Ship of the line

A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through to the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside firepower to bear. Since these engagements were almost invariably won by the heaviest ships carrying the most powerful guns, the natural progression was to build sailing vessels that were the largest and most powerful of their time.

From the end of the 1840s, the introduction of steam power brought less dependence on the wind in battle and led to the construction of screw-driven, wooden-hulled, ships of the line; a number of pure sail-driven ships were converted to this propulsion mechanism. However, the introduction of the ironclad frigate in about 1859 led swiftly to the decline of the steam-assisted ships of the line. The ironclad warship became the ancestor of the 20th-century battleship, whose very designation is itself a contraction of the phrase "ship of the line of battle" or, more colloquially, "line-of-battle ship".

The term "ship of the line" has fallen into disuse except in historical contexts, after warships and naval tactics evolved and changed from the mid 19th century.

Fight of the Poursuivante mp3h9426
HMS Hercule as depicted in her fight against the frigate Poursuivante



AnthonyRoll-1 Great Harry
The carrack Henri Grace à Dieu, from the Anthony Roll
Sovereign of the Seas
Sovereign of the Seas, a contemporaneous engraving by J. Payne

The heavily armed carrack, first developed in Portugal for either trade or war in the Atlantic Ocean, was the precursor of the ship of the line. Other maritime European states quickly adopted it in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. These vessels were developed by fusing aspects of the cog of the North Sea and galley of the Mediterranean Sea. The cogs, which traded in the North Sea, in the Baltic Sea and along the Atlantic coasts, had an advantage over galleys in battle because they had raised platforms called "castles" at bow and stern that archers could occupy to fire down on enemy ships or even to drop heavy weights from. Over time these castles became higher and larger, and eventually were built into the structure of the ship, increasing overall strength. This aspect of the cog remained in the newer-style carrack designs and proved its worth in battles like that at Diu in 1509.

The Mary Rose was an early 16th-century English carrack or "great ship". She was heavily armed with 78 guns and 91 after an upgrade in the 1530s. Built in Portsmouth in 1510–1512, she was one of the earliest purpose-built men-of-war in the English navy. She was over 500 tons burthen, had a keel of over 32 m (106 ft) and a crew of over 200 sailors, 185 soldiers and 30 gunners. Although the pride of the English fleet, she accidentally sank during the Battle of the Solent, 19 July 1545.

Henri Grâce à Dieu (English: "Henry Grace of God"), nicknamed "Great Harry", was another early English carrack. Contemporary with Mary Rose, Henri Grâce à Dieu was 165 feet (50 m) long, weighing 1,000–1,500 tons and having a complement of 700–1,000. It is said that she was ordered by Henry VIII in response to the Scottish ship Michael, launched in 1511. She was originally built at Woolwich Dockyard from 1512 to 1514 and was one of the first vessels to feature gunports and had twenty of the new heavy bronze cannon, allowing for a broadside. In all, she mounted 43 heavy guns and 141 light guns. She was the first English two-decker, and when launched she was the largest and most powerful warship in Europe, but she saw little action. She was present at the Battle of the Solent against Francis I of France in 1545 (in which Mary Rose sank) but appears to have been more of a diplomatic vessel, sailing on occasion with sails of gold cloth. Indeed, the great ships were almost as well known for their ornamental design (some ships, like the Vasa, were gilded on their stern scrollwork) as they were for the power they possessed.

Carracks fitted for war carried large-calibre guns aboard. Because of their higher freeboard and greater load-bearing ability, this type of vessel was better suited than the galley to gunpowder weapons. Because of their development for conditions in the Atlantic, these ships were more weatherly than galleys and better suited to open waters. The lack of oars meant that large crews were unnecessary, making long journeys more feasible. Their disadvantage was that they were entirely reliant on the wind for mobility. Galleys could still overwhelm great ships, especially when there was little wind and they had a numerical advantage, but as great ships increased in size, galleys became less and less useful.

Another detriment was the high forecastle, which interfered with the sailing qualities of the ship; the bow would be forced low into the water while sailing before the wind. But as guns were introduced and gunfire replaced boarding as the primary means of naval combat during the 16th century, the medieval forecastle was no longer needed, and later ships such as the galleon had only a low, one-deck-high forecastle. By the time of the 1637 launching of England's Sovereign of the Seas, the forecastle had disappeared altogether.

During the 16th century the galleon evolved from the carrack. It was a longer and more manoeuvrable type of ship with all the advantages of the carrack. The main ships of the English and Spanish fleets in the Battle of Gravelines of 1588 were galleons; all of the English and most of the Spanish galleons survived the battle and the following storm even though the Spanish galleons suffered the heaviest attacks from the English while regrouping their scattered fleet. By the 17th century every major European naval power was building ships like these.

With the growing importance of colonies and exploration and the need to maintain trade routes across stormy oceans, galleys and galleasses (a larger, higher type of galley with side-mounted guns, but lower than a galleon) were used less and less, and only in ever more restricted purposes and areas, so that by about 1750, with a few notable exceptions, they were of little use in naval battles.

Line-of-battle adoption

Het Kanonschot - Canon fired (Willem van de Velde II, 1707)
The Cannon Shot, 1707, by Willem van de Velde the Younger depicts an early 18th-century Dutch man-of-war.

King Erik XIV of Sweden initiated construction of the ship Mars in 1563; this might have been the first attempt of this battle tactic, roughly 50 years ahead of widespread adoption of the line of battle strategy. Mars was likely the largest ship in the world at the time of her build, equipped with 107 guns at a full length of 96 meters. Ironically it became the first ship to be sunk by gunfire from other ships in a naval battle.

In the early to mid-17th century, several navies, particularly those of the Netherlands and England, began to use new fighting techniques. Previously battles had usually been fought by great fleets of ships closing with each other and fighting in whatever arrangement they found themselves in, often boarding enemy vessels as opportunities presented themselves. As the use of broadsides (coordinated fire by the battery of cannon on one side of a warship) became increasingly dominant in battle, tactics changed. The evolving line-of-battle tactic, first used in an ad-hoc way, required ships to form single-file lines and close with the enemy fleet on the same tack, battering the enemy fleet until one side had had enough and retreated. Any manoeuvres would be carried out with the ships remaining in line for mutual protection.

In order that this order of battle, this long thin line of guns, may not be injured or broken at some point weaker than the rest, there is at the same time felt the necessity of putting in it only ships which, if not of equal force, have at least equally strong sides. Logically it follows, at the same moment in which the line ahead became definitively the order for battle, there was established the distinction between the ships 'of the line', alone destined for a place therein, and the lighter ships meant for other uses.[1]

The lighter ships were used for various functions, including acting as scouts, and relaying signals between the flagship and the rest of the fleet. This was necessary because from the flagship, only a small part of the line would be in clear sight.

The adoption of line-of-battle tactics had consequences for ship design. The height advantage given by the castles fore and aft was reduced, now that hand-to-hand combat was less essential. The need to manoeuvre in battle made the top weight of the castles more of a disadvantage. So they shrank, making the ship of the line lighter and more manoeuvrable than its forebears for the same combat power. As an added consequence, the hull itself grew larger, allowing the size and number of guns to increase as well.

Evolution of design

In the 17th century fleets could consist of almost a hundred ships of various sizes, but by the middle of the 18th century, ship-of-the-line design had settled on a few standard types: older two-deckers (i.e., with two complete decks of guns firing through side ports) of 50 guns (which were too weak for the battle line but could be used to escort convoys), two-deckers of between 64 and 90 guns that formed the main part of the fleet, and larger three- or even four-deckers with 98 to 140 guns that served as admirals' command ships. Fleets consisting of perhaps 10 to 25 of these ships, with their attendant supply ships and scouting and messenger frigates, kept control of the sea lanes for major European naval powers whilst restricting the sea-borne trade of enemies.

The most common size of sail ship of the line was the "74" (named for its 74 guns), originally developed by France in the 1730s, and later adopted by all battleship navies. Until this time the British had 6 sizes of ship of the line, and they found that their smaller 50- and 60-gun ships were becoming too small for the battle line, while their 80s and over were three-deckers and therefore unwieldy and unstable in heavy seas. Their best were 70-gun three-deckers of about 46 metres (150 ft) long on the gundeck, while the new French 74s were around 52 metres (170 ft). In 1747 the British captured a few of these French ships during the War of Austrian Succession. In the next decade Thomas Slade (Surveyor of the navy from 1755, along with co-Surveyor William Bately) broke away from the past and designed several new classes of 51- to 52-metre 74s to compete with these French designs, starting with the Dublin and Bellona classes. Their successors gradually improved handling and size through the 1780s.[2] Other navies ended up building 74s also as they had the right balance between offensive power, cost, and manoeuvrability. Eventually around half of Britain's ships of the line were 74s. Larger vessels were still built, as command ships, but they were more useful only if they could definitely get close to an enemy, rather than in a battle involving chasing or manoeuvring. The 74 remained the favoured ship until 1811, when Seppings's method of construction enabled bigger ships to be built with more stability.

In a few ships the design was altered long after the ship was launched and in service. In the Royal Navy, smaller two-deck 74- or 64-gun ships of the line that could not be used safely in fleet actions had their upper decks removed (or razeed), resulting in a very stout, single-gun-deck warship called a razee. The resulting razeed ship could be classed as a frigate and was still much stronger. The most successful razeed ship in the Royal Navy was HMS Indefatigable, commanded by Sir Edward Pellew.

Mahmudiye (1829), ordered by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II and built by the Imperial Naval Arsenal on the Golden Horn in Istanbul, was for many years the largest warship in the world. The 76.15 m × 21.22 m (249.8 ft × 69.6 ft)[Note 1] ship of the line was armed with 128 cannons on three decks and was manned by 1,280 sailors. She participated in the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855) during the Crimean War (1854–1856). She was decommissioned in 1874.

The largest sailing three-decker ship of the line ever built in the West was the French Valmy, launched in 1847. She had right sides, which increased significantly the space available for upper batteries, but reduced the stability of the ship; wooden stabilisers were added under the waterline to address the issue. Valmy was thought to be the largest sort of sailing ship possible, as larger dimensions made the manoeuvre of riggings impractical with mere manpower. She participated in the Crimean War, and after her return to France later housed the French Naval Academy under the name Borda from 1864 to 1890.

HMS Victory 2007

HMS Victory at drydock in Portsmouth Harbour, 2007

Warship diagram orig

A contemporary diagram illustrating a first- and a third-rate ship

Ottoman ship of the line Mahmudiye

Mahmudiye (1829)

Borda auguste mayer 1867-reduc

Valmy (1847)

Weight Growth of RN First Rate Line-of-Battle Ships 1630-1875

Weight growth of RN first rate ships of the line 1630–1861, including for comparison the large early ironclads. Note the way steam allowed an increase in the rate of growth

Steam power

The first major change to the ship-of-the-line concept was the introduction of steam power as an auxiliary propulsion system. The first military uses of steamships came in the 1810s, and in the 1820s a number of navies experimented with paddle steamer warships. Their use spread in the 1830s, with paddle-steamer warships participating in conflicts like the First Opium War alongside ships of the line and frigates.[3]

Paddle steamers, however, had major disadvantages. The paddle wheel above the waterline was exposed to enemy fire, while itself preventing the ship from firing broadsides effectively. During the 1840s, the screw propeller emerged as the most likely method of steam propulsion, with both Britain and the USA launching screw-propelled warships in 1843. Through the 1840s, the British and French navies launched ever larger and more powerful screw ships, alongside sail-powered ships of the line. In 1845, Viscount Palmerston gave an indication of the role of the new steamships in tense Anglo-French relations, describing the English Channel as a "steam bridge", rather than a barrier to French invasion. It was partly because of the fear of war with France that the Royal Navy converted several old 74-gun ships of the line into 60-gun steam-powered blockships (following the model of Fulton's Demologos), starting in 1845.[3] The blockships were "originally conceived as steam batteries solely for harbour defence, but in September 1845 they were given a reduced [sailing] rig rather than none at all, to make them sea-going ships.… The blockships were to be a cost-effective experiment of great value."[4] They subsequently gave good service in the Crimean War.

Le Napoléon (1850), the first steam battleship

The French Navy, however, developed the first purpose-built steam battleship with the 90-gun Le Napoléon in 1850.[5] She is also considered the first true steam battleship, and the first screw battleship ever.[6] Napoleon was armed as a conventional ship of the line, but her steam engines could give her a speed of 12 knots (22 km/h), regardless of the wind conditions—a potentially decisive advantage in a naval engagement.

Eight sister ships to Le Napoléon were built in France over a period of ten years, but the United Kingdom soon took the lead in production, in number of both purpose-built and converted units. Altogether, France built 10 new wooden steam battleships and converted 28 from older battleship units, while the United Kingdom built 18 and converted 41.[7]

In the end, France and Britain were the only two countries to develop fleets of wooden steam screw battleships, although several other navies made some use of a mixture of screw battleships and paddle-steamer frigates. These included Russia, Turkey, Sweden, Naples, Prussia, Denmark, and Austria.[3]


The Fighting Temeraire, JMW Turner, National Gallery
Turner's depiction of HMS Temeraire hero of the Battle of Trafalgar ignominiously towed by a little steamship.

In the Crimean War, six line-of-battle ships and two frigates of the Russian Black Sea Fleet destroyed seven Turkish frigates and three corvettes with explosive shells at the Battle of Sinop in 1853.[8]

In the 1860s unarmoured steam line-of-battle ships were replaced by ironclad warships. On March 8, 1862, during the first day of the Battle of Hampton Roads, two unarmoured wooden frigates were sunk and destroyed by the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia.

However, the power implied by the ship of the line would find its way into the ironclad, which would develop during the next few decades into the concept of the battleship.

Several navies still used for battleships terms equivalent to the "ship of the line", such as German Navy (Linienschiff) and Russian Navy (lineyniy korabl` (лине́йный кора́бль) or linkor (линкор) in short).


In the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, the fleets of England and later Britain, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Portugal fought numerous battles. In the Baltic Sea, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Russia did likewise, while in the Mediterranean Sea, the Ottoman Empire, Venice, Spain, France, Britain and Russia battled.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain's Royal Navy established itself as the supreme world naval power by defeating a Spanish fleet near Cape St Vincent in 1797, a French fleet at the Bay of Aboukir off the Egyptian coast at the Battle of the Nile in 1798, a combined Franco-Spanish fleet near Cape Trafalgar in Spain at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and the Danish fleet in the bombardment of Copenhagen in the second Battle of Copenhagen (1807). Britain emerged from the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 with the largest and most professional navy in the world, composed of hundreds of wooden, sail-powered ships of all sizes and classes. The Royal Navy demonstrated this naval supremacy again during the Crimean War in the 1850s.

Nonetheless, the Napoleonic Wars, as well as the American War of 1812, had illustrated the shortcomings of ships of the line when an enemy resorted to tactics including the large-scale use of privateers. Both the French and the Americans had demonstrated what a menace small, lightly armed, but fast, nimble, and, most especially, numerous vessels like sloops and schooners could be when they spread across the wide oceans, operating singly or in small groups. They targeted the merchant shipping that was Britain's economic lifeblood, and ships of the line were too few, too slow, and too clumsy to be employed against them.

Overwhelming firepower was of no use if it could not be brought to bear: the Royal Navy's initial response to Napoleon's privateers, which operated from French New World territories, was to buy Bermuda sloops. Similarly, the East India Company's merchant vessels became lightly armed and quite competent in combat during this period, operating a convoy system under an armed merchantman, instead of depending on small numbers of more heavily armed ships.

Restorations and preservation

HMS Victory in 1884, the only surviving example of a ship of the line

The only original ship of the line remaining today is HMS Victory, preserved as a museum in Portsmouth to appear as she was while under Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Although Victory is in drydock, she is still a fully commissioned warship in the Royal Navy and is the oldest commissioned warship in any navy worldwide.[9]

Regalskeppet Vasa sank in the Baltic in 1628 and was lost until 1956. She was then raised intact, in remarkably good condition, in 1961 and is presently on display at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. At the time she was the largest Swedish warship ever built. Today the Vasa Museum is the most visited museum in Sweden.

See also


  1. ^ The vessel was 201 kadem in length and 56 kadem in beam. One kadem measures 37.887 centimetres (1.2 ft). Kadem (which translates as "foot") is often misinterpreted as equivalent in length to one imperial foot, hence the wrongly converted dimensions of "201×56 ft, or 62×17 m" in some sources.


  1. ^ Mahan, A. T., The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660–1783, p. 116, quoting Chabaud-Arnault
  2. ^ Angus Constam & Tony Bryan (2001). British Napoleonic Ship-of-the-Line. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-308-X. as seen on British Napoleonic Ship-of-the-Line – Google Book Search. Retrieved 2008-08-02.
  3. ^ a b c Sondhaus, L. Naval Warfare, 1815–1914
  4. ^ p. 30, Lambert, Andrew. Battleships in Transition, the Creation of the Steam Battlefleet 1815–1860, Conway Maritime Press, 1984. ISBN 0-85177-315-X.
  5. ^ "Napoleon (90 guns), the first purpose-designed screw line of battleships", Steam, Steel and Shellfire, Conway's History of the Ship, p. 39.
  6. ^ "Hastened to completion Le Napoleon was launched on 16 May 1850, to become the world's first true steam battleship", Steam, Steel and Shellfire, Conway's History of the Ship, p. 39.
  7. ^ Steam, Steel and Shellfire, Conway's History of the Ship, p. 41.
  8. ^ Lambert, Andrew D, The Crimean War, British Grand Strategy Against Russia, 1853–56, pub Manchester University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-7190-3564-3, pages 60–61.
  9. ^ "HMS Victory: World's oldest warship to get $25m facelift". Retrieved 11 September 2013.


  • Rodger, N.A.M. The Command of the Ocean, a Naval History of Britain 1649–1815, London (2004). ISBN 0-7139-9411-8
  • Bennett, G. The Battle of Trafalgar, Barnsley (2004). ISBN 1-84415-107-7
  • Military Heritage did a feature on frigates and included the British Rating System (John D. Gresham, Military Heritage, February 2002, Volume 3, No.4, pp. 12 to 17 and p. 87).
  • Rodger, N.A.M. The Command of the Ocean, a Naval History of Britain 1649–1815, London (2004). ISBN 0-7139-9411-8
  • Lavery, Brian. The Ship of the Line, Volume 1: The Development of the Battlefleet, 1650–1850. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1983. ISBN 0-87021-631-7.
  • Lavery, Brian. The Ship of the Line, Volume 2: Design, Construction and Fittings. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1984. ISBN 0-87021-953-7.
  • Winfield, Rif. The 50-Gun Ship. London: Caxton Editions, 1997. ISBN 1-84067-365-6, ISBN 1-86176-025-6.
  • Mahan, A.T., The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660–1783, Cosimo, Inc., 2007
  • Constam, Angus & Bryan, Tony, British Napoleonic Ship-of-the-Line, Osprey Publishing, 2001 184176308X
  • Sondhaus, L. Naval Warfare, 1815–1914
  • Lambert, Andrew Battleships in Transition, the Creation of the Steam Battlefleet 1815–1860, published Conway Maritime Press, 1984. ISBN 0-85177-315-X
  • Gardiner, Robert & Lambert, Andrew, (Editors), Steam, Steel and Shellfire: The Steam Warship, 1815–1905 (Conway's History of the Ship series), Book Sales, 2001

External links

Captain (naval)

Captain is the name most often given in English-speaking navies to the rank corresponding to command of the largest ships. The rank is equal to the army rank of colonel.

Equivalent ranks worldwide include "ship-of-the-line captain" (e.g. France, Argentina, Spain), "captain of sea and war" (e.g. Portugal), "captain at sea" (e.g. Germany, Netherlands) and "captain of the first rank" (Russia).

The NATO rank code is OF-5, although the United States of America uses the code O-6 for the equivalent rank (as they do for all OF-5 ranks).

Captain at sea

Captain at sea is a naval rank corresponding to command of a ship-of-the-line or capital ship.

The equivalent in other navies is ship-of-the-line captain or the naval rank of captain in the Commonwealth of Nations and the U.S. Navy.


In the rating system of the British Royal Navy used to categorise sailing warships, a first rate was the designation for the largest ships of the line, equivalent to the 'super-dreadnought' of more recent times. Originating in the Jacobean era with the designation of Ships Royal capable of carrying at least 400 men, the size and establishment of first-rates evolved over the following 250 years to eventually denote ships of the line carrying at least 80 guns across three gundecks. By the end of the eighteenth century, a first-rate carried not less than 100 guns and more than 850 crew, and had a measurement (burthen) tonnage of some 2,000 tons.

HMS Boyne (1692)

HMS Boyne was an 80-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched at Deptford Dockyard on 21 May 1692.She was rebuilt to the 1706 Establishment at Blackwall Yard, mounting her guns on three instead of her original two gundecks, though she was still classified as a third rate. She was relaunched from Blackwall on 26 March 1708. Her second rebuild took place at Deptford, where she was reconstructed according to the 1733 proposals of the 1719 Establishment, and relaunched on 28 May 1739.The Boyne was part of Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon's fleet and took part in the expedition to Cartagena de Indias during the War of Jenkins' Ear.

Boyne was broken up in 1763.

HMS Captain (1678)

HMS Captain was a 70-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched at Woolwich Dockyard in 1678.She underwent her first rebuild at Portsmouth Dockyard, where she was reconstructed as a 70-gun third rate built to the 1706 Establishment, and relaunched on 6 July 1708. Her second rebuild also took place at Portsmouth, from where she was relaunched on 21 May 1722 as a 70-gun third rate of the 1719 Establishment.Captain was hulked in 1739, and eventually broken up in 1762.

HMS Dartmouth (1698)

HMS Dartmouth was a 50-gun fourth-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 3 March 1698 at Southampton.

HMS Eagle (1745)

HMS Eagle was a 58-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy.

HMS Grafton (1709)

HMS Grafton was a 70-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She was built by Swallow and Fowler, of Limehouse, London to the dimensions of the 1706 Establishment, and was launched on 9 August 1709.She spent some time under the command of George Forbes, 3rd Earl of Granard, and by 1718 she was commanded by Nicholas Haddock, and was present at the Battle of Cape Passaro. By 1738 she was stationed at the Nore, when she was commanded by Richard Lestock.

On 21 September 1722 Grafton was ordered to be taken to pieces and rebuilt to the 1719 Establishment at Woolwich, from where she was relaunched on 25 November 1725. She remained in service until 1744, when she was broken up.

HMS Plymouth (1708)

HMS Plymouth was a 60-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built at Devonport Dockyard (Devonport then known as Plymouth-Dock) to the 1706 Establishment of dimensions, and launched on 25 May 1708.Orders were issued on 26 May 1720 directing Plymouth to be taken to pieces and rebuilt according to the 1719 Establishment at Chatham, from where she was relaunched on 2 August 1722. Plymouth remained in service until she was broken up in 1764.

HMS Romney (1708)

HMS Romney was a 50-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built by Sir Joseph Allin to the 1706 Establishment at Deptford Dockyard, and launched on 2 December 1708.On 11 June 1723 orders were issued for Romney to be taken to pieces and rebuilt at Deptford according to the 1719 Establishment, and she was relaunched on 17 October 1726.Romney was sold out of the navy in 1757.

HMS Russell (1692)

HMS Russell was an 80-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched at Portsmouth Dockyard on 3 June 1692.She was rebuilt according to the 1706 Establishment at Rotherhithe, and was relaunched on 16 March 1709. Instead of mounting her 80 guns on two decks, as she had done as originally built, she now mounted them on three decks, but remained classified as a third rate. On 4 February 1729 she was ordered to be taken to pieces and rebuilt to the 1719 Establishment at Deptford, from where she was relaunched on 8 September 1735.Russell was sunk as a breakwater in 1762.

Military ranks of the Armed Forces of Gabon

The rank insignia of the Armed Forces of Gabon are worn on jackets and shoulder epaulettes. Being a former colony of France, the Armed Forces of Gabon share a rank structure similar to that of France. However, unlike those of France, it has additional field officer and junior officer ranks.

Océan-class ship of the line

The Océan-class ships of the line were a series of 118-gun three-decker ships of the line of the French Navy, designed by engineer Jacques-Noël Sané. Fifteen were completed from 1788 on, with the last one entering service in 1854; a sixteenth was never completed, and four more were never laid down.

The first two of the series were Commerce de Marseille and États de Bourgogne in the late 1780s. Three ships to the same design followed during the 1790s (a further four ordered in 1793–94 were never built). A second group of eleven were ordered during the First Empire; sometimes described as the Austerlitz class after the first to be ordered, some of the later ships were not launched until after the end of the Napoleonic era, and one was not completed but broken up on the stocks. A 'reduced' (i.e. shortened) version of this design, called the Commerce de Paris class, with only 110 guns, was produced later, of which two examples were completed.

The 5,095-ton 118-gun type was the largest type of ship built up to then, besting the Spanish ship Santísima Trinidad. Up to 1790 Great Britain, the largest of the battle fleet nations, had not built especially large battleships because the need for large numbers of ships had influenced its battleship policy. The French initiated a new phase in battleship competition when they laid down a large number of three-deckers of over 5,000 tons.Along with the 74-gun of the Téméraire type and the 80-gun of the Tonnant type, the Océan 120-gun type was to become one of the three French standard types of battleships during the war period 1793 to 1815.

These were the most powerful ships of the Napoleonic Wars and a total of ten served during that time. These ships, however, were quite expensive in terms of building materials, artillery and manpower and so were reserved for admirals as their fleet flagships.

Some of the ships spent 40 years on the stocks and were still in service in 1860, three of them having been equipped with auxiliary steam engines in the 1850s.


In the rating system of the British Royal Navy used to categorise sailing warships, a second-rate was a ship of the line which by the start of the 18th century mounted 90 to 98 guns on three gun decks; earlier 17th-century second rates had fewer guns and were originally two-deckers or had only partially armed third gun decks.

They were essentially smaller and hence cheaper versions of the three-decker first rates. Like the first rates, they fought in the line of battle, but unlike the first rates, which were considered too valuable to risk in distant stations, the second rates often served also in major overseas stations as flagships. They had a reputation for poor handling and slow sailing. They were popular as Flagships of admirals commanding the Windward and/or Leeward islands station, which was usually a Rear Admiral of the Red.

Seventy-four (ship)

The "seventy-four" was a type of two-decked sailing ship of the line which nominally carried 74 guns. It was developed by the French navy in the 1740s and spread to the British Royal Navy where it was classed as third rate. From here, it spread to the Spanish, Dutch, Danish and Russian navies. The design was considered a good balance between firepower and sailing qualities, but more importantly, it was an appealing ideal for naval administrators and bureaucrats. Seventy-fours became a mainstay of the world's fleets into the early 19th century when they began to be supplanted by new designs and by the introduction of steam powered ironclads.

As a standard type, the seventy-four was only an ideal construction. There was great variation between seventy-fours of different navies. In the period 1750–1790, different ships could have displacements of anything at just under 2,000 tonnes up to 3,000 tonnes. The armament could also vary considerably, with everything from 24-pounder to long 36-pounder guns, and some seventy-fours of the Danish navy actually had only 70 guns.

Ship-of-the-line captain

Captain (French: capitaine de vaisseau; German: linienschiffskapitän (Austro-Hungarian Navy), Kapitän zur See (German and the Royal Netherlands navies); Italian Navy: capitano di vascello; Spanish Navy: capitán de navío; Croatian Navy: kapetan bojnog broda) is a rank that appears in several navies. The name of the rank derives from the fact the rank corresponded to command of a warship of the largest class, the ship-of-the-line, as opposed to smaller types (corvettes and frigates). It is normally above the rank of frigate captain.

Captain is equivalent to the naval rank of captain in most of the Commonwealth navies and captain in the United States Navy, and to the rank of captain at sea used in Germany and the Netherlands. Captain is rank OF-5 in the NATO rank codes, and equates to the land-forces rank of full colonel.

Ship-of-the-line lieutenant

Ship-of-the-line lieutenant is a common naval rank, equivalent to the modern naval rank of lieutenant in the UK, the Commonwealth and the USA. The name of the rank derives from the name of the largest class of warship, the ship of the line, as opposed to smaller types of warship (corvettes and frigates).

While obsolete in most modern navies, some naval forces and merchant fleets still use the rank: lieutenant de vaisseau in French, tenente di vascello in Italian, teniente de navío in Spanish, sorhajóhadnagy in the Hungarian, and Linienschiffsleutnant in the Austrian merchant fleet, while the German Bundesmarine and German merchant fleet use the rank of Captain lieutenant (Kapitänleutnant), like it is the case in other European navies.

The NATO rank code is OF-2.


In the rating system of the British Royal Navy, a third rate was a ship of the line which from the 1720s mounted between 64 and 80 guns, typically built with two gun decks (thus the related term two-decker). Years of experience proved that the third rate ships embodied the best compromise between sailing ability (speed, handling), firepower, and cost. So, while first rates and second rates were both larger and more powerful, the third-rate ships were in a real sense the optimal configuration.

Téméraire-class ship of the line

The Téméraire-class ships of the line were class of a hundred and twenty 74-gun ships of the line ordered between 1782 and 1813 for the French navy or its attached navies in dependent (French-occupied) territories. Although a few of these were cancelled, the type was and remains the most numerous class of capital ship ever built.The class was designed by Jacques-Noël Sané in 1782 as a development of the Annibal and her near-sister Northumberland, both of which had been designed by him and built at Brest during the 1777-1780 period. Some dozen ships were ordered and built to this new design from 1782 to 1785, and then the same design was adopted as a standard for all subsequent 74s during the next three decades as part of the fleet expansion programme instituted by Jean-Charles de Borda in 1786.The design was appreciated in Britain, which eagerly commissioned captured ships and even copied the design with the Pompée and America class.

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