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Ex-FAAWAFU

Sink the Bismarck! HMS Ark Royal, 26 May 1941

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Posted (edited)

A few weeks ago I started building a 1/700 resin & PE kit of Ark Royal 2, the pioneering First World War seaplane carrier.  However, I think it’s fair to say that, as a committed 1/350 man when it comes to ships, I am finding the scale a real challenge.  The kit is great, and I will continue to build it... but I find that 45 minutes in teeny-weeny über-delicate brass-land is enough - and when I do achieve things I find that it pays to let everything really cure and stabilise before moving on.

 

Anyway, as those of you who’ve been kind enough to look into that build already know, I have been interspersing WW1 pioneers operating flimsy Shorts & Sopwith machines with experiments with the next Ark, the WW2 aircraft carrier.  I have now decided that this deserves a separate thread, before it all gets too confusing.  So here we are.

 

This will be the 1/350 Merit kit, released 2 or 3 years ago to a fair amount of excitement from us RN fans, especially RN carrier fans.   We understand that market forces mean that yet another Yamato or Bismarck will sell like hot cakes... but even so.  I am sure I’m not the only person who finds it utterly weird that model companies will invest in the wherewithal to produce 1/350 kits of, say, Graf Zeppelin (never finished) and even Peter Strasser (barely even started, and never officially named), but not of Illustrious, whose aircraft changed the Mediterranean war in a couple of hours. Still... Nazis sell.

 

So a mainstream kit of a British carrier is something to be celebrated!  The Merit kit is... very good, certainly, though not completely without errors.  Definitely the basis of a good model.  The game changer for me, however, is the Tetra Modelworks detail up set, which takes us to a different league in detail.  I have also obtained some other after-market RN detail goodies - notably from North Star:

 

- HACS Mk.IV directors (the Merit ones are basic, to put it mildly, and have a radar which was never actually fitted before Ark’s demise);

- winches (to populate the boat bays etc, which are devoid of anything much by way of detail);

- RN anchors (one of the most obvious Merit mistakes is that the anchors are much too small);

- RN bridge equipment (of which there is none); and 

- paravanes (US cruiser paravanes, but they’ll look close enough when stowed).

 

This will depict Ark at a very specific moment, at about 1900 on 26 May 1941, as she turned into wind to launch 15 Swordfish of 810, 818 & 820 Naval Air Squadrons on a torpedo attack against Bismarck - the attack that jammed Bismarck’s rudder and sealed her fate.  The Merit kit includes 5 Swordfish (plus 4 Skuas & 4 Fulmars, none of which will be used for this build), and I have ordered 2 boxes of Trumpeter Stringbags, which come in batches of 6 (and are by all accounts essentially identical to Merit’s, which is hardly a shock).

 

Anyway.  For some discussion of colour schemes and stuff, plus my early test runs with Tetra’s wing fold PE on a Fulmar, see the old thread.

 

This evening, along with a very frustrating session of clumsiness in 1/700, I did manage to get the undercarriage on my test Swordfish (test because I’m playing with ideas for how to improve it... like maybe rigging it): here seen upside down..

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...and here resting on her own two feet:

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Even this is a right performance: Merit provide the u/c in two parts - a V-shaped part that fits into two holes in the fuselage, and a straight piece with the wheel.  Getting them to line up is not simple - though eventually I landed on a technique that seems to work, namely gluing the V-strut first, and only then adding the straight oleo/wheel section.  This design means that getting the aircraft level is a challenge - dry fitting completely impractical!

 

The wheels are too thick, I think; I’d already reduced them before fitting, but once everything’s dry I’ll experiment with getting them a bit better yet.  But basically it’s a pretty credible Swordfish (or will be with a second wing!), for which kudos to Merit.  

 

The next experimental Stringbag will be a folded one.

 

Anyway.  We’re off.  In due course I’ll show you some more of what comes in the various boxes.

 

More soon

 

Crisp

 

Edited by Ex-FAAWAFU

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Gidday Chrisp, Just over a year ago I built a ship - HMS Welshman at Malta - as she appeared on a particular day, the 10th May 1942, or as accurate as I could get it anyway. I've not done one to a particular hour however. I take it the bridge clocks and the wrist-watches of the crew will show the correct time? 😀 I'm looking forward to seeing this one built. Regards, Jeff.

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Posted (edited)

A very interesting start Crisp but I don't think I'd attempt to 'string-up' 1/350 Swordfishes.

 

After reading through your post on the earlier Ark, you mention colour schemes for Swordfish. I asked a question about camouflage on my Seafoxes here:

If your Swordfish had the Shadow Scheme applied, I don't think you'd see it, let alone apply it in 1/350.

Crack on good man.

 

Stuart

Edited by Courageous

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I totally agree re shadow scheme.  I have all the relevant colours from Jamie’s excellent range, and actually tried a comparison on two pieces of scrap plastic - as you say, in this scale the contrast (between upper and lower wing) is miles too stark.  Yes, in theory I could adjust both, but once you get into scale effect and adjusting for perception, you’re essentially painting what you see / what you think looks ‘right’ anyway.  So why not do that?

 

My Swordfish will be Temperate Sea Scheme - EDSG / Dark Slate Grey uppers, with Sky Type S below - with some adjustments for the scale.  The only potential variation (see other thread) being the height on the fuselage side where the Sky starts / stops.  These were work-horse aircraft, in wartime, which had been flying hard for months.  You can make a case for 825’s cabs in Victorious being fairly pristine, given their newness, but Ark’s aircraft - though well maintained - would not have been winning any concours d’elegance prizes by 1941.

 

Similarly the ship.  There are lots of detail photos from her sinking 6 months later, by which time her upper works were a mish-mash of worn colours - @Jamie @ Sovereign Hobbies has done a lot on this in other threads, and I am completely persuaded by his conclusion that the apparent peeling was the home fleet scheme showing through the worn Med fleet scheme painted over the top.  Since this is 6 months earlier, I’ll dial down the wear accordingly... equally, Ark had been busy on Malta convoys until Force H was sailed to chase Bismarck, and then had been sailing into a very stormy North Atlantic at high speed.  She was not going to look ready for a Fleet Review.

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All interesting stuff Crisp and when you have Jamie on board as it were, paints will be right. As for the 'scale effect :worms:' for 1/350, God knows. How much colour demarcation is noticeable at scale distance :shrug:, so as you say:

1 hour ago, Ex-FAAWAFU said:

painting what you see / what you think looks ‘right’

 

Stuart

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Ah I see you split the threads and created one for each. Excellent stuff. That means we have two Ark Royal threads on the go and two from you. What more could we ask ..........although Ark Royal IV we know to be lurking in your stash ......... just saying.

 

I agree with you and Stuart on the colour thing.  Scale colour and the old "looks right to me" will win with me every time, as long as we use good references to start with from which we make our interpretations and adjustments.

 

Although I was amused by your earlier (pre thread split) reference to the Bismark's gunners being terrified by the sight of a Torpedo bomber flying towards them with a flipping great white ensign flying underneath, in all seriousness I imagine they must have been ................. as must have been the case with the crew of the Santa Fe some 50 years later, seeing a big grey Wessex bearing down on them carrying a witch on a broomstick below it. I've seen that with my own eyes too.........!

 

Great build thread with immensely interesting historical content.

 

Terry

 

 

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19 minutes ago, Terry1954 said:

....although Ark Royal IV we know to be lurking in your stash ......... just saying.

And a part-finished Ark Royal V...!

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Posted (edited)

OK, all a bit different from the normal order of things, but here are a few shots of what is coming.  

 

Firstly, the first (of 2, from different sellers - there are 6 in each box) of my top-up Swordfish have arrived.  I’d heard that the Merit and Trumpeter 1/350 Stringbags were pretty similar, but they’re a lot more than that!   Trumpy at top & Merit below, and if you can find the slightest difference other than the colour of the plastic, you have better eyes than mine.  Which is fine, by the way - as I have already said, the Merit Swordfish are pretty good.

 

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As I am in London (I stay up during the week), I don’t have the full Merit kit with me - the hull halves and flight deck are safely at home.  

 

But I can show you the Tetra Models detail up set, which essentially doubled the price of the model, but which adds a massive amount of finesse / detail. The basic Merit kit is fine as far as it goes; it seems a decent shape etc. (though the colour scheme and especially deck markings appear to come from someone’s imagination), but you don’t get much more than that.  It is, of course, the only game in town, and I am definitely not complaining; you could build a good model OOB.

 

So... Tetra PE sheets A-H inclusive: 

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Sheets I & J, plus the deck veneer for quarterdeck, fo’c’s’le, gallery deck and 4.5” gun sponsons, some chain for anchor cable, and 3 bags of turned brass barrels [top-to-bottom 4.5”, 8-barrel 40mm Pom-Pom, Vickers quad .5” machine guns]

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I think that should keep me busy for a bit.  [There is a separate Tetra set for the air group, which I’ll show in a future post].

 

For references I have the Profile Morskie plans, and also John Roberts’ British Warships of the Second World War book:

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The Roberts book is fascinating in its own right and contains builders’ plans of ships including Warspite, Nelson, KGV, Indefatigable, Kent, Ajax, Leander, Manchester, and so on - but for these purposes it’s a fantastic resource for Ark: the following are only 2 pages out of several showing her as built:

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I also have Neil McCart’s “3 Ark Royals”, plus written accounts including Mike Rossiter’s “Ark Royal”, Jock Moffat’s “I Sank The Bismarck” and Gerald Woods “Wings At Sea” [one by a Pilot, the other an Observer, both of whom flew in the Bismarck attack(s)].

 

More soon - maybe even including some of yer actual, like, modelling.

 

Crisp

 

Edited by Ex-FAAWAFU

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...and the test Swordfish gets a bit further.  This is the PE that comes with the kit, rather than the Tetra stuff (which is more delicate) - it’s only tacked in position with Gator Grip, to allow me to gauge the height of the upper wing above the lower and the fuselage.  The plan is to glue the upper wing, also temporarily (there’s a styrene stud which locates on top of the nose approximately where the cabane struts are in real life) and then remove this PE and replace it with brass rod... and then try the rigging.  We’ll see.

 

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1 hour ago, Ex-FAAWAFU said:

I’d heard that the Merit and Trumpeter 1/350 Stringbags were pretty similar, but they’re a lot more than that!

Well I'll be, they are one of the same!

 

Those publications and plans look good, and that etch set from Tetra is quite something. A colleague of mine at our local club has just finished a 1/350 KGV using Pontos etch. Quite amazing results but it took him over a year to build it. Mind you, some of my builds take an age and they are far less complex.

 

The test Swordfish is coming along.

 

Terry

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Crikey, their's enough brass there to sink a carrier. As Terry alluded to, this is going to keep you very busy, better you than me.

 

Stuart 

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8 hours ago, Terry1954 said:

Mind you, some of my builds take an age and they are far less complex.

You’re talking to a man whose Seaking build is close to 2 years old... [and don’t even think about when I started Ark 5 - or last worked on her, for that matter]

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Oh, I'm in here for that. Great start. Always liked the Ark Royal  and british carriers in general Not the ones with the jump jet flightdecks as they spoil the sleek look of them. 

Cheers

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Benedickt isnt the only one here, I'm wondering just how...

 

Undoubtedly we will find out

 

 

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Feet up and beer in hand ready for this, will be great to watch.

 

Hoping to get that Roberts book myself week after next,  it looks like a brilliant reference.

 

Rigging a 1/350 Swordfish!!! What does Pratchett say about putting 3 exclamation marks after a statment? Bonkers! Can't wait!

 

Geoff 

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Posted (edited)
On 26/06/2019 at 08:39, Ex-FAAWAFU said:

I totally agree re shadow scheme.  I have all the relevant colours from Jamie’s excellent range, and actually tried a comparison on two pieces of scrap plastic - as you say, in this scale the contrast (between upper and lower wing) is miles too stark.  Yes, in theory I could adjust both, but once you get into scale effect and adjusting for perception, you’re essentially painting what you see / what you think looks ‘right’ anyway.  So why not do that?

 

My Swordfish will be Temperate Sea Scheme - EDSG / Dark Slate Grey uppers, with Sky Type S below - with some adjustments for the scale.  The only potential variation (see other thread) being the height on the fuselage side where the Sky starts / stops.  These were work-horse aircraft, in wartime, which had been flying hard for months.  You can make a case for 825’s cabs in Victorious being fairly pristine, given their newness, but Ark’s aircraft - though well maintained - would not have been winning any concours d’elegance prizes by 1941.

 

 

In fact, other than the Blackburn built Swordfish taking part in the attack, which would be in the TSS finish you describe, the Fairey built aircraft would have been in S.I.E. This was a five colour scheme with Sky Grey undersurfaces. The demarcation patterns were also quite different between Fairey and Blackburn built Swordfish and this would be evident even in 1/350 scale.  Of the 15 Swordfish of the Bismarck attack, Mark Horan and I have identified the serials of 11 aircraft. Of these, only 1 of these was Blackburn built, though it is possible that Blackburn built Swordfish were part of the missing 4, as we know that there were other Blackburn built Swordfish on Ark Royal that we haven't identified.

 

Good luck with your build.

HTH 

 

IG

Edited by iang

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Ian, thanks a lot for that; I’d started edging back in that direction myself, but without any confidence [so I’d have talked myself out of it], so to have it said by someone with yer actual knowledge is extremely welcome.

 

My ill-formed thoughts that there might have been instances of both schemes are based on photographs (good), but vaguely-captioned ones (less good) - things like “a Swordfish of 818 NAS in early 1941...”.   Yeah, but how early, and is it one of the 818 Bismarck aircraft?

 

There are some pictures which purport to be Bismarck Stringbags which unquestionably show TSS with Blackburn’s characteristic demarkation at nose and tail: there’s a pic in Woods’ book, which he says is his aircraft (& he’d know!), 4C of 820 NAS (V4298, from Mark’s account linked in my first post) shown en route to attack Bismarck, carrying a torpedo and smoke floats.  This picture looks for all the world to me like Blackburn TSS.  Fine.  Is that the 1 Blackfish to which you refer?

 

But I’ve also found others where the demarkation is definitely half-way up the side, and a straight-ish line... which look like SIE, but of course they’re black & white shots.  I only know the serials of the few identified in that link (and even those are tentative in places).  

 

You know far more about this than me, so if you say 10 definitely Fairey-built in S1E, that’s good enough for me.  I could do the other 5 in TSS, maybe?

 

More research required (but that’s half the fun!)

 

 

 

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Yes, V4298 is the one Blackburn built Swordfish we are certain of for the Bismarck attack.  


The 10 others from 810, 818 and 820 were Pxxxx and Lxxxx serial Fairey built aircraft. Originally, these would have been delivered in Cerrux Grey/ silver dope, but were all camouflage in S.1.E. by their units in the summer of 1939.  The demarcation pattern between the upper and lower surface colours on the fuselage side varied by squadron: 810 was generally fairly straight and high and 818 and 820 lower and more wavy.  In October 1940 Ark Royal returned to the UK and it is possible that the undersurfaces of all of her Swordfish squadrons were repainted in Sky, as per then current camouflage instructions for TSR aircraft in FAA service. I spent ages looking at datable photos trying to decide whether they had their undersurfaces repainted and could not convince myself fully one way or another. Obviously, all of them had their fins painted in EDSG/DSG with a small rectangular flash, and It is definitely the case that some of her Swordfish' undersurfaces were repainted during service, but whether with Sky or fresh Sky Grey I'm not sure. Others show no signs at all of being repainted.  In addition, replacements from the UK may have also been repainted to conform with current Admiralty instructions - though the photo of replacements I have that came via Furious at Gibraltar shows what look to be a fairly knackered old crates, presumably still in S.1.E.  

 

To cut a long story short, it is unlikely that Ark Royal carried enough Sky paint on board to repaint 36 Swordfish plus spares, so it was either October 1940 for the entire fleet or odd repaints / replacements.  If I were modelling the flight deck on 26 May 1941, I'd go for no more than a couple of Blackburn built aircraft and of the remainder, I might show a two or three with high straight demarcation over Sky, and the rest in S.1.E with different demarcation patterns by squadron.  I think the balance of evidence points to this as most likely.

 

If you need the 15 squadron/aircraft ID codes for the Bismarck attack Swordfish let me know (though they are widely published)   I'm about to start a 1/200 Ark Royal. If it works out, mine will also have 15 aircraft on deck, but Skuas rather than Swordfish (13 June 1940).

 

 

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Posted (edited)

That’s brilliant!  Thank you so much. 

 

I have the 15 ID codes (from several places), thanks - and that single post probably gives me enough info to plan what gets painted what; and some variation across the 15 adds interest, too.

 

I don’t suppose your research has shed light on which aircraft had ASV fitted?

 

Isn’t it great when you find that someone else has done the research that you knew was going to take you ages?  

 

 

 

 

Wooah!  Back up a minute!  Did you say 1/200 Ark?  I didn’t even know there was a kit - or are you scratch building?

 

Mind you, the 1/350 beast is not small, so that’s going to be a monster.

Edited by Ex-FAAWAFU

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Posted (edited)

ASV = 2B and 4B only. Long range tanks ( in the observer's seat) = 2M and 4L only.

 

1/200 - there is no kit, but if my experience of scratch building a 1/350 Ark Royal is anything to go by, when I get 75% through the build, in two or three years time, there will be an injection moulded 1/200 version announced!

 

 

Edited by iang

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, iang said:

ASV = 2B and 4B only. Long range tanks ( in the observer's seat) = 2M and 4L only.

Aha!  Which explains why 2, but only 2, of the attackers flew with only 2 crew (2M with a TAG, 4L with an Observer).  I assume these were ready for the long-endurance “shadow and mark” sorties (to use a Lynx ASuW term), keeping tabs while other assets got into range etc. to attack.  After 800’s efforts at shadowing using Fulmars, that would make more sense.  For Swordfish crews this stuff was bread & butter, but not for a fighter squadron.  Also, as the Stringbag later demonstrated on countless occasions operating from Escort Carriers, it could work from a deck that must have been very close to its limits - a Fulmar, with its higher landing speed, might not have been so well suited.  [Force 7-8, in a heavy North Atlantic swell, with the back end going up & down 50’]

 

Ian, once again thank you; you have saved me a shed-load of work.

Edited by Ex-FAAWAFU

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The level of historical (and quite detailed) information coming out on this build grows by the day. Some great analysis there in the last few posts on actual aircraft involved. I must say a 1/200 Ark Royal would be quite impressive!

 

Terry

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Ex-FAAWAFU said:

Aha!  Which explains why 2, but only 2, of the attackers flew with only 2 crew (2M with a TAG, 4L with an Observer).  I assume these were ready for the long-endurance “shadow and mark” sorties 

Ark Royal launched 2 dedicated shadowing sorties at 1600 - 2F and 5x (unknown), which landed back on at 2100. And again at 1830 with 2H  and 2Q, which landed back on at 2330. I think the two LR equipped Swordfish in the Bismarck attack, which was launched at 1905, landing back on around 2200-2205, was more due to a shortage of serviceable aircraft. There also seemed to be a shortage of crew. In the Sheffield attack, for example,  launched at 1455, 6 Swordfish flew with only two crew and, of these, only two were definitely fitted with LR tanks to my knowledge. Two of the others may have been LR equipped, judging by the time they were in the air at various points 25-27 May, but 4C:V4298 was definitely not LR equipped, yet it flew with only a TAG on the Sheffield attack.

Edited by iang

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1 hour ago, Terry1954 said:

I must say a 1/200 Ark Royal would be quite impressive!

 

It is going to be plank on frame construction. I've just bought a Dremel Moto-Saw (power jigsaw) for making the frames. When my 1/200 plans arrive from Profile Morskie, i'll be able to make a start. I've also got a paper card model in 1/200, which will be useful for making templates. Once I've cut the frames, I'll start a WIP.

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