A list of all British admiralty plans, of Danish warships seized by Britain at Copenhagen in 1807, that currently exist in Britain’s National Maritime Museum, as well as a discussion of those plans and Danish ships.
by Eric Nielsen
Part I: Introduction
During the age of sail, Britain’s admiralty had a policy of “taking the lines off” and producing design plans (draughts) of many foreign warships they captured, typically of ships whose hull forms the British found technically the most interesting. These design draughts are preserved in The Historic Photographs & Ships Plan Section of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, from which copies may be purchased. Thus, out of Denmark’s catastrophe of losing the entire Danish fleet by British seizure at Copenhagen in 1807 came a “blessing in disguise” for historians of naval ship design during the age of sail, because British admiralty surveyors created and preserved design draughts of some of Denmark’s more notable warships of the Napoleonic era.
Included in British admiralty draughts of the seized Danish warships are most of the main warship types designed by Denmark’s most celebrated and progressive naval architect during the age of sail, Frantz Christopher Hohlenberg. While Hohlenberg is the most highly innovative and independent-minded Danish naval architect of the period, endowed with a refreshingly original design perspective and an excellent grasp of hull form, Hohlenberg was a very sober-minded naval architect who was not given to radical extremes or wild experimentation in his designs.
This preliminary study uses Britain’s choice of (1) which Danish warships Britain seized in 1807 to survey and produce design draughts of, and (2) which Danish warships Britain chose to fit for sea service in Britain’s navy (there is much overlap between these two categories), as predicates to a wider assessment of the comparative merits and attributes of the individual Danish warships. Subsumed in this assessment of the individual Danish warships is the nature and effectiveness of Danish warship design policy during the period in which the seized Danish ships were built (ca. 1775-1807). This study therefore substitutes, as a benchmark, British design and construction policy, and considerations of open ocean cruising, for Denmark’s traditional warship design policy geared toward Sweden as Denmark’s potential antagonist and the confined waters of the Baltic as the Danish navy’s prospective theater of operations.
Two principal insights emerge from this comparative analysis of Danish warships with those of Britain: (1) the overall excellence of Hohlenberg’s design of hull forms in particular and of the high quality of Danish warship design in general, and (2) the glaring ineffectiveness of Denmark’s arming policy regarding certain classes of Danish warships, such as the Prindsesse Sophia Friderica class of battleships and Stibolt’s Freya group of frigates, compared the these ships’ counterparts in the British and other navies. Thus, while giving due consideration to the design of their warships’ hulls, the Danes seemed to have devoted insufficient attention to the principle that a warship’s combat value lies in the effectiveness of her armament – however, this Danish attitude toward warship armament was belatedly undergoing an obvious transition during Hohlenberg’s tenure in office, facilitated by availability of new-model Danish weapons.
A hope of this preliminary study and the propositions proffered by this study, is that in the near future, historians will delve, deeply and comprehensively, into the rich but apparently still untapped source material in the British archives pertaining to Danish warships seized in 1807. The object of this research effort would be to uncover all relevant data regarding the Danish warships seized in 1807, and from this material to extrapolate further insights into these Danish warships’ design attributes, construction qualities, seakeeping and sailing characteristics, and relative merits.
1. “Plans Of Great Beauty And Workmanship.”
America’s renowned historian of American sailing ship design, Howard I. Chapelle, cogently noted that “naval draftsmen of the eighteenth century were capable of producing plans of great accuracy and beauty of workmanship.” This is abundantly evident in the Danish and the frequently compelling British admiralty draughts of the Danish warships seized by Britain in 1807. The character of the two nations’ draughts differ from each another in style and presentation and therefore offer instructively contrasting and complementary perspectives regarding the Danish warships of 1807.
Chapelle also perceptively observed that “the draftsmanship of a ship designer is as readily recognized as a man’s handwriting.” This universal observation applies equally to both Danish and British admiralty draughtsmen of the 18th century era. However, because this paper’s focus is the Danish warships seized by Britain in 1807, its concern is not with British admiralty draughtsmen per se, but with a relative comparison inter se between the draughts of the Danish naval architects who designed the Danish warships seized by Britain – i.e., Gerner, Stibolt, and Hohlenberg – and between the draughts of these Danish naval architects and the British admiralty draughts of the Danish warships seized in 1807.
Gerner’s, Stibolt’s and Hohlenberg’s design drawings differ from one another in character, and sometimes in content. However, although these Danish naval architects personally signed the official Danish admiralty draughts of Danish warships now in Denmark’s royal archives, it’s not known if Gerner, Stibolt, or Hohlenberg in fact personally executed these official draughts in their own hand, or whether others executed these design drawings for them and the naval architects thereafter only officially endorsed these draughts with their personal signature as a sign of official approval.
Aside from the issue of the identity of the actual draftsman of the Danish admiralty draughts now in Demark’s royal archives, Danish admiralty draughts signed by Hohlenberg are unlike Stibolt’s and Gerner’s, and often starkly focus on the bare lines of hull form, to the exclusion of other detail. Whether or not the draughts signed by Hohlenberg are the product of Hohlenberg’s own hand, Hohlenberg officially approved the draughts, and was responsible for their production. Therefore, Danish admiralty draughts signed by Hohlenberg seem to reflect the man, and Hohlenberg’s apparently rare ability to concentrate on bare essentials – even in the face of stultifying and intransigent bureaucrats and meddlesome sea officers who sought to override Hohlenberg’s professional judgment.
On the issue of ship design, what is immediately apparent from the British admiralty draughts of the Danish warships seized by Britain, perhaps more so than from the Danish draughts, is that Hohlenberg’s ships designs had abruptly and dramatically changed the overall appearance of Danish warships from those of Hohlenberg’s predecessors in 18th century Danish naval ship design. In fact, Hohlenberg’s battleship and frigate ship designs are more characteristic of the early decades of the 19th rather than the 18th century.
2. Britain Did Not Produce Admiralty Draughts Of Every Seized Danish Warship.
British admiralty surveyors did not, as may be supposed, produce a draught of each and every one of the vast hoard of Danish ships seized at Copenhagen in 1807, but typically only made draughts of one example of each class of ship. Therefore, where there was a class of ships consisting of two or more sister-ships, British surveyors would typically make only one set of draughts to represent the entire class. However, sometimes this general rule was not strictly followed – for example, British surveyors produced draughts of several of the nine ships they seized of the Prindsesse Sophia Friderica class; they produced separate draughts of the frigates Freya and Iris, which were sister-ships along with one other seized frigate of this class; and there is a question of whether the frigates Najaden and Nymphen were exact sister-ships or simply near-sisters, although the British produced draughts of both.
British surveyors made no draughts of some of the older Danish warships, apparently because these ships offered nothing of value to the British admiralty’s technical archive of ship’s plans. Thus, British surveyors made no draughts of the cutter Den Flyvende Fisk, or of Gerner’s obsolete and worn-out 12 pdr. frigate Fridericksværn. Nor did the British make a draught of Stibolt’s Seieren, presumably because Seieren was a small 64-gun ship, an anachronistic type the British were no longer interested in either building or operating – although in regard to small, 24 pdr. battleships, the British made an exception for Hohlenberg’s Prindsesse Caroline. The great mystery is why the British did not produce a draught of Stibolt’s huge Waldemar, a battleship nearly as large as the Danish fleet flagship, Hohlenberg’s Christian den Syvende.
3. “As Fitted” British Draughts Of Danish Warships.
It’s important to emphasize that most British admiralty draughts of Danish warships seized by Britain in 1807 do not represent the Danish ships in their original Danish form, as designed and built by the Danes, but as fitted for British sea service. In this regard, one must distinguish between the different types of admiralty draughts which were produced during the age of sail, i.e., “as designed,” “as built,” and “as fitted” draughts. Danish admiralty draughts are invariably “as designed” draughts, and the Danes seemed to have only rarely produced “as built” or “as fitted” admiralty draughts of their warships – for Danish warships built in the Danish navy’s dockyard (rather than in private yards) under the direction of the Danish navy’s naval architects and master builders who also designed the Danish warships, the Danish admiralty “as designed” draughts presumably also represented the Danish warships “as built.”
British admiralty draughts of the seized Danish warships are typically “as fitted” draughts, made subsequent to the time Britain fitted Danish warships for British sea service and, therefore, when the Danish ships had been structurally altered to British requirements. In fitting an ex-Danish ship for sea, the British most likely changed Danish ships’ original scheduled Danish armament to British requirements, and this alone may have also resulted in structural alterations to the Danish ships. The inboard structural detail of British service ships also seems to have differed from that of the Danes, although British inboard structural alterations to the Danish warships would not have affected the Danish warship’s external hull form. Therefore, in terms of the basic contours of the Danish warships’ hulls, “as fitted” British admiralty draughts of Danish warships probably represent these warships’ “as built” hull configuration. Only in those few instances where British admiralty surveyors produced draughts of Danish warships which Britain never fitted for British sea service do the British admiralty draughts probably represent the Danish warships in their original, “as built” Danish form, with the least amount of structural alteration.
The British admiralty draughts of Christian VII and Norge were both produced to lines taken off these two large battleships at Portsmouth Yard on exactly the same day, June 29, 1809, which was two years after their seizure at Copenhagen. The British admiralty draughts of the Perlen, Nymphen, Fylla and Gluckstadt were also all taken off on exactly the same day, July 4, 1809, at Chatham Yard, again two years after their seizure. Since the British took off the lines of all these ships two years after their seizure, and all these ships had previously been fitted by the British for sea service, these British admiralty draughts presumably do not depict these Danish ships in their original Danish configuration, but incorporate “as fitted” British structural modifications for British sea service. For example, the British admiralty draughts of Perlen, Fylla and Gluckstadt, and the gunboat Steece (Stege?) taken off at Chatham Yard on March 18, 1808, and of the frigate Iris, all clearly show “as fitted” British structural alterations. In fact, the British rebuilt the distinctive Hohlenberg stern on all of Hohlenberg’s frigates to more conventional forms, although they did not seem to tamper with the Hohlenberg stern on Christian VII.
It’s interesting that the British were able to fortuitously assemble all these Danish ships in two separate naval yards – one for the battleships and the other for the smaller vessels – on exactly the same day to have their lines taken off. British admiralty surveyors apparently only needed one day to take off the lines of these ships.
4. British “As Built” Dimensions And Tonnage Measurements.
Although the British did not produce an individual draught of each and every Danish warship they seized in 1807, British admiralty surveyors did take individual measurements of the dimensions of each individual Danish warship, and from these dimensions precisely calculated to fractions of a ton the measured tonnage figures for each Danish warship. However, in this article, the fractional portion of the British tonnage figures is not been included.
The tonnage figures quoted in this article are burthen tons, or tonnage figures calculated on a formula based on a warship’s dimensions. Burthen tons do not represent a ship’s displacement, or weight, but a rough calculation of the internal volume, or carrying capacity, of a ship’s hull.
The dimensions British admiralty surveyors took of the Danish warships they seized are all internal dimensions. Therefore, the British would not need to take the trouble to dock the Danish ships to obtain these internal dimensions as they would have to do in order to take off the external lines of a ship to produce a draught. The internal dimensions included the length of the deck, or lower deck, the length of keel for tonnage, the moulded beam or width to the inside of a hull’s planking, and the depth of hold. The British tonnage figures in this article are burthen tons, based on a formula utilizing the measurements of a ship’s depth of hold, breadth, and length of the keel for tonnage.
The tonnage figures quoted in the data on individual Danish warships discussed in Part II below, are the British tonnage figures, which are always “as built” rather than “as designed” figures. Danish, British, and American systems of measuring tonnage differed from one another, so the British tonnage figures for foreign warships they captured serve as a sort of Rosetta stone by which uniform comparisons may be made between the measured tonnages of Danish, British and American warships and, hence, assessments about individual ships.
British “as built” hull dimensions and tonnage figures of the Danish warships are one of the most interesting and useful features of the British surveys of the Danish ships Britain seized in 1807, and are categories of technical information which the Danes do not seem to have created and kept on their own warships inasmuch as the Danes never seemed to take measurements of their own ships after they were built. These “as built” British figures on the Danish ships thus probably represents a unique aspect of the British data on the Danish ships, and are useful not only in assessing the quality of Danish construction methods but also in facilitating comparisons between Danish warships and warships of other nationalities.
5. British Sailing Quality Reports.
Proof of the merits of a design represented by a warship’s draught is revealed by the ship’s actual sailing and seakeeping qualities and performance. Therefore, another “blessing is disguise” for the modern historian resulting from Britain’s seizure of Danish warships in 1807 is the body of Sailing Quality reports which British officers, who served on those Danish ships Britain fitted for operational sea service, filed regarding these ships’ sailing, seakeeping, construction and other qualities. Some of these reports survive today in Britain’s archives. Filing such Sailing Quality reports was a standing British requirement and routine practice of a warship’s officers.
The information in the British Sailing Quality reports constitute an excellent companion to the visual depictions of Danish warships illustrated in the British admiralty draughts. For example, the British historian Gardiner’s makes comments in his book which indicate he is summarizing information in some of these sailing reports, e.g., regarding the Christian VII and the Fylla. Therefore, these British Sailing Quality reports on the Danish warships which Britain fitted for sea service are a rich source for historians to harvest for information not contained in the British admiralty draughts. However, it must be remembered that British Sailing Quality reports represent the subjective opinions of British sea officers, who were not naval architects and who were likely to have had their own individual prejudices and limitations in ability and perception, so each of these reports should not necessarily be taken as the final word on the subject but should themselves be subject to analysis and judgment.
British assessments of the design, sailing and seakeeping qualities of individual Danish warship models, by British officers extensively experienced in deep water ocean work, would be particularly compelling because Danish warships saw much more rigorous usage and a vastly different type and duration of sea service in British employment than they would have experienced had they remained in Danish hands, i.e., Danish ships which the British fitted for sea saw continuous cruising and blockade duty on the high seas for lengthy periods of time, under much different and more taxing sea and operational conditions than these ships would have been likely to experience under Danish command in the Baltic. Therefore, opinions in British Sailing Quality reports may not be entirely relevant in assessing the Danish warships’ qualities for Baltic service and, therefore, whether they satisfied Danish rather than British requirements.
Danish budget restrictions prevented some larger Danish warships from seeing extensive sea service or “sea time” during the eighteenth century, particularly in deep water ocean work. In fact, one or two of the largest and most prestigious warships of all, the Danish fleet flagships which bore the name of Denmark’s reigning king, probably never ever put to sea at all, but spent their entire lives following their launch laid up “in Ordinary” in the Danish fleet anchorage at Nyholm in Copenhagen. Conversely, after seizure, Denmark’s newest fleet flagship, Christian den Syvende, saw many years of continuous and demanding sea service involving considerable sea time where she won unbridled British admiration for her sailing qualities.
6. British Manning Policy For Ships’ Crews.
British ship lists indicate Britain manned the Danish warships Britain seized with much smaller crews than called for by official Danish crew establishments for the same ships. The smaller British crew establishments were inaugurated in 1806, and resulted from Britain’s stringent manpower economy due to chronic wartime manpower shortages. After her 1812 defeats in single ships actions with U.S. warships, Britain repealed the 1806 reductions in ships complements.
Wartime British crew sizes at this time of the Napoleonic Wars were minimal rather than optimal for Britain’s warships; British ships were in fact undermanned. Indeed, there were more British warships available than there were crews to man them, and this was true prior to Britain’s seizure of Denmark’s entire serviceable fleet in 1807.
The higher official Danish crew establishments for the Danish ship seized by Britain presumably constituted the optimal crew size to man the Danish ships. This optimal Danish crew size presumably allowed the Danes to fight their ships’ batteries in action and to simultaneously man their ships’ sails and rigging and, thereby, to fight a tactical battle of maneuver. However, small crews alleviated cramped and uncomfortable crew accommodations, and associated victual and water stowage needs, during long voyages. Cramped crew accommodation and storage capacity would not have been as pressing a concern for Danish ships, under Danish command, engaged in short-duration voyages in the Baltic theater of operations.
The following table compares British and Danish official complements of a sample selection of seized Danish warships for which British admiralty draughts were produced:
The only exception to the general proposition that Britain provided the seized Danish warships with smaller crews than did the Danes pertains to the six Stibolt-designed brigs of the Lougen classes, represented by the British admiralty draughts of the Nidelven and Allart discussed in Part II below. The official British crew establishment for these brigs was 95/100 men, whereas the Danish establishment figure was 85.
The British navy’s chronic manpower shortages, in addition to the lack of capacity in Britain’s overstretched naval dockyards, rather than the Danish warships’ ages, poor building or design, was also a likely reason why some of the seized Danish warships did not see British sea service. At times, even British-built warships lay idle in port for lack of crews.
7. Britain’s Choice Of Danish Ships To Fit For British Sea Service.
Aside from the draughts British surveyors produced of the seized Danish warships, another criterion which reflected upon British evaluations of Danish warship designs was Britain’s choice of which Danish ships it would actually fit for sea as operational British warships. In making this choice, the British generally limited their selection to warships of the most recent build and of superior design and structural strength. These criteria usually meant that the British selected Hohlenberg-designed warships from among all the Danish warships seized by Britain in 1807.
After Hohlenberg, Stibolt is the Danish naval architect whose ships are most represented in British selection for sea service, although Stibolt’s ships were physically somewhat older than Hohlenberg’s. Aside from considerations of quality of design, British selection of Stibolt’s ships for sea service was due in part to the fact that Stibolt fortuitously happened to design and build types of ships which were in high demand by the British during the war years, i.e., heavy gunbrigs, and standard-sized 18 pdr. frigates.
Newness of build ensured that a ship’s wooden hull would have a reasonably long life, and a long life expectancy assured that the British would obtain a reasonable return on their investment in fitting out a Danish warship for operational sea service. Newness of build also meant that a Danish warship’s maintenance would not become a drag on British overstretched dockyard resources. Aside from newness of build as a selective criterion, the technical aspects of Hohlenberg’s innovative hull forms intrigued the British, who wanted to gain practical experience in these hull’s performance at sea.
Almost all of the smaller ex-Danish warships below the category of battleships – i.e., frigates, ship-rigged sloops of war, brigs, and one schooner – were fitted for sea and employed operationally by the British, most of them almost immediately upon their seizure, and most of these served for the duration of the war or were lost during its course. However, only four of the 15 Danish battleships seized by the British in 1807 were selected by the British to be fitted for operational sea service and, while the four selected battleships appeared to be first class vessels, it would nevertheless be intriguing to discover from British archival records exactly what British rationales underlay their decisions for selecting these particular Danish battleships and not the others.
8. Danish 36 pdr. Battleships.
British battleships in 1807, excepting 64-gun ships carrying 24 pdrs., were armed with 32 pdr. cannon in the main battery. Conversely, virtually all Danish battleships carried smaller caliber 24 pdr. cannon, meaning that Danish battleships generally threw a much lighter broadside than their British counterparts. In all of Danish naval history prior to 1807, only eleven Danish battleships were designed to carry 36 pdr. cannon in the main battery, the heaviest caliber gun Danish battleships ever carried. Britain seized four of these eleven 36 pdr. Danish battleships in 1807, and fitted three of these for sea service.
It’s puzzling why the fourth 36 pdr. Danish battleship seized by Britain, Stibolt’s powerful Waldemar (80) of 2104 tons (just 24 tons lighter than the Christian den Syvende), was not fitted for sea service by the British, because Waldemar was larger and two years newer than a 36 pdr. Danish battleship Britain did fit for sea, i.e., Stibolt’s Danmark. Manpower did not seem to be the problem, because Britain slated only 670 men for Waldemar’s crew, a number only marginally larger than the 590 slated for Danmark. Another puzzle is that British surveyors produced no draught of the Waldemar. Unfortunately for posterity, although Britain seized a fifth Danish 36 pdr. battleship (Gerner’s masterpiece, Neptunus (80), a ship almost exactly as large as Waldemar), this ship ran aground on Hven while in transit for England and had to be burnt, precluding British surveyors from producing a draught of her.
Christian den Syvende, Norge, Danmark, Waldemar and Neptunus (the latter burnt while on passage to England), i.e., the 36 pdr. battleships seized by Britain in 1807, were all armed with the new, model 1786, Danish 36 pdr. iron cannon, the barrels of which weighed at least 1,100 lbs. less than either the iron or bronze Danish 36 pdr. cannon with preceded the 1786 model. There were 107 model 1786 36 pdrs. in Danish naval inventory in 1800, and 146 of these weapons in 1807. During the same period, Danish naval inventories of the heavier bronze 36 pdr. barrels dropped from 86 to 9 weapons; their weight had apparently made them obsolescent for naval use.
Parenthetically, for a time Denmark’s admiralty designated one further Danish battleship – besides the eleven designed to carry 36 pdrs. – to be armed with 36 pdrs. This was the Kronprinds Frederik, designed as a standard 24 pdr., 70-gun ship of the 11-ship Prindsesse Sophia Friderica class. The bronze 36 pdr. barrels Kronprinds Frederik was scheduled to carry weighed 50% more than the iron 24 pdrs. which ships of her class were designed to be armed, and this additional weight would have imposed significant additional strains on Kronprinds Frederik’s hull if she ever did carry this armament. Kronprinds Frederik was probably allocated prestige bronze 36 pdrs. because she was named for Denmark’s heir apparent. Britain seized the Kronprids Frederik in 1807.
Ramshart’s book on the Danish navy claims that another Danish 24 pdr. battleship, the Dronning Lovise, built in 1744 as one of a three ship class, was also armed with 36 pdrs. in Danish service, but no other information or confirmation is available on this, except that Garde states that Dronning Lovise had a larger crew than her sisters.
9. Danish 24 pdr. Battleships.
The largest caliber cannon employed on virtually all Danish battleships during the 18th century was an old-model, iron 24 pdr. designed in the 17th century, a weapon of comparatively heavy barrel weight. However, after their seizure, the British deemed all 24 pdr. Danish battleships (except Hohlenberg’s Prindsesse Caroline and Stibolt’s Seieren) capable of carrying harder-hitting British-pattern 32 pdr. cannon in their main battery, in place of Danish 24 pdrs. Comparative assessments of the possible interchangeability Danish and British weaponry, however, is complicated by the fact that Danish weight measures were heavier than the British, so that, e.g., a Danish 24 pdr. shot weighed more than that of a British 24 pdr.
10. Was Denmark’s Loss Britain’s Gain?
Britain’s avowed purpose for attacking Copenhagen and seizing Denmark’s fleet in 1807 was to prevent Denmark’s warships from falling into Napoleon’s hands. Although England thus acquired a vast hoard of serviceable Danish warships, the British historian R. C. Anderson, in a book published nearly a century ago, asserted that since Britain only fitted four of the fifteen seized Danish battleships, and “some” of the seized Danish frigates and brigs, for operational sea service, Britain actually gained little of value in confiscating the Danish fleet.
R. C. Anderson’s bald assertion is utterly invalid, and disingenuous. The simple truth is that Britain simply did not have the manpower available in 1807 to provide permanent crews to man – and to thereby utilize as commissioned combat vessels – all of the Danish warships Britain seized at Copenhagen. Conversely, if the Danish warships seized in 1807 were in fact so militarily worthless as R. C. Anderson infers, then why was Britain in such terror that Napoleon would seize and utilize these ships? The Danish warships of 1807, with the exception of the Danish frigate Fridericksværn, were certainly not the ancient museum pieces the British often captured in combat from the French or Spanish.
In the 1802-1815 period, of the five large captured third rates Britain fitted for sea service, two were Danish and one of these was the largest, most powerful, and technically the most interesting of the five. Of the five captured “74 gun” third rates Britain fitted for sea service, two were Danish, one of these being particularly powerful and the other being technically the most interesting of the group. Thus, in the battleship category, the four Danish battleships Britain fitted for sea proportionally represented a significant accretion of strength to the British, despite the fact the substantial total of 11 other seized Danish battleships were not fitted for British sea service. Those Danish battleships which Britain did not fit for sea nevertheless retained value as a “strategic reserve,” which could potentially be called upon in crises situations.
In the 1802-1815 period, of the 43 captured heavy (i.e., 24 pdr. and 18 pdr.) frigates Britain fitted for sea, seven were Danish; of the twelve 9 pdr. frigates, one was Danish; and of the eleven captured corvettes Britain fitted for sea, two were Danish. Eight of the 70-odd captured brigs Britain fitted for sea were Danish. These are not inconsequential figures and, furthermore, all Danish warships Britain fitted for operational sea service were excellent, first class designs. These acquisitions were also particularly timely for Britain, which was in acute need for these classes of ships in 1807.
A simple numerical assessment of the contribution which Danish warships Britain fitted for sea service had upon overall British sea power is one-dimensional and does not consider either the technological design perspective or the non-operational contribution which Denmark’s warships made to Britain’s war effort. The non-operational perspective is the valuable strategic reserve which Denmark’s non-operational warships afforded to Britain. The technological dimension is the perspective from which the impact Hohlenberg’s designs had upon the British must be evaluated, for Hohlenberg did remarkable work in hull design. This technological impact, while neither quantifiable nor having a material effect on the outcome of the Napoleonic war, was clearly psychologically significant to the British and historically significant in terms of world warship design. Additionally, the British not only obtained actual examples of Hohlenberg’s designs, but also considerable practical experience in employing these Hohlenberg hull forms in British naval service. Thus, from both the numerical and the technological design perspectives, Denmark’s loss was Britain’s gain.
11. “Lines & Profile” And Other Plans.
All Danish warships listed below in Part II: The List of Draughts, have the minimum “lines and profile” British admiralty plans preserved today in the British archives. “Lines and profile” includes the “lines plan” showing the lines of the ship from three perspectives, i.e., the side plan (“sheer”), the ends (“body plan”) and from above (“half breadth”), combined with the “profile of inboard works” showing internal structural detail. Only those ships with additional plans than the minimum “lines and profile” are specially noted in the comments to individual Danish warships provided below.
One major difference distinguishes Danish from British admiralty plans: Danish plans typically include a sail plan for each warship, whereas sail plans are rare in British admiralty plans. The British felt sail plans were unnecessary because experienced dockyard knew how to rig a ship. However, sail plans for individual ships that do exist are a valuable record for the modern historian. Therefore, Danish sail plans are often interesting and instructive, as for example in depicting the angles of a warship’s various masts, such as are shown on Hohlenberg’s sail plans of Rota and Lille Belt. Another major difference is that British admiralty plans typically include a side plan of the hull which doubles by illustrating the ship’s inboard detail (an attractive feature of British draughts), whereas the Danes would typically depict internal structural detail on a separate plan.
All British draughts of Danish ships seized in 1807 are to a uniform scale of 1:48, or one inch equaling one foot, i.e., the same scale as is most typically used for ship models in the Handels og Søfartsmuseet på Kronborg.
12. Ships’ Gun “Ratings.”
The number appearing in brackets after each ship’s name in the ships’ data section, in Part II: The List of Draughts below, is the ship’s official complement of guns in Danish service, in accordance with the official Danish admiralty establishments.
In British practice, a ship’s gun “rating” was an arbitrary administrative figure that typically did not represent either the official British establishment of guns for an individual ship or the actual number of guns a British ship carried regardless of its official establishment of guns. In contrast, Danish navy lists always designated the exact number of guns Danish warships carried, according to the Danish admiralty’s establishment schedule of guns provided for each particular Danish warship. British gun “ratings” of individual warships was for administrative classification purposes, the need for which does not seem to have existed for the smaller and administratively more manageable Danish navy. Rather than categorize their warships by a rating system similar to Britain’s, Denmark simply classified her warships by ship type, e.g., battleship, frigate, and that method of categorization is used in subdividing the British admiralty draughts of Danish warships in Part II: The List of Draughts, below.
While in Danish practice Danish warships were not administratively “rated,” all Danish warships seized by Britain became subject to Britain’s administrative rating system, whether or not Britain ever fitted an individual Danish warship for British sea service. Thus, for example, Christian VII and Waldemar were “rated as” 80-gun “third rates,” although each was actually officially designated to carry more than 80 guns in British service. All the other seized Danish battleships, including the large Norge and the smaller Prindsesse Caroline, were rated by the British as 74-gun ships, regardless of the actual number of guns the British officially designated these ships to carry. Thus, knowledge of the British rating system is useful in understanding British treatment and employment of individual Danish warships Britain seized in 1807, as for example in the case of Christian VII and Waldemar, because the 80-gun ship was a type foreign to Britain and 80-gun ships in the British fleet consisted of foreign captures.
Danish and British arming practices differed in another regard. While Danish captains seem to have been strictly held to the Danish admiralty’s official armament establishments for their ships, individual British captains had discretion as to how to arm their vessels and therefore often departed from official establishments in individual cases – a practice which applied with equal force to all Danish ships fitted for British sea service. Therefore, the official British gun establishments for the Danish ships may not actually represent how an individual Danish ship was in fact armed on individual occasions.
Part II: The List of British Admiralty Draughts
The list of Danish warships of which British admiralty draughts now exist and which are preserved in The Historic Photographs & Ships Plan Section of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is provided below. The list is subdivided into categories by warship type, English type provided first and the Danish type provided in parenthesis. A ship’s data section follows the name of each Danish warship of which British admiralty plans now exist, to place each Danish warship and its historical design context, and to provide some information on each ship’s service history, in Danish as well as British naval service.
Christian den Syvende (Christian VII) (90), 2128 tons burthen – Hohlenberg design, built 1803.
Notes: Regarded as Hohlenberg’s masterpiece, the Christian den Syvende was designed to carry 36 pdr. (Danish weight measure) cannon on her battery deck in Danish service, as were all Danish fleet flagships named after the reigning Danish king that were built in the 18th century. By many criteria Christian den Syvende was a formidable vessel: her size in terms of British measured tonnage, or burthen tons, was just 34 tons less than Nelson’s famous Victory, although the British rated Victory as a 100-gun ship while the Christian den Syvende as an 80-gun ship in British service. These differences in British ship ratings were due to the fact that, while having roughly the same dimensions as the Victory, a “three decker,” Christian den Syvende was only a “two-decker.” Curiously, whether a ship was a three decker with a much more massive above-water hull structure, or a two-decker, did not affect a ship’s burthen tonnage – this can be deceiving when making ship-to ship comparisons in the case of British “1st” and “2d” rates and Danish battleships that served as Denmark’s flagships. In this regard, burthen tonnage is not a measure of a ship’s displacement and is just one of several available tonnage measurements. Christain VII is the largest battleship Britain captured during the Napoleonic wars which Britain fitted for sea service.
The British admiralty draught shows virtually no alteration to the configuration of Hohlenberg’s unconventional stern structure – i.e., without traditional stern and quarter galleries – with which Christian VII was designed and built, an unorthodox stern structure which is also found in the many Hohlenberg-designed Danish frigates Britain also seized in 1807. However, unlike the Christian VII where the British did not (at least initially) tamper with this Hohlenberg stern structure, British admiralty draughts (e.g., of the Perlen and the Nymphen) show that the British removed similar stern structures from the Hohlenberg-designed Danish frigates which Britain had seized and fitted for sea service.
Christian den Syvende carried fewer, and lighter, guns in British service than she would have carried according to her official Danish gun establishment. Christian VII’s official British armament schedule replaced Danish caliber 36 pdrs. on the battery deck with lighter British 32 pdrs., reduced upper deck gun size from Danish 24 pdrs. to British 18 pdrs., and reduced the mixture of guns and carronades carried on the quarterdeck and forecastle. In Danish service, Christian den Syvende would have fired 1,236 lbs. (Danish weight measure) on the broadside, whereas her official British armament fired only 1,029 lbs on the broadside, or 207 lbs. less than the designed Danish broadside (or somewhat more given the differences in Danish and British weight measures). Aside from firepower considerations, Christian VII’s official British armament had the beneficial effect of lightening the strain on Christian VII’s hull.
While most historians endlessly and monotonously harp attention on Hohlenberg’s pinched, or “pink,” stern usually employed in Hohlenberg’s larger warship designs, the British naval historian Gardiner refreshingly provides a novel but more accurate perspective by inferring that it was not Hohlenberg’s pinched, or “pink,” stern but Christian VII’s hull form as a whole, and her resulting sailing qualities, which “captured the imagination of the British officers.” Gardiner notes, apparently from British Sailing Quality reports, that the Christian VII “sailed and worked well, was an easy sea boat, and stood up to the rigors of blockade duty without straining” – an assessment that does Hohlenberg great credit. The British hulked Christian VII in 1814, but did not break her up until 1838. It’s questionable whether Christian den Syvende ever sailed in open waters under Danish colors, as the Danes do not appear to have ever commissioned her for active service but immediately placed her in ordinary at the Danish fleet anchorage at Nyholm after her launch, and that is where she remained until her seizure in 1807. Christian VII’s sea service under British command was uneventful, as is typical of routine blockade and cruising service.
As is well known, the Christian VII’s hull design so impressed the British that they built several British battleships to her lines, the only non-French ship design to have been so honored.
Norge (78), 1960 tons burthen – Hohlenberg design, built 1799.
Notes: Hohlenberg’s first battleship design, Norge carried 36 pdr. cannon on the battery deck in Danish service, one of only 11 Danish battleships in Danish history to be designed and built to do so. Norge, a design of major proportions, was nearly as large as the Christian den Syvende, the Danish fleet flagship which was launched four years after Norge. Only one ship was produced to Norge’s design. The Norge’s large size and unique status as a one-ship class was apparently intended to commemorate Norway’s honored place in the dual monarchy of Denmark-Norway. Due to her large size and 36 pdr. main battery, one of Norge’s potential roles in Danish service was as a fleet or squadron flagship. In this regard, Norge signaled the type of ship that could have been potential successors as fleet or squadron flagships to earlier-generation Danish 36 pdr. battleships like Gerner’s Neptunus and Stibolt’s Waldemar, both of which Britain seized in 1807, but only Waldemar succeeded in reaching Britain.
Hohlenberg built Norge on the same design principles he introduced in his design prototype, the frigate Najaden (1796), which was also seized by the British. Hohlenberg consistently applied the design principles on the Najaden model to most of his subsequent warship designs, including all his battleship designs. Thus, as Gardiner notes, the Norge introduced Hohlenberg’s pinched or “pink” stern – the “Hohlenberg stern” – “to the line of battle, but in a less extreme form than it reached with the later Christian VII.” The British admiralty draught of Norge shows virtually no alteration to the single level of somewhat conventional stern galleries with which Norge was designed and built by Hohlenberg.
In September, 1801, after the Battle of Copenhagen on April 2, 1801, the Danish admiralty sent Norge on comparative sea trials with Stibolt’s 36 pdr. battleship Danmark (see below), to evaluate their respective sailing and seakeeping qualities. These trials were far too brief, in the relatively undemanding Baltic sea conditions, to be either insightful or conclusive, but Norge was judged to be the better warship, primarily on the basis of the higher freeboard of her lower battery. Since both Norge and Danmark saw extensive British sea service after their seizure in 1807, it is now possible to examine the British sailing reports in the British archives to obtain more definitive assessments of these two ships’ relative performances. Norge’s sea service under the British flag seems to have included a tour of duty off of New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A. The British did not sell Norge out of service until 1816.
The British rated Norge as a 74 gun ship, and armed her with as many guns as she carried in Danish service, but placed 32 pdrs. on the battery deck instead of the 36 pdrs. in Danish service, and changed the mixture of guns placed on the forecastle and quarterdeck. Thus, Norge’s broadside weight of fire was roughly 100 lbs. less in British service, taking into consideration allowances for the differences in Danish and British weight measures.
Prindsesse Caroline (66), 1636 tons burthen – Hohlenberg design, built 1805.
Notes: The most recent Danish battleship completed prior to Britain’s 1807 seizure of Copenhagen and the Danish fleet, the Prindsesse Caroline’s hull form was closely akin to that of Christian VII, being almost a reduced copy of Christian VII. However, Prindsesse Caroline’s Danish draught shows she had a beakhead bulkhead, which had gone out of fashion in most navies by this time although Gerner’s Prindsesse Sophia Friderica class of battleships had this feature (see entry for Fyn, below). Prindsesse Caroline apparently never sailed under the Danish flag but immediately after her launch was placed in Ordinary in the Danish fleet anchorage at Nyholm, Copenhagen, where she remained until her seizure in 1807. Despite her small size as a battleship, the British chose to fit Prindsesse Caroline for sea. Highlights of Prindsesse Caroline’s British sea service included the taking of the Dutch ship Piethein as a prize, briefly serving as a flagship, and engaging in action with Russian gunboats. The British sold Prindsesse Caroline out of service in 1815.
Prindsesse Caroline was a sister ship of Prinds Christian Frederik which, unlike Prindsesse Caroline, did see operational sea service under the Danish flag prior to and following 1807. Prinds Christian Frederik eluded British seizure at Copenhagen in 1807 by being on a training cruise with cadets to Norway, only to be destroyed in 1808 in the battle of Sjællands Odde. Prinds Christian Frederik’s Danish crew suffered horrific, almost unimaginable casualties during this battle. Prindsesse Caroline was built the year following Prinds Christian Frederik’s completion, and this class was a lighter model of battleship than the predecessor, 11-ship Prindsesse Sophia Friderica class of 70-gun ships which were the mainstay of Denmark’s ageing battle fleet in 1807. Denmark built one further ship to the lines of Hohlenberg’s Prinds Christian Frederik class of battleships, i.e., the Danmark, which was built at Nyholm and launched in 1817; she survived until 1856.
Regarding Prindsesse Caroline’s size, it’s unusual that when the 74-gun ship was becoming standard in fleets of the major powers and had also been demonstratively employed by Admiral Nelson in subduing the moored Danish blockships at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, and at a time when Napoleonic armed conflict was ominously engulfing Europe and thus threatening Denmark, the Danish admiralty chose to regress to this lighter class of 24 pdr. battleship for Denmark’s most recent battleship construction prior to the 1807 catastrophe. However, the Prindsesse Caroline, being the most recently built Danish battleship seized by the British, and possessing the virtues of a Hohlenberg hull form, was one of the few captured Danish battleships the British fitted for sea service. Prindsesse Caroline was the only 24 pdr. Danish battleship the British fitted for sea service; all the other three Danish battleships the British fitted for sea were 36 pdr. Danish battleships, and two of these were also Hohlenberg designs.
Notwithstanding her Hohlenberg-hull, it’s highly unusual the British were attracted the Prindsesse Caroline, because, prior to her seizure, the British had developed a distasteful prejudice against their own 64-gun, 24 pdr. battleships, and had ceased either building or using them (even when newly built). The fact that the British would fit Hohlenberg’s diminutive, 24 pdr. Prindsesse Caroline for sea at a time when the British refused to utilize their own 64s could be viewed as much of a British compliment to Hohlenberg’s design as the high praise the British bestowed upon the admirable sailing and seakeeping qualities of Hohlenberg’s Christian VII, of which Prindsesse Caroline appears to have been a reduced copy.
As designed for Danish service, Prindsesse Caroline was conventionally armed in Danish service with Danish 24 pdrs. on the main battery deck and lighter caliber 18 pdrs. on the upper deck, both calibers being of Denmark’s new 1804 system of naval cannon, the barrels of which were lighter in weight than their predecessors. In British service, Prindsesse Caroline was peculiarly rearmed with a uniform caliber of armament, 24 pdrs. on all decks, including 14 24 pdr. carronades distributed between the detached quarter deck and forecastle. Thus, Prindsesse Caroline was alone among the four Danish battleships Britain fitted for sea service to be equipped by the British with lighter caliber 24 pdrs. rather than 32 pdrs. on the main gundeck – in this regard, 24 pdrs. on the gundeck was the distinguishing feature of British 64-gun ships, the only class of British battleship to be armed with 24 pdrs. rather than 32 pdrs. on the main battery deck.
The differences in the weights of the new Danish naval cannon barrels of the 1804 system, with which Prindsesse Caroline would have been equipped in Danish service, and standard British naval cannon of the period, does not appear to have been so great as to allow the British to cram Prindsesse Caroline with a significantly more powerful armament as the British calculated they could do with the Prindsesse Sophia Friderica class of Danish battleships. However, as armed by the British, Prindsesse Caroline’s broadside weight of fire was approximately 200 lbs. heavier than she would have fired under her designed Danish armament. Curiously, in contrast to her designed Danish establishment armament, the British were confident in believing Prindsesse Caroline was stable enough to carry 24 pdr. rather than 18 pdr. cannon on her upper battery deck in addition to the 24 pdrs. on her lower gundeck.
Parenthetically, Britain’s then current lack of interest in the 64-gun ship is probably reflected by the fact that British surveyors produced no admiralty draught of the only Danish warship Admiral Nelson carried off from among the Danish ships Britain captured at the Battle of Copenhagen on April 2, 1801, i.e., the 60-gun Holsteen, which later, under the British name Nassau, participated in the final battle of Hohlenberg’s Prinds Christian Frederik, a sister-ship of Prindsesse Caroline.
Danmark (76), 1836 tons burthen – Stibolt design, built 1794.
Notes: More significantly notable than the British surveyors’ decision to produce design draughts of Danmark is the fact this Stibolt-designed Danish battleship, together with the Stibolt-designed frigate Freya, and the six Stibolt-designed warbrigs of the two Lougen classes which Britain seized at Copenhagen in 1807, are the only non-Hohlenberg designed Danish warships to actually see extensive operational service with the British navy. Danmark carried Danish-model 36 pdr. cannon on the battery deck in Danish service, and was the smallest of the 18th century Danish battleships that was designed to be armed in Danish service with 36 pdrs., and was thus the smallest of the 36 pdr. Danish battleships seized by Britain in 1807. Only one ship was built to Danmark’s design. Danmark’s large, single-ship class status, like the similar situation with Hohlenberg’s Norge, was apparently intended to commemorate Denmark’s honored position in the Denmark-Norway dual monarchy.
As a 36 pdr. Danish battleship, Danmark had potential to play a flagship role in Danish service, depending upon squadron composition and whether more powerful Danish battleships were present. In British service a flagship role for Danmark was unlikely, and she was rated as a 74 gun ship in their service. After her launch in 1794, Danmark was immediately laid up in Ordinary at Denmark’s fleet anchorage at Holmen, and it was not until 1799 that the Danes first commissioned Danmark for a brief period of sea service. The highlight of Danmark’s very limited commissioned service under the Danish flag was serving as Steen Bille’s flagship of Denmark’s only available mobile naval force, lying in the channel at the mouth of Copenhagen harbor behind the Trekroner battery, during Admiral Nelson’s attack on Copenhagen on April 2, 1801.
Although an imposing-looking design, in terms of overall dimensions and therefore of measured tonnage Danmark was only marginally larger than the eleven ships of the Prindsesse Sophia Friderica class, and was roughly equivalent to some larger 74-gun British ships being built contemporaneously with Danmark. However, the composition and strength of timbering (i.e., scantlings) of Danmark’s internal structure, rather than her overall hull dimensions, must have provided the greater structural strength required to carry the heavier battery weight of Danish-model 36 pdr. cannon as opposed to the standard 24 pdr. battery carried in the majority of Danish battleships.
Fyn (70), 1791 tons burthen – Gerner design, built in 1787.
Notes: One of a class of eleven Prindsesse Sophia Friderica 24 pdr. Danish battleships built to the same design plan and dimensions, the numerically largest class of battleships the Danes ever built. Nine of these sister ships, including the Prindsesse Sophia Friderica, were seized by the British in 1807, but none was ever fitted for sea by them. The British hulked a few ships of this class, as either receiving ships or prison ships.
The fact the British never fitted any Prindsesse Sophia Friderica class ship for sea is not an adverse reflection upon their design or, apparently, their construction. In fact, British surveyors complimented this design by surveying and taking the lines off of several ships in this class. Although built to a Gerner design, and Gerner was the earliest of the Danish naval architects who designed Danish warships seized by Britain in 1807, this earlier battleship class compares very well to similarly sized British warships designed after the Prindsesse Sophia Friderica series was built. Unlike Gerner’s class of seven 12 pdr. frigates designed contemporaneously with these Gerner battleships, Gerner’s 12 pdr. frigates were obsolete by 1807 (one was seized by Britain in 1807) whereas this Gerner battleship design appears to have stood the test of time, particularly when compared with certain French and Spanish designs of either the same period or later.
The British calculated that ships of this class were capable of carrying 32 pdrs. on the battery deck rather than the 24 pdrs. carried in Danish service – however, the British 32 pdr. was a “short” weapon for seaborne use, of less weight than the standard Danish-pattern 24 pdrs. Additionally, while only carrying 70 guns in Danish service, the British officially credited these ships as capable of carrying a mixed armament of 80 guns, including carronades. However, no Danish ship of this class ever saw British sea service and thus never carried this British armament. Therefore, it’s not known how well the Danish hulls – some of them elderly – would have stood the strain of carrying this 80-gun British armament. Additionally, simple statements about comparative gun numbers do not take analytical consideration of the overall gun barrel weight of British versus Danish gun models. Danish gun barrels were probably much heavier than the British, depending upon which Danish gun models Denmark fitted this class of ship to carry. Therefore, it’s possible or likely that the weight of the British pattern guns (some of which were carronades) in the official British 80-gun establishment set for these ships, if fitted for sea, weighed no more than the Danish-designed battery, and therefore imposed no greater strain on the hull.
As armed in Danish service, the Prindsesse Sophia Friderica class, to which Fyn and Odin belonged, carried 28-24 pdrs., 28-18 pdrs., and 18-8 pdrs., Danish measurement, firing a total of 1348 lbs. in one discharge, or 674 lbs. on the broadside. The same ship as armed in British service would fire a total of 1884 lbs. in one discharge, or 942 lbs. on the broadside, a difference of 268 lbs. on the broadside in the British armament’s favor. Aside from the issue of carronades, with which the Prindsesse Sophia Friderica battleships were not armed in Danish service, this class of Danish battleships was (relatively speaking) ineffectually armed in Danish service. This example illustrates that Denmark’s naval architects were capable of designing and building excellent hulls for the Danish fleet, but it was the responsibility of the Danish admiralty to arm these hulls effectively.
Odin (70), 1747 tons burthen – Gerner design, built in 1787.
Plans: Lines, profile, upper deck, quarter deck, and forecastle
Notes: Sister-ship to the Fyn (see above). The “as built” British tonnage measures of the nine Prindsesse Sophia Friderica class ships seized by the British, which were all built to the same design dimensions, are an interesting reflection upon the accuracy of Danish construction methods under Danish naval constructor Gerner because of the little variation in “as built” dimensions between the completed ships. The Fyn had the largest “as built” tonnage measure at 1791 tons, while the remaining ships weighed in at the “as built” figures of 1746, 1747, 1747, 1747, 1749, 1758, 1759, and 1763 tons burthen. This “as built” information is one of the more interesting and instructive features of the data which British surveyors produced in their surveys of the Danish warships Britain seized in 1807. There is a widely-republished contemporary color print of the period showing the Odin sailing in company with Gerner’s masterpiece, the Neptunus (80).
Perlen (46), 1203 tons burthen – Hohlenberg design, built 1804.
Notes: Perlen was one of only two Danish 24 pdr. frigates built prior to 1807, and was the largest Danish frigate seized by the British. Although new when captured, and although the British replaced Danish 24 pdrs. on Perlen’s battery deck with lighter British 18 pdrs., thereby reducing the strain of the battery weight on Perlen’s hull, for some reason Perlen’s British sea service was short. The British hulked Perlen in 1813, but did not sell Perlen out of British naval service until 1846, long after Perlen’s seizure from Denmark in 1807. Unfortunately, since the British armed Perlen with 18 pdrs. rather than 24 pdrs., Perlen is always listed in British sources as an 18 pdr. rather than a 24 pdr. frigate, which denies Perlen her proper place in comparative British analyses of 24 pdr. frigates of the day. Only one frigate was built to Perlen’s design – perhaps the Danish admiralty’s fluctuating frigate design specifications and concepts, coupled with Britain’s capture of Copenhagen and Denmark’s fleet in 1807, or perhaps Danish budget restraints, prematurely cut off further development of Danish 24 pdr. frigates.
A formidable, powerful and handsome – even as altered by the British for sea service – frigate, with good gunport freeboard, Perlen may be regarded as the apogee of Danish frigate design in the Napoleonic period.
The Perlen was not a true “double banked” frigate because she was not armed in the “waist” on her upper works. In design, Perlen had a rounded midship section similar to that of Hohlenberg’s successful Christian den Syvende, but with less tumblehome. The British admiralty draught of Perlen shows conventional quarter galleries and a narrow tier of stern galleries, in place of the pair of stern gunports and odd-looking stern structure and decoration Hohlenberg depicts in his design plans of all his frigates and of the Christian den Syvende. The British admiralty draught thus indicates the British – as with all of Hohlenberg’s frigates – reconstructed Perlen’s stern to provide a more conventional stern configuration, doubtlessly to suit Perlen’s British officers.
An odd feature of Hohlenberg’s frigate designs is that the British often found that Hohlenberg’s frigates trimmed best by the head, rather than by the stern or even on an even keel. Perlen was an example of this curious attribute, though not a pronounced one. In 1809, as ballasted and stored by the British, Perlen trimmed 4 inches deeper forward than aft. Hohlenberg’s Rota, his first 24 pdr. frigate, was more pronounced, trimming 14 inches deeper forward than aft, as ballasted and stored by the British in 1815. Hohlenberg’s Venus also shared this unusual but otherwise unremarkable characteristic, trimming 3 inches deeper forward than aft, as ballasted and stored by the British in 1813.
Historically, Perlen’s design was pivotal for Denmark’s navy because the 24 pdr. “heavy” frigate was the logical next step in frigate evolution from the 18 pdr. frigates that had become the norm among the principal combatants during the Napoleonic wars. However, after Perlen’s seizure by Britain the Danes abandoned the powerful 24 pdr. frigate concept in Denmark’s building program, along with the 24 pdr. frigate’s major advantage in firepower, for the duration of the Napoleonic wars.
After the 1807 debacle, Denmark reverted to building lighter 18 pdr. frigates on the model of Hohlenberg’s Venus, which the British also seized in 1807 and fitted for sea service. Unfortunately, British surveyors did not produce a draught of Venus. A British navy return for July, 1813, lists Venus’s duty station as the Leeward Isles. The Danes built these lighter 18 pdr. frigates on the Venus model even in the face of British naval superiority and the heavier British frigates which Danish frigates were likely to encounter in combat. One would think that in the post-1807 Danish navy, where Denmark’s frigates would be few in number and the odds in even single-ship combat would be against them, the Danes would have wanted their few available frigates to be as powerful as possible and superior to their likely opponents.
Perhaps Denmark’s post-1807 reversion to 18 pdr. frigates may be explained by Denmark’s inability to acquire sufficient additional examples of the new model 24 pdr. with which Denmark’s 24 pdr. frigates (i.e., Perlen and Rota) were armed, thus precluding Denmark from arming post-1807 Danish frigates with a 24 pdr. main battery; perhaps Denmark lacked a suitable supply of timber to construct 24 pdr. frigates due to the priority in allocation of Danish timber resources given to Danish gunboat building; or perhaps the Danes found the 24 pdr. frigates too expensive to build, maintain, and risk in operations. However, the explanation regarding unavailability of appropriate model 24 pdrs. only carries up to the conclusion of the war with Britain and does not explain Denmark’s post-war frigate building policy, which also initially concentrated on 18 pdr. frigates.
Denmark’s second largest frigate in 1807, Rota (40), a Hohlenberg design weighing 1102 tons British measurement, was like Perlen which came after her armed with 24 pdrs. in Danish service. Rota was also seized by the British in 1807, and was fitted by them for operational sea service. Rota, Denmark’s first 24 pdr. frigate and thus a prototype and Perlen’s predecessor, was armed with the new “model 1797” 24 pdr., the barrel of which was much lighter in weight than the cumbersome, old-pattern 24 pdr. Danish naval cannon of the period, i.e., the 24 pdr. that armed most of Denmark’s battleships. The Perlen was also presumably equipped with the same “model 1797” 24 pdr. in Danish service that armed the Rota. Although a 24 pdr. frigate and thus representative of the new generation in frigate designs, Rota did not have a British draught made of her after her seizure, and we thus have no British design record of her.
The reason British surveyors made no draft of Rota may have been due to the low freeboard of Rota’s main battery gunports which, when Rota was ballasted and stored with victuals and water by the British, was only between 6 feet three inches and 6 feet 8 inches, a figure which not only compared unfavorably to that of most British-built frigates of the day, but was also inadequate for all-weather fighting ability.
Since Denmark built only one frigate to Rota’s prototype design as Denmark’s first 24 pdr. frigate, it may be inferred that experience with the Rota indicated that Rota’s heavier 24 pdr. armament, despite utilization of the lighter, new “model 1797” 24 pdr. Danish guns, required the greater dimensions utilized in the Perlen to provide the displacement and corresponding stability necessary to effectively carry a 24 pdr. main battery. In British service, on September 26, 1814, the Rota’s boats were involved – along with boats of other British warships – in a boat attack on the American privateer General Armstrong while the privateer was lying at anchor in the neutral Port of Fayal in the Portuguese Azores, in which attack Rota’s crew suffered heavy losses; Rota also participated in an attack on St. Mary’s, Georgia, U.S.A. on December 14, 1814. A British return for July, 1813, lists Rota as being employed in guarding a convoy bound for Quebec – the powerful Rota’s employment in a convoy escort role, in the north Atlantic at this particular time, when much smaller warships typically acted as convoy guards, doubtlessly reflects the United States’ recent entry into the war, and the resultant British fear of potential attacks by U.S. commerce raiders. The British sold Rota out of British naval service in 1816, as part of the post-war reduction of Britain’s fleet.
Unfortunately, no British Sailing Quality report on Perlen survives, but two each on Rota (January 1, 1812, and August 26, 1815) and Venus (January 14, 1813, and February 14, 1815) do survive in British archives. However, British records do indicate that, as ballasted and stored with victuals and water by the British, the freeboard of Perlen’s main battery gunports was 7 feet, 8 inches, by far the most satisfactory gunport freeboard of any of the Danish frigates Britain seized in 1807.
Najaden (40), 827 tons burthen – Hohlenberg design, built in 1795.
Plans: Profile as fitted, lines & profile /orlop/lower deck/upper deck/ quarter deck and forecastle.
Notes: One of the most celebrated ship designs in Danish naval history, Hohlenberg produced this prototype design after he returned to Denmark from abroad upon completing his formal training as a naval architect. This particular design was Hohlenberg’s first and was presented to the Danish naval authorities as embodying all of Hohlenberg’s new design principles.
Najaden, like all of Holenberg’s frigates, was fitted by the British for sea service, but had a relatively short life in operational British service compared to other Danish ships, and was broken up in 1812. The reason Najaden was broken up early may be because of the very low, and therefore poor, freeboard of Najaden’s main battery gunports, which was only 6 feet, when Najaden was ballasted and stored with victuals and water by the British, a gunport freeboard which was much lower than most British-designed frigates, and which was the lowest of all Hohlenberg-designed “true” frigates. However, the low freeboard of Najaden’s main battery gunports equaled that of the frigates of Stibolt’s Freya group. The low freeboard of Najaden’s main battery gunports would have inhibited Najaden’s combat use of her main battery on the high seas, in heavy weather.
Najaden was the very first frigate (and warship) which Hohlenberg built, the first of many different frigate designs Hohlenberg produced, while Nymphen (see below) was the last frigate Hohlenberg built, supposedly to Najaden’s design – thus, Denmark had come “full circle” in returning to Hohlenberg’s first frigate design for his final frigate construction. Between the Najaden and the Nymphen Hohlenberg produced four other “true” frigate designs for 18 pdr. and 24 pdr. frigates, all of which were “one off” ships where Hohlenberg built only one example of each. Therefore, it is ironic that after experimenting with these other frigate designs Hohlenberg, in building his last frigate, adopted the same dimensions that he used to build his first. It is also ironic that Hohlenberg engaged in all this experimentation in frigate design at the same time he was espousing standardization in Danish warship types; however, it must be realized that Hohlenberg probably produced these varying frigate designs at the direction of the Danish admiralty and in accordance with Danish admiralty specifications rather than of his own accord. This experimentation with a variety of frigate designs in a relatively confined time period appears to be aimless, indicating that Denmark’s admiralty, in authorizing a design, had no fully developed conception of what Danish frigate characteristics and design specifications should be during this period.
Although both the Najaden and the later Nymphen, had exactly the same official Danish design dimensions, and thus appear to be sister-ships, the British “as built” draughts reveal a noticeable discrepancy in their “as built” measured tonnages, i.e., 827 tons for the Najaden versus 907 tons for the Nymphen, as well as some minor differences in their “as built” hull dimensions (140′ 7″, 118′ 7 5/8″ x 38″ 2½” x 10′ 6″, vs. 140′ 4″, 117′ 10 1/8″ x 38′ ½” x 10′ 3″, imperial measure). However, the two ship’s hull forms were basically identical, both having “wall sided” hulls with virtually no tumblehome, which contrasts with the 24 pdr. frigate Perlen’s rounded midship section similar to that of Christian VII’s; Perlen also had somewhat more tumblehome than Nymphen and Najaden but not as much as Chritian VII. Both Najaden and Nymphen were constructed in the same Danish dockyard, so the differences in these two sister-ship’s “as built” measured tonnages is not readily explained by being a result of different dockyard’s building practices or techniques. Compared to the hull size of 18 pdr. frigates being used contemporaneously by Britain and France, the Najaden and Nymphen were small for their type. Unlike her somewhat smaller sister, which the British broke up in 1812, the British did not sell Nymphen out of service until 1816. A British return for July, 1813, lists Nymphen as being employed on the special duty assignment of being on passage to deliver specie to Lisbon, Portugal.
The roughly 10% difference in the measured tonnage of the sister-ships Najaden and Nymphen is particularly unusual given how closely to each other in terms of tonnages Danish constructors built the sister-ships of other classes – see the measured tonnages for the sister-ships under the entries in this ships’ data section for Odin, Iris, Fylla, Gluckstadt, Nidelven and Allart.
Aside from the different British tonnages for the Najaden and Nymphen, it’s curious that in Danish service the earlier Najaden’s designed main battery was 12 pdr. cannon, a caliber which was a holdover from the earlier 12 pdr. frigate era from which the great powers had now transitioned, while the Nymphen was designed to carry an 18 pdr. main armament that had then become standard among the frigates of the foremost naval powers (Najaden was armed with 18 pdrs. in British service). It’s also curious why Hohlenberg would have produced a 12 pdr. frigate as his first naval construction for the Danish navy when Denmark was already operating a successful class of 40-gun, 18 pdr. frigates (see Freya, below, the Danish frigate class that was Najaden’s immediate predecessor) that were the equal of 18 pdr. frigates used by Britain and France; here, “successful” means well-designed, well-proportioned hulls rather than an effective armament.
Finally, if Najaden and Nymphen were in fact sister-ships, it’s curious why British surveyors produced separate draughts of each of them, because British surveyors typically only produced one draught of a ship in a class of captured ships, to represent all ships in the class. It’s also curious why the British would have produced separate draughts of the Nymphen and Najaden, but did not take the trouble to take the lines off of one of Denmark’s two 24 pdr. frigates (i.e., the Rota), the heavy frigate type which represented the wave of the future, unless either the British surveyors somehow found Rota’s design as a 24 pdr. frigate to be inadequate, or the Rota was somehow unavailable for survey.
In Danish naval service, the Najaden and the brig Sarpen (a sister-ship of the 1st Lougen – see below), under the command of Steen Bille, distinguished themselves by defeating a force of six ships of the Barbary corsair power Tripoli in 1797, two years after Najaden was built.
Nymphen (36), 907 tons burthen – Hohlenberg design, built in 1807.
Notes: Hohlenberg’s last frigate, Nymphen was so new when seized in 1807 she had not completed building and had to be fitted out by the British after capture. In addition to the inevitable observation on the “Hohlenberg stern,” the British historian Lyon singles out Hohlenberg’s unique hull form in his observation on the British admiralty draught of the Nymphen: “In the form of hull and the shape of the stern this ship shows considerable originality,” but Lyon unfortunately doesn’t disclose what he considers to be original about Nymphen’s hull form. Predictably, being one of the Danish warships Britain actively employed in operational sea service, the British fitted Nymphen with conventional quarter galleries in place of the Hohlenberg-style stern.
While operating under British command, the Nymphen narrowly avoided capture on October 10, 1812, just after the U.S. entry into the war, by an American squadron of three frigates, and thus being incorporated into the U.S. navy where she would have been a most welcome addition – who knows what effect Nymphen’s hull design may have had on the minds of U.S. naval designers. Thereafter, Nymphen was engaged in blockade duty off of Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., and was not sold out of British service until 1816.
Nymphen’s seagoing employment in British blockade duty in the open ocean waters off Boston, Massachusetts demonstrates that Danish ships of this type were capable of extended periods of hard cruising, although British reports criticized Danish ships for a lack of stowage capacity for ship’s stores and crew provisions, to sustain long cruises without necessitating replenishment. Danish ships’ stowage capacity, and hence endurance, has always been an open question because the few new Danish frigates and battleships built after 1807 for Denmark’s navy stuck so close to home or stayed bottled up in port at Copenhagen until 1814, vulnerable to a repeat of 1807, when Danish warships could (and should) have been out on the high seas, cruising against the British. Stowage capacity for extended endurance (e.g., six months) cruising would not have been a major requirement of Danish ships deployed in the Baltic, where they could quickly commute between their Baltic duty stations and Copenhagen to replenish needed supplies.
To complete the picture of Hohlenberg’s frigate designs, British admiralty surveyors made no draught of the Hohlenberg-designed Danish frigate Venus, 942 tons burthen, seized at Copenhagen in 1807, and built two years before Nymphen. Venus had slightly larger official Danish dimensions than Najaden and Nymphen, and was the only ship built to her design during Hohlenberg’s term in office. Perhaps the Venus’s design offered British surveyors nothing which had not already been obtained from the other Hohlenberg-designed frigates, or perhaps Venus was unavailable for survey. However, Venus is one of the few ex-Danish frigates for British Sailing Quality reports (two) survive in the British archives.
British records also indicate that, as ballasted and stored with victuals by the British, the freeboard of Venus’s main battery gunports was 7 feet, 4 inches, which was very good in comparison to other Danish frigates of the day, and second only to the main battery gunport freeboard of Hohlenberg’s Perlen. The British sold Venus out of service in 1815. However, Venus’s design lived on following the end of the Napoleonic Wars. During the reign of King Frederick VI, the Danes completed six new frigates, four of them prior to 1814, to Venus’ official dimensions. It’s therefore ironic that the frigate model on which the Danes chose to build new frigates following Hohlenberg’s departure from office was a Hohlenberg design, and also that this is the one Danish frigate design which British admiralty surveyors produced no draught of.
Najaden is also the name of one of the wartime-built frigates built to the Venus’ official dimensions, and thus apparently to her design, for the Danish navy during the reign of Frederick VI and completed in 1811. This Najaden was destroyed in combat with the British battleship Dictator in a famous and much written about engagement in a Norwegian fjord near Arendal on July 6, 1812. There is a wonderful, large-scale model of this Danish-built Najaden in the Norwegian Naval Museum at Horton; see the color photos, including a terrific shot of the “Hohlenberg stern,” of this model at this museum’s web site at www.fmu.mil.no/marine.najaden.html
Frederikssteen (26), 679 tons burthen – Hohlenberg design, built in 1800.
Notes: Frederickssteen was a sister-ship of the second frigate, Hvide Ørn (1798), to be designed and built by Hohlenberg. A smaller and less effective ship than Hohlenberg’s first frigate, the Najaden, in Danish naval service Frederickssteen carried an all-carronade armament of 20-36 pdr. carronades on the gundeck, and 4-8 pdr. cannon and 2-12 pdr. carronades on her detached quarterdeck and forecastle. In contrast, Hvide Ørn, Frederikssteen’s predecessor and sister-ship in terms of hull form but not of armament, carried 8 pdr. cannon rather than carronades in her main battery. Frederikssteen’s British sea service included a Mediterranean tour of duty from 1810-1812, a duty assignment which may have been due to Frederickssteen’s small hull, and resultant lack of storage capacity necessary to carry large quantities of stores for long-endurance cruises on distant stations. Lack of storage capacity was the chief British complaint about the Danish frigates in British naval service.
The Frederikssteen, like Hohlenberg’s 24 pdr. frigate Perlen (see above), was taken out of British sea service early and broken up in 1813, before the end of the Napoleonic war. Frederikssteen’s early break-up may have been a reflection not of the quality of her Hohlenberg hull form, but of the inferior size of her dimensions, armament, and stowage capacity – all reminiscent of an earlier era frigate – when more powerful and effective frigates had become available for British service. It’s curious why British surveyors took off the lines of Frederikssteen, which in size and power was a throwback to an earlier era, when they failed to take of the lines of Hohlenberg’s more powerful Venus and Rota.
Ironically, whereas the Danes armed Frederikssteen with an all-carronade main battery on her gundeck, the carronade-loving British armed Frederikssteen with a main battery of 26-12 pdr. cannon (i.e., a larger caliber than the 26 Danish 8 pdr. cannon the Danes mounted on Frederikssteen’s sister, the Hvide Ørn). The British only utilized carronades to arm Frederikssteen’s forecastle and quarterdeck, which carried 24 pdrs. Frederikssteen’s British main battery armament of 12 pdr. cannon is, again, reminiscent of a lighter, less powerful and effective frigate of the earlier American or French revolutionary war periods in comparison to the newer generation 18 pdr. frigates of the Napoleonic era. Regarding Frederickssteen’s British main battery of cannon, however, it must be noted that the British armament figures for Frederikssteen are the official British admiralty establishment figures, and it’s quite possible that Frederickssteen’s British captain chose to arm her main battery with carronades rather than cannon.
Fredericksteen’s and Hvide Ørn’s diminutive size may have been due to the fact that a neutral Denmark built these small frigates as an economy measure, not so much for fleet purposes but for the limited role of protecting Danish merchant ships from predations by privateers during the French revolutionary and the Napoleonic wars and, in the Mediterranean, from predations from the Barbary corsairs. In fact, Denmark actively employed both Fredericksteen and Hvide Ørn in commerce-protection duties during their service lives prior to 1807 and, indeed, Hvide Ørn was lost in the Mediterranean in 1793, while engaged in this duty.
Parenthetically, although the British captured Stibolt’s frigate Triton (24) at Copenhagen in 1807, the British burnt Triton off the Swedish coast while in transit to England. Therefore, British surveyors had no opportunity to produce a design draught of Triton. This is unfortunate in terms of the history of Danish warship design, for a British design draught of Triton would have offered an interesting comparison to Frederickssteen in the category of small, commerce-protecting Danish frigates.
Freya (40), 1022 tons burthen – Stibolt design, built in 1793.
Notes: One of a class of four sister-ships of conventional frigate design representative of the 40-gun, 18 pdr. frigate model which had become standard by the time of the French Revolutionary War, i.e., when the Freya was built. Aside from considerations of the hull form of individual ships, a frigate hull weighing slightly in excess of 1,000 tons burthen in this period was almost generic among the major powers, and in this respect Denmark’s Freya group of frigates represents a relatively important design for purposes of comparative design and arming analysis, not only with all of the Hohlenberg-designed Danish frigates, but with similar 18 pdr. frigates of other nations. The Freya group of Danish frigates was similar to French frigates in hull form an proportions, having shallow hulls like French frigates, which made the Freya group of frigates leewardly in comparison to deeper hulled British frigates.
Although Denmark had built an occasional 18 pdr. frigate prior to Stibolt’s tenure as chief Danish naval constructor, Stibolt’s Freya group of frigates was the first multiple-ship class of 18 pdr. frigates Denmark ever built; all had coppered bottoms. Ironically, Denmark’s admiralty followed this class of four sister-ships with much experimentation in frigate design (all designs of which were produced by Hohlenberg), and never settled upon one uniform frigate class prior to the 1807 debacle.
The Freya made a name for herself in forcefully resisting a numerically superior British frigate squadron’s attempt to search the vessels of her convoy during the period of the armed neutrality; Freya was captured after a short engagement in which her crew suffered casualties. The incident caused a diplomatic uproar. The Freya group of Danish frigates saw considerable sea service under the Danish flag, convoying or escorting merchantmen during Britain’s conflicts with France prior to 1807.
The Stibolt-designed Freya, together with her sister-ship Iris, were the only non-Hohlenberg designed Danish frigates to see extensive sea service with the British navy, where Freya’s sea service under British command took her as far as Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. In the latter part of her British service career, from 1811, Freya served as a troopship, a common employment for older frigates in the latter part of the Napoleonic wars. The British filed a Sailing Quality report on Freya on November 12, 1814, while Freya was employed as a troopship. Freya was sold by the British to the breakers in 1816.
Once developed as a weapon, carronades played an important role in the arming of warships below the rank of battleships, and often constituted these vessels’ main armament. For the heavier British frigates during the Napoleonic wars, carronades typically constituted the frigate’s secondary armament. From this perspective, it is instructive to compare the British official establishment for arming the Freya with that of the Danes. In Danish service, Freya carried 26 iron 18 pdrs. and 14 bronze 6 pdrs. In British service, Freya’s main armament remained 26-18 pdrs., but her secondary armament included 14-32 pdr. cannonades and 2-9 pdr. chase guns. This British alteration of Freya’s armament not only provided Freya with more powerful 9 pdr. chase guns, but also increased Freya’s total weight of broadside by roughly 380 lbs., a nearly 70% increase in firepower over her Danish armament! In September, 1809, Freya was one of the few British frigates to be fitted with Gover lightweight 24 pdr. cannon.
For perspective on Freya’s Danish armament, in Danish service two of Freya’s sister-ships, Havfruen (seized by Britain in 1807) and Thetis, were armed with 12 pdr. cannon in the main battery rather than the 18 pdrs. carried by Freya and Iris. Havfruen and Thetis carried this lighter caliber, 12 pdr. main battery armament because they also carried iron rather than the lighter bronze 6 pdrs. as their secondary battery, due to the Danish admiralty’s overall shortage of bronze 6 pdrs. (there were 43 in Danish naval inventory in 1800). The 12 model 1649 6pdrs. carried by Freya weighed 1376 lbs., and the two model 1673 6 pdrs. weighed between 127-144 lbs., whereas the models of iron 6 pdrs. carried by Havfruen and Thetis weighed 1828 lbs. and 1632-1690 lbs. respectively, thus necessitating Havfruen and Thetis to carry the lighter 12 pdrs. in their main batteries to avoid straining their hulls.
Each of Stibolt’s Freya group of frigates was also armed with 4-12 pdr. howitzers and 6-1 pd. falconets, both of which weapons were anachronistic, and obsolete among the great powers at this time. British arming policy for the Freya solved the problem of the weight of the Freya group of frigates’ secondary armament in Danish service by replacing cannons with carronades, while simultaneously increasing the weight of broadside.
Stibolt’s group of Freya frigates provides another example of how Danish naval architects could design and build excellent hulls for the Danish navy. However, Denmark’s admiralty had the responsibility to arm these hulls effectively – an exercise that requires imagination, initiative and foresight.
Iris (40), 1033 tons burthen – Stibolt design, built in 1795.
Plans: Lines & profile/orlop/lower deck/quarter deck & forecastle
Notes: Sister-ship of the Freya, the underwater portion of Iris’s hull was copper sheathed.. The newest of Stibolt’s class of four sister-ships, the British fitted Iris for sea and, in July 1813, Iris was serving with Britain’s prestigious Channel Fleet. Iris was presumably employed by Britain’s Channel Fleet in the demanding and risky duties of close blockade – which may be the reason why Iris was periodically being docked to have her copper sheathing repaired, i.e., at Woolwich dockyard in 1809, and in Plymouth dockyard in 1810, 1812 and 1813, to keep her underwater hull clean and thereby afford Iris ability to sail at top speed.
The British admiralty draught of Iris is based on lines which British admiralty surveyors took off Iris in October, 1809, at the time of the first repair of Iris’s copper sheathing. Iris underwent nine months of refit in Deptford dockyard, from November 25, 1814 until the end of hostilities in 1815. Iris was sold out of service on July 31, 1816. The British filed a Sailing Quality report on Iris on December 17, 1814, which judged Iris to be fast but leewardly, on account of Iris’s shallow hull, in comparison to the deeper hulls of British-built frigates. Another shortcoming in Iris’s design was the low freeboard of Iris’s main battery gunports: when ballasted and stored by the British with 4 month’s provisions and water, Iris’s midsection gunports were only 6 feet above her load waterline – or at least one foot, and as much as two and a half feet – less than the freeboard of the lower gunports of most British-built frigates.
Because of her fine lines fore and aft, Iris’s hull also lacked the capacity to store provisions to give Iris great endurance. Iris’s 4 months stowage capacity for stores and provisions being about two-thirds the capacity of most British-built frigates; 6 months stowage was required of British frigates serving on foreign stations. However, Iris’s low stowage capacity was sufficient for Channel (i.e., home water) service, which is probably the reason Iris was assigned to Britain’s Channel fleet rather than to a foreign station. A lack of stowage capacity was a marked characteristic of all Danish frigates seized by Britain in 1807, and this deficiency generally made Danish frigates less attractive to their British captors than Denmark’s battleships.
The British admiralty draught of Iris indicates that the British fitted Iris with solid bulwarks on both Iris’s forecastle and quarterdeck, in place of the open quarterdeck rails depicted on the Danish admiralty draught. In addition, the British armed Iris’s forecastle with more guns than did the Danes, with gunports cut into the bulwarks. Both of these alterations gave Iris a much heavier and less graceful appearance in British service, although these alterations also made Iris a more formidable and effective warship, under more varied and demanding sea conditions.
A third frigate of the Freya class – Havfruen – while being the eldest (built in 1789) of the three Stibolt-designed sisters seized by the British in 1807, was also put in line by the British for refitting for active sea service. However, on account of Britain’s overtaxed naval dockyards, Havfruen joined at least nine other captured frigates which were also awaiting refitting in Britain’s naval dockyards, but which were accorded lower priority to receive dockyard attention due to other, higher demands being made on Britain’s naval dockyards. Ultimately, on account of this backlog of dockyard work and due to higher priorities, Havefruen never was refitted by Britain for sea service.
The British “as built” tonnage figures – 1022, 1033 and 1028 tons respectively – for the three ships of this class which the British seized (i.e., Freya, Iris and Havfruen) are interesting because they reveal how closely the Danish builders (from two different yards, Gammelholm and Bodenhoffs Plads) were able to produce wooden ships of the same design specifications with completed hulls of nearly identical “as built” dimensions and measured tonnages.
Corvette (Lette Fregatter)
Fylla (20), 460 tons burthen – Hohlenberg design, built 1802.
Notes: One of a class of three sister-ships, copper-sheathed below the waterline, Fylla was a flush-decked “karronadefregatter” armed in Danish service with an all-carronade armament of 20-30 pdr. carronades, plus 2-8 pdr. chase cannon. Unlike the British, the Danes did not classify these ships as corvettes but in the Danes’ catch-all category of frigates or, more specifically, as light frigates (“lette fregatter”). British as well as Danish admiralty drawings of Fylla show a pronounced “Hohlenberg stern,” which is virtually without adornment such as carvings and conventional quarter galleries. The attractive, classical lines of these corvettes are more readily apparent in Hohlenberg’s draught than in the more detailed British admiralty draught. The hull form of this class is not unlike that of Hohlenberg’s frigates Najaden and Nymphen.
At least one British captain found Fylla to be too low in the water, with a tendency of her open gundeck to ship water, and that Fylla was very wet as a result – a problem which may have been unlikely in the Baltic theater of operations under Danish command, compared to British service on the high seas. This perceived problem of the Fylla being too low and wet was not due to the weight of Fylla’s British armament, which was roughly equivalent to the Danish, but may have been in consequence of either Fylla’s employment in open ocean crusing or Fylla being overloaded (with stores, boats, etc.) by the British.
We also do not know either how Fylla was rigged in British service, and whether Fylla was “over-sparred” and “over-canvassed” in comparison to the Danish sail plan for Fylla, or whether an individual British captain had a tendency to drive Fylla to hard in certain weather conditions, thereby causing Fylla’s bows to “dive under” and to ship water. To cure this perceived problem – which was not necessarily a result of a flaw in Hohlenberg’s design – the British added a short forecastle forward and a platform aft over the tiller, that had the makings of a quartedeck that deprived Fylla of her flush-decked status, as depicted on the British admiralty draught – illustrating that British admiralty draughts did not always depict the Danish warships as they were originally designed or appeared in Danish service.
Curiously, the British draught of Fylla depicts oar ports for sweeps, but oar ports are not represented on Hohlenberg’s draught. However, it’s difficult to believe the Danes would build warships of this type without oar ports, particularly considering these ships’ probable intended Danish employment in the Baltic. Fylla was sold out of British service in 1814.
The first ship of the class to which Fylla belonged, the Lille Belt, became involved in a famous incident while in British service when, on May 6, 1811, in a night encounter off Cape Henry, U.S.A., she was shot to pieces in ten minutes by the heavy U.S. 24 pdr. frigate President, before war had been declared between the United States and Britain. Little Belt, as she was named in British service, sustained 11 dead and 21 wounded. The Little Belt was not fully repaired by the British upon her return and was sold out of service.
Lille Belt had exactly the same measured tonnage, 460 tons burthen, as did Fylla. The third and last ship of this class, the Diana, returning from a voyage to the Danish West Indies, entered Cartagena harbor in Spain at the outbreak of hostilities between Britain and Denmark, and ultimately entered Spanish service. The Diana seems to have ultimately been captured by the British, but if this is so Diana does not seem to have been taken into the British navy, and it’s not apparent how the British disposed of this vessel.
Fylla and Lille Belt were welcome additions to the British fleet because the Lille Belt class compared very favorably in terms of size, power and design to flush-decked British corvettes built from 1786 to the end of the Napoleonic wars. Of the 34 British corvettes built in this time frame, 17 were smaller than the Lille Belt class, 14 were of the same size, and only one was larger. However, other countries seemed to be building larger corvettes at this time. Of nine foreign corvettes other than Fylla and Lille Belt taken into the British navy during this period, seven were significantly larger than the Lille Belt class; the other two were comparable in size.
Large, flush-decked sloops of war, or corvettes, with a single gun-deck, together with large brigs and frigates, are emblematic of a type of naval cruiser which did detached, independent cruising or were otherwise workhorses of the combatant navies during the Napoleonic wars. The Lille Belt class of flush-decked corvettes performed this type of independent cruising in both Danish and British service; this class is also a precursor of flush-decked Danish warships in the early19th century. The Orlogsmuseet should have a boxwood model of this class of ship, not only because of their attractive, classical lines, but also because of the very interesting history of each ship in this class.
Ship Sloop (Defensions Fregat)
Gluckstadt (12), 337 tons burthen – Hohlenberg design, built 1805.
Plans: Lines & profile, and decorations.
Notes: The last ship built of three supposed sister-ships, and classed in their catch-all category of frigate by the Danes, Gluckstadt was actually rigged as a brig. However, the brig-sized hulls of Gluckstadt’s supposed sister-ships, the first of which Hohlenberg’s design draught labels as a “defensions fregat,” were ship-rigged when seized by the British and remained so in British service, where they were classed as ship sloops. British authorities (e.g., Lyon, and Gardiner) say the Gluckstadt was a sister-ship of the “Elbfregatter” Elven (333 tons) and Eideren (335 tons). The term “Elbfregatter” may derive from the fact that the city of Gluckstadt is located on the Elbe river in the then Danish Duchy of Slesvig-Holstein; the river Eideren was located in the same Duchy. However, at best, the Gluckstadt was a sister of Elven and Eideren in terms of hull form only, but not in rig, as their rigs differed, as did their Danish armament, and they may have differed in other respects and were not, in fact, wholly sisters.
The British admiralty draught of Gluckstadt indicates that while fitted by the British for sea service, the British adjusted the position of Gluckstadt’s mainmast by moving it slightly aft, apparently to improve her sailing qualities. The British draught also indicates that a short forecastle was added to Gluckstadt, because no forecastle is shown on Hohlenberg’s draught. The British also planked up the Gluckstadt’s open rails to form a solid bulwark, which significantly changed her appearance. Hohlenberg’s draught does not indicate this class was designed for cruising in open waters, and the British probably added the bulwark to the Gluckstadt to afford crew protection while she was engaged in ocean cruising.
A distinguishing feature of this design, which also appears in Elven and Eideren, is that Hohlenberg’s trademark pinched, or pink, stern is absent, and instead the entire stern portion of the deck and partial bulwarks are rounded, a unique design feature which would later occur in Hohlenberg’s Brevedrageren class of brigs. In Danish service, Gluckstadt was armed with 12-18 pdr. cannon, whereas Elven and Eideren both carried an odd mixture of weapons: 6-24 pdr. cannon, 8-18 pdr. carronades, and 4-12 pdr. carronades, a non-standardized armament which would have complicated ammunition resupply in battle.
Gluckstadt’s hull had almost exactly the same measured tonnage as, but was somewhat longer and shallower than, those of the Lougen class brigs, and aside from the Brevedrageren class of light brigs (see below), Gluckstadt is the only large naval brig Hohleberg built, a stark contrast to the variety of Hohlenberg’s frigate output. However, from both a Danish and British perspective, this design was not an unqualified success. In terms of hull form these ships were somewhat flat bottomed with no drag aft in the hull, officially being only 3″ deeper in the stern than forward.
Although having almost exactly the same hull size (in terms of measured tonnage) as Lougen, when the Danes needed more powerful brigs following Hohlenberg’s departure from office, the Danes built four more, slightly modified Lougen class brigs rather than produce further brigs to the design of Hohlenberg’s Gluckstadt with its unconventional underwater hull form. Similarly, after their seizure by the British, the Gluckstadt, Elven and Eideren remained laid up in ordinary until 1811, 1810, and 1810 respectively, although all these vessels were relatively new when seized, indicating the British were not attracted to these vessels, probably due to their hull form.
The ship-rigged Elven and Eideren were somewhat more successful in British service than the Gluckstadt, where the British replaced their odd Danish armament with 2-6 pdr. chase cannon and 16-24 pdr. carronades, exactly the same armament the British fitted to the Lougen class Danish brigs, whose hulls were almost exactly the same size as those of Elven and Eideren. Curiously, the British only fitted the Gluckstadt with 18 pdr. carronades, compared with the 24 pdr. weapons fitted on Elven and Eideren. Perhaps Elven and Eideren were more successful with their ship rig, in contrast to Gluckstadt’s brig rig, but this three masted rig seems somewhat large to place on what amounts to a brig-sized hull.
The British did not produce draughts of the Elven or Eideren, which is somewhat curious. Given Elven’s and Eideren’s other differences from Gluckstadt, it would be interesting to know whether there were any “as built” variations in their hull forms, despite the uniformity of these ships’ official design dimensions. It would be very intriguing to know what British sailing reports say about the performance of each of the ships in the Elven class, and to learn what the British thought about these ships’ construction and design. The ship-rigged Elven, with her unusual Hohlenberg hull form and odd Danish armament, is a good subject for a boxwood model for the Orlogsmuseet.
Nidelven (18), 311 tons burthen – Stibolt design, built in 1792.
Plans: Lines & profile/lower deck/upper deck
Notes: One of a well-modeled and successful class of four sister ships, with coppered bottoms, the first brigs ever to be built for the Danish navy. As is observed in the notes on the Stibolt-designed battleship Danmark, in the battleship section above, what is particularly significant about this Stibolt-designed brig is that, together with Stibolt’s brig Allart, and the Stibolt-designed frigate Freya, is not so much that the British produced draughts of these Stibolt-designed warships (including 6 of the 8 Danish brigs of the classes to which Nidelven and Allart belonged), but that these Danish warships were the only non-Hohlenberg designed Danish warships to be fitted for sea by the British and to see extensive sea service with the British navy.
Nidelven’s impish figurehead depicted on the British admiralty draught is quite engaging. This class included the first famous Lougen, the first ship built of her class, which won a name for herself by successfully fighting off two British brigs near St. Thomas, Danish West Indies, in 1801, the year Admiral Nelson attacked Copenhagen. The British seized three of this four ship class, fitting them all for sea service and losing one, Glommen, by being wrecked in the Barbados in November, 1809. This caliber of brig was a workhorse and in great demand in the British navy. The “as built” measured tonnages for the three 1st series Lougen class brigs seized by the British, Sarpen, Glommen and Nidelven, were 309, 303, and 311 tons respectively, demonstrating once again how closely in dimension Danish builders were capable of constructing sister-ships to the same plan. The British sold Nidelven out of service in 1814; Sarpen, built in 1791, was broken up in 1811.
Lougen class brigs had a designed Danish armament of 18-18 pdr. cannon. Perhaps predicably, given their captivation with the carronade, the British rearmed their Lougen class brigs with 16-24 pdr. carronades and 2-6 pdr. chase cannon. This Lougen class brigs, including the slightly modified series represented by the Allart (see below), or a total of eight brigs, constituted Denmark’s entire inventory of war brigs when Britain seized Copenhagen in 1807 – if Hohlenberg’s three lighter Brevedrageren type brigs (see below) are excluded.
Lougen class brigs were not greatly inferior in size (Cruizer class “as designed” tonnage of 382 tons to Nidelven’s “as built” tonnage of 311) or model to Britain’s Cruizer class of brig, designed in 1796 and the most numerous class of warship Britain built during the age of sail, but the Lougen class had less gunpower than Cruzier brigs’ designed battery of 32 pdr. carronades. However, Lougen class brigs were superior to other classes of British brigs designed under the expediency of war and subsequent to the Cruzier class, such as the British Seagull class, the name-ship of which class the second Lougen fought and took in combat in 1808.
Allart (18), 306 tons burthen – Stibolt design, built in 1807.
Notes: Allart is one of a second series of four brigs built to slightly different design dimensions (their design depth was increased by 3″) than the first Lougen group (see Nidelven above) – British surveyors produced draughts of only one representative example of each group. The British seized three brigs of this modified series which, together with the three seized of the first series, made a total of six out of the total of 8 ships in the two series. Allart was recaptured by the Danes off the Danish coast in 1809. The British also lost Delphinen of this series by being wrecked on the Dutch coast on August 4, 1808. The “as built” measured tonnage figures for the three brigs of the 2d, modified series of Lougen brigs seized by the British, Delphinen, Mercurius, and Allart, were 306, 308, and 306 tons respectively.
Chronologically, this second series of Stibolt-designed war brigs was built following the construction of Hohlenberg’s Brevdrageren light brigs (see the entry under Brevedrageren below). The first ship of the second Lougen series was built in 1805, two years after Hohlenberg left office, and long after the designer of this class, Stibolt, had died. This second series included a second Lougen, built to replace the first Lougen, which was taken out of service in 1802 after her return from the Danish West Indies. This second Lougen is even more famous than the first, having fought and captured the British brig Seagull off Norway in 1808. A fully rigged model of the Lougen is in the Orlogsmuseet.
Brevdrageren (18), 181 tons burthen – Hohlenberg design, built in 1801.
Notes: One of a class of two ships, with a somewhat unusual hull design which is entirely unlike Hohlenberg’s trademark pinched or “pink” stern found in Hohlenberg’s frigate and battleship designs – demonstrating that Hohlenberg’s design output was not limited to one generic hull form which Hohlenberg utilized for different classes of ship type by introducing different scales and minor variations. In model, Brevedrageren’s hull form bears some resemblance to that of the “Elbfregatten” Elven, which Hohlenberg designed and built the year before he designed and built the Brevdrageren.
However, the Elbfregatten were somewhat more flat bottomed than the Brevdrageren brigs, but what is most striking about Brevdrageren’s design, aside from the configuration of her deck (in this respect she mirrors Elven) is the considerable drag she has to her keel, being nearly two feet deeper aft than she is forward, with a coppered bottom – indicating she was built for speed.
In Danish service the two Brevdrageren class brigs were armed with 2-6 pdr. chase guns, and 16-12 pdr. carronades, and were thus too lightly armed to be effective as offensive combat brigs, for which role the Danes already had the powerful Lougen class brigs. The fact that the Danes built a second series of Lougen class brigs subsequent to the building of the two Brevdrageren class and one slightly enlarged version of this class, indicates the Danes did not regard the Brevdrageren class as suitable for combat, and that at a time when Europe was engulfed in war, Denmark needed further examples of the more powerful brigs of the Lougen type.
The Brevdrageren class was apparently intended for the specialized role of dispatch ships, in the same manner as British cutters, an inference which is reinforced by the symbolism of Brevdrageren’s figurehead (for which see the Danish admiralty draught). Brevdrageren’s Danish name also indicates she was intended for dispatch work, and few other Danish naval vessels predating the Brevdrageren class seemed suitable to perform this specialized task, indicating Brevdrageren may have been a new-generation, sui generis, type of Danish dispatch vessel. Hohlenberg referred to these vessels as light brigs (“lette brigger”). It would be interesting if the British employed the Brevdrageren and her sister as dispatch vessels, as (expediently) cruisers, or as stop-gap convoy escorts.
Hohlenberg designed a third “let brigger” that was slightly larger than the diminutive Brevdrageren class ships, and this third “let brigger” was presumably an improved, modified Brevdrageren design. Hohlenberg’s three “lette brigger” all had exactly the same carronade armament in Danish service, and the same crew size. The Glusckstadt (see above) and these three “lette brigger” are the only brigs Hohlenberg designed. In British service the Brevdrageren was hulked as a tender in 1815, became an army prison ship in 1818, and was sold out in 1825. Brevdrageren’s curious and atypical hull form is an excellent subject for a boxwood model for the Orlogsmuseet.
The Brevdrageren class was roughly equivalent in size (181 tons “as built” to the British gunbrigs’ 177 tons “as designed”) and power to Britain’s Archer class of gunbrig, which carried more powerful chase guns than Brevdrageren, but were otherwise similarly armed with 10-18 pdr. carronades. This comparison is both compelling and relevant, because the Danes captured six separate Archer class brigs during the 1807-1814 gunboat war.
On the subject of dispatch vessels, for a time the British preferred cutters for dispatch work, but the Danes only ever employed three cutters in their navy in the period preceding 1807; these were acquired prior to the advent of Hohlenberg’s “lette brigger.” Denmark’s diminutive first cutter, Gerner’s Spideren, is the only Danish cutter actually used for fleet work. The second, larger cutter was purchased in England in 1786, probably an ex-mercantile vessel.
The third cutter, Den Flyvende Fisk (1789), was built to the lines of the purchased cutter but was soon rerigged as a brig. Den Flyvende Fisk and her sister spent their Danish service careers in independent cruising rather than in fleet work. The British seized Den Flyvende Fisk at Copenhagen in 1807 but made no draught of her and never fitted her for sea; she was sold out in 1811, years before the Napoleonic wars were over. Hohlenberg’s Brevdrageren “lette brigger” were longer, narrower and lighter (181 tons) than Den Flyvende Fisk (213 tons), and thus may have been faster – the quality desired for dispatch work – under certain sea conditions.
Ørnen (10), 142 tons burthen – Hohlenberg design, built in 1800.
Plans: Lines & profile/decoration/deck.
Notes: The British admiralty draught is a beautiful representation this elegant, graceful vessel, the second of only two schooners Hohlenberg built to two different designs for the Danish fleet. In appearance Ørnen is entirely unlike Hohlenberg’s frigates and battleships with their idiosyncratic “Hohlenberg sterns.” Only one other schooner than the two designed by Hohlenberg was built for the Danish fleet during the reign of Christian VII, and that schooner was built by Gerner; all three were roughly equivalent in size. A close examination of the eagle’s bust figurehead of Hohlenberg’s Ørnen as depicted on the British admiralty draught offers a striking comparison to the full-length eagle figurehead of the Danish training brig Ørnen of 1880.
Ørnen was lightly armed with 10-3 pdr. bronze cannon in Danish service, a nominal defensive armament which indicates Ørnen was not intended as an offensive combat vessel. It’s not known for precisely what purposes the Danish schooners were designed and built, and how their intended service role might differ from Hohlenberg’s “let brigger” or light brigs, but the Danes fitted the “konge skonnerten” Ørnen’s underwater hull with copper-sheathing, an anti-fouling device designed to, inter alia, maintain a vessel’s capacity for speed.
Regardless of the precise role for which Ørnen was designed, in 1801, the year after she was built and following Nelson’s attack on the Danish fleet at Copenhagen, Ørnen carried diplomatic dispatches between Copenhagen and St. Petersburg, Russia, which formalized Denmark’s withdrawal from the League of Armed Neutrality of 1800 between Denmark, Russia, Prussia and Sweden. Hohlenberg’s first schooner, the Svanen, was also employed in carrying diplomatic dispatches to and from St. Petersburg when she was wrecked on the island of Osel off Estonia, at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland, in 1800.
In British service Ørnen first served as an armed tender for the fleet, was hulked in 1814, and in 1815 became a school-ship for the Clyde Marine Society in Greenock; the British naval historian Lyon characterizes the Ørnen as a “packet” schooner. The Ørnen’s hull certainly did not have the extreme form of sharp lines for speed, as did the Subtle (see below), or Hohlenberg’s Brevedrageren light brigs with their nearly two feet of drag on the keel, i.e., twice that of Ørnen. The Orlogsmuseet should have a boxwood model of this elegant schooner.
Subtle (?), 139 tons burthen – American built.
Plans: As fitted: lines & profile/decks
Notes: Subtle was almost certainly not a Danish naval ship, was either purchased or captured from the Danes by the British in either 1807 or 1808, and is noted by the British as being American built. Subtle is her British name; her Danish name is apparently unknown. The British naval historian Gardiner speculates that Subtle was a mercantile vessel acquired from the Danes in the Danish West Indies, where sharp vessels of this type were in great demand for employment in the illegal trades, as sea-going privateers, or as pirates – however, the British draught of the Subtle was prepared in Plymouth Yard on June 6, 1808, so if Subtle was acquired in the West Indies, the British took the trouble to sail her to England to have her lines taken off, and to then sail her all the way back to the West Indies where she was ultimately lost. The Subtle may have been unarmed under Danish ownership (a major risk if she was in fact in the Danish West Indies), or may have been a Danish privateer although this seems unlikely.
Though not designed and built as a warship, the British liked the Subtle’s hull form enough to preserve her lines in the admiralty’s records, and to fit her as a warship and employ her as a cruiser in the West Indies. British design drawings of the Subtle show her rigged as a fore-topsail schooner, and depict her hull’s extremely rakish lines with a deep drag aft on her keel, with masts raked aft as well – a stark contrast to Hohlenberg’s elegant and graceful Ørnen. The Subtle had nearly identical length and extreme breadth measurements and tonnage as the Ørnen, so it is interesting to compare the designs of the two ships. The British draught shows the Subtle pierced with sixteen gunports, including bridle ports, though it is questionable whether all were armed. Chapelle supposes that the Subtle was too overweight topside by her armament, and that this contributed to her loss.
The American historian Howard I. Chapelle notes:
The plans [Chapelle is referring to the British draught, after her acquisition from the Danes] of the Subtle show the remarkable degree of sharpness reached in the design of large American schooners before the War of 1812. The Subtle, because of her fine ends, apparently had a tendency to trim by the head when fitted as a man-of-war. This was a trait more common to brigs than schooners, but the Subtle was too sharp a vessel to make a safe war schooner. The weight of a battery of guns on her deck combined with her comparatively light displacement made her a most dangerous vessel.
In the Subtle’s case, American as well as Danish naval historians benefitted from this British acquisition or capture of this Danish-owned but American-built schooner, which resulted in the preservation of plans of this early example of a type of vessel for which Americans had already become famous, but for which actual building plans rarely survived to modern times. The Subtle is an interesting subject for a model for the Handels og Søfartsmuseet på Kronborg.
Steece (Stege?) (2), 97 tons burthen – Stibolt (?) design, built in 1787(?).
Plans: Lines & profile/decks
Notes: The British admiralty draught identifies this former Danish gunboat as the “Steece,” but no Danish gunboat by the name of Steece seems to have ever existed. Therefore, this vessel’s Danish name is open to question, but “Steece”appears to be the Danish gunboat Stege, built to the plans of Stibolt in 1787. After her launch in 1787, the Danes only briefly commissioned Stege once for service, during Admiral Nelson’s attack on the Danish fleet in Copenhagen on April 2, 1801.
Whether or not Steece is in fact the Stege, Stege was one of the Danish gunboats seized by the British in 1807, along with eight of her sisters out of a class of 10 gunboats. The British admiralty draught of “Steece,” as taken off at Chatham Yard on March 18, 1808, clearly shows this Danish gunboat as structurally altered for British service, and indicates this relatively small vessel was not armed by the British. If this vessel was in fact the Stege, or one of her sisters, her Danish armament was 2-18 pdr. cannon and 6 howitzers. In British service, the so-called “Steece” (aptly renamed Warning by the British) served as a “signal station vessel,” and was rigged as a brig. She was sold in 1814.
The fate of the other Danish gunboats seized in 1807 is unknown, for the “Steece”/Stege is the only Danish gunboat Britain seized in 1807 that was officially taken into the British navy. The remaining Danish gunboats seized by the British – including gunboats in addition to those belonging to Stege’s class – were otherwise disposed of on arrival in Britain.
While no further gunboats of the design to which Stege was built were produced following Britain’s seizure in 1807 of virtually the entire class of which Stege was a member, the huge numbers of Danish cannon-shallops operational in the 1807-1814 gunboat war were built to design dimensions roughly equivalent to those of the class to which Stege belonged, and her British admiralty draught therefore gives a rough idea of the type of gunboat the Danes employed against the British in the 1807-1814 war.
Kronprindsens Lystfregat (10), 218 tons burthen – English design, built in 1785.
Plans: Lines/framing/profile/hold/lower & upper decks/quarter deck & forecastle
Notes: Though not combat ships, Danish royal yachts during the age of sail were included in the Danish navy list and were operated by the Danish navy, just as they were in the British Royal Navy. Kronprindsens Lystfregat was not actually seized by the British during their occupation of Copenhagen in 1807, but is included here because this ship’s plans are located in at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and the ship has an interesting history which is intimately connected with Britain’s seizure of the Danish fleet in 1807.
In 1785, the Kronprindsens Lystfregat (i.e., “Crown Prince’s Pleasure Yacht”) was built in Deptford Dockyard in England as the Denmark, was presented as a gift by the King of England to his nephew, the Crown Prince of Denmark, and was renamed Kronprindsens Lystfregat by the Danes. When Britain seized the Danish naval dockyard and fleet in 1807, Kronprindsens Lystfregat was the only Danish ship the British did not confiscate, and was deliberately left behind when the British vacated the Danish dockyard, although the British did confiscate two other Danish royal yachts (but did not subsequently take these into the British navy).
However, after the British departure the Danes, incensed over Britain’s wanton bombardment of Copenhagen and her seizure of the Danish fleet, sent the Kronprindsens Lystfregat back to England late in 1807, manned by repatriated British prisoners-of-war, together with a note stating that when seizing the Danish fleet, the British seem to have forgotten to confiscate the Kronprindsens Lystfregat – an astute gesture.
After her return to England, Kronpprindsens Lystfregat was renamed Prince Frederick from 1807 to 1816, and then Princess Amelia until she was broken up by the British in 1818. Though no sail plan of this vessel is included in the British archives, she was presumably ship-rigged.
Kronprindsens Lystfregat does not seem to have seen much Danish service in the twenty-odd years she was in Denmark, apparently only being commissioned in 1786 and 1788, the latter occasion being the only time she was actually used by Denmark’s Crown Prince. One reason why the economy-minded Danes may not have utilized the Kronprindens Lystfregat was that all Danish royal yachts built in Denmark during the age of sail were smaller than the Kronprindsens Lystfregat, and were manned by smaller (and, thus, less costly) crews. In view of the ship’s interesting history, and interesting design as a royal yacht, the Orlogsmuseet should have a boxwood model of the Kronprindsens Lystfregat.
Part III: Conclusion
The rich source material regarding Denmark’s warships seized by Britain in 1807, which is available in British archives, fleshes out the knowledge available from Danish sources regarding the assessment of these Danish warships’ qualities in terms of design, construction, seaworthiness, sailing attributes, and armament. Much of the British archival source material provides comparative information on subjects which would likely have remained in the field of conjecture had this contemporaneous British source material never been compiled, as for example the qualities of the Christian den Syvende under the conditions of hard operational usage in British sea service.
Contemporary British assessments of the Danish warships of 1807 are also valuable because these professional judgements were made independently, outside the context of the Danish naval bureaucracy and of Danish usage of Denmark’s own warships, from the fresh, cogent perspective of the world’s then foremost navy which had considerably different experiences in naval warfare, in operational areas of warship deployment and in conditions of warship usage, which Danish admiralty men and operational sea officers were largely unfamiliar.
Therefore, these independent, contemporaneous British assessments, including British Sailing Quality reports and professional opinions on Danish warship design and construction, constitute a rich and invaluable source for historians of Danish warship design during the age of sail to fully exploit in the future. Hopefully, this preliminary study will inspire historians to do just that.
Aside from comparative insights into the qualities of the individual Danish warships of 1807 that are available from a study of British source material in Britain’s archives, the British admiralty draughts of Danish warships seized by Britain in 1807 offer unique and thought-provoking opportunities to assess and critique not only the comparative design and drafting practices of British and Danish admiralty draughtsmen, but also insights into the comparative qualities of the Danish navy’s master shipbuilders and naval architects of the period, i.e., Gerner, Stibolt, and Hohlenberg.
One major area on which this preliminary study does not offer expository ideas is a comparative analysis of the attributes and merits of the actual construction of the Danish warships of 1807. Recent British scholarly works, such as Gardiner’s Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars, offer considerable insights into the relative nature and qualities of French naval construction, regarding French frigates, in comparison to British building qualities. However, comparable information and analysis is utterly absent regarding the comparative qualities of Danish naval construction versus that of Britain during this period.
Regarding the quality of Danish naval construction, while Danish design practices and principles (at least prior to Hohlenberg) were typically akin to those of France, it is not known if the nature and quality of Danish naval construction similarly mirrored those of France. Nineteenth century French naval construction is known to have typically produced lighter warships of inferior structural strength compared to those of Britain.
Therefore, if Denmark closely followed principles of French warship design, it might reasonably be inferred that Denmark also followed France’s principles of light and weak naval construction. However, the robust performance of, inter alia, Hohlenberg’s Christian VII under rigorous British operational conditions, argue against a finding of light Danish naval construction that produced warships of inferior structural strength. Therefore, available British archival materials, and comparative analysis based thereon, on the subject of the nature, quality and effectiveness of the construction of the Danish warships of 1807 should offer important comparative insights in this area.
Since (1) the Danish admiralty draughts and other source material on warship design during the age of sail that is available in Denmark’s Rigsarkivet is perhaps second only to that of Britain’s, and (2) the Danish naval constructor Hohlenberg occupies such a unique and intriguing position in the transitional period of warships design that occurred during the Napoleonic wars, it is incumbent upon modern historians to utilize the British archival material in general, and British admiralty draughts in particular, to gain deeper insights and understanding of the attributes and character of Gerner, Stibolt, and Hohlenberg, of the Danish warships they designed, and of the design draughts produced during their tenure in office as the Danish navy’s chief constructor. This comparative analysis should, in turn, provide a benchmark which should shed additional light on the individual design attributes and practices of the Danish navy’s earlier naval architects and the admiralty draughts they produced.
David Lyon, The Sailing Navy List: All The Ships of the Royal Navy, Built, Purchased, and Captured, 1688-1860. Conway Maritime Press, 1993
Robert Gardiner, Warships of the Napoleonic Era, Naval Institute Press, 1999
Robert Gardiner, Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars, Naval Institute Press, 2000
H. G. Garde, Efterretninger om den danske og norske Sømagt I-IV, København, 1832.
P. Ramshart, Efterretning om det bekiendte af den danske Flaades Tieneste, efter Alphabetisk Orden med adskillige Bilage fra Aar 1752 og til den Dag Engelland voldsom bortførte samme i 1807. København, 1808.
Howard I. Chapelle, The History of American Sailing Ships, Bonanza Books, 1935
Egon Eriksen and Ole L. Frantzen, Dansk Artilleri i Napoleonstiden, København, 1989
Palle Lauring, A History of Denmark, Copenhagen, 1960.
For persons wishing to pursue the subject of this preliminary study further, the Lyon and the Gardiner books listed above are highly recommended. The Lyon book in particular is indispensable, because comparisons with British ship construction is essential to acquire a benchmark perspective from which Danish naval construction may be evaluated. This does not infer that British naval construction is the exemplar by which all other navies are to be measured, but only that British naval construction.