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mollythedog

An American built escort carrier, 1/1250 scale, scratchbuilt

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A while back I did a bit of a build log on the Royal Navy CVE  HMS Pretoria Castle.  It had always been my intention to build the US built CVE at some point- they were far more numerous and carried a wide variety of camo and aircraft, and served in all theatres from their introduction in early/mid 1943 until wars end. A number were converted back into merchant ships after,and served well into the 70's. 

 

At first glance the sheer number built can be a bit daunting, and it requires a little sorting out to understand how the class system worked and settle on "a" ship or block of ships to concentrate on. I wanted an early RN unit, but in many respects these ships shared features with their USN counterparts of the same time frame-that is the early Bogues (USN)and the early Attacker class(RN) . This still leaves quite a bit of sorting out to do, as they did change over time,reflecting lessons learned and updating the early units, in both navies, to match the later ships. This involves bridges, close AA and sensors for the most part. 

 

As usual the model will be entirely scratchbuilt, using plastic card, Evergreen, glue etc and not much else. I had already decided to draw up a set of etch covering these ships for the fiddly biits-masts and radar mostly, but many of the close range weapons as well. I have most of the aircraft after doing the work for the Pretoria Castle build-. 

 

Initially I'll be concentrating on HMS Attacker/HMS Battler and show below just a few of the references I used-in addition many photos collected or bought and the usual trawl of the internet,though there is surprisingly not that much out there. 

 

 

38471967265_03086c661e_b.jpgbooks by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

 

 

 

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Legend!

 

You must have been reading my mind!

I have recently been considering one of these as my next scratchbuild once AE2 is complete.  I was thinking 1/350 though.

Still, that’s not so surprising as I dream up some wild new project about once a week! 🤪

RN mid war Western Approachs camouflage I’m hoping.

Whichever colour, this is going to be awesome!

 

 

 

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I've been watching andrewa's progress using the Tooling Board,which looks to be a really interesting alternative to plastic card, but for my builds the old stuff still takes some beating-the smaller scale,and thus the thinner material is more useful,though I must admit I very tempted to get some Tooling Board in different thickness's next time I'm in the old country. I think that for anyone thinking about building in a larger scale the boards look really promising ( maybe you are already considering it Steve,or are you sticking to wood?) 

 

As with all my builds this one spans several years, and the photos were taken for my own reference rather than any future WIP write up,so I apologise in advance if they appear a bit "strange". In most of the early photos I chose to show the master progress alongside an old project, although I am not really sure why I did it, now....anyway, the C-3 hulls built in the US ( off the top of my head C-1 through C-5 covered a specific hull type/size, the first 3 being standard freighters and the C-4 being a larger hull used for a series of large troop ships ) and the building programme was well in place before the US entry into WW2. The C-3's ended being used for several roles, including the as built large passenger/cargo ships built for the American President Lines, eventually being converted into pretty capable attack transports,and being heavily engaged in both the early Pacific and Mediterranean landings. So, shown in front of the C-3 hull that will become a CVE is an unfinished C-3 , I think it represents the Thomas Stone, but equally might be the President Jackson or Hayes. Being of a standard design it was an early attempt at making a C-3 hull,casting it in resin and then using it to make a whole family of ships. The resin was very difficult to work with due to air bubbles and of all the hulls I cast this is the only one that ended up being used. You live and learn...

 

My usual method of building a frame with the deck sheer built in (considerable in this class of ships, and a handicap later when converted to CVE's)   is shown here-the Aluminium angle is a piece of throw away I picked up on site many years ago when I had a proper job, and is invaluable as a flat piece to which all my hulls are assembled-being metal it will never bond with the plastic when using liquid glues  and can be clamped in a small swivel head vice to allow work from any angle while the hull is under construction-simple spring clamps, clothes pegs or whatever can be used to secure the hull flat.

 

38488685645_8c7b3a8ea1_b.jpgHull 0 by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

Once everything is settled and dried (typically 24 hours) progress is pretty rapid. In the next photo the bow and stern "cheek" pieces have been added. Up to now, I have pretty much only used liquid glue-it is slower but does allow for repositioning for squareness and true, but you could use superglue if you were confident in your speed and eye. You can see that these cheek pieces are not accurately cut-there is no need really,you will be doing a lot of carving and sanding later,so no need to be precise now,as long as the base "skeleton" is flat and square. 

 

38658313574_74e369c64c_b.jpgHull 1 by plastichacker, on Flickr

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Hi mollythedog!

I have in My library Kenneth Poolman's 'Escort carrier - HMS Vindex at War' ,which is an amazing insight to the operation and life aboard a RN Escort Carrier,so I will enjoy following Your build!

 

Keep Sticking!  Cheers,  Pete

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Hi Morty, yes you are right, I have that book, and it is a very good account of the life and operations of HMS Vindex, a British built CVE, slightly smaller than the Pretoria Castle but similar in many respects. I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.

 

The build follows pretty much the same pattern as used for the Pretoria Castle, a lot of laminating and carving, and apart from a good knife and patience there's not much else to say.

 

39354354182_6190646faa_b.jpgHull 1a by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

The additional cheek pieces bow and stern were roughly glued using superglue-not only is the joint strong, it also is solid-using liquid glue for this would be much slower but also the core of the glue joint would remain soft for days, and the joint would "work", making clean seamless layers difficult. 

 

38676216794_6e55b7c4b6_b.jpgHull 2 by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

A lot of carving later it is starting to look boat shaped. This sort of work requires the very sharpest scalpel blades you can lay your hands on-forget Swann Morton and their ilk, they are not sharp enough,and their design,with the locating slot in the blade makes them weak and very prone to break when used for this type of work.You are more likely to put your eye out when the blade snaps if you do use them......a collet type handle (Swann Morton do a decent one in their ACM range) from X-Acto, Maxx etc with a No.11 blade is the way to go.

 

38676217494_ec21b1398b_b.jpgHull 3 by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

Finally starting to take shape and look C-3 ish. Please feel free to ignore my comments on tool and material choices, i realise that a lot work with what they are happiest with, and will always prefer their brand X over my brand Y-each to his own.

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As mentioned previously, the early RN and USN ships shared essentially the same bridge , in size and layout,with some important differences. I will detail these as best I can, I had intended,at some point, to introduce the old Tamiya Bogue class CVE in 1/700th into the thread- I realise that 1/1250 is not everyones cup of tea, and that 1/700 is far more popular for kit builders. Sadly I then realised that the kit I have is back in England and there is nothing I can do about that at the moment. But I point out some things that might aid those building or modding that kit. 

 

39399372112_109e744e40_b.jpgAttacker bridge 1942 by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

This is a very nice USN photo of the Attacker completing,and shows here the bridge in perfect detail. Points to note are the prominent small tower behind the open bridge,and the type 272 radar lantern atop, and the lattice mast carrying the type 279B dipoles (the "TV" aerials mounted to the pole mast) . In early units the "goofers" gallery was quite small,and was usually much larger in US units. All early USN ships had an enclosed bridge house,looking much like a small pillbox, instead of the open bridge,though I am fairly sure that Bogue herself completed with an open bridge much like Attackers.

 

39399464432_6eabb53267_b.jpgAttacker bridge cast by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

As usual these small parts are difficult to photo,here is a casting of the early RN bridge, which has already been fitted with the PE D/F loop and 272 tower. I found it slightly easier to photo this than the plasticard master part. 

 

24563644627_2ac36d0349_b.jpgUS  bridge early by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

This is the part constructed master of the early USN bridge- the overhanging gallery has been extended all the way round the bridge,greatly increasing floor space. The small enclosed bridge is fitted. US units carried their search radars aloft at the head of the lattice mast,another major difference. Most RN used the 272 until quite late in the war.

 

Back to the hull next time.

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Stunning work! That bridge is impressive - doubly so, when the scale is taken into account!

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The construction of the hull follows much the same pattern as that for the Pretoria Castle-essentially a large box structure was added to the hull to give the maximum internal volume,containing the hangar,of course,as well as workshops and accommodation. As the sheer of the deck had not been eliminated it must have made the moving and securing of aircraft extremely difficult,as it would all have been done by hand. 

 

39491497271_5e63cda536_b.jpgHull 4 by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

It's sort of starting to look a bit like a CVE,though there is a long way to go at this point. The shape of the hull and simple box superstructure would,in my opinion,make this type of ship an excellent candidate for a large scratch build that should not really challenge an experienced kit builder.

 

39461020712_fe22ef70b7_b.jpgHull 5 by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

Once the super block has dried it can be filled-in the photo the Green Stuff might look excessive,but it isn't. It does tend to shrink a little,so a good coat,well applied with a smooth blade (I have an old No.11 blade reshaped into a filler smoothing tool) .

 

Dealing again with materials, I have read on BM a number of people say that Green Stuff is useless. I have to strongly disagree,it is by fat the best plastic seam/small dent filler I have found,in 50 years of modelling. It is not perfect by any means,and can be "difficult" sometimes-it tends to dry out and you have to be strict with yourself and replace the cap the second you have taken out the tiny amount you need. Keep the cap clean and do NOT overtighten the cap,it will strip. If the filler is dry then apply a drop of liquid glue such as Tamiya Extra Thin to the top surface of the filler in the tube and mix in. The tube will last for years,and often I have to chuck them when half used as they have dried out,but modellers of larger things like 1/35th tanks or 1/32nd aircraft should get full value from a tube. 

 

It is not good for resin,it really works on plastic by melting itself into the surface,which is why it needs to be very slightly fluid,or wet. If left to dry thoroughly and then wet sanded back it will leave virtually no trace except the hole/defect you had to fill, filled.

An alternative is (or was) Tamiya Basic Type Putty,but I am not sure if this is still available.It is slightly harder and more difficult to sand back in awkward places due to its hardness.

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Once the hull shape was firmed up it was time to add some of the lumps and bumps-40mm and 20mm tubs and the fore and aft structures that support the flight deck. 

 

24665510027_6b4aeb1b23_b.jpgHull 6 by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

The side sponsons were added from plastic card,shaped and then filled with Milliput. This seems to be another material that can cause some difficulties-even now I still struggle at times to get this filler to work,but when it does it is simply unbeatable-you can shape it,carve it,sand it and get a glass like finish on it,and it generally adheres to anything (and just as importantly,to itself) allowing remodelling or shaping as much as you want. The key to getting the best from it are-making sure that the surface you apply it to has some cross scoring-as heavy as you like but something that gives "key" to the place where it is going. Secondly, although you are told to mix it 50:50 I would strongly advise that you mix it something like 60:40,the darker component being the 60%-if the end mix looks very light olive it might not harden fully,and be crumbly. I think the lighter component is the hardener, but whatever,it definitely works better like this. Third, thoroughly mix the 2 parts,between your fingers until homogeneous and warm. Apply wet,with a little spit on your spatula or blade,and once applied, place the part/model in a warm area (even on top of the PC tower or at the end of a radiator,out of direct heat) will speed hardening. 

 

39533389811_eb5ce92594_b.jpgHull 7 by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

Here the side sponsons have been finished,and,as usual, I have used a coat of matt red Humbrol to check for flaws. The side extensions aft for the 5" (sometimes changed for 4" on RN units) are in place and ready for weapons.

 

Finally ready for a flight deck....

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Good advice on the use of Milliput; thanks.

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I have no intention of being seduced into 1/1250 but am enjoying the quality of the research and, even more, watching a real craftsman at work in a scale which would send watchmakers cross-eyed.  Amazing stuff!

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Excellent work so far, looking forward to the finished product :smile:

 

I take it you have a large collection of 1/1250 scale die-cast table top models, hence the scale of your build?

 

I've a had a pair scratch builds of CVEs underway for a "considerable" time, one is 1/144scale for RC (a test build really for a 1/72 scale version) and a 1/600 scale version. I was going to do a 1/1200 scale (my usual "small" scale) test build for it but never got around to it.

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Thanks for the comments. I hope to show that you don't "have" to go the kit route,regardless of the scale-it is just plastic modelling,and if you have the plans and photos there's no reason not to make something unique,and relatively (looking at the prices of the average 1/350 or 1/200 kit,plus PE,corrections,wood decks,metal gun barrels and all the other doodahs you "must" have) cheaply. !/1250 just happens to suit me. It is an international collectors scale,and allows for a large number of very detailed models in a fairly small space. One small correction-very few apart from the old Triang and the things sold with magazines are "diecast",which is an entirely different way of making things. Most 1/1250 commercially made models are cast in a soft white metal,allowing for incredible detail, depending on the master model of course.

 

Another comment on Milliput that I forgot to mention before-you should really try and keep the "sausages" of each component as closed as you can,in their respective plastic bags.The light green one seems little affected if not closed up-it dries up a bit but moisture added to it revives it. The darker one is another matter-it can get a sort of "skin" on it of darker material-this should be removed-pared off with a sharp blade,exposing the fresh stuff underneath.Chuck the skin away and use the fresh stuff.If you don't,no matter how well you mix it,this shin will stay in the mix and never go off,and never harden.  This probably sounds like too much messing about,but it really is remarkable stuff for model making and if you haven't tried to use it you should.It is second to none for filling metal and resin castings,nothing else comes close. Lecture over.

 

Oddly enough I started a scratch build of a 1/144th scale CVE many years ago,for R/C-it's still sitting in the basement about 75% complete.Maybe one day I'll finish it.

 

Here the flight deck has been added,and the bridge "blank" is sitting in place-now it looks like a CVE. The shape of the side sponsons can be seen,and the 5" positions. I scored the position of the lifts,but changed this later for another method. I spent a ridiculous amount of time searching for etched scribing templates in rectangle/rounded corner squares,and found not much at all-either not in stock,no longer made or just the wrong size. It is something I an not well pracitised at,and I can only admire the aircraft blokes that cheerfully re-scribe an entire aircraft.Mental.

 

38677230505_be88a8ce5e_b.jpgHull 8 by plastichacker, on Flickr

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On 04/01/2018 at 9:00 AM, mollythedog said:

The shape of the hull and simple box superstructure would,in my opinion,make this type of ship an excellent candidate for a large scratch build that should not really challenge an experienced kit builder.

Check this out:  https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/airfixtributeforum/adm-s-work-in-progress-t34448.html

 

He gets stuck into the carrier itself around the page 25-30 mark, but before that he built the air wing (& a rival Japanese air wing) and the deck crew!  :o

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Anyone following the link in the previous post can see the CVE construction process from around page 25 until page 40. It is pretty amazing,but the modeller clearly has found a way of cramming 25 hours into each day- I think it is a Commencement Bay class CVE. Well worth a look. 

 

Once the flight deck is in place the placement of the parts that surround can be added-mainly the side walkways and 20mm galleries, side trunked funnel casings port and starboard, and 40mm gun tubs. A major identification point for the early RN units,and,as far as I can tell,unique to this class (the Attackers) was the 20mm galleries,which were quite short,and carried 2 x 20mm per gallery,and there were only 2 per side. Later units,and all USN ship had 3 galleries,and carried 3 x 20mm per side,thus making a total of 9 x 20mm port and starboard. I don't know why the early ships had a much smaller number of 20mm,but assume that the air threat was not considered that great for the Atlantic convoys they were originally intended to work on.  They also only carried 1 x twin 40mm forward per side,and never,going from the photos I have, had the second,staggered 40mm fitted port and starboard slightly ahead of the bridge. If building the Tamiya kit these items should be considered if you want an Attacker rather than the later Ruler class. There are other differences I'll try and detail later.

 

27850906939_b5729bee36_b.jpgHull 9 by plastichacker, on Flickr

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The Historic Naval Ships Association's website has the US Navy-issued booklet of general plans for HMS Battler available for download here:

 

http://www.hnsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/acv6.pdf

 

This illustrates many of the differences you mention, especially as the site also has the corresponding booklet for HMS Puncher from the later Ruler class:

 

http://www.hnsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/cve53-d79.pdf

 

The booklet, by the way, explicitly states that Battler carried two 4-inch guns.

 

Maurice

 

 

Edited by mdesaxe
additional information

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On 08/01/2018 at 11:30 AM, Sgt.Squarehead said:

Check this out:  https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/airfixtributeforum/adm-s-work-in-progress-t34448.html

 

He gets stuck into the carrier itself around the page 25-30 mark, but before that he built the air wing (& a rival Japanese air wing) and the deck crew!  :o

Definitely impressed me...very impressive.

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On 11/01/2018 at 2:15 PM, mdesaxe said:

The Historic Naval Ships Association's website has the US Navy-issued booklet of general plans for HMS Battler available for download here:

 

http://www.hnsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/acv6.pdf

 

This illustrates many of the differences you mention, especially as the site also has the corresponding booklet for HMS Puncher from the later Ruler class:

 

http://www.hnsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/cve53-d79.pdf

 

The booklet, by the way, explicitly states that Battler carried two 4-inch guns.

 

Maurice

 

 

Thanks Maurice for providing those links-I had intended posting these but you saved me the job! 

 

As for the matter of 4" guns on CVEs, it is somewhat confusing and after quite a bit of searching I am still not sure which ships carried which guns,and when. As completed,in the US yard,they would almost certainly have had US weapons. The problem is that just what was changed to "RN Standard" and when. For example  Attacker started working up in late 1942,in the US, but didn't arrive in Liverpool for conversion to RN practices (fuel stowage,A+A's etc ) until April 43,so presumably carried US weapons until atelast this point. As for which 4", there is some disagreement in my references.Some state the the CVEs (NOT the later Rulers,which,like their USN counterparts,carried the single 5"/38s each side) were fitted with US 4" Mk9 weapons-a low slung LA mount used mainly on the Flush Deckers. A strange choice as a replacement.  Friedman states that the surviving early units were refitted with standard RN 4" MkV HA guns in 1943. A very good photo of this gun/mount can be seen on P.38 of Hobbs "RN Aircraft Carriers in Focus",though he erroneously states that it is a USN MK9 when it is clearly a RN MkV-a very good reference photo in any case. So,if modelling these ships,take your choice....

 

mtd

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These booklets often were updated as a matter of standard US Navy practice. The booklet for Battler is notated as updated on May 5, 1943. Without having gone over the drawings in detail, I cannot determine if every British update is incorporated but Sheet 6 conspicuously illustrates the cofferdam around the avgas stowage that was part of the upgrade plan (it also appears on other sheets). Overall, I would be inclined to regard the booklet as representing Battler after modifications for Royal Navy service with British 4-inch HA guns.

 

It is worth noting that the Puncher booklet does indeed show 5-inch guns, which have to be American since the British did not produce such a weapon.

 

Maurice

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It's true to say that the USN and the private yards that constructed the majority of the mass produced ships during WW2 were better at record keeping that their British counterparts. As well as building to standardised designs,there were less supply bottlenecks,and is it also well worth remembering that they weren't being bombed by the Luftwaffe for most of the war...

 

As I am concentrating on building an early Attacker class CVE that is where my efforts have concentrated,and after studying a number of photos I am confident in saying that the references that state that they were fitted with the US 4" Mk9 are correct-atleast initially though I am fairly sure that from mid 1943 on,as they came in for refit the LA guns were replaced with British MkV HA mounts. I may crop a couple of photos and post on here,the size and shape of the Mk9 cannot be mistaken for any RN gun I know of. My model was fitted with 5"/38s when I first did it but is undergoing a number of revisions,and has been fitted with the correct 4" as of now. At very least I have found 2 ships that were so fitted. 

 

Again,none of these comments apply to the Ruler/Bogues,so if you want to convert the Tamiya 1/700th kit that is probably the easiest route to go,though as I said before I don't have the kit to hand to say much more than that at the moment.

 

mtd

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As mentioned previously here is a photo of the USN 4" Mk9 fitted to Stalker. Points to note are the heavily cut away screen and very low mounting-this is clearly a LA gun. The Ruler class did not have this cut away screen,as the HA was much higher (to allow for higher elevation ) and easily cleared the screen even at 0 elevation. Photos are difficult to find,as the mount was almost hidden both by the shadow of the overhang of the flight deck and by the screen itself. 

 

24813405147_59aef3787b_b.jpgStalker 43 4 inch LA by plastichacker, on Flickr

 

mtd

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