Certainly "The 50-Gun Ship" is not a book for the reader only casually interested in the Age of Sail. But for someone who wants to delve deep into the more obscure corners of the world of the Royal Navy during the 18th and early 19th Centuries, this book is a worthwhile addition to the library. 50-gun ships suffered from being neither fish nor fowl, being too small for the line of battle and too large to serve as frigates, and are usually neglected in histories of the era. However, they did see considerable service and Winfield's book fills in the void in the historical record. And there is a bonus here for fan's of Patrick O'Brian and his hero, Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy. One of Jack's least favorite commands, the "Horrible Old Leopard", is prominently featured in this volume, including meticulously detailed cutaway drawings and hull plans.
This is a great, detailed book. It is divided into two sections. The first looks at the development of the 50 gun ship, following the lines and principles of the early frigates copied from Flemish privateers, commonly known as Dunkirkers, from the first half of the seventeenth century. The story develops through the Commonwealth period, the Restoration up through the last ships built during the Napoleonic Wars. This section looks especially at the design changes to the hull and armament, the restrictions created by the rules of the Establishment, and how that led to the navy falling behind the capabilities of the other navies in Europe.
The second section of the book looks at the ships themselves, examining: general layout; manpower and accommodation; masts and rigging; fittings; armament; stores; costs and funding; and how they were used in service.
Throughout the book there are lots of superb period diagrams showing you what the ships looked like and how they changed. There is a very nice cutaway drawing of each deck on the HMS Leopard. All ships of this class seem to be mentioned, described and you get a real sense of what the ships were like and how they compared with one another.
If you have an ancestor who served in the navy on one of these ships, or have a general interest in ships then this volume will give you plenty of details for you to explore.
This is a soft-cover edition of the book originally published in 1997 by Chatham Publishers.
IT WAS A INTERESTING STUDY OF THE ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE 50 GUN SHIP AND WHY IT REMAINED IN OPERATION FOR AS LONG AS IT DID GOING FROM CONVOY DEFENSE TO A SUPPORT SHIP FOR GROUND OPERATION AND A COMMAND SHIP FOR DISTANT STATIONS
In many respects, this was a disappointing book. While it provides a vast amount of data on the size and armament of every small line-of-battle ship in the British navy (those of more than 40 and less than 60 guns) it fails to provide much understanding of why the class evolved, and particularly why it persisted into the wars of the later 1700s and early 1800s.
Many lines plans and drawings are provided. Regretably, most are reproduced far too small to be of benefit to the modeler. The book would have been better with fewer, but larger, lines plans.
Like every Chatham press book I've seen, the binding of the paperback version is poor, and can be expected to come apart quickly.
It covers all the age of sail, so lacks service details of most of the ships. Fairly long on technical information, weight of guns, details of rigging etc. I found the writing flat, though, and it did not grab my interest beyond the numbers.