Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Snow Fell

Two views of a naval snow - Charles Brooking
(Source)
If your mind works anything like mine (and believe me, you have my pity) then the title of this post and the opening artwork has you feeling a bit like NOMAD after an encounter with Captain Kirk.



I was reading a section of Derek Beck's excellent book The War Before Independence, where he is describing part of the American invasion of Canada in 1775. There I happened upon mention of the British vessel Fell. Which the book called a "snow." Of course, I thought it was a typesetter's error and what they really meant was "scow," a flat-bottomed boat with a blunt bow, which seemed like a perfectly reasonable vessel to find on the St. Lawrence River back in the day.

Then on the next page, Major* Beck mentioned it again. In my smugness I assumed that the good author had made an error of some kind (there were a couple of minor errors in Igniting the American Revolution which are not all that apparent to some), until, as many of us do when reading Lex's old posts, I looked it up.
In sailing, a snow, snaw or snauw is a square rigged vessel with two masts, complemented by a snow- or trysail-mast stepped immediately abaft (behind) the main mast. (Source)
I was gobsmacked, I had "no ideer," I was amazed at my ignorance, and (tee hee) I learned a new thing.

Which inspired me to write about different types of warships that I am familiar with. Not the more modern variety mind you. Well, the discovery of that new use for the word "snow," and the good Cap'n mentioning battlecruisers in a comment to yesterday's post inspired this post.

It struck me as I was reading about events in the winter of '75 (When you were in Tech School in Colorado, Sarge? No, silly, 1775. Not 1975.) was that I just know that there was a guy, probably with my sense of humor, who upon commissioning a "snow" to be built, decided to call it "Fell."
"So guvnor, what will ye be naming this fine snow that we're abuilding for ye?"

"I shall call her the Fell."

"Heh, at's ripe, the snow 'Fell,' at's funny right there. Good one guvnor."
No doubt when General Carlton of His Majesty's Army sought ships for protecting the province of Canada during the early stages of the Revolution someone offered him Fell.
"What sort of vessel is she?"

"She's a snow Yer Honor, the snow Fell."

"D'ya think you're being humorous laddie?"

"Nossir, at's her name, Fell. And she's a snow."
Reminds me of a certain scene from Monty Python's Life of Bryan when a certain centurion refers to someone as having a "joke name," which I shan't reproduce here, as it's a tad risqué, but which you're welcome to Google at your leisure.

Anyhoo.

Warship types. There are many. Now and back in the day. Of course, back in the day I believe there were far more different types than we have now. Supposition on my part, yes and I won't be offering any proof of that day. Rather a lazy decision on my part, but "you gets what ya pays for."

In the age of sail, back in the days of "wooden ships and iron men," there were various ship types referred to as warships. From the small sloop-of-war having a single gundeck (and smallish cannon to the number of eighteen or so) to the massive ships with three gundecks sporting as many as 120 cannon, the Royal Navy classified their ships in two ways (as far as I am able to ascertain), beginning around 1677 by a certain Samuel Pepys, who was then Secretary to the Admiralty (what we colonials would some day call the Department of the Navy). Mr. Pepys diary is his real claim to fame, I had heard of him but I didn't know about the diary thing in which a great many events from English history are recorded.

Oh yeah, the Royal Navy's classification of British warships, back in the day, we were talking about that weren't we?

Major warships were classified by a type and a "rate." The rating of a ship was (eventually) based on the number of cannon she carried. Ships with the largest number of cannon were the first, second, and third rates. And... Heck, it's probably easier if I just give you a table -
(Source)
Incidentally, those 1st, 2nd and 3rd rates, the Ships of the Line? Those were also known as Line of Battle Ships, said term being eventually shortened from that to just battleship. So this ship (and those like her) -

HMS Victory (A 1st Rate)
(Source)
...are pretty much the great-great-grandfathers of this ship (and those like her) -

USS Wisconsin (BB 64)
(Source)
Oh Sarge?

Yes?

So what's the difference between a battleship and a battlecruiser?

Well, they look very similar, but basically a battlecruiser has similar armament to a battleship but isn't as heavily armored. The idea was that a battlecruiser was faster, she could kill anything fast enough to catch her and outrun anything big enough to kill her. In practice, it didn't work out so well, especially for the battlecruisers operated by the Royal Navy in World War I at the Battle of Jutland. The British lost three battlecruisers that day: HMS Invincible, HMS Indefatigable, and HMS Queen Mary, leading the admiral commanding the battlecruiser division, Admiral David Beatty, to remark, "There's something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

Uh yes sir, there certainly was.

Point being here, I guess, if I ever have a point, is that both USS Lexington (CV 2) and USS Saratoga (CV 3) were intended to be battlecruisers but became aircraft carriers instead, fast being an excellent asset for a carrier. (The British converted two battlecruisers to aircraft carriers as well: HMS Courageous and HMS Glorious.)

German battlecruisers (as opposed to the British variety) were very well designed and could (and did) take a lot of punishment and still remain in action.

British and German battlecruisers were handsome vessels.

HMS Hood, handsome but flawed. Sunk by the German battleship Bismarck.
(Source
German battlecruiser Gneisenau
(Source)
Good thing for the West that the British were far better sailors than the Germans. (And had a much bigger navy, quantity having a quality all its own...)

One last thing, the title of this post? Yeah, that happened last night as well...


The snow Fell, the snow fell...

Sort of a history post and a weather post all in one...

Yup, my mind works in odd ways.

I shall analyze...




* For he is indeed a major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

38 comments:

  1. Quite the interesting post.....bit like a roundabout,eh? Ooohh..... lokkit the photos...... :)

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    1. So much to write about, so little time to organize it. It's the way my brain sometimes works. Or doesn't work, depending on how you look at it. 😉

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  2. And as usual you have educated me! I had never heard of a Snow.

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    1. Ditto. It still tickles me, "the snow Fell."

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  3. I have pondered over the years why we of the Navy are still called sailors, even though we don't sail.

    Philly Shipyard handled part of the activation of the Wisconsin, and the ship allowed civilian yardbirds to shop at the ship's store. The store struggled to keep anything in stock that had the ship's name on it because, BATTLESHIP! I'M A CIVILIAN AND I'M WORKING ON A UNITED STATES NAVY BATTLESHIP! THIS IS THE BEST JOB EVER! (got a little excited there)

    I was fortunate to go on sea trials when she left the yard. It is a wonderful thing to be able to say, "When I was at sea on the Battleship Wisconsin....."

    Great post.

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    1. You got to ride the Wisconsin? That's awesome, wicked awesome!

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  4. ...the way your mind works is nothing short of a "Wonder Land," Sarge.

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    1. And that's as good an explanation as any BC.

      😁

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  5. Quite the educator you are, OAFS. I'm guessing that this was a snow job?

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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  6. From here it appears your mind works just fine.

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  7. Very neat, and you barely touched how a ship was named due to number of masts and the rigging she carried. Can a Ketch catch? Is a Barque worse than a byte?

    Now, truly boggle us. Explain how a modern Frigate can be the same size as a modern Destroyer or Cruiser, and vice-versa. Without including political pandering and sheer stupidity of course.

    Ha! Gauntlet thrown, Sirrah! ��

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    1. Dagnabit, that was supposed to be a smily face. Dagum stupid fracking copy-paste. Rassle-frassle, frickin-frack!

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    2. Aye, I but scratched the surface (pun intended) of the number of masts, how the sails are rigged, etc., etc.

      How can a modern frigate NOT be a frigate. At least not in the USN.

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    3. There are times when different systems will take your perfectly serviceable emoji and turn it into something WTF-like.

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    4. More opportunities abound:

      The brig Adeer
      The frigate Aboutit
      The barque Worsethanbite
      The ketch Meifyoucan
      The yawl Comebacknowyahear

      .... Some of which MAY be a bit of a stretch.

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    5. (I forgot the junk Mail.)

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    6. Just sprayed the monitor on junk Mail. The first five were funny enough, lost it on that last one.

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  8. My word, the gray one with the 64 on it is a handsome craft!

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    1. I had a sneaking suspicion you'd like that one.

      Yup, picked it special I did.

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  9. "HMS Invincible", pictured in the dictionary next to "chutzpah".

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  10. My dad, army to the core, bought our first boat at Fort Riley. It was an 8 foot long single mast gaff rigged Optimist Pram so he named it Indefatigable and put the letters on the hull. A few months later he bought our second boat, a mighty 13 foot sloop and named her Indomitable. He kept both and sailed both boats for the next 47 years. He added a third boat in Newport which he named Warspite. That is now in my garage.

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    1. Army to the core perhaps, but he had a good eye for boat names!

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  11. Replies
    1. Hahaha! I'll take that as a compliment my good Sir!

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  12. The snow Fell? Thentuwion! Stwike him! And thwo him to the floow...!

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    1. Ah, someone who knows their Python. You've even got the lisp down pat!

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  13. Here is hoping that the only thing that fell was the snow, and not your power lines/tree branches again. :)

    And thank you for the history lesson...the snow FELL...that is funny!

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    1. The snow was heavy and wet but fairly sparse, all told maybe three inches.

      We didn't lose power, and for that I am truly thankful!

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  14. Love the data on sailing ships. A small nit about the RN Battle Cruisers: It was certainly true that German ones were better protected and armored--for which characteristics they paid in terms of range, speed and hitting power. The two types were designed for slightly different purposes, though both scouted for the main battle fleet. Having said all that, there is pretty good evidence that the RN losses at Jutland were mostly--if not completely--due to their practice of bypassing ammunition handling safety procedures to gain faster rates of fire. Fatal error, and a danger even now in peacetime exercises graded similarly.The loss of HOOD can certainly at least partially attributed to her age and unmodernized condition, but also the decision of Admiral Holland to close Bismarck at such an acute angle--presumably to get under the calculated immunity range quickly. There is also a pretty good analysis that indicates that HOOD was turning just as the fatal blow struck, and had that particular shell been fired--or the turn done 30 seconds either way--HOOD would have survived and kept fighting. Interesting (at least to nerds like me) stuff. We'll never know for sure. Sorry for the screed. couldn't help myself.

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    1. All most excellent points Sir! I did know about the British turret crews violating procedures to speed up their rate of fire. Mea culpa for leaving that out.

      As to HMS Hood attempting to close the Bismarck, brave but miscalculated as you say.

      The Royal Navy had a worldwide commitment and the design of their ships reflected that, as you say, the German Navy was really designed to challenge the Royal Navy in the waters around Britain, period. For the rest of it all they could hope to do was harass the British.

      I must write about Jutland one of these days.

      One last thing, your "screeds" are always most welcome, I learn a lot from my readers!

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