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"How many marines to a single ship?" Topic

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Personal logo Lluis of Minairons Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Aug 2019 1:16 a.m. PST

Hi all,

Due to a large amphibious mediterranean campaign I'm preparing, I should need some approach to the number of marine infantrymen a warship would usually carry, as a part of its crew.

Unwilling to overcomplicate the thing, at first I just divided ships into two categories (ships of the line and the rest), assigning 100 or just 50 soldiers to each; but later a gaming mate objected this criteria, pleading that one or two centuries earlier, galleys could be virtually crowded with many more soldiers – perhaps up to 400 each, did he tell me?

Maybe he's right, but I suspect that by early 18th century sea warfare would have changed enough to allow more reduced troop strengths in a ship.

I'm admittedly ignorant at this matter. Would it suffice to split warships into, let's say, up to 4 categories crewed by gradually larger multiples of 50 soldiers, like these below?

- small (half galleys, schooner sized sailing ships): 50 soldiers
- medium (ordinary galleys, xebecs, small frigates): 100 soldiers
- large (lantern galleys, large frigates): 150 soldiers
- very large (galleasses, ships of the line): 200 soldiers

Still very simplistic, but acceptable enouogh not to be ridiculous? Or better drop this to the garbage bin?

Thanks for helping,

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Aug 2019 3:15 a.m. PST

I'd say that these are far too great for sailing ships but you don't really specify the time of the actions very precisely.

A 50 gun ship was listed as needing 55 marines and this is about the smallest SoL around 1700. A 70 would have more and a 100 gunner (probably also a flagship) double that of a 74.

I'm only giving rough numbers because it varied with the task given the ships and losses to disease & action during a campaign.

I can't see many galleases being around in 1700 and the days of 400 marines aboard a galley hark back to much earlier time. The Frech La Reale had about 130 fighting men with possibly half as many again if equipped for battle. She was a very large galley around 1700, larger than most earlier types.

I've not had much chance to look in my references so may be able to come up with some more specific examples if I knew the year a bit better.

gunnerphil25 Aug 2019 3:41 a.m. PST

My understanding in that the marines carried on warship, were there for defending the ship in battle, and on occasions small raids.

The amphibious operation infantry would be loaded on to ships but for a short time. Same as when troops were moved to garrisons abroad. Provisions would be biggest issue the 18th century not being noted for it's health and safety culture.

Looking at Osprey book on Havana 20 SOL and 8 frigates transported 21 battalions and 400 artillery men. So if you said a battalion per ship of the line, not far wrong.

gunnerphil25 Aug 2019 3:50 a.m. PST

More details from Osprey. Two convoys from American colonies, 16 troop transport ship carried 8 battalions and another convoy 14 troop transport ship carried 3 battattion.

So for game purpose half battalion to a transport ship?

stecal Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2019 5:49 a.m. PST

Which century are we talking about here? 16th Century I assume since you mention galleys? Do you have a copy of Guilmartin's book, Galleys and Galleons. He lays it all out.

1560's Spanish ordinary galley: 160 oarsmen, 30-40 crew, 50 soldiers

Lanternas could have much more:

The Real at Lepanto had 360 oarsmen, & 300 Arquebusiers & 100 Gentlemen Volunteers

Ali Pasha's Lanterna had a fighting complement of 300 Janissaries & 100 archers

overloading the galleys for relief operations at the Siege of Malta the Spanish were to load 700 infantry & 40 knights onto 4 galleys and later move 11,000 infantry and 200 knights on 28 galleys to land the relief force

Personal logo Lluis of Minairons Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Aug 2019 6:00 a.m. PST

I'm talking about early 18th century in the Mediterranean, as stated in my first post.

By that time and those waters, both galleys and galleasses were still in service – perhaps not in first line. But they were there.

During the 1714-1718 Ottoman-Venetian War, both powers deployed both kinds of ship in all their main naval engagements along with their first ships of the line (and in the case of Venice, their first frigates; for the Ottomans hadn't started building frigates yet).

So 16th century statystics aren't of any use to me, sadly frown

Thanks for your contribution, GildasFacit. That would easy to conform to the 4-categories complements I suggested in my first post, wouldn't it? Or should I better return back to the mirst 2-categories concept as a basis?

Personal logo Lluis of Minairons Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Aug 2019 6:10 a.m. PST

Gunnerphil, I wasn't specifically talking about transports but warships – But thanks anyway, because your response has given to me some information I would have needed later. Thanks again!

gunnerphil25 Aug 2019 6:31 a.m. PST

Llus no worries. Take a look at Marlborough's Other Army, British in Spain 1702.

If you want can email details from the book

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Aug 2019 8:29 a.m. PST

It appears that the Ottomans used, at least in small numbers, sailing ships similar to European galleons a lot earlier than I realised – since about 1620.

It also appears, from some contemporary paintings, that late galleases were more like lengthened sailing ships than galleys in construction. A number of sources trace the Frigate to a development from that type but that is the Mediterranean Fregatta (sp?) rather than the North European Frigate.

I feel that some of the numbers of fighting men stated as being embarked on the larger galleys (up to 400 in some sources but usually nearer 200-250) reflect that galley warfare rarely required a ship to sail far from a base. No galley could sustain a crew of that size without continuous re-supply, there simply wasn't enough storage space to do so.

At the time of Lepanto Ottoman vessels seem to have had larger fighting crew and relied less on firepower but I'm sure that would have changed by 1700.

My knowledge of naval warfare in that period in that area is considerably less than for other parts of the world. The few times I have attempted to find much detail concerning Ottoman ships I have usually found that the sources have been making educated guesses because accurate and reliable records are sparse.

Personal logo Lluis of Minairons Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Aug 2019 9:35 a.m. PST

Oh yes, the Mediterranean Fregata (it) or Fragata (sp, ca) was an oared ship, the smallest one of the galleys family. In that area these shared some timeline with those other full rigged, three-masted ships we all use to know as frigates.

Is that latter kind of frigates I was referring to. In War of Spanish Succession times for instance, Genoa built frigates not only for its own use, but also for sale or lease to other nations (either sides of the above mentioned war). Venice had also recently started building full rigged frigates, deploying a good number of them during their 1714-1718 war against the Ottomans. They still used about a dozen galleys in Matapan battle, although I read somewhere that these were used mainly as recovery/towing ships, rather than in direct fight.

Oddly enough, the Ottoman Empire neglected this kind of ship until mid-18th century. Their naval OOBs during the mentioned war use to list a number of ships they called 'karavel' instead – I guess these might be large xebecs, either lateen or hybrid rigged, that would be equally able to perform the duties western navies would assign to a frigate.

Thanks for the pieces of info you all have shared, sirs.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Aug 2019 11:49 a.m. PST

Caravels do have some similarity to Xebecs and may well both derive from the same earlier ship type.

The problem with all of these names for ship types is that their meaning doesn't stay stable with either time or place.

Henry VIII (the English one) had ships called 'rowing barges' which were called 'Frigates' in some lists; presumably because they had a similar use, rather than appearance, to the Mediterranean vessels.

Caravels seem to have originally been quite small sailing ships with 2 or more masts carrying fore & aft sails (usually, but not exclusively, lateen) but got larger and carried at least some square sails as time went by. Later it became a term for a small to medium vessel with a mixed rig. Often you need to know when and where a vessel was built to be sure what it looked like from its name.

I'd need to dig out some older reference works to see the differences between Frigates built in the E Med and the Atlantic. My memory tells me that, even in the latter part of the 18th C, there were still quite marked differences between the two. What I can't recall is what they were.

I think even Nelson commented on being out-sailed by a Neapolitan Frigate at one time.

Russ Haynes Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2019 12:06 p.m. PST

I once read that the rule of thumb during the late 18th-early 19th century was about 1 marine for every gun on fighting ships. I would guess 10-15% more for early 18th century. That, plus you should be able to land 10-15% of the naval crew to augment of the naval crew to assist during land ops, either by crewing light guns landed during the operation or possibly to assist in actual land fighting and raiding operations.

Acronim25 Aug 2019 1:56 p.m. PST
Acronim25 Aug 2019 2:21 p.m. PST
GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Aug 2019 1:26 a.m. PST

That last doc looks very interesting, thanks Acronim

Personal logo Lluis of Minairons Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Aug 2019 3:41 a.m. PST

Indeed! Already saved into my library grin

OK, I think now I can work an ultimate schema for my campaign. Thanks to all for your help!!


BelgianRay28 Aug 2019 9:11 a.m. PST

Best number of military to use on a ship during the age of sail is 1 soldier per canon

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