Sixth-Rate

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HMS Mercury a Sixth Rate Frigate built in 1774 pictured in 1809.

a Sixth-Rate in the Rating System of the Royal Navy used to categorise sailing warships, usually a Frigate mounting between 20 and 28 carriage-mounted guns on a single deck, sometimes with smaller guns on the upper works and sometimes without. It thus encompassed ships with up to 30 guns in all. In the first half of the 18th century the main battery guns were 6-pounders, but by mid-century these were supplanted by 9-pounders. 28-gun sixth rates were classed as frigates, those smaller as 'post ships', indicating that they were still commanded by a full ('post') captain, as opposed to sloops of 18 guns and less under commanders. They usuall had a crew of about 150, and measured 450 to 550 tons.[1]

Rating

Sixth-rate ships typically had a crew of about 150–240 men, and measured between 450 and 550 tons. A 28-gun ship would have about 19 officers; commissioned officers would include the captain, and two lieutenants; warrant officers would include the master, ship's surgeon, and purser. The other quarterdeck officers were the 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.[2] The rest of the men were the crew, or the 'lower deck'. They slept in hammocks and ate their simple meals at tables, sitting on wooden benches. A sixth rate carried about 23 marines, while in a strong crew the bulk of the rest were experienced seamen rated 'able' or 'ordinary'. In a weaker crew there would be a large proportion of 'landsmen', adults who were unused to the sea.

The larger sixth rates were those of 28 guns (including four smaller guns mounted on the quarterdeck) and were classed as frigates. The smaller sixth rates with between 20 and 24 guns, still all ship-rigged and sometimes flush-decked vessels, were generally designated as post ships. These vessels could perhaps be considered comparable to the light cruisers and destroyers of more recent times, respectively.

Regardless of armament, sixth-rates were known as "post ships" because, being rated, they were still large enough to have a post-captain in command instead of a lieutenant or commander.[3]

During the Napoleonic Wars, the now elderly sixth-rate frigates were found to be too small for their expected duties, which were more easily performed by fifth-rate frigates. Most were phased out without replacement, although a few lasted in auxiliary roles until after 1815.


A Post Ship was a designation used in the Royal Navy from 1690 to mean one of the 5th-Rate ships or larger (6th-Rate from 1713). By the second half of the 18th century and the Napoleonic Wars they were a ship of the 6th-Rate that was smaller than a frigate (in practice, carrying fewer than 28 guns). The designation came to an end in 1876 when the rating system of the Royal Navy was formally abolished by declaration of the Board of Admiralty. The main cause behind this declaration focused on new types of gun, the introduction of steam propulsion and the use of iron and steel armour which made rating ships by the number of guns obsolete.

1688 to 1817 Ship Rate Classification, Guns and Decks

Rating systems based on guns included:[4]

Rate—Year 1688 1697 1714 1721 1760 1782 1801 Gun Decks Ref
First-Rate 90 — 100 94 — 100 100 100 100 100 100 — 120 three [5]
Second-Rate 64 — 90 90 — 96 90 90 90 90 and 98 90 and 98 three [6]
Third-Rate 56 — 70 64 — 80 70 and 80 70 and 80 64 — 80 64 — 80 64 — 80 two [7]
Fourth-Rate 36 — 62 44 — 64 50 and 60 50 and 60 50 — 60 50 — 62 50 — 60 two [8]
Fifth-Rate 28 — 38 26 — 44 30 and 40 30 and 40 30 — 44 30 — 44 30 — 44 one [9]
Sixth-Rate 4 — 18 10 — 24 10 and 20 20 and 24 20 — 30 20 — 28 20 — 28 one [10]

Footnotes

  1. "Rated Navy ships in the 17th to 19th centuries". www.rmg.co.uk. London, England.: Royal Museums Greenwich. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  2. Lavery, Brian (1989). Nelson's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organization. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press. p. 328. ISBN 0-87021-258-3.
  3. McLaughlan 2014, pp. 10-11
  4. Rodger, N.A.M. (2004). "Rates of Ships". The command of the ocean : a naval history of Britain 1649-1815. London: Allen Lane. pp. xxvi–xxvii. ISBN 9780713994117.
  5. Rodger. pp.xxvi-xxvii.
  6. Rodger. pp.xxvi-xxvii.
  7. Rodger. pp.xxvi-xxvii.
  8. Rodger. pp.xxvi-xxvii.
  9. Rodger. pp.xxvi-xxvii.
  10. Rodger. pp.xxvi-xxvii.

References

External links