A’sailing o’er the bright blue sea

HMS 'Alexandra'

Tidying out my study wardrobe the other day, I stumbled across a shoe-box full of small ironclad naval ships that have been buried away for quite a few years.  These were balsa wood models I scratchbuilt some 30 years ago to play the ironclad rules in Paul Hague’s Sea Battles in Miniature.

The ships, each around 10cms long, are a little crude, but nevertheless still charming enough.  Some of the masts and spars are unfortunately the worse for wear after rattling round in their box for years, but the ships themselves are still sound. 

I also used to have laminated cards to go with each ship, on which you could use a ‘chinograph’ pencil to mark off damage and so on – but these have unfortunately long gone.

I’ve always liked the  ‘steam-punk’ look of the ironclad steamships of the Victorian era, with their forward thrusting bows, complex upperworks, old-fashioned masts and elegant paintwork.  So far as tactics go, not only was gunnery important, but also the ancient art of ramming!

I can’t recall if these ships ever took to the wargames table in earnest.  I do still have the rules, so it would just be a matter of re-making the ship information cards and the various turn templates for these ships to stoke up their boilers and steam into action.

French ship 'Ocean'The French warship Ocean.

HMS 'Devastation'Here is HMS Devastation, a ‘breastwork monitor ship’ from 1873.

French 'Redoutable'The French warship Redoutable.

HMS 'Alexandra'This is the HMS Alexandra, a British ‘box-battery’ ironclad of 1875.

HMS 'Temeraire'This is HMS Temeraire, a ‘box-battery and barbette’ ship from 1877.

Italian ship 'Affondatore'My fleet also includes Austro-Hungarian, Danish and Italian ships, such as the rakish Italian warship Affondatore.

12 thoughts on “A’sailing o’er the bright blue sea

  1. Very very “cool”, sir. Lovely little models indeed. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    — Jeff

  2. They look really nice.. they definitely deserve an outing on the table top and soon!

    I had some home cast monitors way back so that I could refight the Monitor vs Merrimac – believe I used the rules from Featherstone’s Naval Wargames book..

  3. These are really good, Roly. Don Featherstone’s Naval Wargames got me started in war gaming and I used to build my balsa wood ships using the ‘sandwich’ technique’ described therein (but not as good as yours). If you haven’t looked already suggest you look at Angus Konstam’s Edinburgh Wargamers site – Angus is a fan of that era in naval history. Also, there’s a computer game available now, Iron Clads High Seas – try searching for this in Youtube – some nice movie graphics of iron clads in action.

  4. Reblogged this on DRESSING THE LINES and commented:

    My previous posting about the book ‘The Waikato River Gunboats’ reminded me of my own collection of little balsawood ironclads that I built way back in my 20s. I posted here about these models in 2010, but thought some of you might be interested to see these pictures again.

  5. Great stuff Roly! We have been playing ACW ironclads for years, but late last year I got the idea to expand to the ocean going ironclads of the Austro-Hungarian and Italian navies. I now have all of the ironclads and a fair number of the wooden hulled ships too. I have a few articles on my blog

    Mark Strachan

  6. Rather cool models of ships from one of the more inventive periods of naval history – I seem to recall there weren’t any ‘classes’ of ships, as such, from the early 1860s until the ‘Admirals’. I remember making a small fleet of my own – same idea, out of balsa – covering the immediate pre-dreadnought/Tsushima era. Only way to do it back in the day. i guess there are resin or white metal kits of these things about now.

  7. Thanks for that, Daggerandbrush. I must admit, though, the photography does enhance them a bit from real life. They’re pretty crude models really.

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