Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rule, Britannia!

Ian's comment on my previous post touched upon the subject of the Royal Navy. As it happens I do have a project in mind. After all, what Colonial campaign would be complete without the presence of a gunboat, ready to throw a naval landing party ashore and be ready to provide fire support?

Here are three photos of ships which caught my eye. The first two show HMS Royal Albert, a gunboat which came into service in the 1870's. She's a trim little vessel, of just the right size for a gaming model, but I've only been able to gather a little information about her. (My Google-fu is weak. I'm sure there must be more out there). She did see service mainly as a hydrographical survey vessel, working in the Far East and Australia for a time, and I believe parts of Africa. Does anyone know what armament she carried?

HMS Royal Albert in dry dock, sheers deployed to keep her upright. An officer stands upon her bridge. Is that a Nordenfelt gun mounting to his right?

In her natural environment - and a different paint scheme. Taken off Portsmouth. She has quite a low freeboard for'ard.

The second ship may not need an introduction. She's HMS Calliope, a famous vessel in her day. Through a sterling act of seamanship, her crew won clear of a harbor in Samoa in the teeth of a vicious typhoon that laid waste to every other vessel in the area. She was a typical gunboat, one of a class sent to far-flung destination whenever someone upset the Pax Britannica. Another candidate for a wargames model - perhaps in a condensed form.

In his book Fighting the Fuzzy-Wuzzy, Captain E. A. de Cosson records a great wealth of detail about General Graham's Sudan campaign. The army's base was in the town of Suakin, on the Red Sea littoral. de Cosson relates how the searchlights of gunboats moored offshore swept the area around the town at night to prevent sneak attacks by Osman Digna's Mahdists. Any such attack would invite almost instant retribution from the navy's guns.

Isn't that an evocative image? Just the thing I want in my games. Picture the tension of a shore party, encamped at the edge of the Dark Continent. The night is full of strange noises, and hostile natives could lurk in the shadows, ready at any moment to sweep down on the camp with fire and sword... But offshore is the steady presence of a gunboat, her searchlight crew dilligently sweeping the area, her gun crews closed-up, ready to fire in support of their mates ashore.

So, back to the modelling ideas. I have some 28mm gunboat weapons from the sadly-defunct London War Rooms just begging to be used. One 60 pdr, one 3-inch, a couple of 12 pdrs, and two Hotchkiss 37mm revolving cannon. Oh, and a Nordenfelt.

The Major-General recommends that gaming model ships shouldn't be longer than 9 inches or so. Anything larger takes up too much space on the table. I'm thinking of pushing the boat out (deliberate pun) and making a model around 12 inches long by 3 wide, based on the Royal Albert. It makes for a model large enough to stand figures around the weapons, on the bridge and in the superstructure. 

Evilcartoonist over at the Lead Adventurers' Forum made a superb tramp steamer model for Pulp games. If I could make something even half as good in detail as his, I'll be a very happy man!

As usual, any thoughts or comments are welcome.


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Not sure her name was Royal Albert - the only one I can find of that era was a 121 gun ship of the line, which wasn't de-comissioned until the 1880's... I also think it unlikely that they would have named such a small (but undoubtedly lovely), ship after the prince consort...! :o))

Bluebear Jeff said...


I believe that Reviresco is now your best bet for naval guns and other neat stuff:


Certainly worth a look-see.

-- Jeff

Bluebear Jeff said...

You might get some modeling ideas from their ships too . . .

-- Jeff

Bluebear Jeff said...


Littlejohn on his "Lead Gardens" blog had some nice posts on building Colonial gunboats a while back.

While you might not choose to copy what he did, there might be an idea or three that you can find useful.

Here's a link to three posts he has on "Boats":


-- Jeff

A J said...

I think you're right, Steve. Lovely though she is, I can't see her being named after the Prince Consort. Can anyone supply her true name?

Jeff, thanks for the links. I'd forgotten Reviresco. I do have some of their naval figures, and quite frankly I'm not impressed. They look ill-proportioned to me. I do like their ship fittings though, and will order some.

Bluebear Jeff said...

Yes, AJ, I agree . . . the photos of their figures don't impress me either as to their style . . . I know that some like that style of figure, but they wouldn't fit with my figures.

Yes, it is the equipment that I thought might be of use to you. Also the models (and those of littlejohn) for ideas.

-- Jeff

Anonymous said...

Hi AJ,
I like the "Royal Albert" - I was looking at something similar yesterday, check out;


which looks quite similar and is named HM Victorian Flatiron Gunboat Albert. Check out Rendel Gunboats on google for more details. Armament varied but was very heavy for the vessels size and was restricted to firing forwards only - not terribly useful. But check out;

which is a Rendel Cruiser built for the Chinese and looks useful if scaled down to a wargames model - maybe lose the aft gun and replace the secondaries with gatlings or nordenfeldts.

Hope the info helps

all the best


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

I reckon Ian has it (bravo!) especially as your second picture in Portsmouth harbour has an Australian government URL as a reference ("gov.au")... what confused me originally about the second picture was that she wasn't flying a white ensign - as an Australian ship that would explain why.... she was a long way from home though....


..and according to this reference (http://www.colonialwargaming.co.uk/Miscellany/Warships/Gunboats/FGunboatsRN.htm) she had:

1 x 8" BL (breech loader)
1 x 6" BL
2 x 9 pdr. BL
2 x MG

...best link though was this - Nordenfeldt's indeed....


...fascinating stuff - thanks for posting it AJ!

John Rogers said...

I believe that the gunboat labelled Royal Albert is actually HMVS Albert of the Victorian Colonial Navy. More information on Albert and her guns is available in the free Victorian Navy Relics app for Apple and Android phones.

John Rogers
Fleet Engineer (Victorian Navy)
website, research & Friends of the Cerberus President.


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