Battle of Playa Honda

I received a nice comment on a recent article in Thomo’s Hole so went and had a look at that bloggers blog. The blog is Subli. The author is Rosalinda and she is writing about the the Philippines – its history, its culture, and its people.

A couple of days ago she posted Olivier van Noort and other early Spanish-Dutch conflicts in the Philippines. OK, so that was going to be too much for me to ignore so I had a read., as I knew the Dutch hovered around this area, they had a colony on what is today Taiwan for example so I was not surprised they were involved in the Philippines as well.

Olivier van Noort sailed into the Pacific and on to the Philippines during the Eighty Years’ War between the United Provinces and Spain. He was one of many captains who fought the Spanish in these waters (and at the entrance to Manila Bay as well) with Galleons. The Spanish were similarly equipped with Galleons and some Galleys. I need to do  a lot more research on the vessels involved as this particular war and location is not within my usual area of reading.

The area of modern Botolan (in the province of Zambales) was known in those days as Playa Honda. There were three known minor conflicts during the Eighty Years’ War between the United Provinces and Spain held in Playa Honda in the Philippines. All the battles were won by the Spanish. The first battle occurred in 1610. The second, the most famous, took place in 1617. The third battle took place in 1624.

Interest piqued, now for some bright, shiny searching! Oh, and do stop in to Subli, there is some interesting posts in that blog, particularly about early Philippine history.

1/1200th Scale Triremes

triremes I mentioned in Triremes (or Trieres) that I had started painting some 1/1200th scale ships. I have and I’ve done the first four – all Triremes. I finally decided to paint them without masts and sales and I have not based them yet as I am still trying to decide between using Salamis ad Actium or Naumachia for the rules for playing with these vessels. The paint job is a fairly basic wargamers style. The next galleys on the line for painting are Quadriremes.

Triremes (or Trieres)

I took some Navwar 1/1200th galleys out for painting from stock last week. I selected four Triremes (or more correctly in the Greek, Trieres) and went through the usual wargamers debate … do I paint these with sails up or down.

Ancient galleys usually went into battle with their mainsail and mast left ashore. The vessels were fairly light and the weight of the mast and the sails would slow them down.

Actually, the galleys did sail into battle with one sail on board. It was usual for these ships to have a large square mainsail which was normally carried amidships. They also carried a smaller square sail that was hoist to the front of the vessel. This sail was known as the histia akateia and it was hoist from the small mast and yard at the front of the galley (the histos akateios (the smaller boat-mast) and the keraiai akateioi (the yard for that mast).

The histia akateia seems to have been referred to as the “life and death” sail as during battle, it was normally hoist when a ship was trying to run away and needed all the assistance it could get to get its tired crew of rowers from the battle.

I digress. So, the usual wargamers debate. Do I paint the mainsail and attach it or not? Arguably the vessels look more attractive with the sail up and are easier to move around but it is more accurate to paint them without the mainsail and the vessels are easier to transport and less fragile this way.

I opted for accuracy. The triremes are being painted as a test this week (pictures and more details later) before embarking on the other 50 or so galleys – mostly quadriremes and quinquiremes. Trouble is, as I am painting triremes at the moment, I am getting a hankering for some sea battles from the Peloponnesian War. Oh well, out with the Thucydides.

Oh, and for the technical amongst us, the crew of a trireme would normally be:

  • 1   Trierarch (captain)
  • 4   Archers (The captain’s bodyguard)
  • 1   Auletes (a piper or drummer used for keeping the rowers rowing in time)
  • 1   Helmsman  (steering – manned the two steering oars at the rear of the vessel)
  • 1   Pentekontarchos (the ship’s accountant – bought food/drink for the crew)
  • 1   Boatswain (sails and rigging)
  • 10  Sailors (sails and rigging)
  • 1   Prorates (navigator and bow lookout)
  • 1   Shipwright (damage control – or rather repairs)
  • 10  Soldiers (or marines)
  • 170 Rowers (who could also fight when called upon to do so – but who had no shields or armour)

I will post some photos of the painted vessels in a week or so. In the meantime, if you are looking for more information on Triremes, then I can recommend the Trireme Trust. Well worth the time to check out. There is a good book discussing the Trireme Project, easy to read and recommended for anyone interested in ancient galleys.