Thursday 16 December 2021

The warships in Britannia’s Guile

Antoine Vanner’s latest book – BRITANNIA’S GUILE – features five imaginary warships (three British and two Russians). As in his previous books, Antoine has based them on real warships, and I spent an enjoyable hour or two trying to identify the prototypes he used.

The British torpedo boats Alpha, Beta, and Gamma

In the story, these torpedo boats are described as having been built by J Samuel White's shipyard in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The yard had a reputation for building fast craft, but as far as I know they did not build any torpedo boats until 1885. The design of these boats seems to be based on no particular prototype but on a mixture of features from several early designs.

They are said to be about 90' long and armed with two 14-inch Whitehead torpedoes in bow tubes and three 0.65-inch Gatling guns.

The Russian battleship Alexander Nevski

The books states that the Alexander Nevski was built in the La Seyne Shipyard, Toulon, France, and that she is a near copy of the French ironclad Amiral Duperré. When the outlines of the two ships are compared ...

... they are very similar.

The main differences are in the armament. The Alexander Nevski was armed with 4 x 13.4-inch rifled breech loading guns, 8 x 5.5-inch guns, 16 x 5-pounder quick-firing guns, and 6 x 1-inch 4-barrelled Nordenvelt machine guns whereas the Amiral Duperré was armed with 4 x 13.4-inch rifle breech loading guns, 1 x 6.4-inch gun, 14 x 5.4-inch guns, and 12 x 1-pounder Hotchkiss quick-firing guns.

The Russian armoured cruiser Griorgi Orlov

At one point in the book, one of the characters states that the Griorgi Orlov is a member of the General-Admiral-class, which in reality comprised the General-Admiral and the Gerzog Edinburgski. These were built as armoured corvettes, and later reclassified as semi-armoured frigates, but most other nations regarded them as armoured cruisers.

The most obvious difference between the General-Admiral-class and the Griorgi Orlov is the fact that the former has two funnels and latter only has one ...

... and when their armaments are compared, the differences are even greater. The Griorgi Orlov was armed with 6 x 8-inch guns, 6 x 5.5-inch guns, and 6 x 1-inch 4-barrelled Nordenvelt machine guns whereas the Admiral-Generals were armed with 4 x 8-inch guns, 2 x 6-inch guns, and 4 x 1.75-inch Engstrom quick-firing guns.

One of the reasons why I like Antoine Vanner's books is the depth of research he undertakes. Even the designs of his imaginary warships are feasible, and as I have shown, are based on real examples.

Please note that the labelled line drawings featured above are © Antoine Vanner and Old Salt Press.

BRITANNIA’S GUILE: THE DAWLISH CHRONICLES: JANUARY 1877 – AUGUST 1877 was written by Antoine Vanner and published in 2021 by Old Salt Press (ISBN 978 1 9434 0438 4) and can be purchased via Amazon.


  1. Bob -
    If ever I do a Ruberian Royal Navy, those 'Alphabeta' class torpedo boats will be my model for the type - possibly extending rather farther into the Greek alphabet.

    1. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

      I think that this design of torpedo boat would be ideal for an small wargaming navy ... although perhaps they ought to be renamed the Virus Variant-class!

      All the best,


    2. Bob -
      ... or 'Covid' Class, which appellation, tasteless and tactless as it is, I rather like.

    3. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

      Tasteless, tactless … and funny!

      Keep safe and keep well,



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