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HMS Roebuck (1774) 44 Gun Frigate with Plans

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HMS Roebuck (1774)
 
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RoebuckStarboardSide.jpg
 
Plans based on Roebuck class.
 
The Roebuck class ship was a class of twenty 44-gun sailing two-decker warships of the Royal Navy. The class carried two complete decks of guns, a lower battery of 18-pounders and an upper battery of 9-pounders. This battery enabled the vessel to deliver a broadside of 285 pounds. Most were constructed for service during the American Revolutionary War but continued to serve thereafter. By 1793 five were still on the active list. Ten were hospital ships, troopships or storeships. As troopships or storeships they had the guns on their lower deck removed. Many of the vessels in the class survived to take part in the Napoleonic Wars. In all, maritime incidents claimed five ships in the class and war claimed three.
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H.M.S. Roebuck was the nameship of a class of twenty fifth rates even though she herself was completed before any of the
others had been laid down. Roebuck's keel was laid in Chatham dockyard in October 1770 and she was launched on 28
th April
1774. Measured by her builders at 886 tons, she was 140 feet in length with a 38 foot beam, and mounted 44 guns in total
comprising 20x­18 pounders, 22x­9 pdrs. and 2­x6 pdrs.
Shortly after completion, Roebuck was despatched to North American waters where the American War of Independence was
just beginning. First in action under Hyde Parker in the Lower Hudson River, she was one of a three­ship squadron fired upon
and badly damaged by the guns of Fort Washington on 9th October 1776. Although tactically defeated, the squadron's very
presence in the river caused General Washington great concern and caused him to change his campaign plans in the area.
Remaining on station off the eastern sea­board, Roebuck was in Lord Howe's fleet which played cat­and­mouse with the French
during August 1788, and she then acted as flag­ship to Vice­Admiral Arbuthnot at the successful capitulation of Charleston,
South Carolina, on 11
th May 1780 where she was again badly damaged heading the line past the guns of Fort Moultrie. In her
last encounter of the war on 14th April 1781, she captured, whilst in company of H.M.S. Orpheus, the 36 ­gun American frigate
Confederacy off the Virginia Capes, the latter loaded with valuable stores for Washington's army.
After a brief period as a hospital ship (1790-­91), Roebuck next saw action in the West Indies during Sir John Jervis's
operations off Martinique, and her final recorded engagement was the capture of the 12­gun Dutch Bataaf off Barbados on
6th
July 1796. Thereafter serving as a troopship (1799), a guardship (1803) and a floating battery (1805), she was eventually broken
up at Sheerness in July 1811.
 

 

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The Roebucks were not frigates at all. They were so called 44-Gun-Ships.

A frigate, in the 18th century definition, is a ship with a single continuous gun-deck. 44-Gun-Ships had two gun-decks.

 

They lacked the speed and agility of the frigates because of the additional deck.

They were built for convoy duty and to show the flag on some backwater stations.

 

The most famous member of the Roebuck class was of course the Serapis that fought John-Paul Jones in the Bonhomme Richard.

 

And no - 44-Gun-Ships are definitely not how most people view frigates...

 

 

But I would like to see one of those in-game along with a 50-Gun-Ship, perhaps?

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The single continuous gun deck is a very late 18th-century/19th-century definition for frigates.

 

Previously, it refers to a man-of-war ship without raised upper works, having a flush forecastle and a quarterdeck only, and tumblehome sides. A 17th-century ship of the line that was frigate-built rather than galleon-built might be called a frigate or a great frigate, and plenty of 18th-century two-deckers and demi-batterie ships were referred to as frigates. Meanwhile, single-decked ships that were not frigate-built were still being referred to as flutes, armed ships, gunvessels or just plain old ships even up to when Roebuck was built.

 

Serapis, along with Resistance and Mediator, were not Roebuck-class ships but were one-offs built to separate revised designs.

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Serapis, along with Resistance and Mediator, were not Roebuck-class ships but were one-offs built to separate revised designs.

Looks like Wikipedia needs correcting, then. Or is it a matter of opinion whether they diverged too far from the class?

 

I wonder why Slade or the Navy Board wanted to tinker with an obsolete design like that.

 

 

According to Three Decks, the French put 24-pdrs and 18-pdrs on Serapis, replacing her original 18-pdrs and 9-pdrs.

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The Roebucks are interesting ships. Obsolete, of course, but in that weird space between even a 50-gun ship (rated the smallest ship of the line, but not really expected to be /in/ the line) and the normal 32/36/38 gun frigates. Still rated as 5th rates though, and therefore technically a frigate, at least an evolutionary ancestor of the true 44-gun frigates like the later Endymion (not the Roebuck-class one), Leander/Newcastle, the American Constitution, Java, and Brandywine classes, and Pommone and L'Egyptienne. Of all those, only the Brandywines are a true two-decker frigate more like the Roebucks, all the others usually had an unarmed waist and were considered single-deck frigates.

 

Winfield in his "British Warships in the Age of Sail" talks about the class and mentions that the relatively low draught compared to a proper SOL is why they were being built for service in the shallow waters off the US coast. This is why Roebuck had been ordered in 1769, but no more were until 1776.

 

As far as Serapis (the first one, they built a replacement in the same class that lasted until 1826), Resistance, and Mediator, he has them listed as Roebucks too, with individual dimensions within the margin of error of the rated ones. The only notable difference in any ship listed were that Roebuck herself, along with the first production batch of Romulus, Actaeon, Janus, Charon, and Guardian, had two-level sterns (but with a single cabin level behind them), while most of the rest of the class was built with a single level frigate-type stern. They were notoriously slow and poor sailors. The lower deck gunports were closer to the water than later true two-decker frigates, which was a problem when Argo fought a pair of much smaller frigates in waters too rough to open her lower deck ports.

 

They weren't all bad of course. Some were converted into armed troop carriers, which was useful because they were faster than most merchants, kept the armed upper deck and didn't require an escort convoy, and could coordinate amphibous work better directly under naval control. They were also the only 5th rates around that could carry 24-pounders on the lower deck at this time, though built with regular 18 pounders. This was still the era where the 12-pounder frigate was standard, so even the early armament was still powerful in comparison. Some were refitted later with 24-pounder carronades or lightweight guns like Grover's.

 

For all their problems, the design was revived again in 1782 for another eight ships of the Adventure class, slightly broadened over Roebuck.

Edited by Talos
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maturin, on 03 Aug 2016 - 10:26 PM, said:

Looks like Wikipedia needs correcting, then. Or is it a matter of opinion whether they diverged too far from the class?

 

I wonder why Slade or the Navy Board wanted to tinker with an obsolete design like that.

 

 

According to Three Decks, the French put 24-pdrs and 18-pdrs on Serapis, replacing her original 18-pdrs and 9-pdrs.

 

The Roebuck-class ships, as Talos mentioned, were suddenly becoming useful with the American Revolutionary War providing a theatre that suited them - that might have been enough motive to tinker with them. There are plenty of constructor variations between the Roebucks, but Serapis, Mediator, and Resistance each have their own design variations rather than starting from the same lines. Still, Winfield is my source for Slade being credited with the Roebuck-class design as well as credited with separate designs for the variants above; I'm content to stand corrected if he feels the differences are within the class.

 

Talos, is the Brandywine you're referring to the 1825 American ship?

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The Roebuck-class ships, as Talos mentioned, were suddenly becoming useful with the American Revolutionary War providing a theatre that suited them - that might have been enough motive to tinker with them. There are plenty of constructor variations between the Roebucks, but Serapis, Mediator, and Resistance each have their own design variations rather than starting from the same lines. Still, Winfield is my source for Slade being credited with the Roebuck-class design as well as credited with separate designs for the variants above; I'm content to stand corrected if he feels the differences are within the class.

 

Talos, is the Brandywine you're referring to the 1825 American ship?

 

Thinking about it again, are you talking about the original Serapis the French took or the second one ordered in 1780 as another Roebuck? If the latter, Mediator, Resistance, and that one all date from about the same time. Mediator was ordered in 1779, Resistance and Serapis (ii) in 1780 at the same time. It's possible they were all done to a slightly different design at the time. The problem with it all is that, except for Roebuck herself and Dolphin, each and every Roebuck-class 44 was contract-built in private yards. Each of those three (four if we count the first Serapis) was built in a different yard by a different person. They are as follows:

 

Serapis (i): Randall & Co, Rotherhithe

Mediator: Thomas Raymond, Northam (Southampton).

Resistance: Edward Greaves, Limehouse

Serapis (ii): James Martin Hillhouse, Bristol

 

He seems to feel they were close enough to group together without mention of any design differences. All the measurements are within the norms of the class too. The oddball is Argo, which was 8 inches longer than the official lengths and 13 tons greater displacement. As far as the class' original designer, he credits Slade as the designer, modifying the design for Phoenix of 1758, which he also designed. Phoenix was heavily lengthened from the Establishment-era 44s. She was constructed by John and Robert Bateson of Limehouse. Years later, Robert also constructed the Roebuck-class ships Janus and Guardian.

 

Yes, that's the frigate I'm referring to. She was built wider to enable her to carry two full gundecks full of 32 or 42-pounder cannons. Her sister Potomac had a conventional stern and was laid down first, but commissioned years after, so I've seen it called both Brandywine or Potomac class. You can see her in this side view comparison I threw together, along with the other heavy frigates in her development line. Several of the ships after her on the list are all Brandywine class as well, showing detail differences from having their comissioning spread out over two decades. Santee (and her sister Sabine) were the final members of the class and had their bows reconstructed and lengthened on the stocks, but they're otherwise still Brandywines too.

post-23027-0-44370600-1470269225_thumb.jpg

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Holy spankerballs, Batman, look at the mizzen boom on Guirerre!

 

62 feet long with a 30 foot gaff on top of that. Potomac, the next one built, shortened the spanker down to 50 feet.

 

Looking at the Greenwich site, you can compare the two-deck stern the early ships of the class had. The plan for Expedition at the top of this thread show the later frigate-style one. The upper deck of the stern on Roebuck is actually fake, there is just the great cabin behind the lower part of it. http://prints.rmg.co.uk/art/493631/lines-and-profile-plan-of-the-roebuck-1774

 

http://prints.rmg.co.uk/art/493631/lines-and-profile-plan-of-the-roebuck-1774

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The British really tried to keep going with the fifth-rate two-deckers as long as possible, even after they had 18-pounder single-decker frigates with weather deck carronades that could match them or beat them for firepower. There's still Hunt's Adventure-class after the last Roebuck-class ships were finished - meanwhile, the French and Spanish had totally abandoned them decades before. They had the benefit of familiarity, they were cheaper than fourth-rates, and they were available for quite a lot of less glamorous but necessary work, but none of them had particularly great careers. I have to think that stubbornness or an out-of-touch navy board played a part in continuing to order ships that were, compared to their contemporaries like the Perseverance-class frigates, obsolete.

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The British really tried to keep going with the fifth-rate two-deckers as long as possible, even after they had 18-pounder single-decker frigates with weather deck carronades that could match them or beat them for firepower. There's still Hunt's Adventure-class after the last Roebuck-class ships were finished - meanwhile, the French and Spanish had totally abandoned them decades before. They had the benefit of familiarity, they were cheaper than fourth-rates, and they were available for quite a lot of less glamorous but necessary work, but none of them had particularly great careers. I have to think that stubbornness or an out-of-touch navy board played a part in continuing to order ships that were, compared to their contemporaries like the Perseverance-class frigates, obsolete.

 

One big reason they kept them around was for use as flagships. With the second deck, they had room for admiral accomodations, which was something no frigate generally had. Compared to a 64 or a 74-gun ship, sending a 44-gun two decker to a distant station as flagship for the local squadron was a fair bargin, I'd say. Especially with the support of more conventional frigates to do the serious work.

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