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Date Posted: 07:05:07 03/24/18 Sat
Author: John Houghton
In reply to: Byron Angel 's message, "Re: COMPARATION BETWEEN BRITISH TREE DECKER 98 GUNS AND FRENCH TWO DECKERS 80 GUNS" on 09:47:45 03/23/18 Fri

It is important to note that the two types had different origins. British 98-gun ships were originally 90 guns until 1778 when 8 light guns were added to their quarter decks. They were first built in numbers under Samual Peyp’s 30-ship program of 1677 (nine were constructed). The dimensions for these first examples were copied from a successful earlier design, St Andrew of 96 guns launched in 1670 (Frank Fox, ‘Great Ships: The Battlefleet of King Charles II’, p. 160). They became a standard ship type in the British Navy but nowhere else. Their main advantages appear to have been their higher command in battle, as Byron says, and their very strong construction. They were cheaper to build and operate than First Rates (with 100 to 120 guns) and British construction policy often emphasised quantity over the quality of individual units. Their main disadvantages were their poor sailing characteristics and clumsy handling. They were sometimes mistaken for First Rates in wartime leading enemies to over rate the power of British fleets (Robert Gardiner, ‘Warships of the Napoleonic Wars’, p. 14).

French and Spanish 80-gun ships of the mid and late 18th century were basically bigger, more powerful versions of standard two-deckers (with 70 or 74 guns). Both navies favoured large two-deckers and continued to build them for the rest of the sailing era. As Albert has pointed out, they were certainly faster and more manoeuverable than British 98-gun ships and usually fired a broadside at least as heavy. They therefore offered strong points in the line of battle in the same way as three deckers. Like Albert, I do not know of specific occasions where their speed was a tactical or strategic advantage but it is a question worth pursuing.

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