Royal Navy Ships Boats

I have wanted to model some Royal Navy boats for some time, which I planned to use both for 18th Century and Napoleonic amphibious operations.   However I have never previously found suitable 1:72 models, and scratch building seemed a lot of effort.   I recently saw a post on TMP Age of Sail forum about Zvezda Medieval Life Boats and thought these might be ideal.

1 - Boat box

None of my normal online suppliers had these in stock but a Google search revealed that Wonderland Models of Edinburgh did, and they were offering them at a discount.   I therefore ordered three boxes, so that I could check a suitable layout for crew and passengers.

I had not used that supplier before (although half my family came from Edinburgh as did all of my wife’s family).   The boxes arrived very promptly and were exactly what I was looking for.  I decided that I would need two boats to carry one of my 18th Century or Napoleonic battalions, so ordered five more boxes, giving me eight in total to carry four battalions.  Again these arrived really promptly.

I only needed two boats for my Jacobite Rebellion set-up but the others will be useful for my planned expansion into the Seven Years War in North America (French and Indian War), such as waves of troops being rowed up the Hudson River, or Napoleonic scenarios such as the 1810 Anglo-Spanish landing at Fuengirola, to be confronted and beaten by a small number of Poles.

2 - Boat - a



The hull of the boat comes in two parts (left and right, or port and starboard) and it has bottom boards and a gunwhales with thwarts (seats) mounted on them.


3 - Boat -b


Here it is temporarily fitted together so I could check how many crew and passengers it could carry.


It is designed to have a mast, but I decided to use them entirely as rowing boats so removed the mast seating on the front thwart by welding.

4 - Removing keel


I wanted these to be waterline models (or close to that) so also removed the keel.  It was not easy to cut so again I used my miniature welding iron.  I also welded the bottom of the boat to make it flatter.

5 - Seats modified

By experimentation I decided that I could have four sailors rowing the boat and one helmsman at the stern.  I also decided that each boat could carry up to 9 passengers.   The passengers would be in rows of three immediately to the front (fore) and back (aft) of the rowers plus two more in the very front.  I modified the gunwhale at the front of the boat to give more room for those two passengers legs.  Finally there could be one more passenger at the stern.


6 - Duckboards modified

Because I had flattened the bottom of the boat I also removed the spacers below the bottom boards as otherwise this made them too high for my crew and passengers legs.


7 - Boat painted

Here is a boat painted in traditional Royal Navy yellow ochre.  I added two small holes to the stern thwart to facilitate fitting seated figures.


8 - Boat rowers

For the Royal Navy boat rowers I used Hät Napoleonic Royal Navy gun crew figures.  Trousers did not really come in until about 1770, but I have accepted that anachronism.  I modified the figures by removing their stands, cutting their arms away from their heads and pushing their legs closer together.  They will be stuck into the boats permanently with their hands welded to the oars.


9 - Boat rowers painted

Here are a couple of painted rowing figures.  I have given them T-shirts in the same colour in each boat, but in a variety of horizontal and vertical stripes, plus checks, on the grounds that centrally purchased “slops” would be similar in colour.  I also gave them different hair colours and a variety of coloured neckerchiefs, so that no two are exactly the same.


10 - Midshipman helmsman


I decided that one boat would have a Midshipman helmsman.  The figure I used for that came from a set of Call to Arms AWI British Infantry (identical sets are made by Revell and Imex).  I modified him to be sitting in the stern of the boat.


11 - Midshipman helmsman painted


Here is the painted Midshipman.  Royal Navy uniforms were not introduced until 1748, but I wanted to also be able to use these figures for the Seven Years War in North America (French & Indian War).

I also understand that the reason that the Royal Navy chose blue and white was that it was already the most popular colours for officers to wear prior to the introduction of uniforms.

The figure has a pin in his seat to facilitate placing him in the boat.

12 - Petty Officer helmsman


The second boat has a Petty Officer helmsman figure.  This is converted from a Hät Napoleonic Royal Navy figure wearing a short jacket which I thought was right for a Petty Officer.  I also welded his round hat into a tricorne.



13 - Petty Officer helmsman painted


Here is the painted Petty Officer Helmsman.

Petty Officers and sailors had no uniform until 1857, but this is typical of what Petty Officers wore prior to that.  I have given him a pale blue waistcoat.

He also has a pin in his seat to facilitate fitting him into the boat.  I wanted to be able to exchange the helmsmen in their 18th Century clothes for Napoleonic ones, if I use the boats in that era.



The infantry passengers are converted from Call to Arms AWI British Infantry.

14 - Infantry Passengers

I repositioned the legs to make them seated, left the musket attached to the left hand, but cut the right hand free, then bent the left arm to reposition the musket.  I also welded the original backpack into a mid-18th Century “duffle” bag.

15 - Infantry Passengers in threes



I then pinned and welded the infantrymen together in sets of three, making sure that their legs were close enough together to fit into the boat.

They are not fitted permanently to the boat, but are quite a tight fit, so do not fall out.




Here are two sets of painted figures.

16 - Infantry Passengers in threes painted.jpg

I painted up these infantry as the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment, which was involved in the amphibious Battle of the Forth in January 1746.  I modelled them as 3 sets of centre companies plus one set modified to include a pair of grenadiers.   That gives me 12 of the 14 figures in my 18th Century British battalions.

The last two figures were the Officer and Drummer.  Again both are from Call to Arms AWI British Infantry.

17 - Infantry Passengers Command

The officer has been modified with a sword and the drummer with a spare drum.

18 - Infantry Passengers Command painted


Here are the painted figures.

Both have pins in their seat to facilitate temporarily fitting them into the stern of their respective boats (one in each boat).



The 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment was accompanied in their amphibious operation by a Royal Navy Landing Party of some 100 men.

19 - RN Landing Party passengers


I had already modelled them as four figures when they had landed (here) but also wanted them as boat passengers.  I used the same Hät Royal Navy figures as for the Landing Party, but modified them as seated in pairs.


20 - RN Landing Party Passengers painted


Here are the completed figures, painted identically to their alternate Landing Party figures, as one Petty Officer and three sailors.

I will put two figures in the bow seats of each boat.

Finally, here are the pair of completed boats, on a board of my new water terrain.

21 - Boats completed - a

Here is another picture from the front.

22 - Boats completed - b.jpg

And one from behind the boats:

23 - Boats completed - c

7 thoughts on “Royal Navy Ships Boats

  1. esrasolutions August 27, 2019 / 3:47 pm

    Inspiring as always Rod. I have some of those Zvezda lifeboats and I am amazed at how many figures you have been able to cram into them – they look really good. I must admit I went for a bit of a compromise – I use the boats from the Airfix pontoon bridge set. These have the advantage of being flat bottomed and capable of carrying based figures; also if you keep an eye out for them you can often pick them up over time as part sets on eBay, bring & buys etc.
    For those not so adept at converting plastic figures there are some rowing figures in the Red Box Turkish Sailors 16th – 17th Century I suspect would do


    • rodwargaming August 27, 2019 / 4:33 pm

      I did look at the various nationalities of Redbox 16th & 17th Century sailors, but did not like any of them enough to purchase them, so stuck with my Hat Napoleonic Royal Navy figures.

      The Zvezda boats are expensive but beautifully made and I really like them.



  2. Pete S/ SP August 28, 2019 / 1:03 am

    That is some great work. Crewed up they look magnificent.




    • rodwargaming August 28, 2019 / 6:51 am

      Hi Pete,
      Thanks for your comments. Individually the figures look a bit crude (due to my advanced years), but I think they look great finished in the final three pictures.


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