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Richmond

Ship classifications

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When looking at reference materials and we see ship classified as follows

 

Name of ship ( Year) is there a clear consensus as to what the year represents - for example is it the year it was ordered, built, launched or commissioned?

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Another area of confusion for me is the classification of sailing ships - for most motorships we have a type (Destroyer) and class (Kagero-class) or where there is just a single ship in that type we could state Destroyer - USS XXXX and perhaps have the year in brackets specifically if there are multiple of examples of that ships name

 

I have seen HMS Victory classified 104-gun first-rate ship of the line - is this a description a combination of class and type and if so which bit is the type  and which bit is the class.

 

So where I am going with this is

 

Can a sailing ship be classified in a similar pattern to a motorship?

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2 hours ago, Richmond said:

Name of ship ( Year) is there a clear consensus as to what the year represents - for example is it the year it was ordered, built, launched or commissioned?

I believe, in US Navy practice, at least, the date refers to the year the vessel was commissioned. This dating convention makes sense because ships' names were often "recycled." For example, the USS Constellation (1797), USS Constellation (1854), and USS Constellation (1961) (CV-64,) or the eight USS Enterprises with a ninth projected for commissioning in 2028. The record-holder may be Boxer, a name carried by ten British ships until the tenth was captured by USS Enterprise in 1813 and taken into the US Navy as a prize, The US Navy kept that name on her and then named five more ships Boxer thereafter. Currently in commission is USS Boxer( 1995) (LHD-4) , a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship.

 

2 hours ago, Richmond said:

I have seen HMS Victory classified 104-gun first-rate ship of the line - is this a description a combination of class and type and if so which bit is the type  and which bit is the class.

It's a term which describes the type of ship, "ship of the line," the "rate" of this "ship of the line," a "first rate," and its "weight of shot," 104 guns, which would permit comparison with other "first rate ships of the line" which, while in the same "rate," might have a different number of guns. (By comparison, Victory carried 104 guns on three decks, while the numerous Third Rate "seventy-fours" carried seventy-four guns on two gun decks.) Between 1400 and about 1850, naval battles were fought by lining up fleets of ships and sailing them past each other so they could "fire a broadside" "throwing their full weight of shot" at the enemy's opposing "line of battle" sailing past in the opposite direction and doing the same. The winner was usually dictated by the side which could throw the greatest weight of shot at the other side. As ship which had enough "weight of shot" to participate in such battles of attrition without getting really "creamed" was known as a "ship of the line." Anything else was excluded from this brutal tactical practice and deemed "out of the line of battle." As that did not completely account for the relative "weights of shot" of differently sized vessels, starting around 1650, the Admiralty classified "ships of the line" by the number of their crews and guns and, later, to some extent, their "weight of shot," since some carried fewer, but heavier guns as the ordinance technology evolved. These were categorized in groups according to size and weight, with "First Rates" being the largest, on down to "Sixth Rates." In the late 1800's, the Admiralty abandoned the rating system as it had become irrelevant with iron hulls, steam propulsion, and breech-loading guns of various sizes, making judging ships by the mere number of men and guns and the 'line of battle" tactical formation obsolete. (As Nelson demonstrated when he "broke the line" at Trafalgar.) The term "ship of the line of battle" was replaced by the term "battleship" when the dreadnaughts came along.

 

Modernly, "classes" of naval ships are groups of ships of the same design, generally referenced by the name of the first ship of the design commissioned, such as "Iowa-class" battleships, "Fletcher-class" destroyers, "Casablaca-class" escort carriers, and "Los Angeles-class" nuclear submarines, to name a few off hand.

2 hours ago, Richmond said:

Can a sailing ship be classified in a similar pattern to a motorship?

Generally no, as it relates to naval vessels, because at the time sailing ships were being classified, their classification was unique to the tactics applicable to sailing vessels rather than their designs and, while some were built to the same general plan, each was seen as a unique vessel with many changes between similar builds. It was only until the Industrial Revolution that ships were built on something of a production line basis in numbers sufficient to warrant referring to them as a "class." The earliest use of the "class" designation I can think of off hand were the "Kaiser Class" transatlantic liners, Kaiser Vilhelm der Grosse SS Kronprinz Wilhelm; Kaiser Vilhelm II and Kronprinzessin Cecilie, which weren't exact sister-ships, and the "Olympic Class," consisting  of White Star Line's Olympic. Titanic, and Britannic, built to compete with them for the TransAtlantic Blue Ribband, which were much more closely identical. On the other hand, terms have been used to "classify" vessels of all types for all sorts of reasons, the most obvious, and confusing, being the term "cutter." which can refer to a type of sailing rig, or to the use to which the vessel, sail or power, is put, as in "revenue cutter" or "coast guard cutter."

Edited by Bob Cleek

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Richmond,

What Bob says about US and English ships effectively applies to the French also as far as "date".  Rates as such, were a different thing with the French usually (as far as I can tell) separated by type... Frigate, Slop, etc.   If I'm wrong and they did adhere to "rates", I hope someone will correct me.  

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HMS Victory (104) First rate ship of the line:

 

The 104 refers to the number of guns she was rated to carry.  This was the number of guns she was designed for.  Ships often carried more.  For example, Constitution was rated as a 44 but during the war of 1812 she carried 52 guns.

The rating system was a way to further classify ships: 

First rate = 90 to 100+ guns on three main battery decks

Second rate = 80 to 90 guns on three main battery decks

Third rate = 60 to 80 guns on two main battery decks

Fourth rate = 40 to 60 guns with one main battery deck

Fifth rate = up to 40 guns on one main battery deck

* numbers are approximate

 

The first, second, and third rates made up the line of battle.  The fourth and fifth rates are frigates.  Anything smaller or un-rated went by various names such as sloop of war, etc.

 

Incidentally, the rating system as originally conceived had nothing to do with armament.  It was set up by the victualling board to budget and supply ships based on the number of crew members required per a vessels size.

 

Regards,

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I have to respond to this one - just for the sake of humor.

 

My first "ship" was the USS Cape MSI-2, a small inshore minesweeper. I was Engineering Officer, Supply Officer, and 25 other official duties for the "ship." I was also "George," the junior officer in the Wardroom - Ensign Fuzz, straight out of Officer Candidate School in April 1969. The other officers were the CO, a brand new Lieutenant, and the XO, a LTJG surfer bum from SoCal.  There were 19 enlisted in the crew.

3217454_USSCapeMSI-21024C.jpg.85e2e2235e8e52c582b7ffc0e21ba295.jpg

Technically, or so I was told at the time, a ship is 150 feet in length or larger. However, even though the Cape and her sister ship (the class leader) USS Cove MSI-1 were only 112 feet long, we had letters from the Secretary of the Navy authorizing us to be the United States Ships (USS) Cove and Cape.

 

These were the only two minesweepers of this type built (although some others were built as oceanographic research vessels). They were worthless as minesweepers, and we spent most of the time bolted to Pier 9 at Long Beach. We did occasionally get underway for "training exercises" when we would circle Catalina Island and do some fishing.

 

It was McHale's Navy, and generated memories that I treasure.

 

So remember, there are "classes" and "types," but don't overlook the power of a bureaucratic paper shuffler to transform a rowboat into a battleship!

 

Edited by Dr PR

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Thank you so much for all this interesting information

 

I am tasking myself to reclassify all sail ships currently sitting on the Scalemates database and I am sure I will keep coming back to seek more advice

 

Richmond

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I may be wrong, but a brief glance at the new book L'egyptienne by G. Delacroix seems to infer that the French classed their armed sailing vesslels based on the weight of shot, and not by the number of guns it carried.  Unfortunately I cannot look it upo, as I am in the middle of reorganising the mancave and all my books are in various boxes (I know which box it is in, but that one is in the middle of the pile, and I have no room to move them about at this stage).  If this is indeed the case, it is even more difficult to start comparing vessels from different nations :(

 

Perhaps someone more familiar with the French naval history might clarify?

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From my point of view it wouldn't really matter - if French ships have their own classifications I could split all the French ships into their different types away from the other ships. At the moment it is a complete jumble. With same ships being categorised into multiple classes /types. We recently cleaned up the USS Constitution which was sitting across 5 topics and categorised it Frigate United States-class - however I would have preferred Sail frigate United States-class.

 

The motorships are simple as for more modern vessels as if in doubt we tend to stick to the NATO naming convention otherwise Russian /Soviet ships would get very complex with their Project X designations. The Chinese ships are a bit of a mismatch between Chinese Type XXX and NATO classifications as we haven't actually decided to use only NATO for their ships and maybe the Chinese members wouldn't like it if we did.

Edited by Richmond

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16 hours ago, Landrotten Highlander said:

I may be wrong, but a brief glance at the new book L'egyptienne by G. Delacroix seems to infer that the French classed their armed sailing vesslels based on the weight of shot, and not by the number of guns it carried.  Unfortunately I cannot look it upo, as I am in the middle of reorganising the mancave and all my books are in various boxes (I know which box it is in, but that one is in the middle of the pile, and I have no room to move them about at this stage).  If this is indeed the case, it is even more difficult to start comparing vessels from different nations :(

 

Perhaps someone more familiar with the French naval history might clarify?

 

You're right.  I did some checking myself.  Even the ANCRE books listed that way.  They do add the type after rating such as "12 pdr Frigate".

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With sailing ships it gets even more complicated. About the end of the 18th century they changed from denoting a ship type by its hull and moved to naming the ship by its rig, presumably because it could be discerned more easily from a distance. So for example, the Endeavour is a bark because of the shape of its hull (particularly the form of the stern), but is rigged as a ship - with three square rigged masts (the mizzen incorporating a gaff sail below and a square sail above). It doesn't have a bark (barque) rig, on which the mizzen has only the gaff, no square sails.

 

A two-masted ship could be a schooner (all fore-and aft rig, with the foremast shorter than the main) or a brig, which had sub-types known as snow, brigantine, hermaphrodite brig etc etc depending on the exact configuration of the rig (a snow had a thin subsidiary mast immediately aft of the main (after) mast, upon which the gaff was hung, a brigantine's after mast was fore-and-aft rigged with no square sail etc etc). And schooners could have multiple masts, but all would be fore-and-aft rigged on all masts. Except for the topsail schooner, which had a square topsail on the foremast above the gaff sail.

 

And going back in time it gets even more complicated. The name bark (from Italian barca - a ship, from which we get our word barge)denotes different types of ship in different centuries, as does yacht. And the north European mediaeval cog gave its name to the Mediterranean cocca - a completely different kind of vessel, otherwise known as a carrack.  

 

However this is getting over-complicated for your purposes. There are probably databases out there with all this in them, but i n the meantime a good start for what would probably be regarded as "standard" terminology can be found at  http://www.maritimearchaeology.com/information/glossary/

 

Steven 

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