The HMS Campbeltown will always be known for its role in the St. Nazaire raid of 28 March 1942. Loaded with twenty-four depth charges containing four tons of high explosives, it crashed the huge Normandie dock in the early morning hours after a spectacular run-in up the Loire River under withering German fire. Later that morning the Campbeltown exploded, rendering the dock unusable, and taking with it over 300 Germans who had unfortunately climbed aboard to examine the vessel or were inspecting the dock. It was a major strategic success for British arms since the Normandie dock was the only Axis-held facility on the Atlantic coast capable of holding the battleship Tirpitz. The raid, which included commando actions against other port facilities, cost the British, in addition to the Campbeltown, numerous small vessels, almost 250 killed and missing, and over 100 POWs. Five Victoria Crosses were awarded after the raid, including the captain of the Campbeltown, Lieutenant-Commander S. H. Beattie.
The Campbeltown began its service in 1919 as the USS Buchanan (DD131) and enjoyed a rather uneventful interwar career, the vessel actually being out of commission for three years during the 1930s. The Buchananís war service began after being handed over to the Royal Navy on 3 September 1940 as one of fifty old "flush deck" destroyers offered in exchange for base privileges in Newfoundland and the West Indies. Arriving in Belfast on 26 September, it was renamed the HMS Campbeltown (all fifty destroyers were given names of towns common to both Great Britain and the U.S.) and spent the next year and a half in grueling convoy escort duty. Interestingly, it was temporarily allocated to the Dutch navy and crewed for a short time by Polish sailors before being returned to Royal Navy service in September 1941. When the decision was made to attack St. Nazaire, an expendable vessel was needed to ram the docks and the Campbeltown was selected for the operation.
It was quickly fitted out for the raid at Devonport during the first half of March. Its was re-equipped with a single 12lb deck gun and 8 20mm Oerlikons. Extensive armored plating and shielding were added to protect the bridge area and the Commando passengers who were to carry out further operations once the vessel rammed the dock. By mid-March the Campbeltown had taken on a totally new look. Most noticeable were the loss of the two aft stacks and the modification of the foremast stacks to resemble a Mowe-class German torpedo boat.
The explosion, in addition to severely damaging the dock facility, disintegrated the forward half of the vessel although reconnaissance photos from ten months later show the stern half of the vessel still resting within the damaged Normandie dock.
B Resina kits tend to emphasize simplicity and ease of assembly. The Campbeltown certainly fits this profile, it consists of a hull, five superstructure pieces, weapons, Carley floats, mast, and several other minor parts all cast in crisply molded resin. As usual with B Resina, there is no photo-etch included with the kit. A particularly nice feature is the finely detailed armored plating and matting around the bridge. It adds detail to a ship that was stripped down to an austere level in real life. The Campbeltown as configured for the operation carried no radar, depth charges, shipís boats or any of the other complexities found on most WWII destroyers. As a result, this can be a perfect weekend project for the experienced modeler or a fine beginnerís project with good detail but few complicated challenges for the less experienced modeler.
The kit was essentially built right from the box with minimal additions. One change is strongly recommended; you should replace the eight resin 20mm Oerlikons with a photo-etch product. The Oerlikon gun mounts are quite prominent on the kit and the resin weapons just donít look in scale. Although there are a number of good PE 20 mm sets available; I find Gold Medal the easiest to construct and used them on this project. There were also two 50 cal. Brownings on the bridge wings included in the kit that could have been more detailed but I included them anyway. There was also a light weapon mounted on the compass platform. Iím not sure what it was, it was not mentioned in the Profile article on the Campbeltown, but the centerfold and several photos indicated a light weapons mount of some kind (with shielding) so I cut down a 20mm Oerlikon and mounted a shield. My guess is that it was another single 50 cal. Browning. The four Carley floats between the bridge and first stack appear to have been mounted on a scaffolding so I cut some 1/350 railing to use as a mount for the floats. Simple enough and it was a perfect fit. I also used White Ensign doors and ladders where needed. They add a touch of detail needed on the relatively simple kit.
The resin foremast was slightly warped so I replaced it with brass. The mast is a simple t-shape and the brass adds a nice look to the final model and is necessary if you are going to rig the Campbeltown. The rigging was done with stretched sprue. Again, this was a simple task and provides another good reason to consider the kit for a quick or first project.
The Campbeltown wore a Mountbattten Pink scheme at the time of the St. Nazaire raid. Not having any of White Ensignís new Colourcoat paints on hand, I mixed Polly S paints using a Snyder & Short Royal Navy Color Sheet as a guide. Deck areas were painted 507A, again using a home-brewed Polly S mix. After the initial shock of a pink ship, I began to like the color. Iíd love to do a British cruiser (HMS Manchester or Aurora come to mind) in this scheme. As usual, I weathered the ship extensively with gray, black, and rust colored pastels.
I used the Warships in Profile article HMS Campbeltown for historical background as well as for the excellent close-up photos taken after the conversion to its final guise. There is also an excellent two-page color spread; perfect for detailing the vessel. The Profile includes a rousing description of the raid.
B-Resinaís HMS Campbeltown
is a worthy project for anyone interested in WWII Royal Navy ships. The result
is a model of a historically important and unique warship. Besides, how often do
you get to paint a vessel pink.