Jump to content

Review: "Modeles Historiques: Muse'e de la Marine, Tome 2" (Volume 2)

Recommended Posts

The book is in French - a language that I do not speak - but it is one of the most informative books in my library due to the excellent large color photographs. I bought Volume One, ten years ago, and it is masterful in its own right. But this has so many models that are historically important to me that I feel I must share my thoughts. I will mention some, but not all of Volume 2's many vessels.


L'Egyptienne, 1798, Frigate de 24.


Here is a beautiful, powerful, but forgotten ship. She was captured intact after the fall of Alexandria Egypt in 1801. The model is very accurate, but there are also British Admiralty drafts of her available. She is less known than her famous sister frigate La Forte, of 1794. She was noteworthy for having been part of a small French frigate squadron that defeated a more powerful British squadron in the Indian Ocean, whose ranks included a 74 gun ship. Forte was later taken in an epic bloody nighttime battle against the 18-pounder frigate, HMS La Sybille.


What makes these two ships so important? They were about 170 feet long between perpendiculars, and  both carried batteries of thirty long 24 pounders on their main deck. They were as powerful as, and they look very much like, the Frigate Constitution and her sisters. But they were afloat and famous years before plans for the Yankees were even drawn up, let alone launched. Were they an influence on the American designers? They must have been ...


The Egyptienne model is done admiralty style, in unpainted wood at 1:36 scale, and it is very complete. It is rigged, and there is a full interior, viewable through removable sections of planked hull, that reveal cables, casks, ballast, etc stacked beneath. The carvings are shown on the stern, but the figure head was either removed or it fell off. It is shown on the Admiralty draught, though. Every little deck detail and obscure piece of rigging is shown. She has ten windows across her stern, the out four being fakes.


Historical note: There were two other french 24 pounder frigates built at the same time of a radical design: La Resistance and La Vengeance. The latter frigate fought the Constellation in 1800, after exchanging her long 24's out for long 18's. I have the NMM draught of La Resistance, later HMS Fisgard. Her figurehead is of a young topless woman with no arms - hardly the symbol of resistance!


La Renommee, 1806, Frigate de 18.


This model was the reason I bought the book. She was captured off the Ilse de France in 1811 and taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Java. She was the very ship that fought the Constitution. There are thirty photos of her. 


Anyone wanting to build a model of either of the Connies' big foes are in for a disappointment. Admiralty draughts of neither the Guerriere nor the Java survive. You would have to reconstruct them from other plans of similar French prizes in the Royal Navy.


Boudroit claims that Renommee was a standard Joel Sane' designed 18 pounder frigate. I've seen enough plans of Sane frigates through the years to know that this is not true. This model show several features not seen in other Sane ships. Her stern is unusually upright, lacking that extreme Sane rake. Her stem post is oddly shaped, and although it is hard to tell from the photographs, she may have an old fashioned, beak-head bulkhead stem, as did La Clorlinde, with whom she was sailing when captured. I believe that she was a Forfait designed frigate. I have found an Admiralty draught of another frigate, built in the same city and at about the same time, that looks a lot like this model.


La Renommee has eight windows across her stern, the outermost pair being fakes. Sound familiar? But all Sane's frigates had an odd number of windows.


This 1:48 model is rigged, and has much minute deck detail. She even has a windsail rigged to bring fresh air below decks.


Dr. Herbert. You mentioned that you have this book. Does Renommee looks as though she has a beak-head bulkhead to you?


La Belle Poule, 1822: 


La Belle Poule is a massive, 60-gun spar decked 30-pounder frigate. She is of the size and force as that of the 44-gun American Potomac/Columbia/Raritan Class of super-frigate. Of the American ships, there is very little in detail that survives from the interwar period, other than just the lines decks and profile plans. On the 1:40 scale model of La Belle Poule, everything is shown, from deck houses to ships boats to special cones and baskets designed to hold coiled rigging. There are scale scuttle butts, match tubs, horse blocks, and all brass binnacles. I cannot overstate the importance of this and other french models in this regard. There is AUTHENTIC CONTEMPORARY detail here, that is not available elsewhere on British models or plans. It is not just French Navy detail. I believe these small items of sailing gear to have been mostly universal by this point. I've seen that wooden rigging basket in a real photo of an 1860s American sail frigate's spar deck. Her gun ports are two piece hinged affairs, just like Connie has now. 


This was a transitional period, where iron fittings were just being introduced. The brass skylight gratings and brass companionway cover frames are beautifully done and apply to ships of other nations.


According to this model, the old French practice of rigging her carronade breechings in a continuos loop that ran outboard in a trough, had been discontinued for the standard English breeching. The Brig Cygne (the Swan), also shown in this book, shows the old method. It was originally designed to keep even tension on the breech no matter which angle the gun was traversed. But it probably proved vulnerable and impossible to repair during an action.



All the above statements apply to the double decked, spar-decked La Tage, rated 100 guns, which, for all practical purposes, could be the North Carolina or the Ohio or the Vermont, American 74's.  La Tage is a 1: 40 scale rigged, waterline model with a flotilla of ships boats displayed floating along side her. La Tage and her capital class have an unusual feature. The forward bow is double planked! The doubling starts before the fore mast, extending forward, and bends over the rabbit of the stem post and continues all the way across the stem. The white painted gun-deck stripes also continue across the entire stem post. I guess this was done to protect the planks butt heads mortised into the stem post, but that's one hell of a corner to have to bend planks into! Ships carvings, flag lockers, hammock netting decorative batten patterns are there in abundance. La Tage has a light weight metal stern gallery (Which the USS Vermont got in her later years) that has zig-zagged deck planking!


The 120 gun four-decker La Valmey is more of the same. Imagine, if you will, the USS Pennsylvania.


There are many smaller vessels too. An all of them are completely rigged to the finest detail.


If you could go back in time with a color film camera, and walk the decks of French Naval vessels, I doubt you could record as much information as there is presented in this book.


These two volumes are destined to be future, rare classics. At $139 shipped each, they are well worth it.















Link to comment
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.

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.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...