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Set 72082

English Sailors in Battle 16-17th Century

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Date Released 2015
Contents 32 figures
Poses 8 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Brown
Average Height 23 mm (= 1.66 m)


The sailors were tasked with running the ship, and under ideal conditions that is all they did. When there was a fight some might be assigned to assist with the guns, but most ships of the day carried a complement of soldiers to do any close-quarters fighting. However if the need was great, or they were on board a ship without soldiers (such as a merchantman being attacked by pirates), then the crew would be issued weapons and expected to repel borders. In the medieval period naval warfare was essentially an extension of warfare on land, and ships were merely a means to get at the enemy. Victory was obtained by showering the enemy with arrows to clear their decks, then coming alongside and boarding to capture it and the survivors. During the 16th century however England took the lead in a change of tactic, whereby warships sought to bombard the enemy ship with cannon, and avoid boarding until the enemy was destroyed or surrendered. This is exactly what happened in the fight against the Spanish Armada in 1588, when the English avoided any hand-to-hand fighting and thus made impotent the thousands of soldiers on board the Spanish ships. It was a tactic that all Europe would adopt in time, but there always remained the possibility that the sailors might have to resort to a close-quarters fight, which is what the figures in this set depict.

There are several weapons on show here. A couple of men carry a sword, which looks like a hanger, a fair choice for seamen though they are much too thick here. One man has a large axe (an obvious tool on board a wooden ship, though not a weapon of first choice), and another is using a short halberd. The first figure in the second row holds a sword in his left hand while discharging a pistol, and two more are using an arquebus and musket. Such long firearms would not be a usual weapon for seamen, but there would be some who were trained in its use, particularly on long unsupported voyages when every man was expected to use some weapon. Some also have a dagger in the left hand, another quite common practice. Lastly there is a man who by his fine dress we assume is an officer, and since he carries a rapier - the weapon of a gentleman - his status is confirmed.

The clothing of sailors was simple and practical, and here we find men wearing shirts, waistcoats and either breeches or the longer and more modern trousers. However several of the men are rather better clothed than this, with slashed sleeves and short breeches, stockings and shoes. This looks less like sailors and more like some sort of militia or soldiery after a long voyage, so perhaps the title of 'sailors' should be taken more loosely here. Even the simpler sailors are here wearing shoes and stockings when they would often be barefoot on board ship, though perhaps these men are a landing party and dressed as such. Nevertheless we felt that as sailors some of these figures are over-dressed. Also apart from the simplest of costume the figures have a very 16th century look to them, which is somewhat at odds with the rather optimistic claim on the box that they are equally good for the 17th century.

As far as the poses are concerned, some here are a bit flat. The man holding his sword over his head is hard to understand, since where exactly would the blade fall from this position? The next man along holds his axe across his chest, so exactly the same question should be asked of him, and the first swordsman is also quite flat. Otherwise the poses are OK, and reasonably energetic. What is lacking here is any sign of archers. Unlike the rest of Western Europe, England continued to use archers, particularly for ship’s soldiers, until well into the period. The wreck of the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545, held hundreds of bows, so such a figure here would have been welcome, though naturally not appropriate for the later part of the period.

Sculpting of these figures is pretty good, with good folds in the clothing and mostly well done and expressive faces. The man with the halberd has some excess plastic, which you might expect, between weapon and body, but there is a moderate level of flash on all of the figures, which is a pity. Still slender items are generally nicely done and these are nicely rendered figures.

With such a long claimed period it was always going to be the weapons that would struggle the most to deliver that promise. Earlier in the period we would have expected more swords, halberds, and perhaps a few half-pikes too, and of course the bows already mentioned. Later on the firearms would have been more normal, and no bows or halberds, so this set was always going to be a compromise. However the more elaborate of the clothing here is very much of the 16th century, so rather unnecessarily fails to match up to the claimed time frame, particularly as strictly speaking sailors would not have dressed this well during a conflict. Since English sailors avoided battles like this on board ship, perhaps these figures are intended for forays ashore such as raids on the Spanish Main, in which case they are a better fit, though still Tudor in appearance. So we would suggest that these figures, which are nicely sculpted but suffer from some flash and a few flat poses, are best for some of Drake’s raids, and mostly not usable at all for naval warfare during the Civil War, Commonwealth or Anglo-Dutch wars.


Historical Accuracy 7
Pose Quality 7
Pose Number 5
Sculpting 9
Mould 7

Further Reading
"Elizabethan Sea Dogs 1560-1605" - Osprey (Elite Series No.70) - Angus Konstam - 9781841760155
"Los Perros de la Reina" - Almena (Guerreros Y Batallas Series No.11) - Vicente Fernández
"The Armada Campaign" - Osprey (Elite Series No.15) - John Tincey - 9780850458213
"The Armada Campaign 1588" - Osprey (Campaign Series No.86) - Angus Konstam - 9781841761923
"The Dress of the British Sailor" - National Maritime Museum - Gerald Dickens - 9780118814003
"The Great Expedition" - Osprey (Raid Series No.17) - Angus Konstam - 9781849082457
"The King's Ships" - Partizan (Partizan Historical Series No. 6) - Jonathan Davies - 9781858185477
"The Men of the Mary Rose" - History Press - A J Stirland - 9780750939157
"The Tudor Navy" - Conway - Arthur Nelson - 9780851777856
"Tudor Costume and Fashion" - Dover - Herbert Norris - 9780486298450

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