Revell HMCS Snowberry Flower Class Corvette in 1/72 Scale

This is the well-known Flower-class Corvette kit first released by Matchbox in 1979, and re-boxed here by Revell.  This example was from the basic molds, not one of the enhanced or upgraded kits.  The kit is very crude by today’s standards both in molding quality and accuracy of many of the details.  This was built for a friend who wanted to use it for wargaming with the intention of an out of the box build, but I couldn’t resist improving several of the parts.

Of course, the Kaiju attack is inevitable when one has children!

Construction posts begin here:

Revell HMCS Snowberry Flower Class Corvette Build in 1/72 Scale Part VI

A ship needs some crew figures to give a sense of scale and a “busy” appearance. While I have been critical of the kit for its poor molding and crude parts (a well-earned assessment), I must give credit where credit is due and say that I was pleased with the figures Matchbox has provided. There were some sinkholes to fill, but overall they are good. I modified several poses with parts from the spares box and supplemented them with others from the old Airfix Bofers kit.
I painted up a total of eighteen figures. A ship of this size, fully manned at General Quarters (or is it “Action Stations” in the RCN?) could easily use twice that number but this is what I could scrounge up.
Two of the figures needed to be in place before the superstructure was mounted, the helm and lee helmsmen in the pilothouse. I gave them their stations with voice tubes and a ship’s wheel from the spares box. If you look at just the right angle they can be seen inside the finished model.
Here she is almost complete with the superstructure and mast in place. The splinter mats around the open conning station were made from Sculpey and baked in the oven.
The completed model, rigged and manned. The crew figures were also pinned in place to reduce breakage. The signal flags at the yardarm are “Bravo Zulu”, a naval signal meaning “well done”. Hopefully the Snowberry model does well in her wargaming role as well! While it would take considerable effort to turn this kit into a show winner, it does look good with a few upgrades, and any large-scale ship has an undeniable “shelf presence”.

Finished photographs here:

Revell HMCS Snowberry Flower Class Corvette Build in 1/72 Scale Part V

The gun armament on warship models is always a focus of attention, so I spent some time improving the Snowberry’s guns. The 4” gun was crude and was completely rebuilt, along with its pedestal. The ready-service projectiles were secured in clips positioned around the edge of the platform, the projectiles were constructed by turning plastic rod in a Dremel and sanding the ends to a point. The kit part resting on the platform is Matchbox’s attempt at molding these rounds.
The 2-pound QF gun didn’t look much like the drawing in the Anatomy of the Ship book. I reduced the book’s drawings to 1/72 scale and cut the components for the new parts directly on the paper to save measuring. These replacements are just a series of geometric shapes and really don’t take that much time to build up.
Here is the 2-pound gun in its mount compared to the kit parts. The replacement has received wheels from the spares box and sights form spare PE frets.
There are two twin Lewis gun mounts on the aft superstructure. The soft plastic in the kit is plagued with sink marks and mold lines, each part must be cleaned up if it is to be used at all. Hard to tell what the kit parts are meant to be, the scratch guns are more in scale.
Here are all the gun replacements together. Snowberry had two 20mm Oerlikons mounted in her bridge wings. I could not identify the kit’s Oerlikons on the sprues they were so out of scale.
Things are moving along! Here the armament and lifelines are in place. I have also caught and corrected the height error on the depth charge racks, these were popped off and the supports cut down.
With most of the components in place I gave the hull an acrylic wash to dirty things up. These escorts saw hard service in the Atlantic with little yard time and so were often seen ratty and rusted. There are also plenty of pictures in relatively clean paint, which I preferred for this model.

Part VI here:

Revell HMCS Snowberry Flower Class Corvette Build in 1/72 Scale Part IV

I began adding details from the bow and worked my way back. Whenever practical I pinned the small parts in place with bronze rod to reduce breakage as this model will be handled. The rope reels and anchor windless are replacements. The gun platform forward is not yet attached, it is just set in place to establish spacing.
Here the ladders and depth charge racks have been added. I didn’t realize it at the time but the depth charge racks are much too high, I later removed them and trimmed the supports down quite a bit. The j-bar davits used to load the side-mounted depth charge projectors got their rigging at this point as it is easier to get at them with less clutter.
The various vents and storage lockers have been added to the aft superstructure in this photograph. The platform for the 2-pound anti-aircraft gun is aft of the stack. It is surprising how light the anti-aircraft armament is on these ships, they would have been at a great disadvantage in the Pacific.
I used the kit’s Carley floats in the interest of getting the model completed, although they could certainly be improved. They are mounted on their racks and provided with masking tape strapping. The dingeys are also in place along with their davits and rigging.

Part V here:

Revell HMCS Snowberry Flower Class Corvette Build in 1/72 Scale Part III

The smaller parts are taped to cards in groups for painting. This is where the limitations of the Matchbox tool are readily apparent. The majority of the small parts have been reworked or replaced, many of the shapes are inaccurate and are poorly molded. For several of the small vents it was easier to build a replacement from plastic tube than to clean up the kit part. In the background are the sprues, laid out on a folding table and labeled to help locate the parts.
Some of the Matchbox kit parts are almost unrecognizable. This is where the reference drawings in the Anatomy of the Ship, Flower Class Corvette Agassiz book proved vital. Although the Agassiz was of an earlier configuration than Snowberry, the ships carried much of the same equipment and the detail drawings are applicable. Here is the kit Hedgehog launcher at top, and a scratchbuilt replacement following the AoS drawings at bottom.
Likewise, these are replacement Hedgehog projectiles and the kit parts. Notice the soft detail and prominent mold lines, along with the shape issues of the kit parts. The replacements were made from plastic tube and rod.
These are depth charge projectors, called “K guns” in U.S. Navy parlance. Its not difficult to fashion replacements from plastic stock, the kit parts only slightly resemble the real thing. The Flowers carried four of these.
Ship’s boats can be projects in their own rights, there was little interior detail on the kit dinghies. I took the easy way out and provided these with canvas covers make from masking tape rather than spend days detailing the inside. The two lifting hooks are made from metal rod and are drilled though the boat and supports, these will fit into holes in the deck to mount the boats securely.
The kit signal lamps and spotlights also need some TLC. These will go on top of the superstructure. With few exceptions, the majority of the smaller parts need improvement.

Part IV here:

Revell HMCS Snowberry Flower Class Corvette Build in 1/72 Scale Part II

Here the major superstructure components have been added to the hull. If you think of building a large ship model as a single kit the process can seem overwhelming, it is better to think of each component as its own little model.
More of the major subassemblies have found their way to the hull. No matter what the instructions might say, start with the large, robust components and build your way out to the detail parts last.
At this point I chose to add the decals to the hull, mainly because I wanted to reduce handling the model as much as possible after the smaller parts started going on. While it looks like it is mostly done, construction is actually just beginning when you reach this point.
The wooden deck on the fo’c’sle was washed and drybrushed to bring out the detail. Note that the wood does not go all the way to the bow. The seam will be hidden by the breakwater which will be added later.
The pilothouse was divided into three compartments, which I simulated with card to eliminate the see-through effect. I decided not to try to detail the bulkheads as the deck around this area gets very busy and it would be difficult to see anything inside.
The grid structures are racks for the four Carley floats. I added wire grab bars to the skylights over the engineering spaces. The skylight should be rebuilt as it should have ten windows instead of eight. What was Matchbox thinking? This type of thing was a constant problem, I corrected several errors but had to draw the line at other times or the project would not have gotten done.
The fantail area will get crowded. This is another place where it pays to check references, as several Flowers were completed with a more squared-off stern profile. Many also carried mine sweeping gear in addition to depth charge racks.

Part III here:

Revell HMCS Snowberry Flower Class Corvette Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

This is an older build of the Revell Flower Class Corvette. The kit was initially released by Matchbox in 1979 and has been re-released repeatedly since, often with upgrades or bonus parts. The kit was built for a friend who wanted to use it for wargaming, and paid me in beer for building it! Now how could I refuse that? He asked for an out of the box build, but several of the parts were quite crude, so much so that I couldn’t let them go and felt obliged to make some improvements.
The first step was to mount the hull to a base. This is not only for the final display, but to steady the hull during construction. Using four mounting points instead of two on the centerline ensures a solid structure and prevents the hull from flopping about.
The hull comes in four sections with a few lateral supports. Fit was not great but easy to fill and sand. I painted the underside of the hull scale black and then bolted it to the base. The bolts were locked in place with 5-minute epoxy, if a bolt ever worked loose during construction it would be impossible to fix. The hull was masked with tape and Saran wrap.
A layer of off-white was next. This was applied thinly in vertical bands to allow some streaking to show through. I want the ship to look a little weathered, but not a “rust bucket”.
The Western Approaches scheme used areas of light sea blue and light sea green. The camouflage was said to be very effective in overcast and low-light conditions.
The painted hull. Models with large flat areas look like toys if there is not some variation in intensity or tone to the colors so it’s good to vary the shades a little.
Here the decks have been added. The dark gray areas of the deck were airbrushed using slightly different shades to break up the monochrome effect. If you’re building one of these be sure to check a good set of plans, the kit has large areas of molded-in wood deck detail where the decks should be steel. The only wood decking should be on the fo’c’sle and the small areas of the quarterdeck.

Part II here:

The Capture of U-505

Some ships are unlucky.  U-505 was arguably the most unlucky submarine in the German Navy during the Second World War.  Her career didn’t begin that way though – her first patrol was short and uneventful, and her second was a success with four Allied merchantmen to her credit.  Her third patrol also appeared to be a success with three vessels sunk, but one of her victims was a Columbian sailing ship named Urious, the sinking of which resulted in Columbia declaring war on Germany.  On her fourth patrol she claimed her eighth victim, but her luck changed when she was caught on the surface by an RAF Hudson with an Australian crew and hit by a 250 pound bomb aft of the conning tower.  While she managed to return to Lorient, she was the most seriously damaged U-boat to survive and make port.

After repairs she was repeatedly deployed again, only to return in short order each time after being damaged, or as a result of sabotage by French workers.  She gained the reputation as a “dock queen” which could not deploy effectively.  On her tenth patrol she endured a severe depth charging from British destroyers.  Her Captain, Kapitänleutnant Peter Zschech broke under the strain and committed suicide in the control room, the only submarine Captain to do so during the war.

While not the best quality, this photograph shows the damage to U-505’s deck and conning tower caused by the bomb from an RAF Hudson during her fourth war patrol on 10NOV42. The Hudson was caught in the bomb blast and was lost, along with her crew. After two weeks of work, the U-505’s crew was able to make repairs and make her way back to their base at Lorient.
On the morning of 04 June 1944 the U-505’s luck ran out. She encountered an American anti-submarine group centered upon the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) and was detected by sonar by USS Chatelain (DE-149). Chatelain immediately fired a salvo of Hedgehogs without effect, then circled back to drop depth charges. These were on target, damaging U-505 and causing an oil slick visible to aircraft circling overhead.
U-505 surfaced, her crew immediately abandoning ship. Her rudder was jammed causing her to circle and her engines had been left running. Chatelain engaged the U-boat with gunfire and fired a torpedo, which missed. USS Pillsbury (DE-133) launched a whaleboat in an attempt to place a boarding party aboard. The photograph shows Pillsbury’s whaleboat pursuing the abandoned U-505, which was still making 7 knots.
Pillsbury’s boarding party scrambled aboard the sinking U-505 and entered through the conning tower. Inside they found the U-boat was flooding rapidly, her crew having removed an 8-inch (20 cm) strainer cover to flood the boat. The Americans were able to locate and replace the strainer cover, but by that time the U-505 was well down by the stern.
Pillsbury came alongside and attempted to take the submarine under tow. However, the ships collided, holing Pillsbury in three compartments and causing flooding. In the meantime Chatelain and USS Jenks (DE-665) were busy rescuing the submarine’s crew. All 58 survived but one, signalman Gottfried Fischer was killed by gunfire.
A boarding party from USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60) then came aboard and attempted a tow. The photograph shows the towing line being passed from Guadalcanal to the U-505.
With the U-505 in tow the Guadalcanal was able to resume flight operations. Here an Avenger makes her approach.
The Commanding Officer of the Guadalcanal and Task Force Commander CAPT Danial Gallery is seen atop the U-505’s conning tower. Note the damage to the tower and wear to her paint. Her captors have painted the slogan “CAN DO JUNIOR” on the conning tower.
German U-boats stowed extra torpedoes outside of their pressure hulls under deck panels. One of U-505’s reloads was found to have been damaged by gunfire and was jettisoned.
U-505 with Guadalcanal in the background. This photograph shows the wear to her paint, a useful reference for modelers.
After three days the Guadalcanal was met by the fleet tug Abnaki (ATF-96), which towed the U-505 to Bermuda. Her capture was classified Top Secret, out of concern that the Germans might change their naval codes (which the Allies had already broken) if word of her capture leaked out. Her crew was kept in isolation from other prisoners until after the war, not even the Red Cross was notified. The U-505 is currently on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Video of the capture is here:

U-505 walk around photographs here:

Shadows on the Horizon Book Review

Shadows on the Horizon: The Battle of Convoy HX-233

By W. A. Haskell

Hardcover in dustjacket, 192 pages, appendices, sources, photographs, and index

Published by Naval Institute Press, March 1999

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-55750-887-9

ISBN-13: 978-1-55750-887-4

Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.7 x 9.5 inches

Shadows on the Horizon describes in great detail the sailing of Convoy HX-233 in April 1943, and its subsequent interception by eight German U-boats.  By this time the tide of the Battle of the Atlantic was turning against the Germans.  The Allied production effort was in full swing with new ships, both merchants and escorts, coming into service at a blistering pace.  Added to the sheer numbers of vessels were several technological advances in weapons and sensors.  Allied aircraft harassed the U-boats as they transited to and from operating areas, and groups of anti-submarine ships patrolled the Atlantic, acting independently to hunt U-boats or coming to the aid of convoys as needed.  In addition, the Allies had broken the German codes, giving advanced warning of their intentions.

In many ways HX-233 was a typical formation for the spring of 1943.  It consisted of fifty-eight merchant ships arranged in twelve columns, escorted by nine warships.  In addition, a support group of four Royal Navy destroyers supplemented the dedicated escorts during a portion of the transit.  Opposing them were a total of eight German U-boats which were vectored into position to intercept the convoy.

This book is a detailed technical assessment of the voyage of the convoy, and can be seen as a representative engagement of the Battle of the Atlantic during the spring of 1943.  The author has drawn on the national archives of the many nations and logs of the ships involved along with a plethora of interviews and other sources.  The appendices provide technical details and reports.  For the wargamer, this book supplies enough information to construct a Battle of the Atlantic convoy scenario.

While in reality a technical history, the narrative is interesting enough that the presentation does not bog down and remains engaging throughout.  The author’s inspiration is that he was serving aboard one of the merchant ships in the convoy, but this is not a personal narrative.  Several details were new to me, such as the organization of the merchant ships in the convoy and their Armed Guard detachments, along with the experiences of the survivors of U-boat which had been sunk.  Recommended.