Thursday 31 March 2022

Vauban's Wars, Wargame Rules for Siege Warfare 1667 to 1815 - Eric Burgess

General Herrasti personally sighting one of the city's heavy guns during the French siege of Ciudad Rodrigo
Dionisio Alvarez Cueto

Last week I finally got a chance to play a set of rules, Vauban's War, I first became aware of back around 2014 when I was deep into my Talavera project and spotted a series of posts on Eric Burgess' blog, with a mind to using the 18mm Peninsular collection to try out some Peninsular War type sieges.

If you are interested in finding more resources about Vauban's War check out Eric Burgess' blog in the link below.

My wife Carolyn indulged me last Xmas by buying me a set for a present and they were put on my 'Must Play at Some Time' pile whilst I busied myself completing other projects focussed around Age of Sail ships and AWI Mohawk Indian collections.

Fortunately there is another 'rules magpie' in our club and an old friend, Chas, who also had a copy of the rules and was keen to give them a run and was happy to take point on organising a try out game, with him getting his head around how they work and importantly producing the required fortress walls, saps and other impedimenta that go along with horse & musket siege warfare; whilst I concentrated on my other stuff, but very happy to dig out my French and Spanish Napoleonic collection to put on a game at 'JJ's HQ', which we ran this week ably assisted by Vince who came over to give them a go as well.

The table you see below is our first attempt at playing with twelve battalions of French infantry, massed guns and sappers before their first parallel, as the Spanish garrison of four line, one grenadier and two militia battalions, glower out from their walls.

The rules themselves are based around the Piquet system of card driven activation and opposed die roll resolution using differing die types from d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 d12+1 and d20 with a base die reference point and moving up or down according to circumstance.

As you can imagine the system really does tick our box in terms of 'friction' with a well thought through plan coming unstuck on first contact with the enemy, represented by the card hands for each player or sequence deck of initially eleven cards, that generate specific events and actions through a turn of play, with each sequence deck played through representing three to four days of the siege.

Vauban's War is a quality product with cards that can be cut out for play or you can order prepared casino style playing cards, together with other game record cards and nicely produced core rules

To that initial hand are added another three cards of the player's choice through which they can attempt to modify the events with stuff they would like to achieve at some time during the three to four days, thus when the first saps are being dug, you are unlikely to want to have a 'Let's storm the breach' card in your hand as that would be a bit of a wasted opportunity.

The number of cards to be played each time is determined by an opposed die roll with the Fortress Governor and Besieging Commander rolling off and the winner having the option to play their cards first or second and with the difference in score determining how many cards will be played, by player one then by player two (red or blue as identified on the card decks).

In our case the French commander, probably Soult for 1811, me, was rolling a D10 and the Spanish Governor, Vince a D12, definitely General Herrasti as seen above, with the inactive player able to blast away should he want at incautious sappers and infantry moving about during card play.

A sample of the cards can be seen below and the presentation of the rules is glorious with full colour illustrations and well laid out explanations of how to set up a game of this type of siege warfare with a typical siege likely to play for somewhere between five to twenty siege turns, that could see several sorties and assaults, not to mention the work to dig parallels and saps, set up gun batteries, manage powder supplies, spies, food stocks and undermine the opposition morale as well as the odd wall or two.

In my own experience I found understanding the rules clearer by playing rather than reading, but that just might be my preferred learning style, but having done a bit of pre-game reading and then getting heads together with Chas to actually play seemed to make the rules clearer and before long Vince and I were rapidly advancing through the card play and working out our die changes with little reference to the rules or QRS, which speaks highly of the rules enabling unconscious-competence quite rapidly.

Examples of the Casino style playing cards for red and blue, garrison and besieger

As we were playing my mind was cast back several times to my 2019 holiday to Spain, touring across the country to visit key Peninsular War battle sites, and staying in the castle at Ciudad Rodrigo and standing before the walls of Badajoz gazing in awe at the scars of 18 and 24-pounder shot marks caused by Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese siege batteries.

The main gate and ditch at Ciudad Rodrigo 2019

The pictures from those visits combined with those of our game as it progressed hopefully captures how well the rules involved us in managing our siege battle, with the pictures illustrating the French advancing their saps on two flanks to create battering positions to clear the first lines of defenders back within their walls prior to advancing forward for the third parallel and the creation of the forward battering positions to hopefully start preparing a breach.

During this play Vince was building saps out to attempt to flank my own positions forcing me to commit reserve infantry to deal with his advancing out from the walls via his saps.

Meanwhile two Spanish spies were intercepted by my security details and promptly shot, whilst my own spy narrowly avoided capture, only to return to the city and successfully stir up insurrection within, lowering the morale a notch as the Governor was forced to send troops into the town to put down a popular revolt demanding him to hand the city over.

The mechanics of recording the state of both the garrison and besiegers is easily recorded on the status cards provided with the rules, together with a simple stat sheet that keeps a note of the quality of the various forces and as we blazed away at each other with cannon and the occasional musketry the various smoke puffs seen in the pictures recorded who had fired in the turn, requiring a reload card to prepare said guns for another round of firing, and the puffs removed but recorded for when the occasional powder check supply card turned up seeing a test or an outright reduction in the powder supply available for future action.

In addition each turn would see the garrison consume its limited food stocks, equally vulnerable to further consumption or despoiling by enemy action, and with little chance of resupply unless relieved by an approaching allied army, all modelled in the card play and with neither side entirely sure of the state of the other, providing yet more narrative and drama.

The imposing defences of Ciudad Rodrigo 2019

This post can only be a first impression and with not enough time to progress to attacking the walls directly with the big guns, an incomplete one, but I and we had seen enough to convince us that these are a very cleverly constructed set of rules that has us wanting to play more and had me ordering up a new set of cards and scanning options for a Vauban Wall collection to run my own games.

I can see that the initial collecting and building of the key terrain items is the main ask for playing Vauban, with the rules designed to work with any figure collection, providing infantry are grouped into units of four bases, double rank, in my case, or single rank, makes no odds, artillery men and guns, general officers and figures in pairs to represent sappers.

The rules lay out the basic requirements in terrain collection with most armies any player would already have suitable for use.

The scars of strikes from 18 and 24-pdr shot fired at the walls of Badajoz by Allied gunners during the siege of 1812, as pictured during my visit in 2019

I think Vauban's War is a cracking game and I'm really looking forward to playing again, but I know I will have to concentrate on finishing the other stuff first so will probably content myself with playing Chas and others until I can work on my own terrain.

With the advent of 3D printing and of course  Paper Terrain, the opportunity to build these kind of games has never been so possible and now there are a set of rules capable of generating a very playable system.

If these kinds of games are of interest, then have a go with Vauban Wars, as they really are a lot of fun and seem to me to capture what sieges in this period were all about.

Next up, more ships are building in JJ's Dockyard, and I visited a very historic castle in North Yorkshire during our trip away in March, plus adventures in Vassal land continue to delight. 

More anon


Saturday 26 March 2022

New Small Third Rate 64-gun - Warlord Games (Available to Pre-order)

Agamemnon opens fire on the Ca Ira, 13th March 1795 - Geoff Hunt
Purportedly Nelson's favourite ship was the 64-gun Agamemnon, here seen keeping well clear of the heavier guns aboard the 80-gun Ca Ira as Nelson sailed back and forth across the stern of the French ship raking her into submission.

It gives me great pleasure and a real privilege to be able to present a set of models that have been put together for over five months at the time of writing and which I was really excited about painting and preparing for my own collection, namely the brand spanking new small third-rate model ship of the line from Warlord Games.

When referring to this class of vessel in the classic age of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars we are mainly concerned with the 64-gun ship of the line, which by this period was basically a cut-price 74-gun ship with 24-pounders on the lower deck instead of 32-pounders.

However, as the saying goes 'you get what you pay for', the 64-gun small third-rate was fast becoming obsolete as a ship of the line able to hold its place in the line by the start of the nineteenth century prompting a British naval officer of the time to state:

'There is no difference of opinion respecting 64-gun ships, being struck out of the rates. It is a fact that our naval officers either pray or swear against being appointed to serve on board them.'

Ten guns difference to an uninformed observer doesn't sound a major deficit in power versus the standard or common 74, but that difference was further enhanced by the heavier timbers, wider breadth of the gun deck, enabling the heavier guns to be carried thus more firepower to deliver with a stronger ship able to resist attack from anything smaller, like a 64.

Building these small third rates for the British Royal Navy ceased with the conclusion of the American War of Independence, but the demands of a new war meant that the 64-gunner was still a fundamental part of British naval deployments throughout the latter period with five 64-gun Indiamen, then under construction in 1795 for the East India Company being taken over for use by the Royal Navy and principally for deployment with the Nore Squadron, tasked with its observation of the Dutch Batavian fleet in the Channel and North Sea, and also using similarly small third rates to bulk out its numbers.

The first of my three 'small third-rates' from Warlord Games with resin hull, metal masts, anchors, figureheads, boats and stern galleries, with parts interchangeable with the plastic large third-rate, providing yet more variety to your models, here seen as a British 64-gun model in preparation for my Camperdown collection, but also making a very nice stand in for Agamemnon when I come to play the Ca Ira scenario.

The fact that these small third rates were deployed in squadrons facing enemies often deploying similar sized vessels is seen by where these ships were deployed in numbers, principally against the minor navies such as the Dutch, Danes, Swedes and Russians in the Baltic, or out on the far flung, slightly quieter areas of the British Empire in the Caribbean and East Indies, where they were more likely to encounter French frigate squadrons or the Spanish using the 64-gun ship themselves to police their own colonial holdings.

That said there were four such types at Trafalgar in 1805, three British, (Africa, Polyphemus and Agamemnon) and one Spanish (San Leandro) so if you are a keen collector of models for this and earlier periods you are likely going to want to have a few of these smaller ships in the collection and challenge yourself to handle one of these ships in the Nelsonian manner, by choosing very carefully how and who you decide to fight.

So to give you an idea as to how these models can look I have prepared my three models styled in the look of three of the principle users of small third rates, the British, Spanish and with an eye to my own Camperdown collection, Batavian Dutch.

Back Found - Carlos Parilla Penagos
A Spanish 64-gun ship attached to the Ferrol squadron, indicated by the blue pennant on the foremast passes a British 74 gun ship flying a commodore's pennant from her mizzen 

The Spanish option has already been in battle and featured in our anniversary game of Cape St Vincent along with my scratch built option prepared for my Trafalgar campaign collection.

As the figureheads from the 74-gun plastic option fit the resin hull of the new small third-rate, I opted to use a spare lion of Castile at the bow to emphasise the Spanish look of this particular model.

The new small third-rate (right) alongside her larger sister (left)

Here, above and below, you can see the new small third-rate, on the right, alongside the larger plastic 74-gun option, to the left.

I know some folks prefer thicker masts, although personally I don't find any of the previous models a problem, but as you can see the new masts are very sturdy in comparison.

The wider deck of the larger 74-gunner on the left is obvious with the view from the stern galleries.

For my small Dutch third-rate, I opted to have her in the Revolutionary War trim with a figurehead bearing the Batavian coat of arms and the blue trim seen on paintings of the Dutch ships at Camperdown in 1797.

If you want to go for extra detailing, the Dutch squadrons at Camperdown seemed to have gone in for different coloured hulls with some sporting all black hulls and others in a black with white gun-port strakes, something I aim to add with my own Dutch collection of these models.

My three versions of the new small third rates from Warlord

I think these models are a great addition to the current range and for those of us interested in squadron and fleet actions, a must have option in our line of battle.

Warlord Games have big plans for the Black Seas range of model ships with lots of new models announced and planned, with these, the new sloop-corvette, the British second-rate, and models for other nationalities fleets, plus models for the War of 1812 on the Great Lakes, and even galleons for a much earlier period.
The new Small Third Rate Squadron, together with the British second-rate and galleons are now available for pre-order on Warlord Games web shop, with a link below to the models featured.

Next up, I got to play a very interesting set of relatively new rules for a very underplayed area of the horse & musket era of wargaming, which proved great fun and has me planning for some new games - more anon.


Monday 21 March 2022

HMS Trincomalee , The National Museum of the Royal Navy, Hartlepool - Yorkshire 2022

Last week, Carolyn and I had a short break away staying in Yorkshire, or more precisely Oakworth, just north-east of Bradford and in the heart of Bronte country with Haworth, and its famous Parsonage quite literally just down the road.

I say Yorkshire because I am of an age when the county boundaries were the historic boundaries from Viking and Saxon times, that until certain governments in the sixties decided to break them up and assign us post codes, and local authorities to govern areas no one had ever heard of, and so I prefer to refer to all of Yorkshire as just that.

Whilst enjoying walking and some great weather to go with it, that has included the Bronte Trail and a walk around Malham Cove and its surrounding area that took in the film backdrops for Harry Potter and The Witcher I got to make the two hour trip up to Hartlepool to visit a ship that I have long wanted to see, but that is a bit off the beaten trail for me, namely the Leda Class, Bombay built, 38-gun frigate, HMS Trincomalee now restored to her 1817 look from the wreck of an old training ship she had become in her latter years before being saved for the nation.

HMS Pomone built in Frindsbury in 1805 - G.F. St. John
The second ship after Leda to be built in this class of frigate based on the design of the French frigate Hébé, designed by Jacques-Noël Sané

The ship really is unique in so many ways, that make her a must see option for anyone with the slightest most passing interest in the age of sail and particularly the Royal Navy of that era representing as she does the last surviving example of a frigate of the classical Georgian Navy that would have been familiar to Nelson, with only a few modifications brought in for her service in a later Victorian Navy and being the only survivor of her class of seven such ships ordered by the Royal Navy between 1812-1815 and having none of the 'Seppings' modifications that her much later sister HMS Unicorn, docked in Dundee displays.

HMS "Amelia" (ex Proserpine) Chasing the French Frigate "Aréthuse" 1813. - John Christian Schetky
The Amelia shows the lines of the Hébé class that influence the design of the British Leda and Trincomalee.

The Leda class itself was based on, of course, an original French design, the Hébé 38-guns designed by Jacques-Noël Sané and launched in St. Malo on the 25th June 1782 only to be captured by HMS Rainbow 44-guns the following September, close to her launch site, off the Île de Batz, on the Brittany coast, with the first use of British carronades deciding the issue after the first broadside with the French commander promptly pulling down his colours in response.

The Hébé was taken into British service as HMS Hebe, later renamed HMS Blonde in 1805, being paid off in 1810 and broken up in Deptford in June 1811.

Scale: 1:48. Plan showing the inboard profile for 'Leda' (1800) dated 9th July 1796 - RMG

On the 1st May 1799, the new HMS Leda, a design of frigate based directly on the Hébé was laid down in Chatham and launched on the 18th November 1800, completing a month later and heralding one of the most successful class of forty-seven sister ships built for the Royal Navy, including HMS Trincomalee laid down on the 25th April 1816 and built in Bombay, by the Master Builder Jamsetjee Bomanjee.

Master Builder Jamsetjee Bomanjee of the Wadia dynasty, displaying in his right hand the drawing of the stern of HMS Minden 74-guns built and launched in Bombay alongside a number of other ships including the Trincomalee.

With the consumption of wood a major consideration when building wooden warships and at the time one of high strategic importance with demand outstripping supply in Britain from the two main royal sources of supply the Forest of Dean and the New Forest with a report showing that in 1707 a Navy Forest survey indicated that there were 12,476 trees fit for ship building, a huge decline since only a century earlier in 1608 when a similar report indicted the number at 123,927.

These numbers are put into perspective when one considers that a warship hull could consume 2000 loads of timber from mature trees and a frigate some 350 loads with a typical load being defined as 50 cubic feet of timber, almost exactly one imperial ton of mature English oak.

The decline in available timber was probably more to do with poor administration as much as any other factor, but the fact remained that naval ships required mature oaks with the construction of HMS Agamemnon 64-guns in 1781 at Bucklers Hard in the New Forest requiring 2,000 such trees.

New sources of timber became a high priority with the resumption of war with France in 1793 and law reforms at home for new plantations, with oaks planted in 1808 under the Enclosure Act being used to build mine-sweepers in the Second World War.

The former training ship Foudroyant is towed into Hartlepool for her restoration back to the original Trincomalee of 1817.

The other new supply options focussed on North America, Southern Russia, Austria and the Ottoman Empire, with mast timbers sourced in the Baltic, and with other new timber for hull construction such as Mahogany from Africa and Teak from India and Burma, the latter proving ideal for ship building with their natural oils protecting the ship from rot and extending its life which probably explains why the Trincomalee managed to survive in as good a state as she was when finally restored to her current appearance in the early nineties

The stern gallery of the restored HMS Trincomalee retains the more rounded stern added to the ship in 1845 as part of her conversion to a ship-sloop and her decorations include the timber carrying Indian elephants with their small ears, seen at the extreme ends of the top layer of scroll work.

Following the launch of HMS Leda the Admiralty ordered eight further ships to this design in 1802-09:
  • HMS Pomone, wrecked on The Needles in 1811.
  • HMS Shannon, the victor over USS Chesapeake, off Boston, on 1 June 1813.
  • HMS Leonidas 
  • HMS Briton
  • HMS Tenedos
  • HMS Lacedemonian
  • HMS Lively ex-Scamander
  • HMS Surprise
In 1812 the Admiralty ordered eight ships to be built of "fir"(actually, of red pine) instead of oak; these were sometimes called the Cydnus class:
  • HMS Cydnus
  • HMS Eurotas
  • HMS Niger
  • HMS Meander
  • HMS Pactolus
  • HMS Tiber
  • HMS Araxes
  • HMS Tanais
Perhaps one of the most famous Leda class frigates was HMS Shannon which defeated the USS Chesapeake off Boston on the 1st June 1813 and covered here on JJ's with my review of Tim Voelcker's book.
JJ's Wargames - Broke of the Shannon and the War of 1812

The Admiralty ordered seven more vessels to this design in 1812–15, with those constructed in Britain reverting to oak and those constructed in Bombay using teak:
  • HMS Diamond 
  • HMS Amphitrite
  • HMS Trincomalee, has survived to the present day.
  • HMS Thetis
  • HMS Arethusa
  • HMS Blanche
  • HMS Fisgard

The sailing characteristics and performance reports on the Leda class was mixed with an acknowledgement that the French style of hull and general proportions meant that the class was fast, with most recording 13 knots when large and 10 knots close-hauled, but with the downside that those same proportions made the ships unweatherly, compared to frigates with British proportions, with many captains requesting the addition of a false keel to remedy this.

In addition, the ships were known to pitch excessively in heavy seas and were considered to be 'wet' as a result of their lively rolling and pitching, whilst those same French hull proportions also led to poor stowage capacity, somewhat alleviated by the introduction of iron fresh-water tanks. 

The starboard bow of Trincomalee, reveals her modern day figurehead, a copy of her original which is cared for in the museum, together with the rigging of her very long bowsprit. She is the second oldest warship afloat, here revealing her copper bottom, riding higher than normal due to her light replica guns and lack of wartime stowage. The classic frigate gun deck, high above the water line and able to fire in heavy seas is well illustrated.

This picture of the starboard forward hull illustrates the gun ports positioned below the channel with a spare yard, the length of black pole carried above the channel and the anchor stowed further forward

This diagram provides an illustration of our tour through Trincomalee and her various decks and compartments with my pictures here following this plan 

The visitors entry port on to the gun-deck of Trincomalee - note the horeshoe shaped bracket to the right of the port which is one of the sweep-ports, designed to allow the Trincomalee to be rowed with oars by her crew when becalmed.


The classic appearance of the gun deck of an 18-pdr frigate. There had been a bit of rain just before our visit and the fact that a ship of this era required a wash of seawater each day to keep her decks watertight is revealed by the buckets and plastic boxes catching rain drips from the quarterdeck above.

A gentle tap on these eighteen pounders reveal glass fibre guns, designed to relieve this old lady of the weight on her timbers.

The capstan surrounded by drip buckets, connected to its partner on the quarterdeck above, with the brass pillars around the aft companion way behind, that could be removed when the bars were inserted into the capstan slots. Those same slots would often have draws containing bandages ready for use in action.

An eighteen pound gun with its two training leavers in place, used for aiming left or right

The galley of a frigate was simply part of the gundeck containing a Brodie stove on a tiled section of flooring and designed to provide food for a complement of 320 men. This is the Lamb and Nicholson 1811 modified stove which made the stove more economical to run with this stove being one of the most used types in the nineteenth century. Ignore the modern electrics above, definitely a twentieth century addition!

The sign on the gundeck, exhorting young sailors to 'Remember Nelson' was once mounted above the wheel at the fore end of the built-up after cabin on the Foudroyant as seen below

HMS Foudroyant, launched in 1798, was one of two 80-gun ships built for the Royal Navy and served as Nelson's flagship from 6th June 1799 to the end of June 1800. She was sold off in 1891 and was set for breaking up by a German company, but a storm of public protest saw her bought and restored by Geoffrey Wheatley Cobb, a philanthropist, who spent £25,000 restoring the old ship to her original look and offsetting the cost by using her as a Naval Training Ship.

The 80-gun Foudroyant pictured next to the Argentine gunboat Santa Fe circa 1897

Foudroyant would end her days wrecked on Blackpool Sands after a violent storm in June 1897 saw her cables break and the old ship washed ashore below Blackpool Tower. Cobb undeterred at the loss of his ship turned to Read's shipbreakers and secured the purchase of the Trincomalee, rebuilding her as the second Foudroyant and providing the link between the two ships, Tincomalee retaining her new name until restored to her original look as seen today.

Another reminder of the old Foudroyant is this bench carved from some of her salvaged timbers.

As well as her role as a training ship for young naval cadets, Trincomalee's role as a mid-nineteenth century warship and gunnery training ship is revealed by some interesting scars on her gun deck around her eighteen pounders.

During her first commission in 1847, Trincomalee was brought out of ordinary and classed as a spar-deck corvette armed with eighteen thirty-two pounders, similar to those carried on the lower deck of Victory. Her second commission in 1852 would see her armament change again to ten 32-pdrs and ten eight inch shell guns, plus a single ten inch gun on a trainable mounting on her weather deck. In 1872 she was a gunnery training ship and later fitted out with the latest naval guns, seven inch rifled muzzleloaders.

The picture above reminded me at the time of the extra modifications Captain Philip Broke made to the Shannon prior to his battle with the Chesapeake.

Captain Sir Philip Bowes Vere Broke, 1776-1841 - Samuel Lane (RMG)

Broke knew that his gunnery improvements would allow his ship to take on any American frigate with confidence, despite the Shannon being in a very poor state of repair at the time, and his training resulted in a very quick victory against a very well prepared Chesapeake with a seasoned volunteer crew, three quarters of which, 279 men, had sailed before.

The results of the battle are staggering with Shannon hitting Chesapeake with 44 round shot in just ten minutes whilst only receiving 11 in return and the casualty return reflects this accuracy with the USS Chesapeake suffering 146 casualties (69 dead and 77 wounded), nearly as many men lost as HMS Victory lost in several hours of battle at Trafalgar, whilst Shannon herself suffered 83 casualties (34 killed and 49 injured) indicating the Chesapeakes were not entirely unaware of naval gunnery skills themselves.

Illustration from Broke of the Shannon and the War of 1812 by Tim Voelcker
JJ's Wargames - Broke of the Shannon and the War of 1812

A gunnery expert and zealot for the time, Broke made every effort to make sure Shannon was the best prepared ship in the navy when using her guns and his introduction of director fire arrangements together with gun sights and locks on the guns would influence later gunnery improvements developed by the Royal Navy in the wake of the War of 1812.

The large captains cabin is partially arranged as at quarters with the only furniture seen being the dining table and desk which would have been removed, together with the partitioning screen seen in the picture below. Additional eighteen pounders would have graced the cabin. The doors to right and left lead to the Captain's and Officers 'seats of ease'. The two large bolts below the window ledge would be used to secure the 18-pdr chase guns when required.

The Captain's seat of ease.

The floor, which would have had the classic chequerboard covering when in use as a day cabin, reveals how large a space the Captain and crew of a frigate enjoyed aboard ship compared with the officers and men aboard a ship of the line such as Victory, with the crew forced to sleep and eat amid their stowed guns. With just the one gun deck a frigate seems palatial in comparison.

The beautiful teak workmanship revealed in this hatch grating surrounded by ready shot that would needed to be kept free of rust, thus painted black.

The beautifully carved barley sugar twist pillars or stanchions seen around the companion way and in the picture below are the Wadia trade mark of  the Bombay Dockyard.


The companion way leads to the lower or messing deck on a frigate, with the aft section below the Captain's quarters given over to the rows of officers cabins seen here and the dining area or wardroom.

Officers of a warship messed in the wardroom, traditionally reserved for commissioned officers, with the warrant officers and midshipmen messing in the gunroom. However with no gunroom on a frigate it seems that all the ranks shared the wardroom.

Either side of the wardroom can be seen the officers cabins and the whole area is lit by natural light from a skylight above the dining table. The redcoat to the right reveals the cabin of the officer of Royal Marines.

Directly behind the wardroom is the lower end of the mizzen mast decending to its footing in the hold below and behind it, the steering linkage from the wheel on the quarterdeck above to the tiller connected to the ships rudder.

This steering system of ropes and pullies connected to a wheel on the upper deck remained the common way of steering in the age of sail for hundreds of years little changed and still to be seen on the last of the types such as HMS Warrior in Portsmouth where many of the ropes have given way to iron chains.

This area in the stern below the quarterdeck together with the wheel above and the helmsmen around it was a vital part of the ships steering, combined with the sails, and its vulnerability to enemy shot is clear, particularly if the ship is stern raked, with the subsequent damage possibly taking out the mizzen mast as well leaving the ship unmanoeuvrable and vulnerable to a follow-up killing broadside.

Ropes via pullies lead either side to the tiller bar in the top centre of the picture and lead back via vertical pullies taking the ropes up to the quarter deck and around the wheel above, which when turned pulls the ropes and tiller bar to either side. Note the tiller could be manned itself should this rope and pully system be destroyed, with orders for steering shouted down from above in the heat of battle.

Heading forward along the mess deck reveals the spacious accommodation for the crew aboard a frigate with ample messing and sleeping space in what would have been the gun deck on an old 4th-rate. 


Descending below the mess deck leads to the Orlop and Hold of the ship built up from its keel, into which the Wadia's builders would have driven a silver nail at the start of construction to give Trincomalee good fortune. 

This area of the ship is split level forward, that includes secure facilities for the magazine, and to aft, providing rooms for the surgeon, pursers slop room, marines store and carpenters store, the lower area reserved for food stuffs, ropes in the cable tier, sails and water provisions together with ballast in the form of pig-iron bars that can be readily moved to allow a captain to set up his ship accordingly for best sailing performance.

Quarter Deck

Ascending back up through the ship inevitably leads to the weather deck or quarterdeck, the command area at sea, providing extra gun space more usually for lighter guns, often 9-pounders on a British 38 together with 'Ship-Smashers' which for Trimcomalee would originally have been 32-pounder carronades, the British designed weapon, first used back in 1782 that led to the capture of the old Hébé and the later development of the Leda class frigates.

In addition it was from the quarterdeck that a captain commanded his ship, able to order sail changes, directions to the helmsmen, the launching and collection of boats from the spar deck and from where the ship would be defended during close action as well as where boarding attacks could be assembled to take the upper deck of the enemy once grappled.

The colour scheme seen is based on research for the ship as seen in 1817 with the inside of the bulwarks and ports painted 'longboat green' and 'gun port maroon'.

The view forward along the waist with the space between the bulwarks deliberately left empty to facilitate the raising and lowering of ships boats that would have normally been stowed on the open spar deck, seen here covered in wet weather covers that adorn the foreword companion ways. Note the hammock nettings to left that would daily have seen the hammocks aired and stowed here, also providing cover from small arms and grape to the deck crew during action. Two 'real' eighteen pounder chase guns complete the view to the bow.

The original Leda's such as Shannon would have carried 9-pounders on the quarterdeck and forecastle.

To compliment the quarterdeck 9-pdrs, sixteen 32-pdr carronades would complete the punch from the ships upper deck. These weapons were named after the Carron Foundry of Falkirk a result of experimentation going back to a General Melville in 1759 and originally intended as a defence for merchant ships against privateers, but in naval use it was best suited for laying alongside an enemy ship where its heavy shot over short range could wreak havoc among topside crew and disable rigging

One of the four 'real' eighteen pounders on Trincomalee
that definitely doesn't sound hollow if you tap it! 

The 18-pdr became the standard gun for the heavy frigate of 38-44 guns pioneered by the French with ships like Pomone, that galvanised the Royal Navy to adopt more 38 gun ships as opposed to the earlier 32-gun twelve pounder standard of previous years. The next jump in frigate design came with the large American frigates armed with 24-pdrs and their Sepping style of crossed brace rigid hull design. In the end iron superseded wood, with the ultimate frigate design, HMS Warrior now at home in Portsmouth after being restored here in Hartlepool.

The gun is cast to the pattern established by Thomas Blomefield who became Inspector of Artillery in 1780 and is eight feet long and weighing in at about two and a half tons with its carriage and was often carried on the upper decks of ships of the line.

The main mast shrouds and ratlines mirrored by those on the fore mast
which was having maintenance work carried out on it during our visit which
precluded access to the bow area.

The quarterdeck capstan linked to the other pictured on the gun deck below

The helm position with the ships wheel sadly covered against the 
March weather with the binnacle and compass with its night lantern in front 

The stern of Trincomalee with her ensign staff mounted
which would be removed at sea as it would interfere with the
free movement of the driver boom, seen with the octagonal stern
oil lanterns either side.

Below is the view from the stern rail with the three modern masts made from tubular steel rather than the original wooden ones which together with synthetic ropes maintain the aesthetics of the originals but vastly reduces costs in construction and maintenance.

At the foot of the mizzen mast can be seen the Captain's skylight and the two post projecting above it are the sheaves from which the running rigging would be secured with a horizontal dowel or belaying pin.

The view out into Hartlepool's historic harbour revealed another tall-ship in town

The dismantled wooden stock from the spare anchor with lines tied off around a belaying pin

The jaws of the driver gaff that holds it to the mizzen mast with a parallel loop leading around the front of the mast

The driver gaff in position below the mizzen fighting top 
with the lubber's hole clearly visible in the platform above.
Seamen would always climb into the top via the futtock shrouds
and this position would be manned by marine marksmen when 
at quarters.

A close up of the main mast fighting top with the futtock shrouds visible leading to the outside edge of the platform.

Belaying pins not only useful for tying off lines but also a hand cudgel in a boarding action

The other part of the spare anchor braced to the main mast.
A spare anchor was a vital piece of kit should a cable need
cutting in an emergency leaving an anchor unrecoverable.

Hartlepool Museum and Historic Georgian Quayside

As well as the ship itself, visitors to the Trincomalee can get a feel for the historic environs that a ship like this relied on on shore to supply the men and arms needed to equip a man of war for this period and the historic shop fronts added to the Georgian style buildings with their sash windows really helps capture the look of those times.

In addition there are several presentations to see ranging from gun handling displays, ideal for entertaining young history enthusiasts and the future historical wargamers, to the animated displays illustrating how various parts of this ship would have operated day to day and in battle, with beautifully modelled manikins capturing the look of the crew and officers, as the visitor is led through an on shore version of the ship and shore life.

The attention to detail put into these Georgian shop fronts is really well done and provides a perfect backdrop to the ship

All the shop fronts are themed to a particular aspect of the naval life 
with every officer needing to equip himself with sword and pistols

The young man has passed his lieutenants exam and needs a new uniform made.

His father oversees the fitting, perhaps not overly impressed with the new style of dress or perhaps the 'paparazzi' grabbing pictures of the new officer, 'Nelson' I think his name is! 

One always has to keep a weather eye in the quayside tavern as you never know when the Press is doing the rounds.

I think this 'landsman' can relax as he looks a bit past his prime for service at sea.

Every good purser knows the best places to pick up stores at the right price

Everything from pots and pans to signal flags

Among the shop fronts are the offices of the naval architects, ready to help with improvements to the new command

The port admiral tends to take a keen interest in these matters

Once the decision is made, the plans are drawn up in the back by the draughtsman

The officers need a sturdy pair of pistols for sea service, but nicely balanced for accuracy. 'Don't point that bloody thing at me!'

Ah the gout! Yet another affliction to be borne after a long career in the service don't ye know.

A glass at the ready to identify a leaving or arriving sail

Another young man ready to start his life at sea as his mother packs the sea chest.

The museum attached to the shop fronts has some interesting items on show and leads to the display of ship board life that was very entertaining.

This finely engraved dirk belonged to John Hindmarsh, a humble cabin boy
who became a knighted Rear-Admiral and the first Governor of South Australia

The loneliness of command is explained by the Captain as he consoles himself with a glass of port

Banter and fellowship among the officers in the wardroom

Men tasked with crewing a man of war required the calories to carry out their work and the ship's cook was a key part of the crew.

Another important aspect of keeping a crew fit to work was the ship's surgeon and naval medicine was ahead of most in the pursuit of cleanliness and care for the men including ensuring a good diet of citrus and vegetables as well as recuperating those who fell foul of the harsh discipline.

A gun crew in action manning one of the eighteen pounders. Gun crews required practice to become the team they needed to be to ensure rapid loading and accurate firing of their pieces.

The original figurehead of Trincomalee, safely displayed in the museum

One of the original carved decorations from the ships catheads at the bow used for hoisting in the anchors, with this one believed to have been an original one carved in Hartlepool when the ship was stationed there in the 1870's. New cathead carvings were added when the ship was restored and are of the same style.

The mast heads of Trincomalee tower above the period buildings around the quayside and create a perfect picture of Georgian Hartlepool.

I hope you enjoyed this post covering our visit to this very special ship and I would heartily recommend anyone with the slightest interest and perhaps those with none to make time to visit should the opportunity present with access to the museum just £10 per person or £8 if you book ahead online.

The folks in the museum were very welcoming and these displays need to be supported by the public for the enjoyment of future generations.

Building the models and playing the games are inspired by visits to ships like Victory and Trincomalee. A scene from our most recent games at the Devon Wargames Group.
Devon Wargames Group - Small Ship Actions

I'm currently reading The Fortune of War, another Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr Stephen Maturin novel by Patrick O'Brian and had just finished the chapter covering the fight between HMS Java and the USS Constitution the night before driving up to visit Trincomalee and standing on the quarterdeck of this amazing ship brought the book  into vivid reality.

Visits like this feed the imagination and spur me on to create more games around these incredible ships and I hope this post inspires others to make the trip to Hartlepool, you wont be disappointed.

Sources consulted for this post:
HMS Trincomalee 1817, Frigate - Wyn Davies, Max Mudie