Jump to content
Game-Labs Forum

Recommended Posts

A few weeks ago a forum user threw me into confusion by referring to our in-game Surprise as a 38-gun frigate, more powerful than a 32-gun ship. Certainly a strange description for Patrick O'Brian's 'jackass frigate'!

 

To be clear, Surprise isn't a 38-gun Fifth Rate, despite carrying precisely 38 broadside guns. Gun ratings are nominal, and often don't include the uselessly-light forecastle or quarterdeck guns.

 

There is plenty of cause for confusion, however, given the myriad different vessels (historical, fictional and modern) one has to keep straight when searching for the 'real' Surprise. I've finally managed to track them all down and compare them, with an emphasis on armament, length and beam.

 

 

 

L'Unite (1794)-->HMS Surprise: The historical inspiration for O'Brian's frigate was built by the French navy in 1794, captured by HMS Inconstant in 1796 (a strangely negative name, you'll agree) and brought into service in the Royal Navy as HMS Surprise. HMS Surprise was rated as a 28-gun Sixth Rate, although she briefly bore the designation of a Fifth Rate.

 

Specifications:

Length of Gundeck: 126' 0"

Length of Keel: 108' 6 ¼"

Beam: 31' 8''

Tons burthen: 578 7394

 

Armament in French Service:

24x 8-pounder long guns
8x 4-pounder long guns (quarterdeck and forecastle)

 

Armament in English Service:

24x 9-pounder long guns

8x 4-pounder long guns (quarterdeck)

4x  12-pounder carronades (quarterdeck)

2x 12-pounder carronades (forecastle)

2x 4-pounder long guns (probably bow chasers)

 

Even these light guns were found to be too heavy and unwieldy for the ship's narrow hull, and were replaced with carronades.

 

Later Carronade-only Armament:

24x 32-pounder carronades

10x 18-pounder carronades (quarterdeck and forecastle)

2x 4-pounder guns (bow chasers)

 

Here is the draught the British made of her. As she is a rather modern frigate, she is cut for many ports on the quarterdeck and forecastle, where light frigates of earlier decades would carry few to none (ie, HMS Cerberus). These light upper deck guns are why she might be mistaken for a 32, 36, or even 38-gun ship. These larger frigates, however, would be expected to mount 26 guns on the gundeck, with their longer hulls.

 

***

 

Jack Aubrey's HMS Surprise: O'Brian describes her as a 28-gun Sixth Rate, a 'jackass frigate,' formerly the French corvette L'Unite (1794). This background is entirely historical.

 

However, O'Brian's Surprise carries 12-pounders instead of the historical French 8-pound and English 9-pound long guns.

 

She also retains the '36-gun ship mainmast' which was briefly installed in the historical frigate by an English dockyard. The experiment was unsuccessful, and Surprise ended up with at least one mast sized for an even smaller (24-gun) ship.

 

***

 

Fifth Rate HMS Surprise (1812): Some of O'Brian's readers speculate that the author confused Aubrey's ship with a heavier frigate that also bore the name Surprise. Presumably this would be the 38-gun Leda-class 18-pounder frigate built in 1812, a sister-ship to Naval Action's Trincomalee. I very much doubt that anyone could confuse these two ships, as the difference in size and firepower is so great.

 

Specifications:

Length of Gundeck: 150' 4''

Length of Keel: 125' 8 ⅞''

Beam: 40' ½''

Tons Burthen: 1,072 3394

 

Armament:

28x 18-pounder long guns

8x 9-pounder long guns (quarterdeck)

6x 32-pounder carronades (quarterdeck)

2x 32-pounder carronades (forecastle)

2x 9-pounder long guns (probably bow chasers)

 

***

 

Fifth Rate Gracieuse (1787)-->Unite-->HMS Unite: If O'Brian did get his ships mixed up, it was likely with the 32-gun 12-pounder frigate Gracieuse, built by the French in 1787 but renamed Unite in 1793. She retained the latter name when taken by the British.

 

Specifications:

Length of Gundeck: 142' 5 ½"

Length of Keel: 118' 5 ⅛"

Beam: 37' 8"

Tons Burthen: 873 7194

 

Armament in British Service:

26x 12-pounder long guns

6x 6-pounder long guns (quarterdeck and forecastle)

4x 24-pounder carronades (forecastle)

 

With her armament, this ship may well be the reason that O'Brian's (and Naval Action's) HMS Surprise carries 12-pounders.

 

***

 

HMS Rose (1970)-->HMS Surprise: This is the ship that portrayed 'the dear old Surprise' in the film Master and Commander. HMS Rose was built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in 1970, "using original construction drawings" from the 1757 Sixth Rate frigate HMS Rose, which served in the American War of Independence. In 2001, HMS Rose was officially renamed HMS Surprise, and underwent changes to her rig, upper works and outward appearance. In turn, the movie ship seems to have provided the rig and paint scheme for Naval Action's rendition of L'Unite's hull and armament.

 

Specifications (note the different measurement systems):

Length Overall: 179'

Length on Deck: 135' 6''

Beam: 32'

 

Appearance as HMS Rose

 

Appearance as HMS Surprise

 

As you can see, besides the superficial changes to paint scheme and decorations, HMS Rose was refitted with a mizzen topgallant and had her quarterdeck rails replaced with bulwarks pierced for guns. If you look closely, you will see that the ship's lines, especially those of the upper works, do not resemble the more heavily-armed L'Unite.

 

***

 

24-gun frigate HMS Rose (1757): The historical ship represented by the 1970 replica had an extensive career on the North American seaboard, which you can read about here.

 

Specifications:

Length of Gundeck: 108' 11 ½"

Length of Keel: 90' 10 ¼"

Beam: 30' 1"

Tons Burthen: 430 3794

 

Armament:

20x 9-pounder long guns

 

You will notice that Rose is noticeably smaller than L'Unite. Because I cannot find measurements for the replica ship in the same historical units, I cannot tell whether the modern ship was built to be larger, or is faithful to the original.

 

 

 

In conclusion, the in-game Surprise seems to be a replica of L'Unite's hull, combined with the rigging and outward appearance of the replica ship featured in Master and Commander. In addition, she carries the 12-pounders of an entirely different French frigate named Unite. Such an armament would have been seriously detrimental to her sailing qualities and safety, if history is any guide.

 

Furthermore, she is capable of carrying 12-pounder guns even on the quarterdeck and forecastle, which never mounted any long gun heavier than a 4-pounder historically. This does turn her into a sort of pocket Fifth Rate, with firepower exceeding many 32 and 36-gun ships.

 

With some real 12-pounder and 9-pounder frigates on the horizon (Belle Poule and Renommee), Surprise will upset the balance and progression of the game's ships unless her armament is cut down to historical size. In compensation, she should be allowed to carry 32-pounder carronades.

 

 

Lastly, if anyone can find some more useful length and beam numbers for the replica ship HMS Rose/Surprise, I am very keen to see them. You are also welcome to post more pictures and especially draughts of any of the ships, and I will add them to the OP. I am especially curious to see a screenshot of the game's Surprise and Trincomalee lined up side-by-side, to compare their respective lengths (I can't access the game for a while myself).

  • Like 15
Link to post
Share on other sites

The Surprise seems to be an awkward ship as far as where the line in for fiction/non-fiction is concerned. Especially since the current physical appearance of the Surprise in game isn't accurate compared to the plans from the admiralty (mainly the stern gallery, the non flush deck, and a few other details). I guess the question is where to draw the line between fiction and history. I'm sure a lot of us expect the Surprise from the Aubrey/Maturin novels, which from what I've read in Brian Lavery's book on the Surprise, had much better sailing qualities than her real life counter part. But if we wanted things to be historically accurate the in-game Surprise wouldn't be as good of a ship as it is now. So, if nobody wants fictional ships and be historically accurate, the Surprise would need to be much downgraded, or given the Surprise's fame would there be an exception to the fictional ship in O'Brian's novels? Personally I'd like to at least see the Surprise to be more accurate to the admiralty plans, than the current replica Surprise used in the movie.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, nice write up maturin! This is the sort of information I like.

 

To recap the information:

  • L'Unite (1794) -> HMS Surprise
    O'Brian (but with armament mixed up), Jack Aubrey
     
  • Gracieuse (1787), Fifth Rate -> Unite -> HMS Unite
    O'Brian's mix-up ship?
     
  • 24-gun frigate HMS Rose (1757) & replica HMS Rose (1970) -> HMS Surprise
    Replica ship featured in Master and Commander
     
  • HMS Surprise (1812), Fifth Rate
    Leda-class 18-pounder frigate

Do we have any confirmation on which ship the in-game Surprise is supposed to be? Or are we all assuming it should be the first, L'Unite (1794)?

 


 

Separate from the above, it has been bugging me for some time that the in-game ships seem to be over-armed. Some may feel this is not a problem, but I think it will only create a nightmare of balance issues later on (should the Amsterdam be allowed heavier armament? she is listed as 42-gun after all.... 10 of which where, in reality, swivel guns!).

 

Should we lobby for a general downsize in armament for those vessel who are currently carrying too much metal? Starting with the L'Unite (1794) / HMS Surprise?

 

 

 

Brigand

Link to post
Share on other sites

Do we have any confirmation on which ship the in-game Surprise is supposed to be? Or are we all assuming it should be the first, L'Unite (1794)?

Should we lobby for a general downsize in armament for those vessel who are currently carrying too much metal? Starting with the L'Unite (1794) / HMS Surprise?

At some point I think the admin said that the in-game Surprise uses L'Unite's draught with minor alterations to resemble the Master and Commander ship. I didn't save the post, though.

 

And I do certainly think that the game is suffering from firepower inflation at all levels. Looks at HMS Victory, which can carry 32-pounders on the middle gundeck. This will be an uphill battle, because it is basically arguing that gun customization should be seriously reduced. But if we don't do it for the frigates, the balance and lines between classes will be seriously blurred.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

i have had a look at the plans for the HMS Surprise and saw that she had 32 pounders carronades on the forecastle and on the quarterdeck she had 6 pounders and on the main gundeck she had 9 pounders long guns i think that this was what was ment to be on the ship but they changed it for 26x 12-pounder long guns, 6x 6-pounder long guns (quarterdeck and forecastle), 4x 24-pounder carronades (forecastle).

 

hope people can clear this up for me plesae.

Edited by HMS Scatter
Link to post
Share on other sites

Since this thread describes four frigates, all going by the name of HMS Surprise (two of which happen to have also been known L'Unite/Unite), I think it would be most helpfull if, for the purpose of this thread, people would state which HMS Surprise they are talking about (preferably by naming a year).

 

From what I can make up, @HMS Scatter is talking about 'L'Unite (1794) -> HMS Surprise' and maybe also about

'Fifth Rate Gracieuse (1787) -> Unite -> HMS Unite' ?

And @Lieste seems to be talking about 'L'Unite (1794) -> HMS Surprise' ?

 

~Brigand

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmn, ThreeDecks.org cites British Warships in the Age of Sail and gives L'Unite's (1794) main battery as 24 guns in both French and British service. I expect the discrepancy is down to whether or not they armed the bridle port. In-game this gun is considered a bow chaser and not included in the broadside. So perhaps one source refers to the broadside guns, while the admiralty was of course concerned with the number of guns that would physically be placed on the deck.

 

Where do you find access to all these primary sources, Lieste? Got any Sailing Quality Reports in that stash of yours?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...

In-game Surprise definitely has some firepower inflation compared to Unite-Surprise.

 

The initial 28-gun rating came was 24 nine-pounders and 4 four-pounders, but in practice it carried 16 mixed four-pounders and twelve-pounder carronades on its upper works, and no reference to dedicated chase guns so it would have had to move broadside guns to chase positions.

When it was re-rated as a 32-gun fifth-rate, it had 32 thirty-two pounder carronades between the main deck and the upper works, and again no reference to dedicated chase guns.

 

Shows what having a movie and a novel series does for you - poor Reno was a proper 12-pound, fifth-rate frigate.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah - in the same spirit as the confusion between Unite-Surprise and any of the other surprises, I'm getting my Renommees confused with the 1790s Republicaine Francaise of the Galathee-class that was renamed HMS Renommee after its capture.

 

Then the in-game Renommee is a good match, just with slightly more crew and bigger quarterdeck guns.

Edited by Idle Champion
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 months later...

I assume we're talking about this Surprise? https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Surprise_(1796)#/media/File:HMS_Surprise©Ted_Rufus_Ross.JPG

Tiny question here. Will the devs update the model? The one currently in game is a bit... well... lacking in the visual department. Even though it's my fave ship so far.

No, that's the movie Surprise.

 

What's wrong with the in-game version?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, wrong might not be the best word. She just feels a bit incomplete.

 

Take Le Gros Ventre. Everything on that ship is superbly detailed and finished.

From the top notch texture work with all the bolts and rivets to the deck structures and gun ports. It feels like a finished model.

 

The Surprise, by contrast looks like it's a work in progress.

 

The hull, looking at the gun ports doesn't have that double thickness to it that I've seen on other ships.

 

The bowsprit just clips into the hull geometry with no visual queue to explain why it's supposed to be like that.

 

The texture itself makes the ship seem a bit flat.

 

I do love the fact that the modeler took the time to add the little chairs and table inside the captain's quarters and overall It's a gorgeous ship.

 

It might be that there aren't enough visual references out there for it and that's why it came out like this, but that shouldn't get in the way of creativity.

 

I'm pretty sure the artists modeling/texturing these ships have a solid foundation on how these ships were constructed and how they worked and that alone would give them the confidence to fill in the blank areas where not enough info exists on a particular vessel.

 

I just feel that she deserves a bit more love from the artist regarding the little details that I've seen on other ships.

 

It's a matter of polishing the assets for future updates/final iteration of the game.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, the level of detail gets a bit higher with each ship to be released. Surprise, Vic and Consti were the first ships modeled, IIRC.

 

The latter came out all screwed up, but at least Surprise ended up with a clever paint scheme and the game's most attractively-cut sails.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 6 months later...
On 07/03/2015 at 11:51 PM, maturin said:

L'Unite (1794)-->HMS Surprise: The historical inspiration for O'Brian's frigate was built by the French navy in 1794, captured by HMS Inconstant in 1796 (a strangely negative name, you'll agree) and brought into service in the Royal Navy as HMS Surprise. HMS Surprise was rated as a 28-gun Sixth Rate, although she briefly bore the designation of a Fifth Rate.

Armament in French Service:

24x 8-pounder long guns
8x 4-pounder long guns (quarterdeck and forecastle)

Armament in English Service:

24x 9-pounder long guns

8x 4-pounder long guns (quarterdeck)

4x  12-pounder carronades (quarterdeck)

2x 12-pounder carronades (forecastle)

2x 4-pounder long guns (probably bow chasers)

 

Even these light guns were found to be too heavy and unwieldy for the ship's narrow hull, and were replaced with carronades.

 

Later Carronade-only Armament:

24x 32-pounder carronades

10x 18-pounder carronades (quarterdeck and forecastle)

2x 4-pounder guns (bow chasers)

During the Revolution and the Empire, most of the French Corvettes seem to have been a bit overarmed compared to their design and original purpose.

1) Corvettes from earlier decades carried lighter armament such as :

- La Flèche (1767) : L = 108' ; 18 x 6-pdr

- La Perle (1768) : L = 100' ; 16 x 6-pdr

- Le Tourtereau (1782) : L = 119' ; 20 x 8-pdr

2) And the only well-appreciated Corvette built during the Revolution and the Empire was La Diligente (1801) that carried only 20 x 6-pdr, was praised for her speed and whose plan was to be resued to make 18-gun Corvettes-avisos in 1822-1826 (Boudriot, La Créole).

Arms race in wartime might explain that French have overarmed a bit their 1790's Corvettes, such as L'Unité (1794).

Interesting to know that French shipbuilder Forfait who built L'Unité also oversaw the building of monster 1793 Corvettes carrying 18 to 24-pdr guns, a mortar and a hot shot furnace, such as La Romaine (1794), L = 140'. Aberrations quickly abandoned.

Edited by LeBoiteux
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...