The Royal Navy sloops at Bunker Hill

10 August 2020

It was way back in March when we were first able to lay out and review the battlefield of the Battle of Bunker Hill 1775. However, the lockdown has meant that my Monday night wargaming and painting club with neighbours and friends has not been able to meet again and I had to finish the buildings for Charlestown on my own.

But I was also keen to represent the amphibious movements of the Royal Navy at the Battle.

Due to the shallow waters at the isthmus, only frigates, sloops and gunboats could provide direct support.  HMS Glasgow fired at Charlestown itself while HMS Lively covered the landing of the troops with "well-directed fire”. 

My problem was that both sloops did not seem to exist in the modelling world at 1/300th scale. which would be the correct scale for our 6mm troops.

After a thorough search of the Collection Calculator directory I came across War Artisans Workshop (, which had lots of paper ships to choose from. They even had some 1/300 scale ships and I managed find a sloop that would be close enough. Not perfect, but good enough to represent the ships at Bunker Hill. 

The support on the site is second to none. Instructions, tutorials and a workbench section that really do help. All in all, a great shopping experience that is backed up by the owner Jeffrey Knudsen, who on his site points out if you need two then print it out twice.

Having bought my ship it duly arrived by PDF. I then printed out the hulls onto cardstock, the sails onto paper and then I varnished it to protect my investment of $2.50 per ship.

The pages of instructions that came with the ship were precise and very helpful, highlighting what you may want to do using Jeffrey's experience of designing and building these ships. He also sets out  a full list of the tools and items you need to build the ships:

  • 1/8” balsa sheet.
  • Cardstock. 90 to 110 pound works best.
  • Ordinary copier paper.
  • Heavy tagboard, about .5mm thickness. 4-ply Bristol board is perfect.
  • Round Toothpicks, or wooden dowel about 1/16” in diameter.
  • Bamboo skewers or wooden dowel, as close to 1/8" diameter as possible.
  • Wire. Florists wire works well, being soft enough to cut easily, but still stiff enough to hold its shape in short lengths. 18 or 20 gauge is about right for spars, but smaller gauges (22 or 24) will do, especially for standing rigging. Most craft stores will have a variety.
  • Glue. Any PVA based household white glue will work fine. Some of the parts will work better with cyanoacrylate, especially the "gel" type, but it is not strictly necessary.
  • Black cotton thread. For the rigging.
  • Paint. Hobby or craft paint, for colouring the wire parts. Tan and black are really all that's needed.

With these and the instruction in hand, I began to build the two ships. Here they are the first set of templates set out and ready to cut. 

Once the main deck had been cut, glued and ready for assembly I then cut out all the cardstock hull, bowsprit support and the rear cabin window parts. I shaped them and glued them in place and then added the main deck on top. This left me with a basic hull.

The next stage is to tidy up and finish off the hull, add the 18 guns and the hatches onto the main deck of the now recognisable sloops. I then moved onto building the masts, which were quite tricky so I used super glue to hold all the bits of them together.

I cut out all the sails that come with the ship and glued them on the yards, while adding a little curve to them so they look like they are billowing out with the wind. I then put them on the masts with super glue before putting the masts into the hulls.

Practiced a little placement in front of a seascape for this photo after adding them to a base each.

Final sails and stays added before I started the final run in to rigging the ship. You can clearly see they are beginning to look the part.

Now the most difficult part for me - the rigging. Adding some stiffness to some thread using PVA glue and a weight and letting dry out is hard for me for some unknown reason. I have tried once and found out I had synthetic cotton, which does not work so I did some 100% cotton and I am now working with that to see if will behave itself.

This is HMS Lively is a 20 guns sloop with a crew of 160 men and was in the British fleet blockading Boston, the fleet was there to police the Boston Port Act. This Act was put in pace to penalise the city after the Boston Tea Party. HMS Lively was also there during the Siege of Boston, being the first British ship to fire on the American colonial militias fortifications which helped to spark the Battle of Bunker Hill.

For our game we have also worked on HMS Glasgow a similar ship that served in the same fleet serving in and around Boston. Glasgow is more known for running into the Continental Navy on their maiden voyage on the 6 April 1776. HMS Glasgow engaged six ships, and still managed to escape intact.

Having finished this mini project, I will have a few days off and then go back to painting some buildings. Oh, for my Monday night painting crew to return!