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Why were British ships not of the same quality as French and Spanish ships until the latter part of the 18th century?

Why were British ships not of the same quality as French and Spanish ships until the latter part of the 18th century?

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In Patrick O'Brian's 'Men-of-War', it says (apparently referring to around the time the Victory was built [1759-65]),

… most of the British ships were not nearly so well built as the French or the Spanish: they were often slow; they nearly always carried too many guns; they were sometimes very crank - that is, they leaned over in a wind so that they could not open the lower gun-port or the sea would rush in; and occasionally they fell to pieces in a storm.

He then goes on to cite the example of the 'Forty Thieves' (ships of poor construction due to some 'dubious practices' according to Wikipedia), and says that sometimes the royal yards were not much better. Despite this, O'Brian notes that the Royal Navy won all the great fleet battles for a variety of reasons (better gunnery, seamanship etc). Wikipedia also mentions financing, superior tactics and other factors, but states that design and construction were not superior up until around 1750.

O'Brian also notes that British ships were sometimes built

… following the plans of the beautiful and fast sailing French or Spanish ships that were captured

Given Britain's maritime history and the critical role the navy has played in defending the country (e.g. against the Armada, and note also the successful invasions by the Vikings and William the Conqueror in the times before Britain had an effective Navy), why was British ship-building of such a low standard (leaving aside the specific case of the 'Forty Thieves') compared to its main European rivals in the first half of the 18th century?

I have read SE:H question 'What is the origin of the English Ship Building Philosophy?' and the answers there. Rather than answering my question, David Paigen's answer seems to indicate that English shipbuilding skills declined from the 16th century. Is there any particular reason for this?

I think that N.A.M Rodger covers this quite well in chapter 27 of his book "The Command of the Ocean".

It was for long an article of faith among naval historians that eighteenth century British warships were inferior to their French and Spanish opponents, because British shipwrights remained wedded to craft traditions while their continental rivals were men of education who applied mathematics and science to the solution of their problems. This judgement flattered, and sometimes still flatters, a range of agreeable prejudices. It fitted the eighteenth-century upper classes' admiration for France as the home of social glamour and prestige. It expressed British sea officers' conviction that as men of honour they were both morally and practically superior to civilian technicians; it magnified their courage and judgement when they won, and excused their failures when they lost.

That is the British of the time had good reason to be overly critical of their own vessels and the British have always seen glory in being the successful underdog. However, a key consideration is the purpose to which the ships were put:

Moreover the comparision between 'good' French and 'bad' British design rests on the naive assumption that the two were directly comparable, that British and French designers were building the same size and types of ship, to fulfil the same functions - in other words that the strategic situations of the two countries was the same.

and Rodger adds,

The proper question to ask of all ship designs is not how well they compared to one another, but how well they corresponded to each country's strategic priorities, and how wisely those priorities had been chosen.

That can be seen in how the British deployed their ships compared to the French and Spanish. As the century passed, the British aimed for what Mahan called "Sea Power", ensuring that their merchant fleet was protected and that their enemies' fleets were not free to move on the oceans. This required vessels that were able to stay at sea for long periods in all weathers. By comparison, the French and Spanish deployed their ships for specific missions, keeping them sheltered in port when not otherwise required. So their vessels didn't require the endurance of the British ships. The strategic priorities would determine the number of ships needed and their roles. The British approach needed lots of ships so even if the rivals had the same levels of naval expenditure, the British would have to spend less per ship (in both construction and maintenance) than the French and Spanish.

The fighting ability of a sailing warship is not simply a function of the vessel itself. The quality of the officers and crew were just as important (and were possibly more important) in determining how each individual vessel performed. In fact, the same ship with a different crew might handle very differently.

Another factor in how an ship handled is how the ship was loaded and trimmed. A ship just out of port on a long mission with a full load of stores and provisions with a fresh crew would be a different proposition to the same vessel on the return being lightly loaded with an experienced crew.

I think some care needs to be taken when talking about the idea "that British ships were sometimes built… following the plans of the beautiful and fast sailing French or Spanish ships". When foreign warships were captured, they were handed over to naval architects who made detailed plans of the vessels (Many surviving plans of French and Spanish vessels only exist because of this practice). If the warship was seen as worthy then the British often made a copy based "on the lines" of the foreign ship. This means that they copied the hull form (shape) rather than it being an exact copy in all details. The British still used their own construction methods to build the ship and they followed their own standards for fitting out the vessel. Given the primitive state of scientific understanding of what made a good ship, this approach makes sense. Copying a good working design was cheaper and less risky than developing a new one from scratch.

In addition, mention of the 'Forty Thieves' in this context is misleading since these vessels were built and put into service in the early nineteenth century. The issues with these ships had more to with the particular circumstances of their procurement than with general standards of ship design and building of their time.

The British ships were not really comparable to the Spanish (and French) ships because they were built under different circumstances for different fighting conditions and philosophies.

The Spanish, and later the French, had an early lead in "modern" (sail driven) vessels, because of their greater proximity to the main Mediterranean and subtropical Atlantic trade routes. They were also richer countries, earlier. As a result, they developed large, heavy "fairweathered" ships with heavier guns that relied on "brute force" (firepower, boarding, ramming) for fighting.

The British couldn't afford such amenities from either the cost or the operational standpoint. They built smaller, more maneueverable ships that were more suited to the rougher, shallower, narrower waters of the English Channel and the North Sea. They also used a lighter, longer ranged, smoothbore cannon, the French culverin to a greater extent than the French did. Fired singly, these guns did less damage than French or Spanish guns, but the greater maneuverability of these guns and their ships meant that these guns could be fired simultaneosly in "broadsides," instead of the French and Spanish practice of firing only their "fore" (or "aft") guns at one time from a narrower base.

These differences were illustrated in the Armada Battle of 1588. The Spanish navy had fought with great distinction at Lepanto in 1571, against the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean, but they were not up to fighting in the English Channel and North Sea. The British sank only five or six of these ships but "shot through" (wounded) most others, and many came apart as they headed through the rough waters of the North Sea. In order to get home to Spain, they had to sail east, and north, around the tip of Scotland, before heading south, because the more maneuverable British fleet had blocked the way west.

The reason why the British ships took off after 1750 was because the "Age of Sail" was ending, and the early throes of the industrial Revolution was about to begin.

Boston Tea Party Facts

The Boston Tea Party was organized and carried out by a group of Patriots led by Samuel Adams known as the Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty were made up of males from all walks of colonial society, and among its membership were artisans, craftsmen, business owners, tradesmen, apprentices, and common laborers who organized to defend their rights, and to protest and undermine British rule. Famous Boston Patriots who were members of the Sons of Liberty included John Adams, John Hancock, James Otis, Josiah Quincy, Paul Revere, and Dr. Joseph Warren. Incited by the Sons of Liberty, over 5,000 people gathered at the Old South Meeting House, the largest public building in Boston at the time, at 10:00 AM on December 16, 1773, to decide what was to be done about the tea and to plan the Boston Tea Party.

Colonial Paper Money

James River Bank form, issued 1733. When in 1773 a large quantity of counterfeit Virginia currency appeared in circulation, the colonial government replaced treasury notes issued earlier with hastily prepared promissory notes written on pre-printed James River Bank forms.

During the colonial era there was a constant shortage of ready money in Virginia. The amount of British coin and currency circulating in the colony was small compared to the volume of business that had to be transacted. Virginians made do with a mixture of foreign coins, mostly from Spain’s American colonies, some paper money printed for other British colonies, and various sorts of bills of credit, that is, private fiscal obligations backed by individual merchants. Large planters in particular shipped their tobacco to British-based trading firms, who by and large paid not in money but in credit.

Some other colonies began to both issue paper currency and mint coins in the 17th century, but Virginia didn’t start making its own money until the latter part of the 18th century. Virginia’s first paper money came out in 1755 to help finance the colony’s involvement in the French and Indian War. Strictly speaking, Virginia paper notes weren’t really currency they were bills of credit backed by the colony, to be paid off out of future tax revenues. They functioned like currency though, and were used to pay public and private debts.

The use of paper money in Virginia and other colonies created a whole new set of problems however. By the 1750s there were several different colonial paper currencies circulating in North America. Even though these currencies typically were denominated in pounds, shillings and pence, they were not all equivalent in actual value. Merchants might offer different rates for two notes of the same face value because some colonies’ money was considered to be more valuable and trustworthy than others.

Paper notes also were very easy to counterfeit. This is a problem even today, and the U.S. treasury periodically changes the design of our money in order to make counterfeiting more difficult. In the 18th century, governments did not have access to the kinds of special inks, paper and computerized printing techniques that make money difficult to copy. Anyone with access to a printing press and a variety of typefaces could produce a reasonable facsimile of colonial paper notes. As a result, a great deal of the currency circulating in late 18th-century Virginia was counterfeit.

Detecting bad money was made especially difficult by the fact that there were several different issues of money being used in Virginia at the same time. A Virginia merchant might be offered payment in a mixture of coins and paper money that included silver in the form of Spanish pieces of eight, German thalers and Portuguese cruzados, as well as Virginia paper money of different issue dates and other paper currencies such as Maryland four-dollar bills, North Carolina six-pound notes, and Pennsylvania five-shilling bills of credit. The merchant was not obliged to accept all of these different non-Virginia currencies, but if he did not, his customers might not be able to pay.

Silver coins could be weighed to determine their approximate value as silver bullion. Paper notes had no intrinsic value, so in the end it all came down to the merchant’s faith in a particular colony’s willingness to stand behind its money.

By the early 1770s there was a growing reluctance to accept even Virginia paper money. In particular, many counterfeits of the treasury note issues of November 1769 and July 1771 were being passed in the colony. Virginia’s government decided that it had to take emergency action to restore confidence in its paper money. In early 1773, Virginia decided to recall immediately the paper money issues of 1769 and 1771 and replace them with a brand-new issue of paper notes. These new notes really were just promissory notes that the Virginia government pledged to pay off in 1775.

This currency replacement was done so quickly that there was not time to print completely new notes. Instead Virginia acquired a stock of already printed “Virginia James River Bank” notes and modified them to make them an official issue of the colony. The James River Bank notes had been printed in England as part of a failed attempt to establish a private bank of that name. The bank’s charter was never granted, so the bank could not issue notes in its own right. The Virginia government simply took the bank note forms and filled them in by hand, putting any inappropriate text in parentheses to show that it was not valid.

Each of the bank notes was signed by representatives of the Virginia government as a guarantee that it was genuine. One of the signatories was Peyton Randolph, who a year later would become the first president of the Continental Congress. Each James River Bank note was also marked on the back with the phrase “Death to Counterfeit” to convey just how seriously the colony took the issue of printing illegal money. Virginia’s problems with counterfeiting were not over however. The Revolutionary War years were to prove even more challenging to Virginia’s goal of producing paper money that would retain its value in the face of rampant counterfeiting.

The birth of the gay buccaneers

Most of our modern pirate myths stem from the Golden Age of Piracy, from the 1650s to the 1730s. This period was the inspiration for the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise.

It was born on the island of Hispaniola (which is nowadays Haiti and the Dominican Republic) in the Caribbean.

By 1605, Spain had abandoned its colonies in the impoverished north of the island. So runaway slaves, mutinous soldiers and sailors, almost anyone who had a reason to hide, could find safe haven there.

Many of them were protestants, either French Huguenots or English, and therefore fiercely opposed to the Catholic Spanish. Together, they formed a society which they dubbed the Brethren of the Coast.

Initially they hunted pigs and cattle, which they smoked over a wooden barbecue called ‘boucan’. That earned them the name ‘buccaneers’.

It was an almost entirely male society, so they lived in same-sex couples. Two men would disappear into the tropical forests for between six months and two years. When they emerged, they would be dressed in animal skins and covered in blood. Then they would sell smoked meats and hides to passing ships.

They may have turned to piracy to subsidise this meagre income. But the Spanish tried to wipe out not only the buccaneers but the animals they hunted. And this just made them more dependent on piracy.

Eventually, the Spanish persecution forced the buccaneers to move to the smaller island of Tortuga, off the north coast of Hispaniola. This was more defensible but had even fewer natural resources. So piracy became their main source of income.

Why were British ships not of the same quality as French and Spanish ships until the latter part of the 18th century? - History

Pirate Ships

Pirates of old used many types of ships, anywhere from a small sloop to a large warship. But generally they gave preference to those with the greatest speed as it would do no good to spot a potential target only to have it out-sail you. Also pirates wanted a quick escape if needed. The pirates kept their ships in good order, careening them regularly to keep the hulls smooth and clear of seaweed and other marine life. This work was essential in order to maintain their speed advantage. Two of the pirates favorite types of ships were the sloop and the schooner. The speed and shallow draft of these ships enabled the pirates to hide in relative safety in shallower coastal waters where larger warships could not enter.

The single-masted sloop had a bowsprit almost as long as her hull making her perhaps one of the swiftest vessels of her day. If the wind was favorable, a square topsail could be hoisted to give her a top speed that could on occasion exceed eleven knots. The Sloop was a favourable ship for pirates and smugglers alike. This relatively small vessel could carry around 75 pirates and around ten cannons. The Sloop was often the ship of choice for hunting in the shallower channels and sounds. The Schooner which came into widespread use around the last half of the eighteenth century is a little of all of the best features in a pirate ship. Perhaps her greatest virtue lie in her shallow draft. She was favored by pirates of the North American coast and the Caribbean. Fully loaded she was still small enough to navigate the shoal waters and to hide in remote coves. The Schooner could also reach 11 knots in a good wind.

Another versatile ship the Brigantine was more of a captain's ship for a pirate. This was generally a 150 ton, 80 foot vessel that could carry around 100 pirates mounting over 10 cannons with a cargo space about twice as big as the sloop. She had two masts. Her main sail could be fitted with either square sails that were best in quartering wind, or fore-and-aft sails for sailing windward. This larger ship was the clear choice for battle or combat rather than the quick, hit and run type piracy tactics that were practiced with the smaller sloops and schooners. It was also rugged enough to cross the Atlantic ocean, and faired better in harsh sea conditions. Also keep in mind that pirates could not build a ship to order like the merchants and military did. They had to be opportunists and having looted a ship, the pirates would either burn the vessel, let it go on it's way, set it adrift, or take the ship over for their own use. Most pirate ships were no more then captured vessels taken as prizes and then altered to suit the pirates needs.

The large three-masted squarerigger type ships could be fitted with well over twenty cannon plus many swivel guns and a crew of around two hundred or more men. She could make a formidable adversary and an excellent flagship for a large group of pirates despite her lack of agility. Many ships would probably have surrendered to her without a shot fired if they were not fast enough to out-sail her. Besides being greatly feared and comparable to a Navy Frigate, she had a reputation for seaworthiness on long voyages and a cargo space about twice as large as that of the brigantine. One of the most impressive aspects of some of the early eighteenth century pirates is the enormous voyages which they made in search of riches. They sailed the North American coast from Newfoundland to the Caribbean. They crossed the Atlantic to the Guinea coast of Africa. And they rounded the Cape of Good Hope to Madagascar in order to plunder the ships in the Indian Ocean.

The Barbary corsairs of the Mediterranean mainly used oar powered galleys rowed by slaves. These were long rather slender craft which were renowned for their speed, and sailing ships traveling in the calm winds of the Mediterranean were at their mercy. Their oars made them very quick, enabling them to maneuver quite easily and to come alongside an intended victim. When the winds picked up the corsairs hoisted a large lateen sail on a single mast amidships. The galleys were armed with one or more big guns at the bow, and several swivel guns were also mounted along the side rails. But like with most pirate ships their main weapon was in their fighting crews, who could number over one hundred men on a large galley. These men would quickly swarm aboard a ship and sweep aside all opposition. These corsairs were not generally involved in piracy for gold or silver. They were trying to capture people, who they could hold for ransom, use as oarsmen on their galleys, or just sell as slaves.

Of the many types of ships used in the great age of sail.
Most of them are distinguished by their rigging, hull, keel,
or number and configuration of masts. Designs would usually be
modified over the course of time with lessons gained from use.
The same ship type could vary in how it was built by country.
Pirates sailed aboard almost all of the ship types listed below.
Various small sailboats and fishing boats were not included.

Before the 1700's the name was applied to any small vessel. Later it applied to a small ship having three masts. The first two being square-rigged, and the third ( aft mast ) being fore-and-aft rigged. Fast ship with shallow draft. Favorite of Caribbean pirates. Crew around max. of 90.

Very popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries. A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. To improve maneuverability, the aft mast carries a small gaff rigged fore-and-aft sail. The brig actually developed as a variant of the brigantine. Re-rigging a brigantine with two square-rigged masts instead of one gave it greater sailing power, and was also easier for the crew to manage. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and maneuverable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. When used as small warships, they carryed about 10 to 18 guns. Due to their speed and maneuverability they were also popular among pirates, although they were rare among American and Caribbean pirates.

Originally the brigantine was a sail and oar driven small warship used in the Mediterranean in the 13th century. It was lateen rigged on two masts and had between eight and twelve oars on each side. Its speed, maneuverability and ease of handling made it a favorite of the Mediterranean pirates. Its name is derived from the Italian word brigantino, meaning brigand. By the 17th century the term was adapted by Atlantic maritime nations. The word eventually was split into brig and brigantines. Each word meaning a different class of ship. The brigantine had no lateen sails but was instead square-rigged on the foremast and had a gaff-rigged mainsail with square rig above it. The main mast of a brigantine is the aft one. The brigantine was generally larger than a sloop or schooner but smaller than a brig.

A small ship meant for trading. Originally lateen-rigged they later developed into square-masted ships and were used by the Spanish and Portuguese for exploration. Around 80 feet long.

Before the advent of the galleon, carracks were the largest ships. They often reached 1,200 tons. They were used for trading voyages to India, China, and the Americas by the Spanish and Portuguese. They were 3 masted with square sails on the fore and main masts and lateen-rigged on the mizzen. They had very high fore and aft-castles. She carried an immense amount of power and thus was able to easily fend off pirates. Only through surprise could one hope to take one of these towering giants.

A very fast sailing ship of the 19th century that had three or more masts and a square rig. They were generally narrow for their length, had a large total sail area, and could carry limited bulk freight. These ships came to be recognized for there great speed rather than cargo space. There speed was crucial to compete with the new steamships for commercial use. China clippers are the fastest commercial sailing vessels ever made. Clipper ships were mostly constructed in British and American shipyards. They sailed all over the world, primarily on the major trade routes of the era. The ships had short expected lifetimes and rarely outlasted two decades of use before they were broken up for salvage. Although they were built a century after the golden age of piracy, given their speed and maneuverability, clippers frequently mounted cannon or carronades and some were used for piracy, privateering, smuggling, and interdiction service.

The term corvette seems to have begun with the French Navy in the 1670s, to describe a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship, smaller than a frigate and larger than sloops-of-war. Most sloops and corvettes of the late 17th century were around 40 to 60 feet in length. They carried four to eight small guns on a single deck. These early corvettes grew quickly in size over the decades, and by the 1780s they reached lengths of over 100 feet. Most of these large versions had three masts, and carried about 20 guns. The British Navy did not adopt the term until the 1830s, to describe a small sixth-rate vessel somewhat larger than a sloop.

Cutters were widely used by several navies in the 17th and 18th centuries and were usually the smallest commissioned ships in the fleet. A cutter is a small single-masted boat, fore-and-aft rigged, with two or more headsails, usually carried on a very long bowsprit, which was sometimes as long as half the length of the boat's hull. The mast may be set farther back than on a sloop. The rig gave the cutter excellent maneuverability and they were much better at sailing to windward than a larger square rigged ship. Later larger naval cutters often had the ability to hoist two or three square-rigged sails from their mast to improve their downwind sailing performance as well. Over time the cutter grew in size to include ships of two and three masts. Pilot cutters were widely used near ports to ferry harbor pilots to the big ships. Navies used cutters for coastal patrol, customs duties, escort, carrying personnel and dispatches and for small 'cutting out' raids. As befitted their size and intended role naval cutters were lightly armed, often with between six and twelve small cannon.

Dhows were meant to be trading ships, having a single mast which was lateen-rigged. They were from 150 to 200-ton ships. Arab pirates arming her with cannon would use these ships.

An early 17th century merchant ship, similar in design to a bark (barque). These were inexpensive to build, and could carry a large cargo.

Designed out of the experiences gathered from long and arduous voyages to india. This class of ships were one of the largest merchant vessels of there era, having three masts and weighing 1100 to 1400 tons. Built from the early 1600's to the end of the 1700's, to transport goods between Asia and Europe. They were usually well armed with cannons to defend themselves.

The Venetians called a frigate a small oared boat around 35 feet in length and around 7 feet wide. The English adopted the word for a larger ship which may have carried oars. Around 1700, the English limited the word to mean a class of warship which was only second in size to the Ship-of-the-Line (Man-O-War). Frigates were three-masted with a raised forecastle and quarterdeck. They had anywhere from 24 to 38 guns, and were faster than the ship-of-the-lines. Frigates were used for escort purposes, and sometimes to hunt pirates. Only a few pirates were ever in command of a frigate as most would flee at the sight of one.

A favorite of Barbary Corsairs, it was a small ship with both sail and oars. It was fast, long and had a low profile.

GALIOT (GALLIOT) Mediterranean
In the 16th century, a galiot was a type of ship with oars, also known as a half-galley. The Galiot was long, and sleek with a flush deck. Then, from the 17th century forward, a ship with sails and oars. As used by the Barbary pirates against the Republic of Venice, a galiot had two masts and about 16 ranks of oars. Warships of the type typically carried between two and ten cannons of small caliber, and between 50 and 150 men. She was used by the Barbary corsairs in the Mediterranean.

In the 17th thru 19th century, a galiot was a type of Dutch or German trade ship, similar to a ketch, with a rounded fore and aft like a fluyt. They had nearly flat bottoms to sail in shallow waters. These ships were especially favored for coastal navigation in the North Sea and Baltic Sea.

Galleons were large ships meant for transporting cargo. Galleons were sluggish behemoths, not able to sail into or near the wind. The Spanish treasure fleets were made of these ships. Although they were sluggish, they weren't the easy target you would expect for they could carry heavy cannon which made a direct assault upon them difficult. She had two to three decks. Most had three masts, forward masts being square-rigged, lateen-sails on the mizzenmast, and a small square sail on her high-rising bowsprit. Some galleons sported 4 masts but these were an exception to the rule.

Galleys have an extremely long history, dating back to ancient times. They were used until the Russo-Swedish war of 1809. They had one deck and were mainly powered by oars. They were costly to maintain and fell into disuse. However they were still being used by the Barbary corsairs in the Mediterranean. As they were meant to carry soldiers they were used in a few large-scale raids. There was a version of the galley used in the Atlantic by the English. They had a flush deck and were propelled by both oar and sail. They were rigged like frigates. Captain Kidd made his name in one of these, the "Adventure Galley".

A guineaman was a large cargo ship engaged in trade with the Guinea coast of Africa. Many were specially converted or purpose built for the transportation of slaves, especially newly purchased African slaves to the Americas. Their hulls were divided into holds with little headroom, so they could transport as many slaves as possible. Unhygienic conditions, dehydration, dysentery and scurvy led to high mortality rates on average 15% and up to a third of captives. Slave ships adopted quicker, more maneuverable forms to cross the Atlantic faster to increase profits, and later to evade capture by naval warships once the African slave trade was banned by the British and Americans in 1807. The guineaman's speed and size made them attractive ships to repurpose for piracy, and also for naval use after capture. The USS Nightingale(1851) and HMS Black Joke(1827) were examples of such vessels. Several well known pirates like Blackbeard and Samuel Bellamy captured and converted them for piracy.

The word junk derives from the Portugues junco, which in turn came from the Javanese word djong, which means ship. The ship has a flat-bottom with no keel, flat bow, and a high stern. A junk's width is about a third of its length and she has a rudder which can be lowered or raised providing excellent steering capabilities. A junk has two or three masts with square sails, made from bamboo, rattan or grass. Contrary to belief, the junk is capable of operating in any seas as she is a very sea-worthy vessel.

A two mast vessel with a large sail on the mainmast and a smaller mizzen. Historically the ketch was a square-rigged vessel, most commonly used as a freighter or fishing boat in northern Europe, particularly in the Baltic and North seas. During the 17th and 18th centuries, ketches were commonly used as small warships. In the latter part of the 18th century, they were largely supplanted by the brig, which differs from the ketch by having a forward mast smaller (or occasionally similar in size) than the aft mast. The ketch continued in use as a specialized vessel for carrying mortars until after the Napoleonic wars, in this application it was called a bomb ketch. In modern usage, the ketch is a fore-and-aft rigged vessel used as a yacht or pleasure craft.

Much like a rowboat except they were very long. These were carried on ships and used for coming and going to the ship. They were normally rowed but often had a removable mast and sail. Also some were armed with one or more very small cannon.

A vessel with a lugsail rig, normally two-masted. When they were used for smuggling or as privateers, extra sail was often added aft. These small ships were mainly used by merchants in coastal waters.

There are two classifications of Pink. The first was a small, flat-bottomed ship with a narrow stern. This ship was derived from the Italian pinco. It was used primarily in the Mediterranean as a cargo ship. In the Atlantic the word pink was used to describe any small ship with a narrow stern, having derived from the Dutch word pincke. They were generally square-rigged and used as fishing boats, merchantmen, and warships.

The Dutch built pinnaces during the early 17th century. They had a hull form resembling a small "race built" galleon, and were usually square rigged on three masts, or carried a similar rig on two masts, like the later "brig". Pinnaces were used as merchant vessels, privateers and small warships.

The Schooner has a narrow hull, two masts and is less than 100 tons. She is generally rigged with two large sails suspended from spars reaching from the top of the mast toward the stern. Other sails sometimes were added, including a large headsail attached to the bowsprit. She had a shallow draft which allowed her to remain in shallow coves waiting for her prey. The Schooner is very fast and large enough to carry a plentiful crew. It was a favorite among both pirates and smugglers.

From the 17th century into the 19th, these ships were the "heavy-guns" of the naval fleet. At first they resembled galleons in design, but carried awesome firepower with an average of 60 guns. Over the course of time, they developed into larger and heavier beasts. They were designed to be large enough for use in line of battle tactics, hence there name. In the 18th century they ranged from fourth rate ships of 50 guns, up to first rate ships of 100 guns. Most were around 1,000 tons and had 3 masts, which were square-rigged, except for a lateen sail on her aft-mast. Only the three major sea-powers of the time (Spain, England, and France) had an extensive use of these ships.

These were large cargo ships converted for the purpose of transporting slaves. They reached there peak use between the 17th to early 19th century. There large size and ability to handle long ocean voyages made them attractive targets for pirates. Early western slave ships would have mostly been square rigged merchant/galleon types. Later these ships became more purpose built. See Guineaman description above.

The Sloop was fast, agile, and had a shallow draft. They usually had a speed of around 12 knots. Her size could be as large as 100 tons. She was generally rigged with a large mainsail which was attached to a spar above the mast on its foremost edge, and to a long boom below. She could sport additional sails both square and lateen-rigged. She was used mainly in the Caribbean and Atlantic. Since piracy was a significant threat in Caribbean waters, merchants sought ships that could outrun pursuers. Ironically, that same speed and maneuverability made them highly prized and even more targeted by the pirates they were designed to avoid.

In the 18th and most of the 19th centuries, a sloop-of-war in the British Navy was a warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen guns. A sloop-of-war was quite different from a civilian or merchant sloop, which was a general term for a single mast vessel rigged like what would today be called a gaff cutter. In the first half of the 18th century, most naval sloops were two mast vessels, usually carrying a ketch or a snow rig. A ketch had main and mizzen masts but no foremast, while a snow had a foremast and a main mast but no mizzen. The first three mast sloops-of-war appeared during the 1740s, and from the mid-1750s on most were built with three masts. The longer decks of the multi-mast vessels also had the advantage of allowing more guns to be carried. In the 1770s, the two mast brig sloop became popular with the British Navy as it was cheaper and easier to build and for crews to sail it.

A snow or snaw was a type of brig often referred to as a snow-brig. It was typically a merchant vessel, but was a common form of sailing rig for small two-masted sloops, especially during the first half of the eighteenth century. Snows carried square sails on both masts, but had a small trysail mast, sometimes called a snowmast, stepped immediately abaft the mainmast.

The xebec was favoured among Barbary pirates for she was fast, stable and large. They could reach 200 tons and carried from 4 to 24 cannon. In addition she carried from 60 to 200 crewmen. The xebec had a pronounced overhanging bow and stern, and three masts which were generally lateen-rigged. In addition to sails she was rowed.

Pirate Ship Crews

Today there are many different misconceptions and myths about buccaneers throughout history. A common misconception made by many people is in the role and authority of the pirate captain. Unlike naval captain's who were appointed by their respective governments and who's authority was supreme at all times. Most pirate captain's were democratically elected by the ships crew and could be replaced at any time by a majority vote of the crewmen. For example some captains were voted out and removed for not being as aggressive in the pursuit of prizes as the crew would have liked. And others were abandoned by their crews for being alittle to bloodthirsty and brutal. Several were even murdered by their own men. They were expected to be bold and decisive in battle. And also have skill in navigation and seamanship. Above all they had to have the force of personality necessary to hold together such an unruly bunch of seamen.

This left the captain of most pirate ships in a rather precarious position and some were in truth little more then a figurehead. Generally speaking, he was someone the crew would follow if he treated them well, maintained their respect, and was a fairly successful booty hunter. but, could be replaced if enough of the men lost confidence in him and felt he wasn't performing his duties as well as he should. However, despite all this the captain was frequently looked upon with respect as a knowledgable leader of men. And the pirate crews historically appeared to have followed his judgement in most matters. There are surprisingly few detailed descriptions of what the pirate captains looked like, and those we do have are rarely flattering. Most seem to have adopted the clothes of naval officers or merchant sea captains, which in this period followed the style of English gentlemen.

During the Golden Age of Piracy, most British and Anglo-American pirates delegated unusual amounts of authority to the Quartermaster who became almost the Captain's equal. The Captain retained unlimited authority during battle, but otherwise he was subject to the Quartermaster in many routine matters. The Quartermaster was elected by the crew to represent their interests and he received an extra share of the booty when it was divided. Above all, he protected the Seaman against each other by maintaining order, settling quarrels, and distributing food and other essentials.

Serious crimes were tried by a jury of the crew, but the Quartermaster could punish minor offenses. Only he could flog a seaman after a vote from the Crew. The Quartermaster usually kept the records and account books for the ship. He also took part in all battles and often led the attacks by the boarding parties. If the pirates were successful, he decided what plunder to take. If the pirates decide to keep a captured ship, the Quartermaster often took over as the Captain of that ship.

This was the officer who was in charge of navigation and the sailing of the ship. He directed the course and looked after the maps and instruments necessary for navigation. Since the charts of the era were often inaccurate or nonexistent, his job was a difficult one. It was said a good Navigator was worth his weight in gold. He was perhaps the most valued person aboard a ship other than the Captain because so much depended upon his skill. Many Sailing Masters had to be forced into pirate service. Some were elected by the crew to serve as Captain. Several pirate Captain's also performed the duties of Sailing Master when needed.

The Boatswain supervised the maintenance of the vessel and its supply stores. He was responsible for inspecting the ship and it's sails and rigging each morning, and reporting their state to the Captain. The Boatswain was also in charge of all deck activities, including weighing and dropping anchor, and the handling of the sails.

The Carpenter was responsible for the maintenance and repair of the wooden hull, masts and yards. He worked under the direction of the ship's Master and Boatswain. The Carpenter checked the hull regularly, placing oakum between the seems of the planks and wooden plugs on leaks to keep the vessel tight. He was highly skilled in his work which he learned through apprenticeship. Often he would have an assistant whom he in turn trained as a Carpenter.

The Master Gunner was responsible for the ship's guns and ammunition. This included sifting the powder to keep it dry and prevent it from separating, insuring the cannon balls were kept free of rust, and all weapons were kept in good repair. A knowledgeable Gunner was essential to the crew's safety and effective use of their weapons.

On a large ship there was usually more than one Mate aboard. The Mate served as apprentice to the Ship's Master, Boatswain, Carpenter and Gunner. He took care of the fitting out of the vessel, and examined whether it was sufficiently provided with ropes, pulleys, sails, and all the other rigging that was necessary for the voyage. The Mate took care of hoisting the anchor, and during a voyage he checked the tackle once a day. If he observed anything amiss, he would report it to the ship's Master. Arriving at a port, the mate caused the cables and anchors to be repaired, and took care of the management of the sails, yards and mooring of the ship.

The common sailor, which was the backbone of the ship, needed to know the rigging and the sails. As well as how to steer the ship and applying it to the purposes of navigation. He needed to know how to read the skies, weather, winds and most importantly the moods of his commanders. Other jobs on the ships were surgeon (for large vessels), cooks and cabin boys. There were many jobs divided up amongst the officers, sometimes one man would perform two functions. Mates who served apprenticeships were expected to fill in or take over positions when sickness or death created an opportunity.

Ships Figurehead

Ship figureheads have a long and fascinating history dating to pre-Christian times, when Chinese, Egyptian, Phoenician, Greek and Roman mariners navigated the Pacific and Indian oceans and Mediterranean Sea. According to the Illustrated Oxford Dictionary (1998), the noun "figurehead" is defined as: "A carving, usually a bust or a full-length figure, at the ship's prow." The 1981 edition of the Encyclopedia Americana defines the word as: "A sculptered image decorating the stemhead of a ship." These descriptions are exact as far as post-Christian prow embellishments are concerned, but the Encyclopedia Britannica(1972 edition) takes the term much further back into nautical history. This source credits the Chinese and Egyptians with having originated the practice when seafarers of those two ancient civilizations instituted the custom of painting oculi(eyes) on the bows of their vessels, believing that these adornments would enable the ships to find their way.

The Phoenicians not only adopted the primitive eye motif for their trading vessels at an early date, they later adorned the prows of their galleys with carved wooden likenesses of deities, animals, birds,and serpents. The Greeks also adopted the eye motif, as surviving decorations on ther pottery vases prove. The prow adornments of the vessels of the ancient world grew increasingly more complicated. Athenian naval vessels of the classical era were frequently adorned with full-length wooden carvings of Athena, the goddess for whom the city is named. When Rome took over dominance of the Mediterranean, its warships and galleys were decorated with fierce prow fires drawn from its own pantheon, an assertion proven by surviving scultpures dating from Rome's imperial heyday. The Carthaginians, Rome's most serious early rivals, used carved figures of the god Ammon Jupiter to head up their warships.

The figureheads of these ancient people were linked to the superstition that these sculptered images were guardians of the vessels they adorned and were also supposed to frighten enemies, as well as give a religious significance to the exploits in which they were engaged. The same motive was later endorsed by the Vikings, Danes and Normans during the early Christian era. The prows of vessels in which these cultures engaged in their far-flung operations rode high out of the water and were frequently tipped with intimidating dragons, sea serpents of fierce animal heads. Since the Vikings are credited with having been the first navigators to explore North American waters, it is likely that the figureheads on their vessels were the first ones to appear in the New World. The sailors of these early northern European vessels firmly believed that their wooden icons were endowed with magical powers. Seafarers of later eras turned their backs on this type of idol worship, but remained fiercely superstitious concening the protection of the figureheads on their vessels, believing that any damage to these icons meant certain disaster.

Shipbuilding, both for mercantile and military purposed, remained fairly static until the Renaissance, between 1400 and 1600, when nations and city-states throughout Europe began vying for natutical supremacy. At that time, England, France, Spain, Portugal and Holland, as well as the Italian city-states of Genoa and Venice, began jockeying for power, and the increasingly lavish and sophisticated vessels that were launched from their dockyards continued to stress the importance of intimidating figureheads. This assertion can easily be supported by referring to the countless seascapes, drawings, engravings and other iconographic evidence that played an important part in the artistic output of the same nations and city-states at that time. Catholic countries and city-states frequently adorned the prows of their great gallons and merchantmen with religious figures. Of particular note were the vessels of the Spanish Armada, the great fleet of warships dispatched in 1588 by Philip II of Spain to subdue Protestant England and return it to the fold of the Catholic faith.

Surviving paintings, drawings, engravings and tapestry depicting the action show that most of the Spanish galleons had elaborate prow decorations that depicted Christ and the Virgin Mary, as well as numerous popular saints whose invocations to the Almighty on behalf of the Catholic cause, it was thought, would guarantee an overwhelming victory to the Spanish enterprise. As for the prow decorations of the small English ships that eventually spelled defeat for King Philip's mighty galleons, their stemheads, according to surviving iconographic sources, were singularly bare of ornamental carvings. But that does not mean that the English warships of the same period were without elaborate figureheads and other carvings. For instance, Sir Francis Drake made the first English circumnavigation of the globe in a vessel that sported a gilded deer on its prow, thereby causing the ship to be named the Golden Hind.

Later, during the reign of Charles I, English ship carpenters and wood carvers created the Sovereign of the Seas, one of the most highly decorated vessels in the history of shipbuilding. Graced with a ferocious gilded lion at its stemhead, it and the other carving and gilding of this fabulous vessel cost around 7,000 British pounds, quite a sum considering the total cost of the vessel was around 40,000 pounds. Up until the middle years of the 18th century, the figurehead was the crowning wooden adornment on any warship or important mercantile vessel. Though figureheads increasingly became less decorative as time went on, that did not mean that the men who sailed the ships ceased feeling that the wooden sculptures on the prows were more than merely ornamental. For instance, there are numerous records concerning how the figureheads of new vessels were consecrated by the superstitious with hefty splashes of wine to guarantee that they would give the vessels good luck when they were "launched into their element"--to quote a widely used nautical term of the period. .

Thus came the golden age of figureheads, which lasted from around 1790 to 1825. That's when most of the warships and merchant vessels of Europe and North America sported elaborate prow adornments The high water mark of figureheads was reached during the clipper-ship era dating from the early and middle years of the 19th century. The graceful bows of these streamlined ships presented an excellent opportunity to display figureheads to their best advantage. By the late 19th century, however, figureheads on most vessels gave way to simpler and less expensive billet heads (i.e. scrollcarvings resembling the end of a violin). This change took place because the carvings were expensive and easily damaged, either by rough weather or in battle. In this way, a tradition extending backward to the ancient Chinese and Egyptians has run its colorful course.

Related Resources for Pirate Ships

* About Ghost Pirate Ships - Hauntingly interesting.

* Boats on the Briny - A Guide to Famous Pirate Ships.

* Famous Pirate Ships - Facts and Information on the Subject.

The Great Ships Series - The Pirate Ships

Why were British ships not of the same quality as French and Spanish ships until the latter part of the 18th century? - History

The Continued Tradition

The British overseas trade of the 16 th to 17 th centuries went through two major phases separated by a lengthy interim period, which can be described as a transformational period that defined the English trade to come for several centuries. These two phases are quite dissimilar in their broad aspects, and there is a clear break of continuity by the Elizabethan times. This page will look into the well-established English trade of the early to middle sixteenth century. This was what the author feels should be called the 'old-style' English trade, as it was a direct descendant of the English mediaeval trade. As a matter of fact, the similarities between the early to middle Tudor trade and the traditional English late mediaeval trade are so apparent that it would be more correct to view the two phenomenons as simply one. (Salzman 1964, 420-434)

The Tudor rule in England coincided with the dawn of the Modern Age, a period that historians call 'the Early Modern'. Due to - broadly - the changing times and - specifically - the different political climate, England experienced massive changes in the sixteenth century that set it apart from the fifteenth century. However, despite all of these shifts and upheaval, the English Tudor trade actually remained essentially the same until the middle of the sixteenth century. Therefore, this page will proceed to paint a picture of this specific period.

Tudor Trade Ship

Modern reproduction of a Caravel original circa early 16th century.

Matthew of Bristol is a life-sized replica of an early Tudor sailing ship, particularly one used for trading or exploration. Although the original of this particular historical ship was used by Cabot in his exploration voyages, ships of this type were also noted for their usage as cargo-ships for luxury goods. (Foster 1933, 8-13)

Caravels were light, nimble and manoeuvrable ships, well-suited for exploration and swift travel in general. This attribute made them particularly suitable for small as well as medium-scale early English luxuries trade. This was especially true prior to the ubiquitous Indiamen of the 18th century and the well-organised aquatic caravans protected through the formation of armed convoys. In short, if an Englishman was to buy the Eastern luxury goods without going through the exorbitant rates which the Dutch middlemen levied, one had to travel either to Italy for slightly lower rates or all the way to the Ottomans. However, the Mediterranean Sea was always a region charaterised by widespread endemic piracy since the dawn of time. The 16th and 17th centuries were no exception, and the Muslim pirates operating from the Maghreb (better known to Europeans as Barbary) exacted their toll on the shipping lanes, capturing whatever ships they could overtake and overpower.

Therefore, the English trade in the Mediterranian was largely restricted to the types of ships similar to the one pictured. Convoys were not employed by the English yet, as the trade in the Mediterranean was particularly disorganised, even by the standards of the notoriously independent-minded English merchants. Light, fast ships were the only countermeasure to the encroaching pirates. Since the early luxuries trade was small-scale and did not require large cargo holds - and since the profits were sizeable even despite the small volumes, the English rightly saw these ships as the most economically feasible solution for their time.

The old-style English Tudor trade was rather simple in its composition and in the general nature of the distribution of the trading routes. In other words, the English did not trade extensively. Their trade, whatever the volume, was very limited in scope – the Dutch were the near-exclusive trading partners of England – or the rather the near-exclusive intermediaries, as the Dutch did not actually produce that much. The Dutch were renowned traders, but due to several limitations, their small size and the lack of natural resources – even in terms of the arable land – meant that they focused on the re-sale of goods, instead of production, to earn their living. The medieaval and Early Tudor hub of this pan-European Dutch trade was the port city of Antwerp. ( Davis 1973, 11)

Other minor direct trading destinations of the early Tudor English merchants included Bilbao and Seville in Spain Bordeaux in France Lubeck, Rostock, Gdansk, and Konigsberg – which were scattered around the German states and the Rzeczpospolita, but all constituted the core of the Hanseatic League. The English also traded early on with cities such as Rouen, Cologne, Frankfurt, Venice, Ragusa and Istanbul, but all of the aforementioned trading was indirect. That is, those cities had the merchandise that the Dutch bought up and then sold to the English, again in Antwerp. Less commonly, traders from those cities travelled to Antwerp and traded directly with the English, but again, on the Dutch soil. (Davis 1973, 50-51)

The staple: Woollens

Wool as well as the various cloths made out of wool was the chief and almost only export of England until the middle of seventeenth century. These two products compromised the overwhelming bulk of the English exports to Antwerp, where they financed the purchase or barter of the Continental European and Eastern goods. While woollen cloths themselves enjoyed a lasting tenure as the chief export of Britain, plain wool, not weaved in any cloth collapsed as a market commodity by 1521. (Lloyd 1977, 257-263)

Meanwhile, the exports of woollen cloths boomed. Initially, this was due to the thick, heavy broadcloths, which had a voracious market in Central and Northern Europe. Later throughout the sixteenth century , a new type of cloth - kersey - rose into prominence as well. The kersey was a lighter, but a coarser cloth, which actually seems rather paradoxical, with the common expectation that coarse wool is also thick wool, and vice versa. (Indeed, sometimes these various classifications of English woollens and the plethora of textile jargon confuses the author of this webpage as well.) In any case, this coarseness of kerseys was due to less thorough felting, which is the process of compression and rubbing together of wollen cloths under warm, moist conditions, during which the woollens interlock. The kerseyes were popular in Southern Europe, and rather more counter-intuitively, in Russia, to which they got to through the Venetian intermediaries, who usually bought msot of the kerseys in Antwerp.

Both of these cloths were usually shipped undyed and undressed to Antwerp, in the early years of the trade. It was not until closer to the mid sixteenth century and later that the English began shipping finished and dyed cloth to Europe, which of course made a greater profit, just as the switch from partially shipping plain wool and instead using that wool to manufacture woollens, which were then sold for a higher price. So as to inform those unfamiliar with the term 'undressed', the term 'undressed woollens' ( also known as 'unfinished') denotes woollens that not have not undergone a fulling and shearing but have had a nap. Unfinished woollens are pressed or shorn a little, but otherwise are left in the condition as when taken from the loom. Fulling, for further reference, is the cleaning and thickening of woollen cloths. Finally, a nap is a process that involves the scratching up a single side of the fabric to be brushed and shorn even. (Louis 1915, 63, 69, 110, 160).

After the middle of the sixteenth century, however, this large-scale woollen trade with the Northern & Central Europe began fizzling out, for a variety of reasons. The general slowdown of the economy and the deteriorating political relations (especially with Spain, who owned the Dutch provinces, Antwerp included) played a a large part in it, but besides that, the patterns in crude demand for English woollens declined. The Flemish and the Germans began developing their own woollen industry, and like it so often was in those days, this budding trade was heavily protected by onerous tariffs that made English cloth economically unfeasible to trade. Therefore, the market shifted to the South. Even then, however, it was a precarious market, as the Dutch competed and even the very fashions stood against England, as the taste in Europe shifted to the lighter, thinner clothing by the end of the sixteenth century. At this point, the English were experiencing changes of their own and the wool production was shifting due to the heavier, enclosed and lowland sheep producing longer, less fine wool.

At this point, England began exporting fine wool from Spain, such as from the famed Merino breed, to produce its own indigenous fine woollens. At the same time, there began the rise of what is called the New Draperies, which were the worsted and semi-worsted fabrics produced in England during the second half of the sixteenth century. This type of a fabric was not even a woollen technically, as it was not carded (broken up and ordered woollen fabric where the threads are somewhat parallel with each other). Nor were the New Drapery worsteds fulled. Most of all, however, they were made from the long wool thread that England began producing so much of due to the changing conditions for the sheep. Therefore, this shift in fabric-making was one of necessity. Fortunately for the English, however, this cloth proved to be popular in Southern Europe. (Davis 173, 20-25)

Other than the aforementioned twin kings of English trade, the English merchants also exported tin and lead, although the metal trade was not nearly as profitable as the woollens or wool cloths. By sheer tonnage, the tin and lead trade exceeded the woollen trade, but being a comparatively cheap bulk good, it was not especially important to English commerce. The fact that these metals were often used by the English merchant ships as ballast that could be conveniently sold when no longer needed spoke of the value that the English ascribed to their metal exports. Indeed, most of the metal exports of England were carried out in such an offhand manner.

That said, the metal trade was quite vital to the rest of Europe, as the British tin originating from Cornwall and Devon was practically the only source of tin in all of Europe and the Mediterranean in general after the ancient Spanish and German deposits reached the stage of exhaustion. In fact, the Cornish Peninsula supplied the bulk of Europe’s tin ever since the Roman times. English lead, while not as vital to Europe as tin, was nevertheless an important metal export as well, originating from Derbyshire. Both of these metals were just a part of the bounty of English mineral deposits, as England also held significant copper, iron and coal deposits. However, these commodities were not much in demand in Europe, and thus there was not much trade in them conducted.

All the while exporting all of the goods that they did, the English of course acquired plenty of imports, though the trade in them was not nearly as complex nor as often-shifting as the export trade. The English had to export what sold the best in the cutthroat Continental market, but the imports, on the other hand, were usually defined by what the English desired, as opposed to what could actually be bought. The English, rather surprisingly, imported an enormous volume of Spanish goods, the chief among them being wines (the English taste for Spanish wines was legendarily insatiable, and wine was perhaps the largest-volume English import), dried fruits (raisins, currants, figs and even the plain fruits, such as apples, pears, etc), olive oil, silver (previously acquired from the Germans), and even iron. Sugar, indigo, spices and particularly the ivory (which has importance for the previous part of this webpage) came from the Portuguese, although the Venetians and the Dutch also sold a great deal of eastern spices to England. Venetians also sold the top-quality Chinese as well as the more widespread Ottoman silks to England - not to mention selling velvet of their own indigenous production. Timber, flax, hemp, pitch, tar, cereals, fish and salt often came from the old Hanseatic League, or the confederation of Northern European traders of especially Germany, Scandinavia and Poland. As one can observe, most of the bulk-goods imports of England were very heavily dependent on the Hanseatic League, which created problems as it was breaking up. Scandinavia eventually took over that trade, adding more iron to it, as the native English iron production and the Spanish iron imports proved to be insufficient for the exploding British industries. Direct trade with Russia, established in the late sixteenth century sated the insatiable English demands for furs, but also to a lesser degree for Indian spices (as opposed to South-East Asian island spices, such as nutmeg and particularly cloves) and Persian silk - as Russia was trading directly with Persia at that time, thus obtaining the excess silk and spices. Indeed, as one can see, England imported prodigiously and was unafraid of spending colossal amounts on eastern luxuries, both when it could not afford it (most of the 16th century) and when it could, with a large trade surplus (late 16th century and onward). (Davis 1973, 20-36)

Austro-Hungarian Navy

Pre-War these ships were painted in dark Green. This continued through at least the early part of WW1 for some ships. However, Capital ships had started to convert to light grey in the weeks before war was declared. Some of the models in the Arsenal Museum in Vienna are shown in both schemes. However a diorama of the fleet in 1917 shows all ships in pale grey.

Decks were pale wood. Cortesine does not seem to have been as much used. it was probably not considered important, as Austrian major ships rarely stayed at sea long enough for anyone to get uncomfortable! I know of only one instance where the Battleships ‘over-nighted’ at sea, during the war. The Cortesine was light tan.

Water lines were red if the ship was in dark green. Later when grey was adopted they became mid green. Lifeboats were pale grey, but with light tan canvas tops. The shade was similar to that of the wooden decks.

Torpedo boats were also painted in dark green for most of the war, particularly smaller types. But this appears to be a darker, almost black shade. From 1916 onward, destroyers were painted in the same grey as capital ships and new construction torpedo boats adopted the same colour.

Identification of units was achieved with numbers or number and letter combinations 20% of the ships length, back from the bow. Some smaller torpedo boats had these numbers further forward due to hull design constraints.

When Austrian ships changed to a light grey, this was undoubtedly to take advantage of the frequent misty conditions in the Northern Adriatic at some times of the year. This type of weather condition was less common in the southern Adriatic.

Austrian submarines were usually painted pale grey all over. Some appear to have dark grey decks.

Reasons Why the Royal Navy Bribed Sailors With Booze

Black Tot Day was the final day of a centuries-long tradition.

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On July 31, 1970, British sailors lined up to receive their final rum ration. “Mock funerals were staged, “ writes Wayne Curtis for The Daily Beast. Sailors wore black armbands. On one ship, imbibers threw their empty glasses–and the barrel–into the harbor. 

For a very long time, the daily rum ration was an essential part of life in the Royal Navy. But by the time Black Tot Day came around, Curtis writes, there weren’t many in the Navy who still took advantage of the privilege they still technically had. The Navy was no longer a body of men whose rations regularly went rotten (or at least tasted bad). It was a professionalized body of people who had more to do with nuclear technology and electronics than they did with cannonballs and cutlasses–and really, really needed to be sober. 

The Admiralty Board, which oversees the Navy, wrote:

The rum issue is no longer compatible with the high standards of efficiency required now that the individual's tasks in ships are concerned with complex, and often delicate, machinery and systems on the correct functioning of which people's lives may depend.

But the rum ration was such an important part of naval tradition that it prompted a lengthy debate in the House of Commons, writes Georgie Evans for The Telegraph. One Member of Parliament argued that "in fact the rum enabled the sailors 'to face the coming action with greater strength and determination,'" Evans writes. Detractors pointed out that the "daily tot" was enough rum to raise a sailor's blood alcohol levels above the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle. They eventually won out.

Here are some of the reasons the daily alcohol ration was so important for so long:

Most food didn’t stay good for very long

Although the sailors of the 1700s and 1800s Royal Navy ate better than many accounts would have you believe, the food that lasted before refrigeration was still at best bland and at worst sort of rotten. “Records show that 18th- and 19th- century British sailors enjoyed a high-calorie, protein-packed diet superior to those of most working-class landlubbers,” writes Jennie Cohen for 

For all that, writes Curtis, what they ate didn’t taste amazing. “Water in the casks would often develop algae and taste putrid and sour,” he writes. Beer, which the Navy served before switching to rum, didn’t last when it was hot and humid.

Spirits like rum or brandy (which the sailors were served for a time) retained their good taste and didn’t spoil, so they might be the only tasty thing sailors got in a day.

A big reason that the Royal Navy encouraged the rum ration was related to scurvy–an ailment that was common to sailors, who didn’t get much fresh produce that contained Vitamin C. Don’t get confused, though: Rum doesn’t naturally contain Vitamin C in any meaningful quantity. However, it goes well with lime juice, which ships carried and gave out to sailors daily.

In 1740, concerned by the drunkenness of sailors who received half a pint of rum per day, Admiral Sir Edward Vernon declared that the rum should be mixed with water, writes Harry Sword for Vice. To that mix was added the daily dose of lime and some sugar–although the connection between citrus and scurvy wasn’t formalized for more than 50 years.

Being a sailor was tedious–when it wasn’t terrifying

“No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned,” British humorist Samuel Johnson wrote in the latter half of the 1700s.

Like many funny people, Johnson had a talent for overstatement, but it was true that sailing was hard work. At sea for up to months at a time, doing backbreaking work in a highly disciplined environment where punishments like flogging could be meted out, sailing was no day at the beach. “There was no system of imprisonment, or financial penalty,” writes Andrew Lambert for BBC, “although the rum ration could be stopped.” At the same time, Britain spent much of the 1700s and 1800s at war, where chance of injury and death was relatively high.

The demands of such a life helped to make the rum ration “a vital part of the fabric of the Royal Navy–rationed, used as a currency, and a veritable way of life,” Sword writes.

About Kat Eschner

Kat Eschner is a freelance science and culture journalist based in Toronto.

“Armourers’ Marks”

Most trade axes found on French influenced archaeological sites were manufactured in France. The sites where trade axes were found coincides with the areas where French influence was felt: the Saint-Lawrence valley, the Richelieu and the Lac Champlain regions, the Great-Lakes region, south of the Mississippi, etc., etc. In isolated cases, a few French style axes have been found on the east coast of the United States. Some east coast areas must have had provisional, or secondary, trade routes for the French trade goods.

I’ve seen a few Biscayan style axe heads found on early mount-style burial sites from the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern U.S., but generally in the Virginia and Carolina area, the early metal axe heads are overwhelmingly more English, or even Spanish, influenced rather than French.

Check out my post on the Mullet Murder Poll Hatchets. Yes, it steps way outside the boundaries of the analytical study of French pattern axes, which are almost all identical in general shape.

Back to the topic at hand, studying “Touch marks” or “stamps” on trade axes shows variances in the details. This indicates that European blacksmiths each had their own stamp(s) and it is possible that each stamp would undergo a control process by the corporation ordering the trade axes. In New France, the corporation guidelines – or rules controlling “les arts et metiers” – weren’t generally applied, except in regards to surgeons.

As Kenneth Kidd reported in the excavation of Ste. Marie (Archeological French site dating from 1639-1649):

The marks themselves appeared to have been made with a punch die consequently the impressions vary a good deal in depth and in clarity, depending upon the condition of the die and the force of the blow struck. A study of the marks reveals that they varied in detail the inference being that each maker had his own mark. It may be, however, that the individual maker used a mark con- trolled by the guild to which he belonged. At any rate the axes from Ste Marie bore eight, or possibly nine, distinct marks (See Fig. 1)

These Marks were stamped on trade axe found on the Ste. Marie site dating from 1639 to 1649

For isolating these, there are but two criteria, design and diameter. The designs may, of course, vary considerably or may approximate each other so closely as to be almost indistinguishable. In such a case, they may sometimes be isolated on the basis of diameter of punch marks, since it would almost be beyond the bounds of probability that two punches used by the same smith would be identical.

These axes were indubitably of French manufacture, and the marks they bore were those of French artisans or guilds, as the case may be, of the seventeenth century. They conformed in shape to one genera! pattern, from which variations were insignificant and few. Size was more variable than shape, for the smallest in the collection was 6 3/4 inches long by 3 inches wide and the largest 8 5/8 inches long by 3 5/8 inches wide. Length-width ratios were not constant however one specimen, only 7 5/8 inches long, had a maximum width of 4 1/4 inches.

Sault Ste Marie, a Hudson’s Bay fur trade post, painted circa 1863. Sault Ste. Marie, is a cross-border region in Canada and the United States. Formerly a single settlement from 1668 to 1817, it was subsequently divided by the establishment of the Canada–US border in the area. On July 20, 1814 an American force destroyed the North West Company depot on the north shore of the St. Marys River. Since the Americans were unable to capture Fort Michilimackinac, the British forces retained control of the Sault. The lock was destroyed in 1814 in an attack by U.S. forces during the War of 1812.

When we look at the colonial production of trade axes, the “touch marks” or stamp identifies the blacksmith, the trading post, the Fort or the company. As we all know, French Canadians were very catholic and devoted people to the church and so their daily life was surrounded with with religious symbols such as the cross.

This might explain in part the large number of trade axes that have a cross like symbol as a “touch mark” or stamp. Another theory would be that stamping religious symbols on Indian trade items would help in the effort of the French in converting Indians to Christianity. The blacksmith at this site in 1645 was Brother Louis Gaubert, although it would be highly presumptuous to assume that all these marks belong to this particular blacksmith. Then the question arises whether they were marked in France by guilds or companies, etc.”

The Armourers’ marks studied by Fitzgerald were all classified according to the shape of the mark, the division of the mark, and the number and orientation of the mark. He goes on to say that “…the vast majority of the marks are circular in shape”.

Much can be learned from the Plater-Martin Site Axes, circa 1637-1650 which have been very well documented.

All thirteen iron trade axes from this site bear visible forge marks added during manufacture.

The intent, meaning and purpose of the marks is not known. They have been described above, and are reproduced as Fig 6:

Forge marks, also variously called armourer’s, axe, guild, impressed, maker’s, punch, stamp, and trade marks (Baker 1984:52 Fitzgerald 1988:13, 15-16, 1990: 438-440,447 Kenyon 1987:6 Kenyon & Kenyon 1987:13 Kidd 1949: 112-114) on axes elsewhere, have been studied and illustrated by a number of scholars. In recent years some general correlation of marks and numbers with time/GBP has been achieved (Fitzgerald 1990:439-440Kenyon and Kenyon 1987:13,18). At Plater-Martin a number of marks are unique.

Arthur Woodward statesthat there are four marks which occur the most frequently on 17th and 18th century iron axes (Woodward 1946:29) The first of these is the simple two-bar cross. In Ontario the two-bar cross mark is reported in a variety of sizes, orientations and numbers by Fitzgerald (1988:15,3,4), Kenyon (n.d.), Kenyon and Kenyon (1987:13 Fig.3A) and at Ste. Marie (Kidd 1949:114,A,B,C,D). In the Petun Archaeological Zone the simple two-bar cross has been found both singly and in clusters of three within circles of 6,8,9,10 11,12,13 and 14 mm. diameter The highest occurrence is a cluster of three 9mm crosses, which appears on 20% of the known Petun area axes. This combination occurs on the Plater-Martin BdHb-1 Site on two axes (#1a,196), a frequency of only 15%. Single unmodified two-bar crosses also occur on only two Plater-Martin axes (#197, 200).

The second mark claimed by Woodward to be among the most popular is the three-bar cross, reported by Fitzgerald (1988:15,8), Kenyon and Kenyon (1987:13,F), Kidd(1949:114,E) and Woodward (1946:29). Only one example occurs at Plater-Martin (#194) and only two other examples are known in the Petunarea (McKay 12b, Collingwood Museum X976.634.1).

The third and fourth of Woodward’s popular marks are the six-bar ‘wagon-wheel‘, reported by Fitzgerald (1988:15, 1a, 1c), Kenyon (n.d.), Kenyon and Kenyon (1987:13, C) and at Ste. Marie (Kidd 1949:114 G), and the two-bar cross modified by dots added to three of the four quarter segments. These marks have not been found at Plater- Martin.

Iron Trade Axes from the Plater-Martin Site, by Charles Garrad.

Marks on the 13 Iron Trade Axes, as they appear on the pieces from the Plater-Martin Site:

Here is a great illustration by Thomas Kenyon of all the recorded armourer’s marks on 17th century French trade axes found in Ontario.


The vessels were a common form of internment in Britain and elsewhere in the 18th and 19th centuries. Charles F. Campbell writes that around 40 ships of the Royal Navy were converted for use as prison hulks. [3] Other hulks included HMS Warrior, which became a prison ship at Woolwich in February 1840. [4] One was established at Gibraltar, others at Bermuda (the Dromedary), at Antigua, off Brooklyn in Wallabout Bay, and at Sheerness. Other hulks were anchored off Woolwich, Portsmouth, Chatham, Deptford, and Plymouth-Dock/Devonport. [5] HMS Argenta, originally a cargo ship with no portholes, was acquired and pressed into service in Belfast Lough Northern Ireland to enforce the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland) 1922 during the period around the Irish Catholics' Bloody Sunday (1920). Private companies owned and operated some of the British hulks holding prisoners bound for penal transportation to Australia and America.

HMP Weare was used by the British as a prison ship between 1997 and 2006. It was towed across the Atlantic from the United States in 1997 to be converted into a jail. It was berthed in Portland Harbour in Dorset, England.

Use during the American Revolutionary War Edit

During the American War of Independence, more Colonist Americans died as prisoners of war on British prison ships through intentional neglect than died in every battle of the war combined. [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] During the war, 11,500 men and women died due to overcrowding, contaminated water, starvation, and disease on prison ships anchored in the East River the bodies of those who died were hastily buried along the shore. [15] This is now commemorated by the "Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument" in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn in New York City. [15]

Christopher Vail, of Southold, who was aboard one such British ship HMS Jersey in 1781, later wrote:

When a man died he was carried up on the forecastle and laid there until the next morning at 8 o'clock when they were all lowered down the ship sides by a rope round them in the same manner as tho' they were beasts. There was 8 died of a day while I was there. They were carried on shore in heaps and hove out the boat on the wharf, then taken across a hand barrow, carried to the edge of the bank, where a hole was dug 1 or 2 feet deep and all hove in together.

In 1778, Robert Sheffield, of Stonington, Connecticut, escaped from one of the prison ships, and told his story in the Connecticut Gazette, printed July 10, 1778. He was one of 350 prisoners held in a compartment below the decks.

The heat was so intense that (the hot sun shining all day on deck) they were all naked, which also served well to get rid of vermin, but the sick were eaten up alive. Their sickly countenances, and ghastly looks were truly horrible some swearing and blaspheming others crying, praying, and wringing their hands and stalking about like ghosts others delirious, raving and storming,--all panting for breath some dead, and corrupting. The air was so foul that at times a lamp could not be kept burning, because of which the bodies were not missed until they had been dead ten days. [16]

Use in Napoleonic Wars Edit

Some British scholars have written that for prisoners of war held in hulks at Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth, living conditions on board and the mortality amongst prisoners were misrepresented by the French for propaganda purposes during the Wars and by individual prisoners who wrote their memoirs afterwards and exaggerated the sufferings they had undergone. Memoirs such as Louis Garneray's Mes Pontons (translated in 2003 as The Floating Prison), Alexandre Lardier's Histoire des pontons et prisons d’Angleterre pendant la guerre du Consulat et de l’Empire, (1845), Lieutenant Mesonant's Coup d’œuil rapide sur les Pontons de Chatam, (1837) the anonymous Histoire du Sergent Flavigny (1815) and others, are largely fictitious and contain lengthy plagiarised passages. Reputable and influential historians such as Francis Abell in his Prisoners of War in Britain, 1756-1814 (1914) and W. Branch Johnson in his The English Prison Hulks, (1970) took such memoirs at their face value and did not investigate their origins. This has resulted in the perpetuation of a myth that the hulks were a device for the extermination of prisoners and that conditions on board were intolerable. The truth appears to be much less lurid and when the death rates of prisoners are properly investigated a mortality of between 5 and 8 per cent of all prisoners, both on shore and on the hulks seems to have been normal. [17]

Use to accommodate criminal prisoners Edit

The first British use of a prison ship was the privately owned Tayloe, engaged by the Home Office in 1775 via contract with her owner, Duncan Campbell. [18] Tayloe was moored in the Thames with the intention that she be the receiving point for all inmates whose sentences of transportation to the Americas had been delayed by the War of Independence. Prisoners began arriving from January 1776. For most, their incarceration was brief as the Home Office had also offered pardons for any transportee who joined the Army or Navy, or chose to voluntarily leave the British Isles for the duration of their sentence. [18] By December 1776 all prisoners aboard Tayloe had been pardoned, enlisted or died, and the contract ceased. [18]

Thames prison fleet Edit

While the Tayloe was still in use, the British Government was simultaneously developing a longer-term plan for the use of transportees. In April and May 1776, legislation was passed to formally convert sentences of transportation to the Americas, to hard labour on the Thames for between three and ten years. [19] In July 1776, Tayloe ' s owner Duncan Campbell was named Overseer of Convicts on the Thames and awarded a contract for the housing of transportees and use of their labour. Campbell provided three prison ships for these purposes the 260-ton Justitia, the 731-ton former French frigate Censor and a condemned East Indiaman, which he also named Justitia. [19] Collectively, these three prison ships held 510 convicts at any one time between 1776 and 1779.

Conditions aboard these prison ships were poor, and mortality rates were high. Inmates aboard the first Justitia slept in groups in tiered bunks with each having an average sleeping space 5 feet 10 inches (1.8 m) long and 18 inches (46 cm) wide. Weekly rations consisted of biscuits and pea soup, accompanied once a week by half an ox cheek and twice a week by porridge, a lump of bread and cheese. [20] Many inmates were in ill health when brought from their gaols, but none of the ships had adequate quarantine facilities, and there was a continued contamination risk caused by the flow of excrement from the sick bays. [20] In October 1776 a prisoner from Maidstone Gaol brought typhus aboard. It spread rapidly over a seven-month period to March 1778, a total of 176 inmates died, or 28 percent of the prison ship population. [21]

Conditions thereafter improved. In April 1778 the first Justitia was converted into a receiving ship, where inmates were stripped of their prison clothing, washed and held in quarantine for up to four days before being transferred to the other vessels. [21] Those found to be ill were otherwise held aboard until they recovered or died. On the second Justitia the available sleeping space was expanded to allow for just two inmates per bunk, each having an area 6 feet (1.8 m) long and 2 feet (61 cm) wide in which to lie. [21] The weekly bread ration was lifted from 5 to 7 pounds, the supply of meat enhanced with the daily delivery of ox heads from local abattoirs, and there were occasional supplies of green vegetables. [21] The effects of these improvements were evident in the prisoner mortality rates. In 1783 89 inmates died out of 486 brought aboard and by the first three quarters of 1786 only 46 died out of 638 inmates on the ships. [22]

Naval vessels Edit

Naval vessels were also routinely used as prison ships. A typical British hulk, the former man-of-war HMS Bellerophon, was decommissioned after the Battle of Waterloo and became a prison ship in October 1815. [23] Anchored off Sheerness in England, and renamed HMS Captivity on 5 October 1824, she usually held about 480 convicts in woeful conditions. [3] HMS Discovery became a prison hulk in 1818 [1] at Deptford. [24] Another famous prison ship was HMS Temeraire which served in this capacity from 1813 to 1819.

Use in New South Wales Edit

In New South Wales, Australia, hulks were also used as juvenile correctional centers. [25] In 1813 a tender document was advertised in the Australian newspaper for the supply of bread to prisoners aboard a prison hulk in Sydney Harbour. [26]

Between 1824 and 1837 Phoenix served as a prison hulk in Sydney Harbour. She held convicts awaiting transportation to Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay. One source claims she was Australia's first prison hulk. [27]

Vernon (1867–1892) and Sobraon (1892–1911) — the latter officially a "nautical school ship" — were anchored in Sydney Harbour. The commander of the two ships, Frederick Neitenstein (1850–1921), introduced a system of "discipline, surveillance, physical drill and a system of grading and marks. He aimed at creating a 'moral earthquake' in each new boy. Every new admission was placed in the lowest grade and, through hard work and obedience, gradually won a restricted number of privileges." [25]

Use in South Australia Edit

Between 1880 and 1891 the hulk Fitzjames was used as a reformatory by the South Australian colonial government in Largs Bay. The ship kept about 600 prisoners at a time, even though it was designed to carry 80 or so crewmembers. [28]

World War I Edit

At the start of the war, cruise liners in Portsmouth Harbour were used to hold detained prisoners. [29]

Russian Civil War Edit

Nazi Germany Edit

Nazi Germany assembled a small fleet of ships in the Bay of Lübeck to hold concentration camp prisoners. They included the passenger liners Cap Arcona and Deutschland, and the vessels Thielbek, and Athen. All were destroyed on May 3, 1945 by RAF aircraft whose pilots erroneously believed them to be legitimate targets most of the inmates were either killed by bombing or strafing, burned alive, drowned while trying to reach the shore, or killed by the SS guards.

Modern uses Edit

Chile Edit

Reports from Amnesty International, the US Senate and Chilean Truth and Reconciliation Commission describe Esmeralda (BE-43) as a kind of a floating prison for political prisoners of the Augusto Pinochet administration from 1973 to 1980. It is claimed that probably over a hundred persons were kept there at times and subjected to hideous treatment, [2] among them the British priest Miguel Woodward. [30]

Philippines Edit

In 1987, Colonel Gregorio Honasan, leader of various coups d'état in the Philippines was captured and was imprisoned in a navy ship temporarily converted to be his holding facility. However, he escaped after convincing the guards to join his cause.

United Kingdom Edit

HMS Maidstone was used as a prison ship in Northern Ireland in the 1970s for suspected Republican paramilitaries and non-combatant activist supporters. The former president of the Republican political party Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, spent time on Maidstone in 1972. He was released in order to take part in peace talks.

In 1997 the United Kingdom Government established a new prison ship, HMP Weare, as a temporary measure to ease prison overcrowding. Weare was docked at the disused Royal Navy dockyard at Portland, Dorset. Weare was closed in 2006.

United States Edit

In the United States, the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center is a prison barge operated by the New York City Department of Correction as an adjunct to Rikers Island, opened in 1992. However, it was built for this purpose rather than repurposed. [31] It is the largest operational prison ship facility in the United States currently in operation. [32]

In June 2008 The Guardian printed claims by Reprieve that US forces are holding people arrested in the War on Terrorism on active navy ships, including the USS Bataan and Peleliu, although this was denied by the US Navy. [33] The United States subsequently admitted in 2011 to holding terrorist suspects on ships at sea, claiming legal authority to do so. [34]

In 2009 the US Navy converted the main deck aboard the supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark into a brig to hold pirates captured off the coast of Somalia until they could be transferred to Kenya for prosecution. The brig was capable of holding up to twenty-six prisoners and was operated by a detachment of Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. [35] [36] [37]

Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations opens in 1812 with the escape of the convict Abel Magwitch from a hulk moored in the Thames Estuary. In fact, the prison ships were largely moored off Upnor in the neighbouring River Medway, but Dickens used artistic licence to place them on the Thames. [38]

French artist and author Ambroise Louis Garneray depicted his life on a prison hulk at Portsmouth in the memoir Mes Pontons.

Watch the video: Πώς έμαθα μόνη μου Ισπανικά. Dodo (July 2022).


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