A Double Ship’s Portrait of Royal Navy Sixth Rate Frigate, 1815
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Overall: 43cm (16.7in) x 57.5cm (22.6in)
Oil on canvas. Ship’s portrait of a sixth-rate Royal Navy warship in two positions in the English Channel. Contained in a period birds-eye frame.
The principal starboard side view of this frigate depicts her wearing, or veering, to starboard to achieve the port quarter view of the same vessel heaved-to against the white cliffs to the right of the canvas. In the primary view, a warrant officer stands starboard gunwale, while a post captain in blue cat and white breeches issues orders from the quarterdeck.
Sixth-rate ships were the home to a crews of numbering between 150–240 souls. A 28-gun ship would have had about 19 officers. The commissioned officers would include the captain, and two lieutenants. The warrant officers included the master, ship's surgeon, and purser. The other quarterdeck officers were possibly a chaplain and a Royal Marines lieutenant. The ship also carried the standing warrant officers, the gunner, the bosun and the carpenter, and two master's mates, four midshipmen, an assistant surgeon, and a captain's clerk. Additionally a sixth rate carried about 23 marines. This sixth rate wears the black and white chequer that generally replaced the yellow and black favoured by Nelson and that was discontinued from 1812 onwards. By the close of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) sixth-rate frigates were found to be too small for their expected duties, which were more easily performed by fifth-rates. Most were phased out without replacement, although a few lasted in auxiliary roles until after 1815.
Jack Aubrey’s fictional command H.M.S. Surprise in the 2003 film Master and Commander is a sixth-rate ship. It is based on actual historical frigate of the same name, formerly the French Unité, which was captured and renamed by the Royal Navy in 1796. Likewise C.S. Forester's the titular character - Horatio Hornblower - commands a sixth-rate ship of 22 guns.