Bone model of French frigate

Contributed by Powell Cotton Museum Archives

Bone model of French frigate

Model of a French frigate made of bone, horse hair and metal pins has standing and running rigging above the planked deck, with open gun ports and cannon.
During the Peninsula Wars Napoleon began to lose battles to British, Spanish and Portuguese forces. French prisoners were shipped back to England. POW camps were set up, notably Dartmoor. Others were held in sordid conditions on prison hulks - decommissioned naval vessels anchored in estuaries and harbours.
Prisoners included skilled craftsmen - jewellers, silversmiths, woodworkers. Others developed skills during the long year. Using material to hand - wood, bone, glass, metal, string, even straw - they made all manner of items including combs, models, snuff boxes, game counters and dominoes. Objects sold to local people earned prisoners some small amount of money.
Accepted conventions of warfare changed in the Napoleonic era. Previously, European wars had been contested by armies commanded by the aristocracy and was conducted in as gentlemanly a manner as deadly combat allowed, prisoners were exchanged, officers given parole. In the Napoleonic era all this changed; the era of captivity for the duration had arrived.

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