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HMS Portchester Castle. 1:350


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HMS Portchester Castle

White Ensign Models 1/350


The Castle-class corvettes were an updated version of the much more numerous Flower-class corvettes of the Royal Navy, and started appearing during late 1943. They were equipped with radar as well as ASDIC. The Admiralty had decided to cease Flower-class construction in favour of the larger River-class frigates as the Flower-class had originally been intended for coastal escort work and were not entirely satisfactory for Atlantic convoy service. In particular, they were slow, poorly armed, and rolled badly in rough seas which quickly exhausted their crews. However, many shipyards were not large enough to build frigates. The Castle-class was designed to be built on small slipways for about half the overall effort of a Loch-class frigate. The Loch-class frigate was similar to a River, but built using the system of prefabrication.

The appearance of Castle-class corvettes was much like the later "long forecastle" variant of the Flowers and they were a little larger (around 1,200 tons about 200 tons more than the Flowers, and 40 ft (12 m) longer). The most obvious visual difference was the lattice mainmast instead of the pole version fitted to the Flowers. There was also a squarer cut look to the stern although it was still essentially a cruiser spoon type; this difference was only visible from abaft the beam. The armament was similar except that the depth charge fitment had been replaced by one Squid anti-submarine mortar, with Hadleigh Castle receiving the first production Squid mounting. The propulsion machinery was identical to the Flowers, and experienced officers felt that they were seriously under powered, having a tendency to turn into the wind despite everything the helmsman could do. The fact that Squid attacks required a fairly low speed (compared to depth charge attacks) only made matters worse. Most of the Castle-class corvettes had been discarded by the end of the 1950s, but a few survived a little longer as weather ships. The last Castle was the Uruguayan training ship Montevideo, originally HMS Rising Castle, which was scrapped in 1975. Most were operated by the Royal Navy, but twelve were transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy before completion and one to the Royal Norwegian Navy. Three Castles were sunk through enemy action, and Castles participated in the sinking of seven U-boats.

HMS Portchester Castle named after the castle that stands at the entrance to Fareham Creek was laid down on 17th March 1943 at the Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson yards at Wallsend on Tyne. Launched on 21st June 1943 and completed on 8th October 1943. One of the fastest builds of her class. Portchester Castle was one of the first of the Castle class corvettes to be commissioned, and she completed her trials and work up by the end of December 1943. It isnt clear what the ship was doing during January 1944, but in February she was allocated to the B7 Escort Group on Trans Atlantic Ocean convoy duty. She remained with that group until April, when she was transferred to the B4 Escort Group, escorting convoys to Gibraltar. Later in the year there were enough Castle Class corvettes available to make up single class escort groups that would provide anti submarine patrols and convoy escorts in the Western Approaches and around the coasts of the UK. HMS Portchester Castle sank U-484 near Tory Island. This was the first occasion that a submarine had been sunk entirely by a ship using squid mortar unit. Two months later she and other members of her escort group sank the U-1200 off Cape Clear.
The ship was taken in hand by the dockyard for a lengthy refit from January until the 1st of May 1945 and saw no further action. Later, in June 1945 she was transferred to the West African Command where she performed Air Sea Rescue duties until October. During her time in West Africa she was involved with the sinking of the Edinburgh Castle that had been used as an accommodation ship in Freetown. To avoid the cost of returning the ship to the UK she was towed out to sea and sunk using gunfire and depth charges. From there HMS Portchester Castle moved to Gibraltar to perform similar duties until early 1946 where she was withdrawn from service and laid up in Harwich.

In April 1951, HMS Portchester Castle was brought out of reserve and re-commissioned for service in the 2nd training squadron based at Portland. While there she took on one of her most famed roles as the fictional frigate HMS Saltash Castle in the film the Cruel Sea. She continued to show her pennant number F362 during the filming, which was done at Portland and the English Channel. She was again withdrawn from service in June 1956 and laid up until 1958, when she was sold for scrap. She resisted to the last, breaking away from her tow from the tug Brigadier on the night of 15th-16th May, but having re-established the tow HMS Portchester Castle arrived at Troon on 17th May 1958 for breaking.

The Model
Moulded in their customary cream resin, the kit comes in White Ensign Models standard sturdy top opening cardboard box, with the kit details and colour drawing of her starboard side.

The hull comes in two parts allowing the kit to be modelled either waterline or full hull, and measures out at 220mm or just under 83/4. There are a number of moulding pips on the undersides of each part with need to be sanded down so that they fit snugly. There doesn't appear to any shrinkage between the two parts, but a little filler may be required around the waterline. As usual there are no apparent air bubbles or other faults on these parts. Be careful of the sides of the rear hull along the quarterdeck, the mouldings are very fine and easily broken from the upper hull. Fortunately they should be easily repairable.

The rest of the resin parts make up the lower main superstructure, bridge, AA gun platform, funnel, 4 gun shield, anchor windlass and the three ships boats. All these parts are crisply moulded, but as can be seen with the boats there is some flash that will need to be removed, but its very thin so shouldnt take too long to clean up.

The majority of smaller parts are produced in white metal. Again they appear nicely done, but some require more cleaning up of flash than others. Those items still on their pouring sprue include the 4 gun, two twin Oerlikon mounts, four cowl vents, squid barrel cluster, squid mounting base, crows nest, searchlight, six Carley floats, the rudder and propeller.

The etched fret is well up to the usual standard set by White Ensign. Along with a complete compliment of ships railings, inclined ladders, ships anchors, and the stock lengths of vertical ladders and anchor chain the sheet also provides the lattice mast assembly along with the mast top platform, mast top DF antenna, top mast pole base and top mast array. Then there are the Type 25/M aerial, Type 242 antenna, Type 277 aerial, single and twin Oerlikons, ESM antenna for a later fit, the funnel cap grille, yardarms, flare rocket launchers, superstructure side platforms, depth charge rails and rail frame, gun platform cross braces, radar lantern assembly. Carley float racks. For the single depth charge throwers there are loading davits, the throwers themselves, as well as items for the ships boats, including oars, davits, thwarts for the 27 whaler and the ships nameplates.

Construction is relatively straightforward, particularly if you have some experience of working with resin, etched brass and white metal. If the model is to be made in full hull configuration, the its best to fit the two hull parts together at the beginning, this way any gaps or overhangs can be sorted out early. Once this is done the upper and lower hull, main deck and boot topping can be painted as it will be a lot easier to do it now rather than when the kit is complete, there is a nice coloured painting guide at the rear of the instructions. The forward superstructure, bridge, funnel and AA platform are fitted to the main deck. Once again it may be best to paint these items before fitting.




From then on its building up the sub assemblies, such as the 4 gun, complete with gun shield and flare rocket launchers, the two twin 20mm Oerlikons, single Oerlikons with options for early or late positioning, the squid mortar assembly, and the folding of the two ships anchors. The 4 mount and the squid mount, along with the mortar bomb loading rails are then fitted into position with the 4 surrounded by railings. On the foredeck the anchor windlass is fitted with the anchors slid into their hawsepipes. The supplied anchor chain can then be cut to length and fitted between the two. The bridge antenna and platforms are now assembled and glued into place, along with the 20mm Oerlikons, searchlight, and the bridge inclined ladders.



One of the more complex tasks is the folding of the octagonal radar lantern around the affixed roof before gluing to the base. Its a similar story with the lattice main mast, which once folded to shape is fitted out with the top platform, platform supports, pole mast bracket, platform railings, ensign gaff and the crows nest, which will require a small oblong of plasticard to be fitted just under the top platform for it to sit on. The pole mast, made from the length of brass rod provided, is fitted with the four piece yardarm near its base and the FH4 antenna to its top. The Type 242 array and Type 25M antenna are shaped then fitted just beneath the crows nest. The radar lantern assembly is then glued onto the top mast platform. If you are building the ship in a later fit then parts are included to allow this and include a differently shaped top mast platform, yardarm, top pole mast with DF aerial at its top, Type 277 radar and ESM aerial. Once the mast is complete it can be fitted into place at the rear of the bridge structure. If required the two loading booms can be fitted to the lower superstructure in either folded or extended poses.


The funnel cap is now fitted as are the twin Oerlikons onto the previously fitted platform along with the PE antenna spreader. The davits for the ships boats are assembled and fitted to their positions on the main deck along with the boats themselves. The carley float racks can also be fitted now and the floats fitted to the racks. The depth charge throwers are now folded to shape and the depth charges, made up of lengths of styrene rod, (provided), glued onto the throwers. The single depth charge rail is folded to shape, as is the rail frame and filled with more depth charges from the styrene rod. The throwers and rail are now glued into position on the quarterdeck along with the thrower loading davits. The four vent cowls are now glued into place around the AA platform followed by the inclined ladders from the quarter deck to the main deck. The ships railings can now be attached and lastly, if the ship is full hull, the propeller and rudder are fitted.


This is another lovely kit form White Ensign, and one that really fills a gap in the maritime modellers collection. The added interest of being able to produce HMS Saltash Castle from The Cruel Sea gives the modeller another excuse to watch the film, (not that you should need one). The kit is certainly not for beginners, but even an intermediate modeller should be able, given care and time, to build a really good looking model. Unfortunately there are no decals with the kit, but they can quite easily be sourced. Very highly recommended.


Review sample courtesy of John at logo.jpg

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