HMS Rose portrayed the Surprise in
the film "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World"; to learn more
about this modern vessel, visit http://www.tallshiprose.org/
"… he was aboard a thoroughbred frigate, a ship
he knew through and through and that he loved entirely, not
only for her amiable qualities but because she was part of his
youth – quite apart from the fact that he had commanded her
in the Indian Ocean, where she had behaved quite beautifully,
he had served in her long, long ago, and even the smell of her
cramped and awkward midshipmen's berth made him feel young again.
She was rather small (few smaller left in the service), she
was rather old, and although she had been very much strengthened,
almost rebuilt, in the Cadiz yard, it would never, never do
to take her across to meet the heavy Americans; but he had found
to his delight that her refitting had not altered her sailing
qualities in the least – she was astonishingly fast for those
who knew how to handle her, she could come about like a cutter,
and she could eat the wind out of any ship on the station."
The Surprise was
Jack Aubrey's favorite frigate, a ship that served him well
on the oceans of the world, both while in the Royal Navy and
during his involuntary exile from the service he loved.
In these pages I present deckplans and a longitudinal section
of the Surprise, showing her as she was while in the
Mediterranean during The Ionian Mission in the Long Year
of 1813. These plans are based upon the actual Admiralty
drawings of her hull, with details of her inner layout drawn
from other Royal Navy frigates of the era and from descriptions
within the pages of Patrick O'Brian's novels. On
the longitudinal section below, click on to the area of the
ship you wish to explore further. On succeeding pages,
each deck is shown separately in greater detail. Click
on labels and "hot spots" within those diagrams for further
information about internal compartments, fittings, and personnel,
including authentic early 19th Century portraits of the officers.
For many of these items and for all the named officers, relevant
quotations from the Aubrey-Maturin novels are given.
The real Surprise was
built as the French L'Unite from August, 1793, to April, 1794,
at Le Havre, captured by the Royal Navy on April 20, 1796, and
taken into service as the Surprise. Her specifications
(taken from page 225 of Rif Winfield's "British Warships in
the Age of Sail. 1793-1817", Chatham Publishing, 2005) were
Length: 126' 0"
Keel: 108' 6 1/8"
Breadth: 31; 8"
Depth: 10' 1/2"
Tons burthen: 578 73/94
Armament: Upper deck: twenty-four 9-pound
long guns; Quarterdeck: eight 4-pound long guns and four 12-pound
carronades; Forecastle: two 4-pound long guns and two 12-pound
Although records are complex, Rif Winfield's research
indicates that when Surprise was initially taken into the Royal
Navy in 1796 in the Mediterranean, she was classified as a Sixth
Rate of twenty-eight guns. The following year she
was deployed to Jamaica and, while there, was converted into
a Fifth Rate (although not re-registered as such) with twenty-four
32-pound carronades and eight 18-pound carronades, and a crew
of 240. In 1798, probably during her refit at Plymouth,
the Surprise was once again converted to a 28-gun Sixth Rate,
armed and crewed as stated above. [Information from a private
communication from Rif Winfield] Of course, under Jack
Aubrey and with her hull specially strengthened, she typically
carried a main battery of 12-pound long guns.
A selection of photographs
showing details from the ship HMS Rose, as modified to portray
the Surprise in the Peter Weir motion picture "Master and Commander:
The Far Side of the World", can be found here,
provided courtesy of Rowen, a listswain of the Patrick O'Brian
Gunroom Internet discussion group.
Longitudinal Section of H.M.S. Surprise
Officers of HMS Surprise
Notes on sources:
As mentioned above, the basic plans for the real HMS Surprise
still exist; they can be found at my Ships of Jack Aubrey website. The longitudinal
section above is drawn from these plans, influenced by Brian
Lavery's rendering of them to be found in Patrick O'Brian:
Critical Essays and a Bibliography (WW Norton, 1994).
The deckplans are of my own creation, guided by what is revealed
in the longitudinal plan and actual plans of two Royal Navy
frigates featured in two of the "Anatomy of the Ship" volumes
(published in the UK by Conway and in the US by Naval Institute
Press): The Frigate Diana by David White and The 24-Gun
Frigate Pandora by John McKay and Ron Coleman. The
portraits used for the Surprise's officers, with one
exception, are taken from the 1805 engraving by W. Reynolds
of the officers of HMS Centaur engaged in the capture
of Diamond Rock. In several cases these portraits were
modified to better fit the officers of the Surprise.
The exceptional portrait is that of Surgeon S. Maturin, the
original of which is rumored to hang in a Doylestown, Pennsylvania,
restaurant: I have it on good authority that the image is authentic.
The quotes used to illuminate the various detail descriptions
are drawn from Patrick O'Brian's various Aubrey-Maturin novels,
giving preference to The Ionian Mission where
feasible, but also borrowing from other volumes where appropriate.