana in Cuba.

The two Spanish ships, attempting to enter the Spanish naval base, were spotted by the outlying ships of Admiral Jervis's, now Earl St Vincent's, British blockading fleet, after his recent victory over the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in February of that year and their retreat into Cadiz following it.

However the two Spanish frigates had been fortunate to have met with local fishing boats who warned them of the danger and took the treasure off them to land it unbeknown to the British force before they were attacked.

Captain Sir George Martin commanded the Irresistible and Amazon during the capture of the Ninfa, shown here in later life as an admiral 

After being spotted the two frigates were pursued by HMS Irresistible 74-guns and HMS Emerald 36-guns (Captain Velters Cornwall Berkeley) under the command of the captain of the Irresistible, Sir George Martin, and they took shelter anchoring amid the rocky approaches to Conil Bay hoping the rocky shore would deter the pursuit but preparing to resist them should that fail.

Conil Bay, just along the coast from Cadiz, where the Ninfa was captured, 26th April 1797 

Successfully negotiating the large rocky outcrop at the head of the bay known as the Laja de Cape Rocha the British ships engaged broadside to broadside as the outgunned Spanish frigates fought a ninety minute action but were forced to strike at 4 pm with Spanish casualties recorded as eighteen killed and thirty wounded.

As the British attempted to take possession of their prizes, the crew of the Santa Elena cut their cable and their ship drifted onto the rocks, where all the remaining able-bodied crew escaped ashore, leaving their ship to be towed off the rocks by the British, but sinking later from the damage.

Model of the Spanish frigate Diana, another Mahonesas frigate and sister ship to the Ninfa as featured in my previous post.

The Ninfa however was captured and was purchased for the Royal Navy, being renamed HMS Hamadryad of 36 guns under Captain Thomas Elphinstone, operating out of Gibraltar and taking two Spanish privateers in her short career before sinking in a storm in Algiers Bay on 25th December 1797

Sources referred to:
History of the Royal Navy - William Laird Clowes

That concludes the build of the principle ships in the Spanish fleet box, which will also see the completion of some Spanish brigs in time, but next up I have my Spanish and French corvettes and work is ongoing with the Third Rates of Renown, British, French and Spanish, before I move on to do some more scratch builds.