Thursday, December 2, 2021


The original plan was for this post to go up before Thanksgiving. Just a short update, and a promise of better future performance in the making posts department. Obviously, that didn't come to fruition.  So, I hope that all my readers who celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday had a nice one.

The shipyard has been fairly busy as we get towards the end of the year, as you can see from the photo below:

The partially-rigged French 80 and the British 74 Common hull represent the final two ships of the line for the Combined Fleet.    Yes!  Just two more ships, and the Trafalgar Project is 2/3rds complete.  You can expect a big "family photo" of all those in an upcoming post at some point.  Now as mentioned in another post, I don't have the all the frigates for the Combined Fleet yet, but those can be picked up at leisure once the battle line is done.  

I'm sorry, what's that?  Why yes, you're right, there ARE three sailing ships in that photo.  Very observant of you.  That third ship is HMS Saturn, and she has a rather interesting history.

HMS Saturn was a member of the Arrogant-class ships of the line.  Designed by Sir Thomas Slade (who also designed HMS Victory), there were twelve ships built to this design, the most famous of which was HMS Bellerophon.  Bellerophon fought in the Glorious First of June, the Nile, Trafalgar, AND was the ship that Napoleon boarded to surrender himself the first time.  A development from the 5 ship Bellona-class vessels, Saturn and her sisters were the epitome of the British 74-gun ship of the line.  

The Arrogant class ships, as built.

Ordered in December of 1781, Saturn was laid down in August of 1782, launched in November of 1786 and finally completed in May of 1787.  After completion, she sat in ordinary (the modern term is "mothballed") until May of 1790.  During the French Revolutionary Wars, she served in the Channel Fleet and the Mediterranean, where she was involved in the Battle of the Hyères Islands in 1795. [ères_Islands]  Her other major action was at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, but she was in the reserve and did not see action.  Her service after that was pretty typical: West Indies, the Med again, blockade duty off Lorient, then back to the Baltic.  In 1812 she was in ordinary again, and the 25 year old warrior faced a dismal future of either being broken up or used as a prison ship.  

Then the War of 1812 happened.  Everyone knows about the US frigate victories, and the Royal Navy orders not to engage American frigates in single combat.  Less well known, however, is the other British response to the defeats: the decision to acquire their own super frigates.  Instead of building new ships though, the Royal Navy took a more direct approach.  HMS Saturn and two other 74-gun ships (Majestic (1785) and Goliath (1781)) were cut down from ships of the line into frigates.  For these ships, it was done by cutting away the upper decks.  This process was known as razeéing from the French rasé meaning "to shave" so the ships were referred to as razeés. Instead of looking like the blueprint above, they now look like this:

HMS Saturn after conversion to a frigate

The thing to notice here is that the ship has kept her two original gun decks; only the upperworks containing lighter weapons has been taken away.  The guns do get changed around a bit though.  As built, Saturn carried 28 32 pounders on the lower gundeck, and 28 18 pounders on the upper deck.  After reconstruction, she carried 28 32 pounders on the lower gundeck, and 28 42 pound carronades on the upper deck.  This change increased her weight of metal (the amount thrown in a single broadside)
from 952 to 1,036 pounds.  For comparison, the weight of metal for her intended opponents ranged from 712 to 864 pounds and even HMS Victory only threw 1,220 pounds per broadside.

As it happened, the British razeés never did go head-to-head against their intended opponents.  Majestic did fire a few shots at USS President during her pursuit and capture, but fell behind when the wind strength dropped.  Apparently all three of the razeés were good sailors, but only in a heavy wind.  Saturn spent her time blockading New York, and after the war was put back into ordinary in April of 1815.  As I said in the previous post about USS Franklin/Independence though,  these sorts of what-if scenarios are why we play naval wargames!  If you're going to stretch history enough to let USS Independence out of port with Constitution, then it's no larger a stretch to move HMS Saturn from the New York blockade to the Boston one.  All this rationalization is just another way of saying that I built a model of Saturn so she could be put up against the US Navy, just as her designers intended.

In building my Saturn, I decided to go with the very late war black/white paint scheme for her.  It made sense to me; after all, in this incarnation she is only active from 1813-1815.  Also, I found a drawing of Majestic in that scheme, and it sealed the deal for me.  After all, with one paint scheme she could represent two ships.

And, with no further ado, here is my version of these ships:

To me, she is not a pretty miniature.  In fairness though, if you look at the above plan she doesn't appear to be a very pretty ship after the conversion.  And, it's pretty obvious that the miniature was designed right off the original plan.  At first, it looks to me as if her lower guns are WAY too far above the water.  After taking some measurements from the plans though, I think that my assumption about that was wrong.  

Unlike many of my ships, her first taste of action will come this weekend.  I am running the hypothetical breakout scenario mentioned above at our local convention held on the Battleship Texas this Saturday afternoon.  Expect pictures and a game report in the near future!

Oh, and the title of this post is not just a recitation of the ship's name.  The song "Saturn" comes from the 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder.  Yes, the same album that had the hits "Sir Duke" and "Isn't She Lovely."  Yes, it IS hard to believe it was that long ago.  You can check "Saturn" out on YouTube:


  1. I think the ship looks great and thanks for the history. Congrats on being nearly almost 2/3 complete on the allied fleet. 😀

  2. Yeah, the miniature is OK. Her problem is that the original ship just isn't very pretty after the conversion. To me, a British 74 Common is the almost perfect merge of beauty and function. Graceful but deadly, if you will. The 58 razees just don't have that.

    HMS Saturn had her debut yesterday. I'm starting an AAR for the blog tonight, and have plenty of pictures of the action. As always, no matter what you plan, the players will come up with something different!

  3. Great looking razee,lovely looking model!
    Best Iain

    1. Hey Iain, sorry to be so late in approving your comments, but we were on a quick holiday with no Internet access.

      I guess the best praise I can come up with for her is that she looks very "modern." The black/white paint job and her rather severe looking lines do make her that. As to how lovely she looks, well, all gamers know that a beautifully painted model just will not do well on its first outing! 🤔

  4. I think this is a gorgeous model! Really nice job! Saturn is one I don't have, but I do have the Majestic razee in 1/700 scale. And it is not a pretty ship. I haven't printed it in 1/1200 yet.
    Merry Christmas!

  5. Majestic and Saturn are close enough that in 1/1200 they would look the same. I have looked at Majestic over at Wargaming3d, and she is tempting. I also think that model is more accurate than mine in carrying its lower guns closer to the water.

    If I do another razee though, I will probably do Indefatigable, as I would like to run the Treasure Fleet action of 1804 as a game. The group in Waco did it as a sort of mini-campaign and it was a better action than I thought. I promise my opinion was not swayed by winning the prize for worst die rolling! 😁