THE NAVAL SHIPS


Which qualities were demanded of an 18th century warship? To a large extent the answer depended on the social status of the person giving the answer. The administrative leaders of the Navy and especially the king wanted a fleet consisting of impressive ships, which in terms of their number and firepower could serve as a deterrent and give the monarch the desired international prestige. For the better part of the 18th century every king had his own three-decker. The naval officers wanted a quick, well-equipped and efficient ship with superior fighting qualities, while the citizens, burdened with heavy taxes as they were, wanted only a few ships, - or no ships at all.
The specific requirements were more objective in nature. The ship had to be able to carry sails well and to steer well. The gun deck battery had to be sufficiently high above the waterline to make it possible for the men to work the guns on this deck even in rough weather.

Lateral as well as longitudinal movements had to be gentle and regular, so that the timber construction and masts would not be damaged by sudden and extreme moves.Furthermore, the vesselís speed should be good and it must make little leeway. Likewise, the shipís timber construction should be strong enough to withstand the enemyís fire.

For several centuries the ships of the Danish Navy have been termed 'Orlogsskibe'. The word 'orlog' is derived from Dutch and means war; 'orlogsskib' therefore means warship. The largest ships are called ships of the line. This name has its origin in the naval tactics of the 18th century. A ship of the line was a ship with a size and firepower that allowed it to participate in the tactical formation called the line. According to their size the ships of the line had two or three complete gun decks. The ship was full-rigged with three masts and carried at least 50 guns. The three-deckers were about 60 meters in length and 15 meters in breadth. Their crew numbered well over 900 men.

The other main type of ship used by the Danish Navy was the frigate. The frigate was also full-rigged with three masts, but had only one closed gun deck. Its role was primarily to stay behind the line and to assist the ships of the line from there. The frigate would bring new men and fresh supplies and maintain communication between the ships. Because of its good sailing qualities the frigate was often used as a guard ship and for convoying.

In addition to the above-mentioned types of ships there were a number of smaller vessels, which could also be equipped with guns. If they were full-rigged they were called brigs, if not they were called schooners. Both of these types of ships kept the artillery on the open deck. In addition, the Navy had a number of auxiliary vessels at its disposal.