Wednesday, April 19, 2017

French fleet photos

Too often, I think many wargamers see the Napoleonic French navy as some sort of seagoing joke.  In fiction, they're often represented as nautical babes in arms who might get the best of our heroes in the middle of the novel, but are safely vanquished by the end of it.  Like so many historical 'facts,' this representation is greatly simplified.  In 1781, the French Royal Navy fought the British Royal Navy to a tactical draw but strategic victory at Chesapeake Bay which directly led to the birth of the United States. By the mid 1790s, the French Navy was a shadow of itself.  What happened?  The short, and greatly simplified, answer is that the French Revolution happened.  After destroying the officer corps (almost all nobles) and disbanding the cannoniers matelots (considered to be "petty aristocrats"), the new French government crippled its navy so badly that would take over twenty years to recover.

So, given the above, a French fleet can't be much fun to play, right?  Non, non mes amis! Bien au contraire.  A properly played French force can be quite deadly.  Don't rush right into close range and start blasting away; that's what the British player WANTS you to do.  Instead, stay at long range and punish the British player as he tries to get into close range.  Do it right, and your British opponent will soon understand why Nelson said, "you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil."  With that introduction out of the way, here are pictures of my French fleet at last.

First up are those heavy hitters, the three deckers.  I currently have two, which puts me in a bit of a conundrum.  That's more than I need for Trafalgar or Santo Domingo, but not enough for the Glorious First of June.  There's an obvious solution to this problem though:  Buy more after I'm set up for Trafalgar!
you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.
Read more at:

This is a purchased ship

Next are the 80-gun ships.  Although they are considered 3rd rates by both the British and French navies, they have the firepower of a British 98, and are normally used as flagships for smaller squadrons.

According to Mrs. Langton, this is a very old miniature.
I bought it, and should probably retire it, but...

I just love the stern decoration!  Completely different from my other ships.

This is the very first ship I built after getting back into naval gaming.
That makes it about 17 years old now.

Another purchased 80

I own 10 74/76 gun French ships, so for them I'm only doing side views.  First off are what Langton calls a 76/small 80, followed by the 74s.  Both these 76s are purchased.

Purchased 76 #1

Purchased 76 #2

"The Showboat" has stuck to this ship as a nickname.

For some reason, this is one of my favorite ships, and paint schemes.

Purchased 74 #1

Purchased 74 #2
The next ship is something of an odd duck.  It is a French 64.  However, by the beginning of the French Revolution, this class had been phased out of use in the French navy.  Consequently, in most scenarios it stands in as a British 64.  If I ever get around to doing a Suffern vs. Hughes campaign, then I will need some more of these.
Purchased French 64

Just like the real navies, I'm awfully short-handed when it comes to frigates.

40 gun frigate (purchased)

38 gun frigate (purchased)

36 gun frigate #1 (purchased)

36 gun frigate #2

20 gun corvette (purchased)


  1. Very impressive, thanks for sharing them.

  2. Thanks guys! As I said over on TMP, taking these pictures has made me realize that some of my ships are starting to look a bit tatty. I may have to make repairs on some after I get to my goal of being able to refight Trafalgar.

  3. Love them Brian! I really like all of the ones painted for West and East Indies service duty (white masts).

  4. Vol,
    I've gone round and round with myself over the whole white mast topic. Short answer: I'm not completely convinced that they were just for Indies service. My source here is Jean Boudriot.

    In v.III, pg. 229 of The Seventy Four Gun Ship, he devotes a short section on painting the masts. In it he says, "The painting of the masts is left to the individual initiative of the officers, but only black and white are ever used. The lower masts are painted overall, the lower part in black for a distance of several feet above the coat, and the main part is in white. The hoops are picked out in black, or else left browned." He goes into detail about the other parts of the masts and the jib, and I can post that if you're interested. He does go on to say that, "...some people believe that black paint shortens the life of the masts and spars because of the fact that it absorbs heat, a problem which is all the more acute in the tropics, and for this reason they advocate the use of white paint." So it's possible that both sides of the discussion are right to some extent.

    I know that Boudriot's work is based on a 1780 date. However, if the regulations were as lax as he describes, then I would doubt that they got more strict during the chaos of the Revolution. Anyway, that's my argument for having a mixture of mast colors.