British Warships In The Age Of Sail - 1714/1792 Design, Construction, Careers and Fates
By Rif Winfield, published by Seaforth Publishing, 47, Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS at a cost of £50.00. ISBN: 978 184415 7006
The late David Lyon who was tragically taken from us shortly after the publication of his hugely important work The Sailing Navy List prepared information in an attenuated form detailing those Royal Navy vessels in service up to 1815. The sequel to the end of sail and the transition period was in preparation at the time of his death, and was completed by his close collaborator Rif Winfield and published as the Sail and Steam Navy List, which covered all the vessels from 1815 to 1889. This has been previously reviewed and the two books together form a valuable reference.
Rif Winfield previously excelled himself in what has become the “Bible” of the Royal Navy during the period of sail from 1793. Now this author has completed a similar work for the much more understated period from 1714-1792. This book provides a detailed guide to every vessel which served in or was ordered for the Royal Navy from death of Queen Anne and the accession of George I in 1714, which with the two books previously mentioned forms a complete record of every vessel in the sailing navy from 1714 to 1889 a truly monumental undertaking. Rif is well known as an authority on historic warships and was the author of The 50-gun Shipamongst other publications, and has spent a lifetime on original research into his subject and on which this book is based.
The beautifully produced hardback book 29 x 24cms., in size, runs to 384 pages in two-column layout, being profusely illustrated with copies of black and white paintings, ships plans and sections of many of the vessels. Each vessel is described in detail, with dimensions, armament, construction, the crewing requirements and any specific alterations such as lengthening, and a brief synopsis of the vessel’s history.
The book opens with a brief introduction providing details of the various First Lords and Secretaries of the Admiralty and the various controllers. The book is divided into those vessels which were in the fleet as at 1714 – and thus covers vessels built very much earlier. This is followed by a Chronology and details of fleet actions over the period covered, including the specific vessels employed and their fates. Then follows a glossary of terms to set the scene, and thereafter the annual statistics of expenditure and manpower over the 78 year period covered. Ten chapters then follow, subdivided into sections, which cover inter alia First Rates; Second Rates; Third Rates in four sections; Fourth Rates in two sections; Fifth Rates and Sixth Rates – both divided into two sections. Then follows separate chapters covering Ship Sloops, Two-masted sloops, Cutters and Schooners; and Miscellaneous vessels including Bomb Vessels, Fireships, Hired Vessels, Exploration and Discovery vessels, Armed Storeships and Transports, Yachts and concludes with miscellaneous harbour craft. There are three appendices which the American Navy 1775/85; the construction costs for warships; and concludes with the Dockyard launchings and the master shipwrights responsible at each of the royal dockyards for the period 1714-1793.
Each vessel is very thoroughly dealt with, with details of its service history and ultimate fate, and in many cases the costs of building and maintenance throughout its life. Remembering a recent monograph James King R.N. by John Bolton King, as an example of this is:
Discovery(mercantile collier Diligence built 1774 by Langbourne, Whitby, 8 guns) Dimensions & tons: 91ft.5ins, 74ft.9ins, x 27ft.5ins x 11ft.5ins. 29882/94 tons B.M. Men: 70 as transport Guns 8 x ?pdrs also 8 x ½pdr swivels Purchased 1.1776 Fitted and bottom sheathed at Deptford (£5,621.11.10d.) 9.1. to 13.5.1776. Commissioned 2.1776 under Cdr Charles Clerk (died 22.98.1779); sailed on Cook ’s third voyage 14.7.1776. In 8.1779 under Lt. James King; returned to UK 4.10.1780. Fitted (under AO 15.12.1780) as armed transport at Woolwich (for £2,311.7.9d.) 12.1780 – 5.1781. Became Dockyard craft there 5.1781. BU at Chatham 10.1797. (Ref. Page 335)
This continues what has to be the most complete analysis of the ships of the Royal Navy ever prepared and Rif Winfield is to be congratulated in putting together the fruits of so many years research by himself and others, whom he acknowledges. The book concludes with an index of every vessel.
This book is frankly quite superb and deserves to be included in the library of anyone interested in this period of maritime history. For what it is, the book is far from expensive at £50.00
Reviewed by David B. Clement
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