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1/350 HMS BULOLO scratchbuild


Chewbacca
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Well this is going to be a challenge!  For many years, I have wanted to build a model of HMS BULOLO.  Originally built in 1938 by Clyde shipbuilders Barclay, Curle & Company Limited as MV BULOLO for the Philp Burns Line, a passenger/cargo/mail vessel operating between Sydney, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, she was taken up from trade in the weeks immediately following the outbreak of WW2 and converted to an Armed Merchant cruiser equipped with 6 inch and 3 inch guns plus a depth charges and a wide range of close range AA weapons.  From January 1940 to March 1942 she operated on convoy protection duties between South Africa, South America and UK, based mainly out of Freetown in Sierra Leone.

 

BULOLO-1938-trials.jpg

On sea trials in the Firth of Clyde, 1938

 

In March 1942 she was converted for a second time to an amphibious headquarters ship.  The long range armament was stripped off and in its place went a complex communications array for land, air and maritime comms.  This was an idea supposedly originated by the then head of Combined Operations, Commodore Mountbatten and after conversion, BULOLO deployed to the Mediterranean where she was employed coordinating the landings in North Africa, Sicily and Anzio.  She returned to UK and was then prepared for Operation Overlord where she was the headquarters ship for Gold beach in Normandy.

 

Bulolo 1938 05 - as HMS Bulolo (F82)

Entering Grand Harbour, Valetta.  I presume this must be sometime in 1943.

 

HMS_Bulolo.jpg

At a buoy in the Medway, I think just prior to Op Overlord

 

After Normandy, BULOLO was updated yet again for operations in the Far East and in early 1945 deployed East of Suez with the Eastern Fleet, later to become part of the Sea East Asia Command flying the flag of Admiral Lord Mountbatten as Supreme Allied Commander.  During this time BULOLO was the coordinating unit for the British operations in Malaya, Borneo, Burma and, most famously, the flagship at the Japanese surrender of Japan on 12th September 1945.  She remained in the Far East until December 1946 when she returned to the UK and was decommissioned and handed back to Philp Burns Ltd in whose hands she did sterling service in the Pacific for 22 years.

 

So why BULOLO?  At the outbreak of WW2, my father was just finishing his apprenticeship as an electrical engineer working for one of the UK's leading suppliers of switchgear to enable power stations to keep the electricity flowing to industry and as such he was barred from military service because his skills were deemed to be a reserved occupation.  He tried to join the Navy many time in the early years of the war and every time his employer successfully prevented it.  Eventually, in late 1943, with the effects of the Luftwaffe diminishing, he was finally allowed to join up and after basic and some trade training, he passed out and owing to his experience was immediately promoted to Petty Officer Electrical Artificer, despite only being 21 years old.  He joined BULOLO as she was preparing to deploy East of Suez and remained onboard until he was demobbed in December 46 when she returned to UK.  At some point he was promoted to Chief Petty Officer.

 

He also spoke fondly of his time in "the mob" and loved the time he spent in BULOLO.  He would have liked to transfer to regular RN but his former bosses had already been pushing to get him back - after all there was still lots of electrical repair/replacement work across the country and they needed the people whom they had trained.  He also spoke extremely highly of Lord Mountbatten. Incidentally there is another family connection in that his father helped to both build HMS KELLY (which of course was commanded by the then Captain Mountbatten) and rebuild her twice, firstly after she struck a mine near to the mouth of the Tyne and secondly after being torpedoed in Norwegian waters.

 

And so the model, which is being built in tribute to my father who sadly is no longer with us.

 

Well, there is no kit that I could find that even vaguely resembles her for conversion and precious little detail.  There are a few photos of her in military service but not really enough to build from.

 

I am indebted to fellow BMer David Swindell for pointing out that there is a 1/48 sale ship builder's model of her in the Glasgow Waterfront Museum and as I was up there on business a couple of months ago I was able to pop in and take some photos.  It's in her "as built" civilian configuration and unfortunately was about 10 foot up in a display case so cracking photos of her keel but upperworks are a little hazy!  I always do my ship models as waterline so the keel photos are not really needed.

 

30696206888_1d27cbcc5c_b.jpg

 

However, based on those photos and some generic merchant ship frame drawings I did manage to spend yesterday pulling some outline hull plans together so that I can start to at least get the hull moving forward.  Although I have done a lot of conversion work in the past including some fairly extensive scratchbuilding of superstructures, I have never before attempted a full scratchbuilt ship.  I did originally think I would go for my usual 1/600 scale but there appears to be a greater availability of generic merchant ship fittings in 1/350 from places like Northstar/Tom's Model Works so I'm going with that instead.  Wish me luck!

 

29617275637_c19690b32b_b.jpg

 

 

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Welcome Chewbacca to this GB. It is a big build and I am very impressed that you are doing a  scratch build. So I am gonna say that I wish you luck with this build. I will be watching this. 

 

Cheers,

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Gosh!!! Welcome aboard Chewbacca and with what must be the most challenging build so far!

 

I am really impressed you're going for a build like this, it's going to be something to follow for sure!

 

Good luck with the build, I think you're going to have a lot of people following this build. I really do hope you finish her in time, it'll be awesome to have her in the gallery.

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Thanks everyone for your encouragement.  Nothing like a bit of pressure!

 

I tried to make a start last night to mark up the frames but the modelling area is just too cluttered at the moment to be working with large sheets of thick plasticard so I will have to finish off the Dennis Fire Engine for the Classic Airfix GB first.  It's getting there and should be done in a couple of weeks so while on the downtime for that I will continue with the research for this and try to draw up other plans so that I have a running start when I do cut forst plastic.

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Definitely one to watch.

An ambitious project (obviously!), of a very significant vessel that l'd never even heard of.  Particularly nice to learn that her wartime story had a happy ending too.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well the Dennis Fire Engine is close to completion for the Airfix Classic Years GB - just waiting on the paint to dry on the diorama base before declaring it complete and putting it in the gallery - so it was time to cut plastic on BULOLO,

 

Started off with a couple of pieces of 1.5mm plasticard (60 thou) as the waterline - I only have A4 in that thickness.  Cut to shape for the fore and aft ends and then join together with a doubler plate ensuring that the doubler sits clear of the frame locations.

 

Then start work on the frames.  The central ones are relatively straightforward having vertical sides so they are basically rectangles of plasticard 50.5mm x 18.5mm.  Each frame has a brace to ensure that they remain perpendicular to the base.  Either side of them it starts to get a little more tricky as of course I've got to get the correct shape of the hull - which at least as one approaches the bow have some fairly complex curves in there.  You can see the first curved frame far right towards the stern. 

 

I'd forgotten how difficult it is to work in plasticard that thick as I usually use 10 thou, 20 thou at the extreme.  So 3 weeks late in starting and 3 hours work completed.

 

45014168601_6131cbc4c3_b.jpg

Edited by Chewbacca
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I must confess you had me slightly worried for a minute when I read that at work Rich, thinking have I miscalculated when scaling the drawings but no she's 412 ft long which equates to 360 odd mm in 1/350 and having re-measured at home this evening the length is spot on.  Panic over!

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Awesome ship, story and project. Yet another terrifically interesting and important vessel almost forgotten - but not quite!

 

Did you draft the hull lines yourself? If so, what software did you use. I have plans for some of this kind of work in future and am trying to ‘suss out’ the best way forward.

 

Good luck with the project- very challenging, but definitely worthwhile! 👍👍👍

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Hi Steve,

 

I did draw up the hull lines myself but no special software at all I'm afraid - Microsoft PowerPoint!  I used to have CorelDraw in the past which would have been easier but the version I have doesn't work on any OS later than XP.  I have no fancy CAD software or the experience to use it.   It was very much trial and error until I got something that looked right based on the few photographs I have.  I'm now not convinced that its right - it looks too bulbous around the bow - but I won't really know until I start to get the plating on this weekend.

 

With the benefit of hindsight, I might have been better either getting hold of CAD software and drawing the lines in that so that I could 3D print the hull, or craft it from a solid piece of wood.  I'm not looking forward to plating the compound curves around the stern.

 

30191894587_885a358519_b.jpg

 

 

 

 

Edited by Chewbacca
Spulling !
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In the end by using 10 thou sheet styrene for the side plating, it actually went together reasonably well.  Some sanding to do tomorrow around some of the joins and a little filler or milliput will be needed around the stern to blend the transom in but overall it was a lot less stress than I though it might be,

 

30204750247_85c7abeaf5_b.jpg

 

 

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I'm not sure I'd quite take it that far!  It's putting up a fair bit of a fight: Milliput not setting (I think it had gone past its best before date if Milliput can have a best before!), side plating breaking because it's too thin etc.  But I'm not one to give in easily and so I have managed to get the main deck fitted tonight (which gives it a lot more rigidity) and a selection of GMM photo etch ordered that should hopefully come in handy when I get to that point.  Daft thing is, all of the measurements around the stern match the drawings but the drop down to what I suppose could be deemed to be the quartedeck it looks too shallow - it looks more like I would expect in 1/600 not 1/350 so I expect some remedial will be needed in those areas to get the balance right.

 

44278084725_2cd819bf75_b.jpg

 

 

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any sort of sanding work with that 10 thou is going to be a pain, sounds like you almost needed to add another layer of 10 thou to give some extra depth to play with. But that can give you other issues like bubbles.

 

But it's great work, I love seeing this sort of thing done! :thumbsup: Keep it up.

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Bizarrely, owing to the fact that the next major part is to fit the decking over the quarterdeck that supports the aft end of the main superstrcture, I am going to have to start painting as once that deck is in place there is no chance of ever being able to paint the quarterdeck area.

 

Which leads me onto a challenge.  What colour should it be?

 

I've got no colour references of BULOLO in RN service and even of the few B&W that I do have, even fewer of those are correctly captioned or dated.  For example some photos captioned as being at Normandy are clearly entering Grand Harbour in Valetta.

 

Based on my knowledge of colour schemes used by the British Eastern Fleet in 1945, I think this one is correct for that period:

http://www.shipspotting.com/gallery/photo.php?lid=1511883

But the question then is what are the two principal colours in use?  I'm pretty certain that that camouflage pattern, which was used extensively on Eastern Fleet and BPF ships, is overall 507C with a B15 dark panel on the hull.  However, although I've got several references on warship camouflage which specify that scheme for at least cruisers, carriers and destroyers, reading some of the reports on here (and other modelling sites) there is doubt raised about the accuracy of most of them.  I've had a look at Jamie's excellent Colourcoats website and although it gives excellent advice on the make up of the various colours, I couldn't find anything specific for Eastern Fleet colours.  So I'm open to advice if anyone thinks that 507C and B15 is wrong, but I'll be priming today hopefully and starting with 507C tomorrow (subject to getting back from Bovington Model Show in time)

 

 

 

 

Edited by Chewbacca
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Hi Chewbacca,

 

The scheme you're looking for was included in CB3098(R) 1945 edition. It was listed as "standard scheme A" in there and was prescribed for use in the Indian Ocean and Pacific year round and for Home Waters and the Mediterranean in summer months (March to October IIRC). It comprised G45 with a B20 rectangular panel.

 

G45 was exactly the same as 507C - a light bluish grey of 45% LRV. Note that Snyder & Short's (and all matched to them) is lighter at 52%, which is about the tone of the lightest camouflage colours used (which were lighter than 507C / G45).

 

A scheme exactly similar in shape but for use in Home Waters and Mediterranean in the winter months was included in same book but using B55 and B30 instead called Scheme B. There were various other standard schemes for various other purposes included also.

 

415c05be-88c8-4411-8007-02ad89e54180.png

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10 minutes ago, Chewbacca said:

Thanks Jamie,

 

I knew that if anyone knew the answer you would.

Happy to help :)

 

We have a very occassional poster to this forum who eclipses my knowledge on these subjects - dickrd - who is one of the individuals named on the front page of most of our research papers. He's very recently retired but currently in the "I don't know how I had time for a job" phase so we see less of him than usual.

 

Fortunately your particular query was a fairly easy one to answer :D

 

I shall add the words "eastern fleet" to the appropriate bits of my website though to aid search engines.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry for the lack of updates recently but work has been really busy and then we had a week away.  I did try to upload an update last weekend but spent 20 minutes typing it, pressed submit and Britmodeller crashed and dumped the lot!  Fortunately I did manage to fit some of the modelling kit in the car so some progress has been made while we've been away.

 

Built up the internal structure around the quarterdeck and the fixed bulwark around the deck edge.  Having originally thought that at this point I would have to start painting before I could add the 1 deck extension above, I then thought it would be just as easy to build all of the components separately, paint them and then bring the sub-assemblies together.  The only difficult join that was likely to need filler was the one at the forward end of that 1 deck extension and most of that would ultimately be covered.  So with that in  mind I also started to build the superstructure on the quartedeck, the quartedeck bulwarks and then the 1 deck superstructure.

 

The forward superstructure area beneath the bridge has some very prominent what look like windows and having spent some time earlier this year on a cruise liner, that's exactly what I thought they were.  You can seem here clearly in the model of BULOLO in the Waterside Museum in Glasgow:

 

30696206888_1d27cbcc5c_b.jpg

 

And so I thought I would cut away the white plasticard already there (see image in #15) and build those sides from clear acetate that I could mask the windows and actually see into what presumably was the saloon when she was in commercial service.  But unfortunately the only acetate I had was 5 or (perhaps 10) thou and it was too weak to support anything above, so I reverted to plan B and decided to use decals meaning that I could reinforce the inside of the acetate.  However, that was later to cause further issues - see below.

 

The rest of the 1 deck superstructure went together quite well and soon I had cut 01 deck and was starting to build up the structure above that:

 

43760216760_024feb81de_b.jpg

 

This was about the position I was at when we went away last weekend.

 

Since then I have completed the 01 deck superstructure including starting to add some PE.  I bought the Gold Medal Models Liberty Ship PE set as that provides lots of merchant ship like generic fittings, such as wooden cabin doors and so as I progressed these have been added.  I added the extensions to 01 deck that hold what look like crew shelters for the 20mm Oerlikon crews.  Ideally they would have been integral with the deck for strength but the chances of cutting the plasticard out without damaging the extensions was negligible.  Although there is a slight join, that will be easy to fill and although the starboard platform has a slight dip down, there are supports to be fitted which I am hoping will be strong enough to push it slightly up.  I may have to use brass for this.

 

43760215920_a163269341_b.jpg

 

And so as of Thursday this was about where I was at with all sub-assemblies dry-fitted:

 

44852711614_e5f0908de3_b.jpg

 

Now, you will recall the earlier comment about how using 80 thou reinforcement to the saloon was going to cause later problems.  Yesterday morning, just before packing up to come home, I noticed a  slight error caused by my laziness in not creating a full set of plans for what I was planning to make and working form a series of photographs instead,  Let's play spot the difference,  Contrast the picture of the commercial MV BULOLO above with this photograph of HMS BULOLO in wartime service:

 

Bulolo 1938 05 - as HMS Bulolo (F82)

 

If you count the "windows", you'll note that the forward pair and the first of the triples is plated over and replaced with 2 scuttles.  Now that's not the problem, but the aft triple set on the ship builder's model is gone completely along with all of the plating around them which in turn extends the waist for'ard.  That leads me to suspect that they wouldn't have cut into the saloon area just to extend the upper deck and so those windows are more likely to be open cutouts.  Notwithstanding the fact that even if I could cut them out, the thickness there is 90 thou so a scale 800mm thick.  Now I suspect that the main communications office (the raison d'etre for this ship) is just below that area and did have a sheet of armour plate protecting it, but 800 mm is greater than any battleship armour I know.  So it's going to remain as decals.  But I've still got to cut back the after end of the area to reflect the removed plating around the after triple, I didn't have a razor saw with me so that would have to wait until I returned home.  You can see on this photo where I have marked up the cut on the starboard side:

 

1/350 HMS BULOLO

 

The unfinished area of the ship's side just below 1 deck edge level will be covered with the armour plate to be added later.

 

The other challenge that I face is that being a merchant ship design, BULOLO has a plethora of cowl ventilators - you can see some very prominent ones around the funnel in the picture above entering Grand Harbour.  No-one that I can find makes resin cowl ventilator in 1/350 scale.  If it were just a few I could aim to scratch build from balsa but the number is at least 10-12 in 3 different sizes.  I spoke to a friend at our local modelling club just before I went away and based on that the plan is to teach myself CAD and then try to get them 3D printed.  If it works I'll also use that technique for the anchor windlass.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Chewbacca
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A very interesting build here! 

 

Mainly because like your father, mine served on HMS Bulolo up until 1943 as a signals rating. He served during the North Atlantic campaign, and then transferred to a shore station in Colombo. It's highly unlikely that our father's were aboard at the same time!

 

He, like so many of his generation, never talked about his time in the Navy, so I can't help you with details of Bulolo, but I will be following your build with great interest. Whenever we talked about his time in the navy - he went to destroyer after Colombo and spent the last three years on board HMS Ocean during the Korean War - it always sounded like Bulolo was a happy ship.

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On ‎27‎/‎10‎/‎2018 at 10:15, Whofan said:

A very interesting build here! 

 

Mainly because like your father, mine served on HMS Bulolo up until 1943 as a signals rating. He served during the North Atlantic campaign, and then transferred to a shore station in Colombo. It's highly unlikely that our father's were aboard at the same time!

 

He, like so many of his generation, never talked about his time in the Navy, so I can't help you with details of Bulolo, but I will be following your build with great interest. Whenever we talked about his time in the navy - he went to destroyer after Colombo and spent the last three years on board HMS Ocean during the Korean War - it always sounded like Bulolo was a happy ship.

I can't be certain exactly when he joined as like your father, he didn't really speak about it and since he died when I was quite young, it was only much later on that I managed to piece together fragments of his wartime career.  As far as I can tell, he was released by his reserved occupation in late 1943 and by the time he had completed basic and trade training, it was post Overlord as BULOLO was preparing to deploy east of Suez. 

 

18 hours ago, dnl42 said:

Nice scratch building going on here! 👍

 

Shapeways appears to have some ventilators. I didn't scan to see if any are the right scale.

Thanks.  I did look at Shapeways but unfortunately the only ones they do in 1/350 are square IJN cowls or a single set of very odd shaped ones for USS Pennsylvania.

 

I've managed to create something in TinkerCAD that has a passing resemblance - at least should suffice in the scale with a bit of cleaning up.  Remember that the largest of these is 9mm tall and the smallest 5mm.  Its now sitting with my son who has access to a very fine 3D printer at university to see what he can do with them.  If they work, I've also drawn the anchor windlass and bollards in CAD and have started on the davits.

 

44871866434_ef40875c7d_b.jpg

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1 hour ago, Chewbacca said:

I can't be certain exactly when he joined as like your father, he didn't really speak about it and since he died when I was quite young, it was only much later on that I managed to piece together fragments of his wartime career.  As far as I can tell, he was released by his reserved occupation in late 1943 and by the time he had completed basic and trade training, it was post Overlord as BULOLO was preparing to deploy east of Suez. 

 

As I mentioned my Dad was definitely went to Colombo during 1943, so their paths would not have crossed on Bulolo.

 

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