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Shar2

15" Monitor HMS Roberts. 1:350

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HMS Roberts

Trumpeter 1/350


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History
HMS Roberts was the first of a two ship class of 15” Monitors. Her keel was laid on April 30th 1940 at John Browns shipyard on the Clyde, and was launched on the 1st of February 1941. HMS Roberts was commissioned, six months late, (due mainly to have repairs made good on damage caused during an air raid), on 6th October 1941, she left Clydebank three days later for the Gareloch where she was dry docked in a floating dock brought up specifically for the job, as no other dock was able to accommodate the Roberts extreme beam. Once trials and final adjustments had been completed, it wasn’t until 13th November that she sailed for work up and to prepare for the long voyage out to the Mediterranean via the Cape of Good Hope. She did not arrive at Suez until the 26th February 1942. She remained at Suez, acting as AA guardship, and was anchored about three miles south of the canal entrance. Her radars and AA directors, added to her design during construction, proving particularly useful, although no action was actually seen during this time. In July 1942 she moved down the Red Sea for a few weeks , before she was ordered to sail for an unspecified operation. This operation turned out to be Operation Torch, the landings in North Africa. Throughout the landings she was anchored seven miles off the coast, but didn’t fire a shot as the French fort Sidi Ferruch did not resist the allied troops. The day after the landings she acted as radar guardship, warning of the approach of any German aircraft from the direction of Tunisia. Her AA guns were used against sustained air attacks, particularly from Ju-88s. She continued in this role until the 11th, when she was hit by two 500kg bombs, one hitting the port side sloping armour on the bulge and the other just aft of the funnel. She was immobilised for two days, before repairs were completed to allow her to sail, all the time still under constant air attack. During the operation she had fired off some 30,000 rounds of AA ammunition in less than a week. With the worst of the bomb damage repaired she went back to her duties and AA guardship until finally relieved, sailing for Gibraltar and home, arriving in Liverpool on the 6th January. The rest of 1943 saw the Roberts providing both AA and 15” cover for operations around the Mediterranean including the landings at Salerno, where she bombarded enemy positions from the 9th to the 19th of September on which she sailed back to Malta to replenish her ammunition as she had fired almost her entire complement of 15” shells during the actions off the beaches.

April 1944 HMS Roberts found herself back in home waters to work up for Operation Neptune and to carry out practice bombardments on the Kintyre range in company with the other ships of the bombardment fleet. Owing to her slow speed, she had to sail several days in advance of the rest of Force D, arriving at Spithead on the 28th May to await orders for the invasion fleet to sail to France. On the 5th June she sailed as part of convoy S.6, joining up with the other bombardment ships and minesweepers coming from the Clyde. The Roberts anchored in her firing position eleven miles west of LeHavre at 05.20 on the 6th of June 1944, three minutes later she opened fire from about 20,000 yards range on the Houlgate battery, which had four ex-French 155mm guns, ten miles east of Sword beach. A heavy fire was kept up on the enemy batteries until H hour. Roberts fired some twenty seven rounds during this period, but had difficulty in spotting the fall of shot due to enemy smokescreens and the failure of some armoured piercing rounds to explode in the marshy ground. Periodic fire was required throughout the day to silence any batteries that showed signs of interfering with the build up of troops, vehicles and stores on the beachhead. Most batteries though concentrated their fire on the bombardment ships rather than the flimsy landing craft. During the afternoon of D-Day Roberts made a particularly successful shoot on Houlgate, after sixteen rounds, the spotting fighter reported several direct hits and two large explosions. At 21.30 she had just started to fire on a troop concentration inland from Sword beach, when a crash was heard and a large chunk of metal was seen to fly up in front of the bridge. On ceasing fire it was found that the right 15in had burst its jacket. The jacket had split into several pieces without the whole gun bursting, so further damage was prevented by strapping it with wire rope. It wasn’t until after further action off the Seine and on targets around Caen, using only the one good barrel that she finally was sent back to Portsmouth on the 14th June with only 37 of her compliment of 235 15in rounds left and to replace her guns as the remaining barrel was also out of life. One of the replacement guns was No102, which is now to be found outside the Imperial War Museum, London. By the 21st of June Roberts was back on station on the Eastern flank of the beachhead. Up until the final day of the bombardment operation on the 18th July she continued to give covering fire throughout her operational area. To increase the range out to 30,000 yards the monitor was flooded on one side to give a three degree list to give the guns greater elevation. Roberts returned to Portsmouth on the 23rd July for the next ten weeks, to change her guns, again, give leave and repair the wear and tear of six weeks almost continuous bombardment in which she had fired 692 rounds of 15in, of which only about sixty being armoured piercing.

Having completed her duties off the French coast, Roberts took part in the commando landings at Flushing and bombarded the gun emplacements around Zeebrugge. This turned out to be the last action HMS Roberts would take part in, as although she was primed at four hours notice to bombard forts on Heligoland, the operations were called off as the German defence of the Reich collapsed, and the ship’s crew celebrated VE day in Portsmouth. Allocated to the Far East Fleet, she sailed to the Mersey for a quick refit before setting sail on the 27th July 1945 bound for the Indian Ocean where she was ordered arrive before the 1st September to acclimatise before operations against Singapore. Fortunately, the dropping of the two atomic bombs precluded they use, yet she and her sister Abercrombie continued to sail Eastwards until the formal Japanese surrender. The order for the two ships to return and reduce to reserve came on the 11th September, by which time the Roberts had reached Kilindini. The Roberts finally arrived at Plymouth on the 22nd November. Whilst her sister didn’t survive long after the war, being reduced to an accommodation ship and turret drill ship in 1946 before being laid up in Fareham Creek in 1953 and scrapped in 1954/55, HMS Roberts survived quite a bit longer. After arriving in Devonport, she stayed there until 1965, being used as a turret drill ship, accommodation ship and even the headquarters of a sailing club. On the 3rd of August 1965 she arrived at the Wards berth in Inverkeithing to be scrapped. This was the end of the Big Gun Monitors in the Royal Navy after nearly 50 years of service.

The Model
It was a very pleasant surprise to hear of Trumpeter releasing this 1:350 kit as it would be the first time it has been done in this scale as an injection moulding. The only other option has been the fantastic, but rather expensive resin offering from White Ensign Models. Due to one thing and another we didn’t receive the kit for review until very recently, so I was eager to get the box open and see what it was like. The box lid has a nice painting of the Roberts on the gun line of one of its operations. On opening the box the modeller is confronted with seven sprues of light grey styrene, with separate hull halves and main deck. There are also three frets of etched brass, a small stand and an even smaller decal sheet. The mouldings are really nicely done with some fine detail evident throughout the sprues. There are no signs of defects and not that many moulding pips, being only seen on some of the smaller parts.

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Unfortunately there is quite a big fly in the ointment as, once again, Trumpeter seem to have mucked up the hull, particularly the foreward end of the bulge, which runs to far foreward on each side, to almost underneath the anchors. The whole hull doesn’t appear deep enough either, although the general shape isn’t too bad. The foreward bulge really needs to sanded away, but due to the way it’s indented this would leave a whole that will require sheeting over with plasticard and filler, probably something only the most fastidious modeller would try.

Moving on to the build, construction starts with the two hull halves being joined together. Now, there are several large spurs on both hull joints and gunwhales where they have been cut away from the sprues, which have to be carefully removed before joining. Even though the hull is pretty stiff already due to the shape, Trumpeter have provided three bulkheads and two joining pins to give extra strength and also for giving the main deck somewhere to be affixed to. That said, the next step is to fix the main deck to the hull, before being turned over to have the bilge keels attached, followed by the two propeller shafts, a frames, propellers and rudders fitted into their respective positions.

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With the hull complete, it’s on with a raft of sub-assemblies, including windlasses, air vents, lookout binoculars, and two Type 282 directors. The weapons assemblies are then built up, the octuple and quad pom pom mounts, (the instructions appear to be wrong, in that it tells you to build two octuple mounts and one quad, whereas it should be the other way round), single 40mm mounts, (which weren’t fitted to the Roberts until 1945), include both styrene and etched parts, whereas the four twin 4” turrets and twin 20mm mounts, (only fitted to the Roberts in 1945), are purely styrene in construction. The next batch of sub-assemblies include the Type 284 directors, fitted with etched Yagi aerials, and three different styles of liferafts, stacked in twos and fours. The main 15” turret is made up of the main turret, turret base and a choice of either moveable barrels, without blast bags, or fixed, with blast bags.

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Putting the sub-assemblies aside, and with the hull the right way up, the breakwater and storage locker are fitted to the foredeck, along with two 40mm gun tubs. Either side of the main barbette the two quad pom pom splinter shields are fitted, whilst further back on each side the splinter shields for the 4” turrets are attached. The many and various ready use lockers, complete with etched doors are fitted in their appropriate positions, followed by the liferaft stacks. The four paravanes, windlasses, fore and aft anchors, plus their anchor chains and more ready use lockers are fitted.

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The build then moves onto the aft superstructure with the structures of 01 deck being glued onto the bottom structure. The etched vertical ladders are fitted, along with yet more ready use lockers, followed by the Type 284 mounts, octuple pom pom, three 40mm mounts, the emergency steering position and the twin 20mm mounts. The railings around the 02 deck structures are also attached, thoughtfully provided in the kit. Moving foreward the single piece bridge structure, (like a smaller Queen Annes Mansions seen on the likes of HMS Warspite), which is fitted out with the rear upper bridge surround, rear bridge detail plate, ready use lockers, vertical and inclined ladders, chart and wireless offices, lookout binoculars, aldis lamps, main rangefinder and bridge screen. The structure between the bridge and turret barbette is fitted out with two twin 20mm mounts, their ready use lockers and another stack of liferafts. The funnel is moulded in two halves, which, once joined together is topped out with a two piece etched funnel cap and fitted out with a number of steam pipes on the forward face. These assemblies are then attached to the main deck and at last it’s beginning to look like a warship.

Before the assembly of the two masts the midships 40mm mounts are fitted in their elevated tubs, whilst either side of the turret barbette, in similar elevated mounts the two Type 282 directors are fitted. More railings around the upper decks can be fitted now, or the modeller may wish to wait till the end of the main build. The mainmast is assembled from a single pole foreward and double pole moulding aft, connected by two Y shaped struts. To the front pole a long vertical etched ladder is affixed. The top of the mast is fitted out with an oblong star platform on which the mast for the aft Type 281aerial is attached, followed by the yardarm, vertical ladder and etched radar aerial which will need some careful folding to keep everything square. The supporting rear poles of the tripod for the foremast are slid into position to the rear of the bridge structure. The fore pole fitted on top of the bridge, with the large starfish platform, (made entirely of etched parts), fixed to the top of the three poles. The spotting top is fitted onto the starfish platform along with the mast and Type 281 aerial as per the mainmast assembly. With the masts fitted into place, the 4”, 15” turrets can be fitted, as are the forward quad pom pom mounts and foredeck mounted 40mm units. Sundry items, such as the foredeck derricks, Jack Staff and Ensign Staff, ships boats, boat booms, accommodation ladders and quarterdeck derricks are attached. Finally the boat davits, acoustic hammer, (actually removed in 1945), hammer derrick and ships railings are fitted, thus completing the build.

Decals
The small decal sheet provides just two types of White Ensign, one wavy and one straight.

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Conclusion
I really am quite disappointed with this kit. It had so much promise on opening the box, but Trumpeter has once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The hull, especially the extended bulge seems to have been made by the same team that made, and mucked up the same area, that designed their HMS Warspite. That flaw and the fact that the hull appears to be too shallow overall, but mostly under the waterline makes the whole ship look wrong in its proportions. The twin 20mm mounts and single 40mm Bofors, according to my references, were only fitted to the Roberts in 1945, yet the acoustic hammer was removed, (although the derrick was retained), in the refit before sailing to the Far East. If you want to build HMS Roberts as per her time at Salerno or on D-Day, at the very least you will also need to find some single 20mm mounts to replace the 40mm, another Type 282 director and pair of searchlights, which is a shame really, as the boxart shows her during her bombardment of France during D-Day. Recommended with the above caveats.

Review sample courtesy of
logo.gifUK Distributors for logo.jpg

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What were your references for this review ?

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Thanks for that review SHAR2 - it is the one ship on my shopping list for Telford.

For Mick4350 -

The best reference for any RN monitor is:

Big Gun Monitors: Design, Construction and Operations 1914-1945 by Ian Buxton

published by Seaforth Publishing - ISBN 978-1848321243

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I used to have a 15" monitor but I upgraded to a 24" :winkgrin:

thanks for the review Dave is now on my "to get list"

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Mick, I used reference books from my personal collection, photos from the Internet, and information from fellow modellers who have an interest in these ships.

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I have the book by Ian Buxton plus the book on the HMS Roberts by Profile Morskie # 57. I feel the kit is quite sound as building her in a 1944 fit ( without the 40mm bofors ) should not be all that hard as there are enough twin 20mm gun mounts ( E10 and E19 ) to convert her to that year.

I need a good magnifier before I tackle the Master Model set SM-350-050 for the 20mm Oerlikon guns.

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Having built the WEM kit of the Roberts there are some marked differences, particularly with the hull, and I know who I'd trust more with getting the shapes right.

You should try fitting the individual barrels on an eight barrels pompom. :frantic:

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Have you seen the new HMS Abercrombie from Trumpeter yet ? It looks as if it includes a faceted barbette like on the Roberts model and wonder if this is incorrect ?

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I'd have to check to confirm it but I believe that's wrong, it should be round.

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I know I'm a bit late to the party but I've just recently bought the Abercrombie (as part of my theme of building ships built on the Tyne) & was just wondering if it should be round as described above & how else it differed,

cheers,

spad

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