Boys Own Battleships – Book Review

20160518_211843[1]Pen & Sword Military have produced the first volume of what will be a wonderful series of books. This is British Warship Recognition – the Perkins Identification Albums originally written/illustrated by Richard Perkins. This is Volume 1 dealing with Capital Ships 1895-1939 (ISBN 9781848323827).

First off I must note that this book is not for everybody. It is a book that you will either love or “just not get”. The older reader (and I count myself in that group) who can remember part of their childhood being spent with an exercise book, coloured pencils and a book on, say German World War 2 aircraft and who then spent hours redrawing the aircraft from the pictures in the book will “get” thins book. I can understand what Perkins was attempting. Had I been in his position and possessed half his talents I would probably have done the same thing.

Perkins was a keen amateur photographer and he photographed and ended up with one of the largest collections of photographs of warships. His collection of photos was bequeathed to the National Maritime Museum where it can still be seen today and where it forms the core of the historic photos naval section. Whole he was photographing he found many photographs were neither identified nor accurately dated. He then decided to compile an album of his own drawings incorporating as much detail as possible on the individual ships. He really looked closely at the details, the differences between ships of the same class and then differences in a vessel over time.

This project grew into an enormous resource covering virtually every Royal Navy ship from 1860 to 1939, when security restrictions forced Perkins to stop work.

The book is, in essence, a photographic reprint of Perkins’s original art books where he set about to draw and paint the British fleet. He then noticed over time that vessels changed – davits were moved forward, funnels thinned or thickened, smaller calibre weapons moved around the vessels, masts removed or changed and so on.

20160518_211937[1]He then decided to paint the differences in the vessels as he saw them. The example I selected is five slightly difference drawings of HMS Agincourt seen to the right.

You will notice that I do not have any scanned images to illustrate but rather photographed off my phone. There is a reason for this. The book is big. A page was bigger than my scanner plate. I could not sit back in my favourite chair with this book in my lap. My lap is not big enough. To look through this I had the book placed on a table and work from there.

The book however in and of itself is superb and the drawings speak for themselves. Younger readers may not understand the significance of this work but all will be able to appreciate the art involved. This book belongs in the collection of any naval enthusiast or historian. Best of all, it is the first of 8 volumes. The next volume is due for release in September this year – it will deal with Armoured Ships 1860-1895, Monitors and Aviation Ships. I for one will be interested int he aviation ships extant before 1895.

As to Perkins’s first volume. One word.

Magnificent!

 

German Battlecruisers – Book Review

9781848321816The good folk at Pen & Sword Military sent me a care package recently with four books in a very large package. I will look at the others later but the first book to take my interest is ShipCraft 22 dealing with German Battlecruisers.

This book provides a useful companion to the modeller when engaging in a build of one of these vessels, however the images of Jim Baumann’s scuttled Hindenburg model in 1/700 scale alone is worth getting the book for!

The ShipCraft range of publications are a combination of contemporary photographs coupled with colour references for paint schemes and a critical review of available model kits. In short, they are the type of publication aimed at the ship modeller or perhaps naval wargamer to help get the colour and appearance of their models correct (or at least to the stage of “that looks about right”).

The publication would also be useful to the naval enthusiast as well although to be honest, if looking for information on the vessels, the first book I would reach for when looking for would be my copy of Conway’s. If looking to paint some German Battlecruisers, then this publication would be first to come to hand.

The book runs to 64 pages, a size familiar to modellers and. There are sections in the book covering Design; Careers; Model Products; Modelmakers’ Showcase; Camouflage Schemes; Appearance; Plans; and Selected References.

The vessels covered in the book are Blücher; Von Der Tann; the Moltke class (Moltke, Goeben); Seydlitz; and the Derfflinger class (Derfflinger, Lützow). Mention is also made of the Battlecruisers that were not completed.

The Design and Career chapters provide a reasonable summary, largely covering the service life of the vessels and briefly the battles they fought. There are some useful comparison tables as well. The table looking at the armament characteristics for example is quite useful and illustrates the difference in range for guns of the same weight (see the slight range differences between the 11” L/45 and the 11” L/50 guns).

The next chapter deals with both the model kits available in plastic, resin, paper and white metal along with extras for gilding the lily on those kits. The extras discussed include photo-etched parts, wooden decks, brass gun barrels and masts to add a greater level of realism to the models. A fair roundup of the kits available is given.

Next is for me the pièce de résistance, the chapter dealing with the work of many modellers. Work by the likes of Jim Baumann (perhaps the best ship/water modeller I have seen), Horst Luecke (I can’t believe it is a paper model), Kostas Katseas, and Nick Dogger amongst others. Baumann’s scuttled Hindenburg is special as well as the 1/700 scale crew on Dogger’s Lützow.

Two colour illustrations follow, one of the Derfflinger in standard SMS colours circa 1917 and the other showing a camouflage pattern for the Yavuz (Goeben) circa 1942. There is then a discussion on the Appearance of each of the vessels noting the differences between sister ships. The section also discusses camouflage and the lack of it on German vessels in the First World War noting that the standard scheme for vessels was based around light grey. The book finishes with a number of plans and references.

This book provides a useful companion to the modeller when engaging in a build of one of these vessels, however the images of Jim Baumann’s scuttled Hindenburg model in 1/700 scale alone is worth getting the book for! The authors are Robert Brown and Steve Backer with George Richardson drawing the plans and the colour artwork. It is published by Seaforth Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84832-181-6. The ShipCraft series of books are designed to provide information for modellers and enthusiasts.

Langton Egyptian and Sea Peoples — What’s Under the House -1

Langton Egyptian and Sea Peoples 1/1200 scale vessels - 10 of each
Langton Egyptian and Sea Peoples 1/1200 scale vessels – 10 of each

Christmas Day, I thought I rather than gloat over the gifts from this year I would, instead, start sorting and tidying up the lead pile under the house.

First actual metal I ran across was a German Aeronef and British Land Ironclad pack, filed them! Next was some WTJ 1/3000 pre-dreadnoughts. Filed them as well. Checked then and packed them away. Came across a 1/1200 scale GHQ 74-gun Napoleonic ship of the line. Packed that away as well.

Next was some Langton 1/1200 Ancient ships – Egyptian and Sea Peoples, 10 of each. Now I’m trying to decide whether to keep them or sell them. I’m leaning towards eBay.

If anyone wants them, let me know here in the next day or so, make me an offer and I’ll see what we can do.

There are 10 Sea Peoples boats and 10 Egyptian boats – one of which is a pharoah’s boat.

New Toys – the Japanese Fleet

I had always intended getting a third or fourth modern fleet (megalomania? Of Course!). To join the Chinese and Indian fleets I purchased a Japanese modern fleet pack from Navwar code FPMD 5. Even after the arcane ordering process (I sent another letter through the mail to England) the postman brought me a parcel two weeks later. Included in the parcel was a 15mm DBA Mongolian Army for the lady – figures from Naismith Design and a modern Japanese fleet.

I had learned from previous orders to just stick with the fleet pack to start with as that was surely going to provide enough vessels for future gaming. This fleet pack contained:

Pack Number Vessel Class Ships in Thomo’s Navy Sister Ships

Submarines

N505 Harushio Harushio
Natsushio
Hayashio
Arashio
Wakashio
Fuyushio
Asashio
N506 Yushio Yushio
Setoshio
Mochishio
Okishio
Nadashio
Akishio
Hamashio
Takeshio
Yukishio
Sachishio

Destroyers (Guided Missile, Aegis and Helicopter)

N544 Murasame Murasame
Harusame
Yuudachi
Kirisame
Inazuma
Samidare
Ikazuchi
Akebone
Ariake
N545 Kongo Kongo
Kirishima
Myoko
Chakai
N546 Asagiri Asagiri
Yamagiri
Amagiri
Yuugiri
Hamagiri
Steogiri
Sawagiri
Umigiri
N547 Hatazake Hatakaze
Shimakaze
N551 Haruna Haruna

Destroyer Escort

N566a Ishikari Ishikari

Frigates

N563 Abukuma Abukuma
Jintsu
Oyodo
Sendai
Chikuma
Tone
N566 Yubari Yubari
Yubestsu

Amphibious Transport Dock/Landing Ship Tank (LPB/LST)

N590 Oosumi Oosumi

This fleet pack, apart from providing some interesting opponents for the Chinese and the Indians, will also give me the chance to try a new (well new for me) basing technique to see if I can move away from the two-dimensional painted sea bases that I have done in the past.

Submarines – some more

As we were speaking about Submarines the other day, Douglas sent me a link to the Telegraph. I will admit, I do prefer the UK Telegraph to the Australian abomination but I never really read the UK Telly all that much when I was there. Obviously, after this article, I should have.

It seems that the Spanish have been busily building a nice new submarine – the S-80, of which four are on order. There is only one slight problem. Apparently the submarines are too heavy. The Telegraph reported that:

Last month it emerged that the Isaac Peral sub – part of the new S-80 series and named in honour of the Spanish man credited by some as the inventor of the underwater vessel – was at least 75 tons overweight, an excess that could compromise its ability to surface after submerging

Oops. Seems the Australians are not the only ones with Submarine woes.

Oh, and in the way of things, the S-80 is being named after Isaac Peral who is credited with designing and building the first practical submarine. And yes I know, the American Civil War produced submarines on both sides, Brutus de Villeroi being credited with the first of the Union ones, but these were all powered by hand. Peral’s had an engine!

PLAN – Chinese Navy – Part 1

The PLAN fleet is stuck to bases and labels affixed to the underside with the vessel's name
The PLAN fleet is stuck to bases and labels affixed to the underside with the vessel’s name

I posted a while back about the Indian Navy – Part 1 I was building in 1/3000th scale for use with the Shipwreck! modern naval wargame rules. Their erstwhile opponents, at this stage, will be the People’s Liberation Army Navy of the People’s Republic of China (PLAN). Whilst at the moment these two powers seem to be on reasonably peaceful terms, there is still a number of border questions to be resolved, not to mention the Kashmir. The two nations have traded blows before so a scenario where a PLAN blue water fleet starts causing economic havoc to India in the Andaman Sea is not such a far fetched scenario.

The PLAN is therefore my second modern fleet from Navwar and I decided to get started on getting it ready for painting. I have started painting the Indians – more on that in a later post – but before finishing them I wanted to get the next batch ready. This was partly bought about by recent events after a trip to Jakarta where everything I tried to do was interrupted with me having to go to the smallest room in the apartment … frequently!

As with the Indians, the first step was out to the Internet and find out some details on the vessels that I had purchased. I had purchased a fleet pack from Navwar which comes with an assortment of vessels, some of which are no longer commissioned and iin one case, a packet of two vessels where only one vessel was built (the Jinan).

My PLAN Fleet ready for painting - the Chinese carrier is big compared to the Indian carrier ... but small compared to a USN carrier.
My PLAN Fleet ready for painting – the Chinese carrier is big compared to the Indian carrier … but small compared to a USN carrier.

While looking for information and pictures of the vessels I discovered a couple of things about PLAN vessels. One is that due to the sometimes unstable political environment of China in the past, some vessels had been named, then had the name replaced by a hull number, the renamed again with a name different to the first name. Now I think the PLAN stick with safer things such as names of provinces etc.

I also discovered that the Chinese vessels appear not to have crests. I therefore have just used the PLAN ensign on the labels. The labelling can be seen above.

The next step will be the painting process. For that, like the Indians, I will be undercoating the vessels in white, washing in black ink, painting the sea base then starting to paint with a heavy dry-brush in a mid to light grey.

Exactly what shade of grey to use is academic. Whilst I could, for example, try to get a paint chip and match to that colour, the appearance of the vessel changes depending on the ambient lighting. So a vessel with full on midday sunshine reflecting off its surfaces can appear almost pure white rather than the light grey we know the PLAN vessels to be painted in. A good example of colour variation can be seen in the two pictures at the bottom of this post.

The spare ship can be seen at the right of the picture above.

The two images below are taken 6 months apart in different parts of the world – note that the USS George H W Bush looks almost white in this image whilst the USS Denver is obviously a light grey. In the case of the Singapore Navy vessels there is clearly a bigger shade difference. It may well be that the one in the left hand photograph is a darer grey but it is not easy to tell from photographs.

Gulf of Thailand (Feb. 20, 2011) –  The amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver passes along side an Endurance Class Singapore Navy ship Resolution (LPDM 208) during Cobra Gold 2011. Denver is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is underway participating in Cobra Gold, a multinational military exercises co-sponsored by U.S. and Thailand, designed to ensure regional peace and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Geronimo C. Aquino /Released)
Gulf of Thailand (Feb. 20, 2011) – The amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver passes along side an Endurance Class Singapore Navy ship Resolution (LPDM 208) during Cobra Gold 2011. Denver is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is underway participating in Cobra Gold, a multinational military exercises co-sponsored by U.S. and Thailand, designed to ensure regional peace and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Geronimo C. Aquino /Released)
Arabian Sea (Nov. 15, 2011) Aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) steams alongside the Singaporean Landing Ship Tank, RSS Endeavour (LST: 210), in the Gulf of Aden.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kasey Krall/Released)
Arabian Sea (Nov. 15, 2011) Aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) steams alongside the Singaporean Landing Ship Tank, RSS Endeavour (LST: 210), in the Gulf of Aden. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kasey Krall/Released)

MV Swift Rescue

The Swift Rescue - submarine rescue ship
The Swift Rescue – submarine rescue ship

If you are going to have some submarines and you are new to them, then really, you need a good submarine rescue vessel. The Singapore Navy has the MV Swift Rescue.

The Swift Rescue is a submarine support vessel. It was launched in 2008 and is the first vessel of its type in the South-East Asian region. As a submarine escape and rescue (SMER) vessel, the Swift Rescue is equipped with a submersible rescue vehicle, Deep Search and Rescue 6 (DSAR 6). The submersible and the Swift Rescue permit the escape of sailors from a distressed and submerged submarine.

The vessel has a helipad for emergency evacuations of wounded and a medical centre with an 8-bed High Dependency Ward and 10-bed Sick Bay. The vessels also has a re-compression chamber that can hold 40 personnel at a time – and as the Republic of Singapore submarines are crewed by 23 crew, there is space for expansion or the future purchase of larger submarines.

One of the life-boats
One of the life-boats

The MV Swift Rescue was launched on 29 November 2008. She is 85 metres long with a beam of 18 metres and displaces 4,000t. She has a crew of 27 and a speed of 12 knots. She is unarmed.

 

Singapore Submarines

RSS Chieftain - a Challenger class (formerly known as Sjöormen class) submarine
RSS Chieftain – a Challenger class (formerly known as Sjöormen class) submarine

While visiting the Changi Naval Base last Sunday I had the chance to look at a number of units of the Republic of Singapore navy. It was an excellent day out and organised really well.

Both submarine classes in the navy were on display, although the RSS Swordsman was only really seen at a distance.

One thing that strikes you immediately when standing next to them is how small the Challenger-class vessels actually are. Both the Challenger class and the Archer class were designed originally for service in the limited area of the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Sweden.

The Archer class submarines are the newer vessels with the addition of an Air Independent Propulsion system. The Challenger class are older vessels.

Whilst the Challenger class vessels are old (the first hulls are over 40 years old now) their modernisation and use in the Republic of Singapore Navy did give the Singapore Navy an underwater capability in local waters and more importantly, allowed the navy to develop experience in underwater warfare.

The Challenger class vessels are about 50 metres long, have a complement of 23 and are armed with 4× 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes, 2× 400 mm (16 in) torpedo tubes and mines. The sensors and processing systems are FAS.

RSS Swordsman - an Archer class submarine (was the Swedish Navy Västergötland class)
RSS Swordsman – an Archer class (formerly known as Västergötland class) submarine

Given that the vessels are about 50 metres long (compare this to, say, the Collins class vessels of the Royal Australian Navy which are 77 metres long and it becomes apparent that long cruising periods may be quite uncomfortable for the 23 crew). The vessels were designed for coastal work and small sea areas.

The Archer Class is an upgrade of the Västergötland Class diesel-electric submarines which were originally developed for the Swedish Navy. In the Swedish Navy the upgraded Västergötland Class was known as the Södermanland class. The same upgrades made to the Swedish Navy vessels were made to the vessels delivered to Singapore.

The addition to the upgraded propulsion system with the Stirling Air Independent Propulsion system required the submarines be lengthened from their original 48m to around 60m. The submarines (both classes) were modified for tropical use. Tropical waters are considerably warmer than the Baltic so newer air refrigeration units were needed to cool the internal vessel. At the same time, the warmer tropical water with a higher salt concentration than the Baltic has two effects – metalwork corrodes faster and little marine animals and vegetables are more likely to attach to and grow on the hulls.

The two Västergötland Class submarines, HMS Hälsingland and HMS Västergötland, were commissioned into the Swedish Navy during 1987-1988. It was in November 2005 that the Singapore Ministry of Defence placed a contract with Kockums for the supply of two Archer Class (Ex-Västergötland Class) submarines under the Northern Lights programme. The contract also included crew training and logistics support.

The Challenger class vessels were originally commissioned into the Swedish Navy in 1968-69. They were retired from service in the early 1990s and later purchased by Singapore in 1997-2001.

The C4I systems of the Archer class vessels are fitted with command and weapon control system, active and passive sonar, radar, electronic counter measures and an integrated navigation system. The modern sonar system aboard the Archer Class submarines allows the detection of long range objects on or below the surface of the water. I am guessing the C4I systems on the Challenger class have been upgraded to the same standard.