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The Boats of Men-of-War

by W E May

Published by the National Maritime Museum in conjunction with Chatham Publishing, London 1974 & 1999

Numerous draughts, photographs of original models and reproductions of contemporary paintings, etc.

ISBN 1 86176 114 7


There is obviously much interest here in the boats of men-of-war, not the least the logs relating to the building of various kits of long boats, etc, so I thought members might be interested in a review of this book.


The late Commander W E May RN (retd) was, through his work at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, a recognised authority on the subject (though he was, by profession, a navigation specialist). He obviously had unrestricted access to the draught and model collections at the museum, and it is these that underpin this work.


This book is probably the only modern study devoted to the subject and as such is an indispensible reference source for historians and model makers alike. The authority of the book lies very much in the numerous reproductions of contemporary draughts, supplemented by models, mainly, if not exclusively, from the collections in the National Maritime Museum.


Unfortunately there are no detailed construction drawings, but this is not too much of an issue as this information can be found relatively easily from other sources (see below), if not from the contemporary models themselves. Furthermore, the 1999 edition contains extensive tables which cover the scantlings of all types of boats carried by men-of-war between 1660 and 1800. A later chapter deals with the boats carried in the 19th century. A final chapter deals with the arming of boats.


I would suggest that this book, and the 1999 edition in particular, is a prerequisite for anyone building a model from the sailing navy period!


Other sources, which include construction details for boats, include the following;

The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War, 1600-1815, by Brian Lavery, London 1987.

The Ship of the Line, Volume II: Design, Construction and Fittings, by Brian Lavery, London 1984.

The Restoration Warship - The Design, Construction and Career of a Third Rate of Charles II's Navy, by Richard Ensor, London 2009.


(I will add to this list when I've more time to go through my own reference sources. In the meantime I hope the above helps.)


Addendum: I should have added that the first, 1974 edition of The Boats of Men-of-War was publlshed as a monograph by the National Maritime Museum. As such it lacked many of the draughts and photographs that have been included in the 1999 edition.

Edited by Torrens

member of
United States Naval Institute

Royal United Services Institute

Society for Nautical Research
Navy Records Society
author of
The Art of Nautical lllustration - A Visual Tribute to the Classic Marine Painters, 1991, 2001 & 2002
United States Coast Guard barque Eagle, 2013 (Blurb Photobook)
former assistant editor of the quarterly journal and annual 
Model Shipwright and Shipwright 2010

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