Saturday 26 June 2021

All at Sea - Cape St. Vincent Spanish Additions, Part Three

Cape St. Vincent 14th February 1797, 'The Nelson Touch' - Donald Macleod

The final three generic Spanish third-rate 74's are now done, leaving the final post in this series to come which will see the addition of another two Spanish first-rates to complete my Spanish collection.

However with a rather large investment in sea mats last month, I am focussing my attention on finishing off models sitting in my store room of kits to be done before acquiring extra ones, which include twenty odd brigs, three frigates, five schooners and cutters and a couple of merchantmen that have been acquired over recent months and whose inclusion will allow me to complete an earlier part of this project, namely to have a broad selection of the 'small ships' to refight some of the classic ship to ship engagements that characterised the majority of the war at sea during this period.

But before I turn my attention in that direction, I thought I would showcase my final group of Spanish 74's which completes the shortfall on the Trafalgar collection to allow Cape St. Vincent to figure in a series of games I plan to play with these models.

As with the Trafalgar game, I am looking to base my own Cape St. Vincent replay around the scenario set up written by Nick Skinner and published in the Too Fat Lardies Christmas Special for 2008.

As Nick gleefully points out in the 'Umpire's Notes';

'You’ll need plenty of ships for this one. While the British fleet numbers a manageable fifteen ships the Spaniards tip the scales with a stonking 27, including seven three deckers.'

And don't I know it!

The set up as shown in Part Two of this series of posts shows the classic position at the battle with the Spanish split into two groups struggling to close the gap as the British approach, with both fleets moving on a stately bow wind, but with the British having the better sailing qualities always having the edge in movement.

Alongside that we have Nelson having his own activation chit within the draw to enable him, should the British player so chose, to re-enact the 'Nelson Patent Bridge' for boarding first-rates.

As with my previous groups of Spanish generic ships, these last three follow my simple design of going for some classic Spanish appearances to their ships as captured in the period artwork with Castilian Lion figureheads and gold and red paintwork proliferating, although to keep my Spanish readers happy, no red gun strakes, a rather unique pattern applied to Santisima Trinidad, and a few British third-rates, but seemingly adopted by wargamers as the classic Spanish fleet look which it seems it certainly was not, with the more regular yellow-ochre scheme more to regulations.

Seventh Third Rate

Eighth Third Rate

Ninth Third Rate

The Cape St. Vincent Nine

The three groups completed, first group to the right, second group bottom left and the final group top left.

So in the next All at Sea post we will be looking at some additions to my small fleets with the inclusion of my first 'Indiamen' and some Dutch frigates.

Saturday 19 June 2021

All at Sea - The Mighty French First Rate, L'Orient, Part Two

Concluding from my previous post, see the link below, my next version of L'Orient, sees her at anchor as she was discovered by Nelson's squadron as the British rounded the shoals of Aboukir Island at the Battle of the Nile, 1st-3rd August 1798.

My interpretation of L'Orient at easy sail from Part One
All at Sea - The Mighty French First Rate, L'Orient, Part One

Nelson was informed that the French were in Egypt by the Turkish governor of Koroni in the Peloponnese on the 28th July 1798 after three months of fruitless searching during which the British and French tracks had crossed in the Eastern Mediterranean and with the British narrowly missing intercepting the French off Egypt having arrived twenty-four hours ahead of them before retracing their course back to Sicily.

Reaching Alexandria on the 31st of July, and still without frigates, Nelson detached the Alexander and Swiftsure, to scout out the roadstead, discovering French transports but only two ships of the line, leaving Nelson in despair that his quarry had eluded him yet again; until informed at 14.30 that both the Zealous and Goliath had spotted the masts of Bruey's fleet across the low-lying ground surrounding Aboukir Bay with Zealous reporting sixteen ships of the line at anchor, in fact thirteen ships and four frigates.

Captain Sir Edward Berry, Nelson's Flag-Captain at the Nile - John Singleton Copley (National Maritime Museum)

Captain Edward Berry, Nelson's flag-captain commanding the Vanguard, later wrote;

'and the pleasure which the admiral himself felt was perhaps more heightened than that of any other man.'

The French squadron was some nine miles away and with British needing to concentrate their force and the day slipping into late afternoon it was up to Nelson to decide if he would engage or wait until the next morning, with the French decidedly unperturbed by the British arrival and remaining steadfastly at anchor.

The L'Orient at anchor with sails furled and ready to take her position in my French fleet for the Nile

In an age when night actions were comparatively rare and with with sunset expected at 19.00, coupled with the risk of operating in the uncharted waters of Aboukir Bay at night, with a serious risk of running aground, Nelson's decision to attack is all the more remarkable; but with his men eager to fight, the wind in a favourable direction and an immediate attack leaving the French little time to prepare for action or to slip their cables and flee, Nelson decided there was no time to concentrate his squadron and ordered an immediate attack. 

Close up of a contemporary plan of the battle (National Maritime Museum)
A = Goliath, B = Zealous, C = Orion, D = Audacious, E = Thesus, F = Vanguard, G Minotaur, H Bellerophon, I = Defence, K = Majestic, L = Alexander, M = Swiftsure, N = Leander (50-guns), O = Culloden, P = Mutine (14-guns), 1 =  Le Guerrier, 2 = Le Conquerant, 3 = Le Spartiate, 4 =  L'Aquilon, 5 = Le Peuple Souverain, 6 = Le Franklin, 7 = L'Orient, 8 = Le Tonnant, 9 = Le Hereux, 10 = Le Timoleon, 11 = Le Guillaume Tell, 12 = Le Mercure, 13 = Le Genereux, 14 = Le Serieuse (frigate), 15 = L'Artemise (frigate), 16 = La Diane (frigate), 17 = La Justice (frigate)

At 16.00 Nelson's ships passed around the end of the shoal off Aboukir Island, with Captain Samuel Hood of the Zealous making soundings on the approach into the bay and hailing Nelson with his findings of eleven fathoms and taking the lead, signalling the other ships in his wake.

Battle of the Nile 1st August 1798 - Nicholas Pocock (National Maritime Museum)

However Zealous was soon overtaken by the Goliath as Captain Thomas Foley made best use of a French atlas of the area in his possession that was accurate enough to guide him in his approach, which at right angles to the leading French ships exposed Goliath to bow shots, the French opening fire at 18.20, but with a quartering wind kept the ship sailing along at about five knots and giving the French little time to get off one or two shots before he would be out of danger.

The French were first aware of the British presence at 14.00 when lookouts on the Heureux, spotted the approaching vessels, identifying twelve ships of the line to the east-north-east, and it took Brueys an hour to react to this news and to order hammocks stowed and signals flown to recall all shore parties with the ships boats already away; and it seems that he had not decided that a night battle was inevitable until 17.00 when he signalled the frigates to send over their ablest crew members to the L'Orient, Franklin and Tonnant to make up for the men still on shore, leaving the other ten ships averaging two-hundred men short of compliment.

Nelson's plan of attack was designed to take full advantage of the wind to allow his ships to close quickly and pass down the French line to destroy the van and centre with the wind preventing the rear coming to their aid, seeing him signalling his ships to prepare anchors and to concentrate their fire on the centre and van, but leaving the course his ships were to take to the initiative of his captains.

The opening moments of the battle as at 18.30 the Goliath rounds the head of the French line and lets fly a destructive raking broadside on the Guerrier. - Rev. Cooper Willyams - A Voyage up the Mediterranean.

This freedom of action was rewarded as Foley and Hood took the Goliath and Zealous respectively around the bow of the Guerrier to anchor on the French leeward sides, to be followed by Thesus, Orion and Audacious, and not only doubling the lead French ships but taking full advantage of the French being unprepared to fight from both sides.

This as Nelson in the Vanguard led the rest of the squadron along the French windward side to bring doubling fire to bear, which quickly overwhelmed the French van, with the five leading French ships between the fire of five enemies to port and three to starboard.

It was getting dark as Bellerophon came into action, tackling the mighty L'Orient, and was soon dismasted, whilst the Majestic followed to take position alongside the next French ship in the line the Tonnant.

My interpretation of HMS Bellerophon who took on the uneven fight with L'Orient

The Bellerophon attempting to get some headway was forced out of the action as her remaining spritsails on her bowsprit moved her away from the French flagship to the protection of the dark , taking fire from the Tonnant as she went with her place soon taken by the arrival of the previously detached Alexander and Swiftsure who together resumed the fight with L'Orient, with Captain Benjamin Hallowell commanding Swiftsure seeing a fire break out on her at about 21.00.

For whatever reason, the fire quickly spread and an hour later it reached the magazine, with Admiral Brueys already twice wounded, cut in two by a cannon ball, but now mortally wounded, still refusing to go below reputedly saying, just before he died;

'A French Admiral ought to die on his own quarterdeck!'

Admiral Brueys, fought his ship bravely to the end
'A French Admiral ought to die on his own quarterdeck!' 

His death was quickly followed by the mortal wounding of his flag-captain, Captain de Casa Bianca, whose young son was also on board, refusing to leave his father, the inspiration for Mrs Hemens, much parodied 'The boy stood on the burning deck'.

Battle of the Nile - Thomas Luny

As the fire engulfed the rigging, other ships stopped firing and began to take precautions, wetting sails and moving away as ports and hatches were quickly closed, while bucket brigades were formed in preparation of any consequent fires. 

The Blowing-up of the L'Orient - Thomas Serres

The blast when it came seemed to have a greater shock than anyone expected, with the sheer volume of sound deafening spectators, followed by blazing bits of ship falling around and causing havoc, and both Alexander and Franklin set on fire by flaming debris whilst the Swiftsure was hit by a large chunk of mast, from which Hallowell later had a coffin made, which he presented to his friend Nelson.

Both fleets were shocked and stunned by the explosion seeing a temporary lull in the firing as ships companies collected themselves, but with the firing starting up again as the remaining French ships still able to resist took up the fight.

The battle raged on until 0600 the next morning when those French ships with no enemy near them and able to escape did so with Rear Admiral Villeneuve in the Guillaume Tell leading the Genereux  together with the frigates Diane and Justice to open sea as the British turned their attention to repairing damaged rigging and securing prizes, consisting of nine ships of the line, leaving two others destroyed and two frigates also destroyed.

Casualties among the British were 218 killed, and 617 wounded, including Nelson, temporarily blinded by a strip of flesh cut by a splinter, requiring stitches. The French suffered much worse with losses estimated between 2,000 to 5,000 killed and wounded and 3,000 to 3,900 captured, not to mention General Bonaparte and his army now left stranded in Egypt.

The L'Orient had a normal compliment of 1,079 men and with 120-guns was armed with 32 x 36 pounder long guns on her lower deck, 34 x 24-pdrs on her middle deck and 34 x 12-pdrs on her upper deck together with 18 x 8-pdr guns and 6 x 36-pdr (obusier) carronades on her quarterdeck and forecastle.

Next up; More adventures along the Welsh border with a visit to Telford's amazing canal and aqueduct at Wrexham and glorious Stokesay Castle, plus more reinforcements for my Cape St. Vincent Spanish, with the last three of nine additional third rate 74-gunners completed. 

Thursday 17 June 2021

North Wales & Border 2021 - Historic Ludlow and its Castle

Carrying on from my previous post, see link below, Carolyn and I recently enjoyed our first trip away in six months following a long long winter of lockdown restrictions, and as the visitors drove along the motorway heading south-west for the May Bank Holiday weekend, we drove in the opposite direction and based ourselves just outside of Shrewsbury to explore the delights of North Wales and the border area, which after a very enjoyable day in Anglesey saw us retrace our steps back to Ludlow, the next day, after stopping their briefly on our way up.

We were captivated by Ludlow on our first visit to the town and made plans to come back, with the first place to visit being the ruins of the castle, built by Walter de Lacey around 1075 AD, soon after the Norman Conquest, and who was given lands in Herefordshire and Shropshire, becoming one of King William's trusted Marcher Lords controlling the borders with Wales.

The castle played a key role in the civil strife of the Barons War between Empress Matilda and Stephen of Blois and in the ensuing struggles of the 12th century seeing this key fortification change hands to rival claimants and again in the Second Baron's War of the 13th century between Henry III and Simon de Montfort, seized briefly by Simon, but recaptured by Henry's supporters led by Geoffrey de Grenville, and was the base from where Prince Edward rallied his supporters in 1265 to begin his campaign against de Montfort that culminated in the Battle of Evesham later that year.

View of the outer bailey of Ludlow Castle looking from the main gate towards the inner bailey beyond.

Geoffrey de Grenville would continue his occupation under Edward and would develop the castle by rebuilding the inner bailey, adding the Solar and Great Hall in the North Range, and linking up the castle outer wall with a town wall some time between 1250 to 1290, to form a continuous ring of defences around the town.

The Keep and Judge's Lodgings overlook the bridge over the moat into the inner bailey

The castle passed into the hands of the powerful Marcher Lord, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March with his marriage to Joan de Grenville, 2nd Baroness Grenville in 1301 who further extended the buildings and the Mortimer's would control the castle for over a century before it passed into the ownership of the Crown becoming a key Yorkist possession on the Welsh border during the Wars of the Roses.

Arms of the House of Mortimer

The crest over the arch leading into the inner bailey and Judge's lodgings are of Sir Henry Sidney who was president of the Council when the new Tudor lodgings were completed in 1581

Ludlow and its castle would develop into the key centre of administration for Wales and the borders with it's role confirmed as the seat of the Council of Wales and the Marches, between the 15th and 17th centuries, governing the nearby lands and overseeing the courts of justice for the region and seeing a gradual renovation of its buildings for its role with luxuriously appointed buildings added to accommodate key personages when staying there.

A view of the inner bailey from the Judge's Lodgings with the round Chapel to the right foreground and the North Range beyond.

The ruination of the castle would follow the English Civil War after its occupation by Royalist forces throughout the struggle and seeing a brief siege at the end of the war that left the castle to fall into disuse and the abolishing of the Council in 1689 with its buildings left to decay through neglect until landscaping in the 18th century and interest from the new tourist classes of the 19th century saw its restoration as a visitor attraction through to the modern day. 

The round nave of the Chapel of Saint Mary of Magdalene is all that remains of the chapel built in the 1100's, with the foundations of the rest of the building visible in the grass to the right, that connected it to the wall of the Inner Bailey.

The ruined apartment buildings around the Solar and Great Hall, hint at the former glory of these luxurious rooms with multiple fire places and walls long without their covering of plaster and drapes leaving the visitor to imagine their previous splendour.

The steps leading up to the door of the Great Hall with its stone arched windows dominate the back of the Inner Bailey.

Moving outside and to the upper battlements reveals the former fortress that Ludlow was as a commanding fortification in the Welsh Marches befitting a Welsh Marcher Lord, with its imposing position overlooking the fast flowing River Teme.

The roar and babble of the cascading River Teme, just visible through the trees beyond the wall, echoes over the battlements.

The castle today provides a romantic backdrop for wedding parties and other courting couples

Sally Ports facilitate an aggressive defence from Ludlow's garrison

The path around the back of the North Range Wall overlooking the steep cliff above the River Teme

Of course there's more to Ludlow than its 11th century castle which was more than evident by the buildings that make up the town ranging right through British architectural history and items such as the magnificent Russian 24-pounder naval cannon, setup outside the castle's main entrance after capture at the fall of Sevastopol during the Crimean War 1853-56, and later delivered to Ludlow, one of dozens of such prizes taken and awarded to towns throughout the UK and its dominions, for their support of British forces in a very hard fought war.

Sevastopol was and is the principal Russian naval base on the Black Sea and became the main focus of Allied forces, laying siege to the city for over a year whilst struggling to isolate it from the interior.

British siege batteries bombarding Sevastopol - William Simpson

The town was shattered by a prolonged Anglo-French cannonade, followed on the 8th September 1855 by a French assault that took the key Russian position dubbed the Malakhov redoubt.

Interior of the Redan redoubt after the fall of Sevastopol 1855

The simultaneous British assault on the neighbouring redoubt, the Redan, failed, but that night the Russians evacuated the south side of Sevastopol, retreating to the north, leaving the base in the hands of the Allies, with its naval base facilities, fortifications and vast quantities of stores and ordnance.

The war was ended by the Treaty of Paris, March 30th 1856.

Russian cannon captured during the Crimean War, have a special place in British military history in that the metal from such pieces was used in the creation of Britain's highest military award for valour, the Victoria Cross.

The Ludlow cannon has some interesting features that reveal an interesting back story, with the gun bearing the markers of its identity from the double headed Imperial Russian Eagle atop the barrel to the makers mark on its trunnions, with the right hand trunnion identifying it as a 24-pounder frigate gun, weighing 122.5 poods, about 1 ton or 2000kg and cast in 1799.

So it's a ship's gun probably dismounted from a warship in the harbour and incorporated into the defences of the town.

Additionally the Cyrillic letters inscribed on the left trunnion, 'ALKSND-ZVD' give information on its origin, namely the Aleksandrovskii Zavod or Alexander Foundry, in the town of Petrozavodsk, three-hundred miles north of St Petersburg.

The foundry was established in the reign of Empress Catherine II and was operational in 1774, and in 1786 an Englishman by the name of Sir Charles Gascoigne (1738 -1806), a former director of the Carron Company in Falkirk, Scotland, where the famous carronade was invented, was appointed to run it, with several other Britons employed by Catherine to help update her military as she began to modernise her empire.

The gun is clearly one of the Gascoigne pieces, identified by the letters 'D. GASKOIN' and his smooth bore guns were known to be well made and hence still in service in the Crimea despite the introduction of more modern rifled guns.

Heading into the town from the castle you are immediately aware of the history around you in the buildings and as a 'soft-southerner', I am always aware of the architectural heritage that the more northern parts of the country are blessed with, in places such as York, Chester and here in Ludlow, as soon as you get away from towns that were well within range of Hitler's Luftwaffe, that very sadly destroyed similar buildings in places like Exeter and Plymouth in my own neighbourhood, with only a few examples still surviving.

As mentioned in my previous post, there are more historical blue plaques set up on the walls of notable buildings in Ludlow than you could shake the proverbial stick at, with over five-hundred historic buildings in the town.

The 13th century Rose & Crown, serving ale for over 600 years!

A relatively 'new-build' for Ludlow, the Feathers Hotel, built 1619

With all the medieval rule sets such as Baron's War and Never Mind the Billhooks being the latest fashion going through the hobby, a few building references such as Ludlow may well come in handy for recreating the odd medieval town hovel.

Broad Street and King Street timber-framed shop built circa 1404

Dinham House is situated close to the walls of the castle and is another major historical landmark in the town being a former residence of Lucien Bonaparte, among others, the younger brother of Napoleon who was captured by the British whilst trying to take a ship to America in 1810.

Lucien would later return to France in 1814 following his brother's abdication and a reconciliation during the 'Hundred Days' in 1815, being made a French Prince by Napoleon, but not recognised by the returning Bourbons following Waterloo, leaving him to return to Italy where he died in 1840.

The palatial Dinham House

Given my focus on all things Napoleonic naval at the moment I couldn't help noticing the blue plaque below.

Midshipman Vashon entered the navy at the tender age of thirteen in 1755 serving aboard the 28-gun frigate HMS Revenge, rising steadily through the ranks to Post Captain and Flag rank reaching Admiral of the White and being knighted, whilst seeing service through the Seven Years War, American War of Independence, French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, having an island off Washington State, USA named after him during the exploration voyages of George Vancouver, who gave his name to the Canadian city on the Pacific west coast.

Ludlow is an amazing place to visit for anyone with the slightest curiosity in British history as well as being a very attractive town which I know Carolyn and I have only scratched the surface off on our one day wondering around the town centre and castle, and a place we will no-doubt visit again if in the area.

The 13th-14th century Castle Lodge

References referred to in this post:

Next up: New additions join the French and Spanish collections of model ships with L'Orient at anchor and three more Spanish third rates ready for their photo reviews and further adventures on the North Wales border continue with a visit to the Telford Canal at Wrexham and the glorious Stokesay Castle as we began our journey home.