No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
NAVAL BATTLES & ACTIONS
A BRIEF HISTORY OF NAPOLEONIC PRISONER-OF-WAR SHIP MODELLING
Of the many different types of ship model, those made by French prisoners-of-war some two hundred years ago are perhaps the most widely known by the public at large. The human story behind their making imbues the models with a particular interest and considerable value, as well as engendering a number of myths and misconceptions.
During the twenty-two years of the final French Wars (1793-1815), tens of thousands of prisoners were confined in British gaols, in purpose-built "depots", converted "stronghouses" and in the infamous floating hulks. By the close of hostilities their total had risen to 67,000, most, but not all, being Frenchmen.
Much can be learned and more deduced from a variety of sources concerning the prisoners' daily life and the conditions in which they were held (see below). At worst they endured an animal existence (for some self-inflicted) but at best the tedious passing of the months and years was perhaps little different to a POW camp in Europe during the Second World War. However, the so-called "Napoleonic" prisoners enjoyed two major advantages: firstly, officers above junior rank were normally billeted on parole in small towns around Britain and, secondly, all prisoners were free to add to their extremely limited cash and food allowance by (almost) any means possible.
This second concession allowed the development of a remarkably productive and inventive industry within the prisons and depots (but less so in the hulks?). Those with a craft, or the ability to learn, began to produce a variety of small artefacts such as jewellery boxes, sets of gaming pieces and simple mechanical toys. These they were allowed to sell to the visiting British public and with this income the industrious and resourceful prisoner was able to alleviate his lot to some extent.
By far the most extraordinary and ambitious of the prisoners' creations were their ship models. The quality of the models varies greatly but most can be admired, if only because of the conditions under which they were made, while many are masterpieces of miniature craftsmanship. Their size ranges from a few inches to a few feet in length (say 10cm. to 1m.) and the numbers that have survived to be bought and sold on the open market today, together with those in permanent collections, suggest that they were made in their thousands.
Some ship models were made in wood (often the smaller and finer examples) but, hard though it is to prepare and to work, bone was the material most used by the modelmakers. But the popular image of the hapless prisoner saving fragments from his gruel is surely far from the truth. The three largest prisoner-of-war depots alone could each hold as many as 7,000 men, all to be fed meat in some form at least five days a week. The supply of bone (at a price?) was not a problem. It should also be remembered that bone was in some respects the equivalent of plastic today, it being used to make buttons, combs and many other small everyday items.
In the early days, it is hard to envisage any raw materials other than bone, waste wood and oddments of scavenged metal that could have been utilised to make anything. And similarly, tools must have been limited to cutters, scrapers and borers that could perhaps be fashioned from knives, nails or needles. However, it is evident from the models that many other superior materials and proper tools were acquired at some stage.
But beyond such obvious deductions, all is conjecture. No records are known to exist that describe the actual production of the models and this leaves many questions unanswered.
Of prime interest is the fact that although no two prisoner-of-war models are exactly alike, all are very similar in both their internal construction and their outward appearance. Most noticeably, the hull is always somewhat narrow and the masts and bowsprit are always exaggerated in length, the safety netting at the bows and along the sides amidships is (almost) always replaced by decorative panels, and a pair of ship's boats are commonly shown suspended from the yard arms. And this uniformity extends to include both exaggerations and omissions in the rigging, to the choice of applied colour (if any), to the models' stands and, for miniatures, small carrying cases.
But it is entirely unknown who conceived of the particular methods employed in the making of these models and who formulated their common features and overall "style". And how was this information and the many specific skills required disseminated around different prisoners and depots? (It is not clear whether ship models were made by prisoners in all establishments but there were certainly several sources, possibly including makers not confined behind bars.)
It is generally agreed that most, if not all, of the models were made by teams of specialists. It is presumed that a hull shaped and planked by one man would be fitted with a figurehead and sternworks carved by another, that yet another would spend his time making the brass guns and that there would have been dedicated riggers and makers of blocks and deadeyes (several hundred being required for one relatively modest model.)
This implies a high degree of organisation and co-operative effort, developed and sustained over many years and under the most difficult and irksome conditions. But when the longed-for repatriation at last arrived and there was no further need to make and sell the models, no one saw fit to record the details of their manufacture and the modus operandi of their makers. Of those innumerable craftsmen only a handful of names are known today but their models endure as a testament to their extraordinary skill and dedication.
Jonathan Tatlow, 2001 ©
PROPERTY OF A EUROPEAN COLLECTOR