The Alert, built in Dover by Henry Ladd and launched on 24th June 1777, was the largest class of cutter in the Royal Navy. Alert originally carried ten four-pounder carriage guns and six to twelve half-pounder swivel guns. She was one of fifteen cutters built for the Royal navy between 1777 and 1778. Smaller cutters were often purchased or built by private yards and then purchased by the Navy, but Alert was purpose built from the keel up.
In February 1778, Alert docked at Plymouth for an overhaul, to which some alterations were made to her hull and the ten four pounder carriage guns were replaced with twelve six pounder guns, raising her broadside weight by 30%. The guns were changed because six-pounder shot was more commonly available and, of course, they were more effective.
Because of the increase in ordnance, the crew of the Alert was increased from sixty to eighty men, and recommissioned under a new commander, Lieutenant William George Fairfax. In May 1778, Fairfax was promoted to Commander and Alert was re-classed as a sloop to comply with Admiralty requirements. (Although always remained cutter rigged)
On 17th June 1778, the Alert, in company with the frigate Arethusa, spotted and intercepted the French frigate Belle Poule and the armed lugger Coureur, with the latter overhauled by the Alert and surrendered, returning to Spithead after the action with her prize. On 8th July of the same year, whilst on an independent deployment, searching for the enemy fleet, Alert was taken by surprise and captured by the French frigate Junon. Alert is reported as lost without trace on 15th December 1779.
Dimensions of the model – length 63.7, height 51.7, width 25.6
The model kit of the Alert is depicted after her refit with twelve six-pounder guns and a full compli- ment of twelve half-pounder swivel guns, giving an ordnance total of twenty four guns. Although not stated in the records when researching, it is possible that the upper bulwarks were fully planked, rather than having the open drift. The decoration that adorns the upper sides and stern is optional, as it is unlikely that the original vessel, when in service, would have had such decoration. This is inspired by the two paintings of the vessel by Joseph Marshell, which formed part of the George III collection of ship model paintings. It it possible the decoration would have been painted on during launch day, or if a prominent (royal) figure visited to review the fleet.
The model kit is designed to be as accurate as possible, for a commercial kit in both scale and detail. To this end, all hull and deck fittings are bespoke with no ‘off the shelf’ fittings used. This included the six-pounder and half-pounder cannon barrels, hand pumps, anchors, winches etc. All designed specifically for this one kit. Although the kit of Alert is as easy to build as we can make it, very basic woodworking skills (and patience) are still required.