Monday, 15 December 2014

Frigate Action - British vs Dutch

On 30th May 1781 two British frigates out of Gibraltar encountered and engaged a pair of Dutch frigates.

The British ships were the Flora (36) and Crescent (28). The Dutch were Castor (36) and Briel (36). Despite being of the same nominal size as a Dutch frigate, the Flora out-gunned them, with both heavier long-guns, and new-fangled quarter-deck carronades.

In the ensuing action the Flora shattered the Castor, whilst the Crescent was hard-pressed by the heavier Briel until the Flora came up in support, at which point the Briel withdrew.

I refought the action using 'For Line of Battle'. The ships were as follows:

Flora - 5th Rate, Gun Class A
Crescent - 6th Rate, Gun Class B

Castor, Briel - Inferior 5th Rate, Gun Class B

All ships were Class 2 with a Turn of 3 and Veteran crews (the Dutch were pretty good at this stage, whilst the Royal Navy could still be a bit iffy.)

If you're not familiar with FLOB, the Flora's Gun Class gives her an extra bonus at point-blank range to allow for the carronades; the other ships just have long-guns. The Inferior rating of the Dutch ships means that they get a penalty when firing at the Flora, so in a straight duel the British ship should have a significant edge in gunnery, especially at very close range.

Both sides closed rapidly on their opponents, edging to get the weather-gauge. The Dutch ...

 ... and the British. Note the new sea bases, in action for the first time.

With the Flora being dangerous at close range, the Dutch opened fire at long range, hoping to inflict some damage before she got too close. They were successful.

The British came on towards the Dutch, Flora in the lead and Crescent behind. The British had to be careful not to let the Dutch double up on the weaker Crescent.

As the Flora approached Briel she took a devastating broadside which holed her below the waterline.

The British cut around the stern of the Dutch ships, but their firing lacked skill or enthusiasm, and they inflicted far less damage than they hoped. The Briel's captain was wounded though. In FLOB this is a short-term disadvantage, but in the long-term it actually gives a bonus to morale (getting the captain killed is a penalty all round, however.)

Even a stern-rake from the heavy guns of the Flora did little real damage.

The firing became general, albeit at a longer range than the British would have liked.

The Dutch kept up a steady, accurate cannonade on the Flora. Her mainmast fell, and shortly after she struck.

This left Crescent outnumbered and outgunned. She tried to work onto the stern of the Briel at the rear of the Dutch line, but the Dutch were equal to the task of preventing this.

As the Crescent tried to engage the Dutch ships, Castor sent a boat to take possession of the Flora.

Eventually the Crescent was holed below the waterline as well, and in a severely damage state broke off the action. The Dutch opted not to pursue, instead sailing their prize to the safety of Cadiz.

Damage to the Dutch ships was light; the Briel took the brunt of the British gunnery, but was still in good fighting fettle, despite her injured captain. The Castor was essentially undamaged.

The battle was won by some good medium range gunnery by the Dutch, multiplied by unlucky rolls when the British fired at close range. Unable to give as good as she was receiving, the Flora was forced to strike, leaving two relatively undamaged ships to face a smaller, damaged Crescent.

Such is the fortune of war.


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