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"Reale de France" 1/75 by Revell.
Description: Styrene plastic model kit Galley "Reale de France" 1/75 Scale by Heller kit # 80898
Length: 880 mm (34.6  in.)
Height: 600 mm (23.6  in.)
Width: 390 mm (15.4 in.)
Parts: 900



We associate rowed Galleys with classical Greece and Rome, but the use of oar powered vessels of war lasted for 2000 years and well into the age of sail.

The reasons were many, but one of the major ones was cost. For the cost of a single Ship of the Line, you could equip an entire fleet of lightly constructed, shallow draft galleys. In the Mediterranean, where coastal winds were often light and fickle, there was an advantage to having an alternate mode of propulsion.


1500 - 1200 BC
Phoenicans built the first war galleys and were the best seafarers and ship builders of the ancient world. They had been at sea for some time before the Greeks and were already well established and experienced sailors.

Early galleys were simple ships with single levels of oarsmen, but the galley would be developed over the next 2000 years, to go on and become the dominant fighting ship of the eastern Mediterranean.

At right is a Phoenician trade ship of about 1500 BC. This is a rather capacious vessel with strong stem posts (firm beam in prow and stern extremities of the ship) and two stern oars. The mast bore a direct sail on two curved beams. To the prow stem post they fastened a large clay amphora for a storage of potable water.
The most detailed information about early war galleys comes from the poet Homer. In The Odyssey, written around 700 BC, he tells of the 10 year siege of Troy from 1193 - 1183 BC by the Greek fleet of 1186 galleys with its contingent of 100,000 - 140,000 men and of the hero Odysseus's long voyage home. The oarsmen on Odysseus's galley's were not slaves, but free men.

The Greek fleet included single-decked, single banked galleys, called Triakonters (with 30 rowers) and Pentekonyers (with 50 rowers). The length of the Pentekonyers was around 30m and around 4m wide. The Pentekonters became the standard and the most powerfull ships in the Mediterranean.
The Black Ships
before Troy.
Odysseus bound to the mast of his galley to resist the lure pf the Sirens.
Phoenician shipbuilders are also credited with developing Bireme and Trireme galleys in which the oars were arranged in two or three banks.

This rather narrow, strong ship (left) is of the type used by the Phoenicians from 1500-1000 BC. Two ranks of oars allow us to refer this ship type of ship as a Bireme. The upper combat deck is lifted on racks as a platform. Massive scull and prow oars essentially distinguished these vessels from similar boats of that time. These considerably increased manoeuvrability allowing the ship to turn 180 degrees rapidly. In combat these oars could be strongly firmly clamped to the hull so as to be used as battering rams. The mast was removable. Length of the ship was from 25 up to 35 meters, and the width about 4 to 5 meters.

1250 - 1000 BC
The Greek Dark Ages.
Around 1250 BC, there was a catastrophe of some kind in the Mediterranean and culture and civilisation as it had developed to that time, declined. One theory has it that the earth was hit by a large meteorit and the resulting catastrophic weather changes caused a shift in populations - and / or - local raiders from the north or Asian barbarians (also known as the Sea People) reacted to the upheaval and capitalised on the situation by plundering the Mediterranean. Most of the civilized world was lost, as the previously advanced areas fell into a Dark Age.

The first recorded account of fighting galleys was in 1190 BC. The Egyptian pharoh, Ramses III's fleet of galley's, repelled a navel invasion from Sea People in the eastern Mediterranean.

900 BC
Greek galleys appear with battering rams.

This one dates from the 2nd century BC, is 7.5 feet long and weighs 1/2 ton

850 BC
This galley appeared around 850 BC. The hull of the boat was low in height and the low strong mast bore a large rectangular sail, quilted for strength with leather belts. The hull was quite often filled with water transported usually amphora densely corked and filled by wax or asphalt. The upper deck was used to transport valuable consignments. The vessel was paramilitary and so the bow was bound with iron protecting the hull in case of impact with the hull of the enemy ship.

700 BC
The Bireme (a Phoenician Bireme pictured right) became the leading warship of the 8th century BC. The narrow prolate hull of this Phoenician Bireme of around 100 BC consisted of two floors and the upper one was again for the helmsmen and warriors. For greater stability of the ship the Phoenicians lowered the crinolines (platforms where oarsmen sat). A massive bronze covered battering ram was the main weapon of this narrow high speed bireme. The traditional removable rig was typical. A decorative poop extremity of stern was abruptly bent, similarly to a tail of a scorpion, and the balustrade of the battle platform was covered with the shields of warriors for reinforcement. Phoenicians were considered as the best seamen of the time and many ancient states frequently used them as mercenaries. The length was about 30 meters with a width of some 5 meters.

650 BC
The Trireme (a Roman Trireme pictured right) and reached its highest point of development in the eastern Mediterranean during the 5th century BC. Light, fast (about 30% faster than a Pentekonter), and maneuverable, it was the principal naval vessel with which Persia, Phoenicia, and the Greek city-states vied for mastery of the seas from the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC through the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404. Its unprecedented propulsive power was achieved by the arrangement of 170 oarsmen in three tiers along each side of the vessel, 31 in the top tier, 27 in the middle, and 27 in the bottom. The hull was a thin shell of planks joined edge-to-edge and then stiffened by a keel and light transverse ribs. Such light construction enabled the trireme to displace only 40 tons on an overall length of approximately 120 feet (37 m) and a beam of 18 feet (5.5 m); no ballast was used. The Trireme is said to have been capable of reaching speeds greater than 7 knots (8 miles per hour, or 13 km/h) and perhaps as high as 9 knots under oars. Square-rigged sails were used for power when the ship was not engaged. The principal armament of the trireme was a bronze-clad ram, which extended from the keel at or below the waterline and was designed to pierce the light hulls of enemy warships. In addition, the ship carried a complement of spearmen and bowmen who attacked enemy crewmen or attempted to board their vessels. By the end of the 4th century BC, armed deck soldiers had become so important in naval warfare that the Trireme was superceded by heavier, decked-over ships with multiple rows of oarsmen.

Galleys were built primarily of combustible materials (wood, cloth, hemp, and pitch), and so fire was a devastating weapon against them. Ancient mariners devised several ways to set enemy ships on fire. The simplest was to fire flaming arrows or ballista bolts on an enemy ship. Next most useful were flaming grenades, something like modern Molotov cocktails, filled with a combustible liquid like oil. Most intricate were flaming firepots suspended from the bow of a ship by a pole. When the pole was positioned over the deck of an enemy ship, the pot was dropped, so shattering it and spreading the burning liquid over the deck of the enemy vessel.

480 BC
The Battle of Salamis. A combined Greek fleet of around 300 triremes reverses the advance of 1000 Persian galleys, with a decisive naval victory at Salamis, Greece. The Greeks lost 40 galleys, the Persians 200.

210 BC
Ptolemy IV of Egypt built the largest warship the world would see until the twentieth century. The Tesseraconteres had a catamaran hull, with two hulls full of rowers and a large deck extending over both hulls like a modern aircraft carrier's deck. The ship was 130m (420 feet) long, 18m (57 feet) wide and 22m (72 feet) high. In comparison the length of the Titanic was 243m. Each of the third level oars were operated by 8 men and were 18m (57 feet) long and were counter-balanced with lead. It carried 4000 rowers, 400 sailors, and 2850 men in arms for a total of 7250 men.

31 BC
The Battle of Actium. The Roman Navy defeats the forces of Antony and Cleopatra and establishes its maritime supremacy. With this victory, the Romans gained dominance over the Mediterranean, making it almost a private lake and naval warfare (other than piracy) virtually disappeared from Europe for a thousand years.

52 AD
The insane Roman Caesar, Claudius, staged a navel 'exhibition' battle at Fucine Lake near Rome. Over half a million spectators watched 5,000 men, in twenty-four triremes (three banks of oars), all regulation ocean-going warships—and twenty-six bi-remes (double bank) galley's, fight to the death. 3,000 died.

1380 AD
Galleys make a comeback at the Battle of Chioggia. Venetian Galleys defeat the Genoese, confirming Venice as the dominant maritime power in Italy.

1400-1500 AD
Galleasses (larger galleys) and then Galleons (larger galleasses) begin to appear.

1571 AD
The Battle of Lepanto. The last navel battle fought between galleys/galleasses ends in defeat of the Turks by a Christian coalition. 459 galleys fought it out with the loss of over 200 galleys and over 20,000 men killed and around 40,000 wounded.

The battle of Lepanto was the last naval action fought by galleys manned by oarsmen.

1500-1600 AD
Galleons evolve into ships of the line.

1588 AD
Spanish Galleasses sail with the Armarda.

1660 AD
French king, Louis XIV, established the Galley Corps. The forces opposing the French at this time were often poor principalities without the resources to build heavy gun warships, so nothing bigger was really needed. France built the La Reale in 1988.

1729 AD
The French build the ceremonial galley, the Bucentaure.

With officers drawn from the French nobility and the fighting forces provided by the Infantry, the only real problem with manning the Galleys was finding people to man the oars. And a lot were needed, up to 427 for a vessel the size of the "Reale". Since few men were likely to volunteer for such service, the French used prisoners of war and inmates from the prison system to provide the muscle. Modern sailors are familiar with the term "galley slave" but originally, this had nothing to do with the stove.
Imagine yourself as a prisoner of war, seven men to an oar, rowing into battle with hundreds of your Moslem brothers on a French ship. Opposing you is a similar vessel, perhaps Turkish, most likely rowed by Christians who were prisoners like yourself. How ironic...
The Galley Corps was disbanded in 1748. By then, the French policy of leniency toward the Moslem States led to a number of treaties which brought peace to the region and led to the release of many prisoners of war. This sapped the pool of manpower available to row the galleys and they fell out of use.

When thinking about galleys one conjures up all kinds of images from different periods and civilizations: from the galleys of the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks to the oared Roman trireme. Mostly one thinks about the oars, raising and falling in unison with bodies of men sweating and being whipped by the overseer, as in an old 1935 Errol Flynn movie. What I think of is the French galley of the 17th and 18th century.

King Louis the XIV established the Galley Corps in the 1660's. It was designed as a tool of his Royal authority, an extension of his policies and aspirations, as well as a symbol of his power and control. The royal galleys were designed to carry out his royal plans and inspire the loyalty and obedience of his subjects.

Officers and commanders were picked from the aristocratic nobility of France and the Knights of Malta. For generations aristocratic families in France sent their young sons to serve on the galleys of the Order of St. John. They pledged vows of fidelity to the Grand Master and the Roman Catholic faith.

The fighting forces were manned and commanded by the infantry. Only limited experience at sea was needed. Brains, fighting skill and courage were most desired.

In the Mediterranean, galleys survived well into the late 18th century. Many of the small principalities and city states of North Africa were poor, disunified and did not have the resources or large ship yards for the heavy gun warships. Galleys were cheap to build, of light construction, shallow draft and useful for coastal forays. Large sailing warships and ordinance were prohibitive, took a longer time to construct and the knowledge and materials to build them were difficult to obtain. The number of guns needed for a ship of the line would arm a fleet of galleys. More ever there was a good chance that such a ship could be lost.

There were other reasons for the French galleys to operate. They were not dependent on the winds which were often fickle especially along the coasts, shallows and narrows of the Aegean and Adriatic seas. Galleys usually sailed within sight of land, making landfall at night. If bad weather was sighted, they often sought coastal harbors for shelter. Another reason, but a depressing one, for the need of galleys was the lack of a good prison system in France and throughout Europe.

The Galley Corps spent six months in port, mostly in winter. A week was a long voyage. Campaigns were the only time when every officer, soldier, crewman and oarsman was aboard for a significant length of time. When under sail the oars or sweeps as they are called were brought on deck, lined neatly across the thwarts keeping the cat walk free of obstacles.

The Galley Corps, as part of the Royal sea going navy, was abolished by King Louis the XV in 1748. But the galley was not dead, not by any stretch of the imagination. Constant wars and conflicts maintained the need for galleys to patrol the coast.

The Galley's major problem was where to find crew to man the oars. One solution was to use North African prisoners of war. At any given time one third of the rowing force on French galleys were Moslem prisoners of war. Theses prisoners were the most sought after Galley force because of their endurance, physical strength and ability to withstand hardship and adversity. Even the Church of Rome supported the practice of enslaving infidels (Moslems) on Papal Galleys. On the other hand, during this time, the Moslem nations were also condemning Christians to enslavement on their galleys. Turkey and Egypt the main countries in the Ottoman Empire presented an ever growing threat to Europe. This menace was augmented by Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli and Sale' which formed a loose Confederation, in the Ottoman Empire.

Another solution to the shortage in rowing force was to impress men from the extremely over crowded French prison system. Chain gangs, usually an average of 100 men were condemned to the galleys regularly. Whether from chain gangs or prisons, these men were murders, thieves, army deserters and forgers. At this time in history, however, your crime need not be large to be imprisoned. Prisoners could be beggars, gypsies, vagabonds, vagrants, Protestants or simply misfits. Even Native American Indians found themselves at the oars of the French Galleys. Any of these groups could and did find themselves doomed to slavery and misery on galleys without the formality of a trial.

Conflicts in the region were causing instability and loss of commerce as well as the loss of life. King Louis XIV made treaties which brought about an era of peace and prosperity. Although the Pope in Rome was at odds with Louis' policy of leniency toward the Moslems, this trend would continue. Other Christian countries joined in these policies. Growth in commerce was assured.

As times changed and fewer infidels and slaves were coming into Marseilles, the prisoners aboard the galleys were released, because of the new treaties. A need for a large galley force was cut by a third. Fewer galleys were built.

By the 1730's the galley officers were keenly aware of this decay in the Galley Force. They had only to look around and see the deplorable conditions. There were fewer galleys. Many were unseaworthy and still others needed service maintenance. Everywhere about the naval base there was evidence of deterioration. The arsenal formerly busy with sounds of carpenters, smiths, and sawyers was now mostly quiet. Unused materials for the galleys lay rotting or in storage.

Still there was a use for this type of vessel even though the Navy use was slowly dying. The crown's navel battles would no longer be fought by sending the grand Galley fleet sailing out in all its colors and grandeur. There was still a place for the galleys. There were still coasts to guard, especially against the Barbery pirates. Galleys were still useful in the diplomatic service to Spain and the Italian states.

Since galleys were often idle and tied up in port the galley convicts were pressed into shore duty. They repaired sea walls, built roads, dredged ports, and repaired city buildings as well as the royal dock yards.

Buildings were constructed in the naval arsenal to house the convicts and also provide work space for them. A new system was developing. The establishment of a "bagne" at Marseilles was proposed to Colbert, Louis the XIV's minister as early as 1669. A certain profit percentage would be paid to the King since this enterprise was financed and built on crown property. The bagne was comprised of entrepreneurs. A company of private persons seeking private profit.

The former Galley slaves worked on raw materials brought into Marseilles. Their output varied with previous experience. There were tailors, hatters, shoemakers, lacemakers, wigmakers, engravers, woodcarvers, knitters and even portrait painters among them. The convicts also worked on sails, making hardware and other products that could be used by the Galley Corps. The bagne resembled something like an early modern factory complex.

Most of the men who went from galleys to the bagne were deemed unable to "serve the oar" and were classified as invalid. These men were mostly fifty and older.
Once the bagne was established, the spill over into the citizenry was a natural consequence. A new market for new and different products was created. Household items, articles of clothing such as stockings were manufactured by the bagne. Some convicts were taken into the city and worked in taverns, did laundry, worked as assistants to some business or a trade or even served in apprenticeship to free craftsmen.

By the first quarter of the 18th century the oar was being replaced by the sail. This accelerated the unrelenting progress toward prison reform. Still the convict population was large. One way of dealing with the problem was to ship prisoners to the colonies in the Caribbean and New France in Canada. In the first half of the 19th century King Louis Philippe, rid France of some undesirables by creating the French Foreign Legion.

The Galley Corps were symbols to demonstrate Louis the XIV's superiority. With large gull wing sails spread out on their mast on opposite tracks, pendants streaming overhead on the hundred and forty foot yards and painted in bright contrasting colors blues and reds and lots of gold. Louis's galleys left strong impressions of his prestige and stately splendor. This influence was useful in his absolute regime.

Galleys in the mid 18th century had no chance of survival against a heavy armed sailing ship with large broadsides. Galleys had become obsolete and costly. The "Age of Enlightenment" had dawned which associated the galley with religious and political oppression. Thus the galley was looked at with increasing curiosity and contempt as a relic of a bygone age.

After the Corps were disbanded in 1748 the galleys were still used as state prisons. The last galleys were built in 1750 and were maintained for two decades. There were still nine galleys on the Navy list in 1773 and one was on campaign in the Mediterranean as late as 1799. Then they were gone forever.

"Reale de France" 1/75 by Revell.
Description: Styrene plastic model kit Galley "Reale de France" 1/75 Scale by Heller kit # 80898
Length: 880 mm (34.6  in.)
Height: 600 mm (23.6  in.)
Width: 390 mm (15.4 in.)
Parts: 900

The Heller kit from which my model was basically made from is sound in all ways. The Heller company is well known in the model kit world. This scale is 1/75 which is less than 3/16 of an inch equal a foot. I went with 5/32 inch equals one foot which is closer to scale of 1/75.

As with all companies that produce items for consumers there are many considerations and constraints since time reduces profit, shortcuts often take place. Heller is no different. The La Reale kit, I thought, had things that could be done better only if they took the time to do it.

The printed paper canopy supplied by the kit was discarded. I copied the art work on red silk bought at a fabric store.

The heavy gold cord like thread that is around the perimeter of the canopy was replaced with very fine gold thread that I also got at the fabric store. I used a very fine gold felt tip pen for the ornamental filigree.

The ships boats are from the kit but are incomplete. I made ribs, floor boards, oars, eye bolts, brackets and a boat mast for the large craft.

Figures are all modified from Revell of Germany. One source of information for the wearing apparel of the period comes from prints in "The Serie Ancien Regime Textes Ets Peintunes Par Eugene Leliepvre."

A 17th century French galley built during the reign of Louis XIV. While the galley originated in classical Mediterranean times this "modern" type evolved during the 12th century and reached its peak of design during the 16th century. Although no longer used as a warship the galley survived as a status symbol until the end of the 18th century. The kit includes pre-cut keel and frames, all fittings and accessories, plans and instructions. This kit is definitely for the experienced modeller, as the very complex oar arrangement and its mountings will try the patience of any modeller.
Lateen rigged galleys like this one were the backbone of Louis XIV's Mediterranean fleet. She carried 8.000 square feet of sail and 427 oarsmen. Because of her low hull, water swamped her deck even in slight seas.

Corel's kit features double plank-on-bulkhead construction in beech and walnut with pre-cut wooden parts. Stern ornamentation is gilded cast metal. Other decorations are etched brass. Armament includes five cannon and eleven turned brass falconets. Rigging is supplied in five diameters. Also included are 59 pre-shaped oars, cloth sails, and silk-screened flags. Thirteen sheets of detailed plans plus instruction book show you how to build a magnificent replica that is almost four feet long.

All parts of this kit are completely sawn out. This superior kit contains: completely milled oars, pre-sewn sails, a large and color printed sheet for the flags, a high-grade and valuable set of fittings (which represents exactly the love of splendor of Ludwig XIV). With 14 building plans and a detailed assembly instruction every phase of construction is clearly described. This kit enables to built a breathtaking beautiful model.

21329 Kit Real de France complete 
61985 Set of pre-sewn sails 
Ship model from Corel.

Scale: 1/60
Overall length: 1060 mm
Overall width: 480 mm
Length of hull: 1060 mm
Width of hull: 165 mm
Heigth: 670 mm
Planking: double

Any comments, please contact me at

Every effort has been made to trace the owners of copyright and we apologies to any we have been unable to contact

Jon Crooke

30 January 2005