HMS FURIOUSthe carrier was converted from the Battlecruiser of that name, advancing in various guises to finally having a flying on-deck bisected in the center by a funnel and bridge structure, as well as a flying off deck forward. She served in two World Wars with distinction and was by far the hardest worked carrier in the Royal Navy. After WW1 she was entirely re-constructed into a 'flat-top', emerging on 1 September 1925 a dramatically different looking ship.
She served during the inter-war years without incident, being continually upgraded with new weaponry and aircraft in two major re-fits. Re-commissioned 1939 she had been fitted with a small island and HA/LA 4"guns/ The forward flying off deck was now an AA platform sitting atop a raised bow with the foreward hangar doors being plated up. She served in the early years of WW2 hunting enemy surface shipping and ferrying aircraft as well as lending extensive air support to the Norwegian campaign. She refitted in Philadelphia USA in 1942. She assisted in keeping Malta supplied with aircraft, as part of Force H, gave aircover for operation Torch landings in North Africa . Thereafter she assisted in covering the North Russian convoys before finding herself again in Norwegian waters launching damaging air attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz, as well as sinking much enemy shipping with her aircraft. After 27 years of strenuous service she was deemed in August 1944 to be thoroughly worn out. She served her last years in commission in ship target trials. Sold for breaking up in 1948, this was finally completed in 1954.
When wishing to build a model of HMS FURIOUS in her post 1925 rebuild to WW2 configuration in 1/700 one is faced with three choices: (1)Purchase the Loose Cannon Models 1918 variant, keep the hull and junk everything else and then add your own to superstructure. This is a viable option for a 1920's and 30's guise model The gun turrets are right and quarter-deck at correct level. (2) Purchase the HP Models kit and engage in resin butchery and build it to the best of your ability. (3) Purchase a set of plans from the National Maritime Museum in London and scratch-build the entire thing.
This is the tale of option 2. Upon opening the box I was initially thrilled with the contents. A brief dry fit, however, soon showed all was not entirely well. There were a number of gaps, chunky platforms and some plain inaccuracies, none of which were particularly troublesome to a moderately experienced modeler. I have always visualized Furious in WW2 as being quite low and sleek. The above dry fit immediately struck me as being very tall and lofty. Checking photos and measuring with dividers, seeking opinion on message boards, guessing and wondering soon had me in a quandary. I was fortunate to have been loaned a set of NMM plans. This established after a session armed with paper and calculator, that the assembled kit would be between 2.2 and 2.3mm too tall. This in itself is not a vast measurement, but in a 1/700 carrier it upset the visual balance of the model. I was determined to have a WW2 Furious, so here is how I went about it.
First of all I established that the lower hull casting was dimensionally fundamentally OK. The main problems lay with the deck, thickness and the hangar side heights and proportions of the 'cutouts'. I used dividers, pencil and Tamiya Masking tape to mark off where the material was to be removed. This was achieved using my trusty belt sander, as ever, used at night. Other recesses were achieved with saw cuts and the use of a Stanley blade as a chisel along with some hefty blows of a hammer. This gave a very crisp straight cut edge to the resin. Proportions of cutout heights and steps were adjusted with styrene strip. Another manufacturing shortcut in the hull casting that I wanted to cure was the forward deck undercut. On the real ship this was the capstan deck and the overhead deck was held up by struts with gusset plating for rigidity. On the kit hull it was relief rendered only. This called for sawing, grinding and some delicate work with brass and styrene. I made some capstans from Model railroad brass bits , styrene chainways and brass chain. In amongst this surgery the commendably thin resin bulwarks had collapsed and were replaced with styrene items, this time angled correctly to the outward slope of the superstructure. Further forward I made them of paper.
Close scrutiny of the NMM plans (bearing in mind the numerous refits and changes to the ship since the plans were drawn) showed the flight deck to be too short. I lengthened the casting at the appropriate point using styrene shims. I also sanded the deck extensively in thickness as well as plan profile to give the distinctive humpback shape. In the above operation I intentionally removed the AA tubs, as they were too clunky, wrong shape and at the wrong place. This un-intentionally created the neat representation of the holes all along the flight deck edge. Close examination of photos showed these to even more frequent than the removed items. I did not however relish drilling all those holes perfectly, so I cheated! Using some Gold Medal Models canvas dodger railing photo-etch, cut in half with scissors, this did the trick nicely. I cut and joined the strips underneath the gun tubs so as to prevent later buckling with expansion and contraction problems caused by temperature variations. HMS Furious was initially rebuilt without any kind of island structure, conning of the ship being carried out from two 'pods' port and starboard of the forward edge of the flight, deck as well a retractable navigation 'bridge' in the forward center position of the flight deck. The latter was built from styrene and stainless steel photo-etch scrap. The port and starboard conning tops were given a domed roof of white glue and windscreens of photo-etch handrail.
The funnel and exhaust arrangements of the ship were unique. I wanted to represent the funnel tubes behind their cooling 'egg boxing'. In the kit it was anticipated that this recessed space would be painted black. Photos of HMS Furious show the exhaust trunking to be visible behind the egg boxing. . This I feel really should have been a photo-etch piece, It would have rendered that area so simple and crisp! I arduously and very carefully ground out all the resin behind the 'egg boxing', until such time only thin wafers were left between the uprights and horizontals; these were pushed out and the grating cleaned up with knife blades. I installed the tubes as a representation of the exhaust funnel trunking. She possessed large exhaust vents on either side of the aft flight deck. These of course impeded any kind of landing. So the smoke was exhausted out of the aft lower quarters of the ship when flying operations took place, the changeover being made via flaps in the ducting . This operation was referred to as 'smoking up / smoking down! An unwanted side effect of 'smoking down' was that exhausted sooty deposits soon made the aft end of the ship unsightly- the counter-measure was to simply paint the aft section of the ship black. The lower exhaust ports were made of scrap photo-etch and styrene strip. The port side of the camouflage in this scheme is very poorly documented. After an appeal on the message board, I was soon sent an excellent photo! Thanks Miles!
Having removed all AA gun-tubs, new items were fashioned from brass photo-etch scrap, a crisper medium than styrene strip. The braces fitted to the undersides were cut down from the WEM Ark Royal radio mast photo-etch parts This fret was used extensively for all the wrong applications. Further work carried out on the hull sides involved replacing most boat platforms and fitting these with braces, cut from 1:200 ladderstock, as well as fitting the flight deck drains made of styrene strip. Infuriatingly I noticed at a late stage of construction that the apertures in the panel below the island were hopelessly incorrect in appearance, as well as not being pierced through from the hollow behind. I had to cure this fairly minor feature and the grinder quickly made a recess leaving an uneven surface. This was lined with a piece of brass. I made the new aperture panel from thin styrene, cut and drilled the holes, in my view a vast improvement. The process was repeated on the port side. The 4" HA/LA mounts were the kit items correctly supplied with the larger shield, these were fitted with the fire arc limiting rails, these can just be discerned in some photos of the real ship, a feature rarely modeled in small scales. The Flight deck surrounding catwalk 'floors' can look heavy in 1:700 scale, so I used GMM Goldplus destroyer netting; whilst this is not exactly correct it does succeed in giving a very lightweight and airy final appearance when fitted with the handrails separately. The davits for the ships’ boats in the 'hollows' were made of two different sizes of styrene strip after the boats were in place.
The boat cradles were made one-side of paper, glued in place with CA and the
boat was slid in sideways. Unfortunately not a single kit supplied boat could be
used as they were all generic rowboats. These were all replaced with WEM Pro
items. I partially recorded the sequence of placing the ship in her sea. All my
1:700 models reside in wall cases, which all have timber-framed shelves of
uniform width. This allows interchangeability of models within all cases. The
ship was supported on padded supports on her flight deck upside down. The 3 mm
stainless steel plate had been pre drilled with countersunk holes so as to allow
the resin hull to be screwed down to eliminate any later warping or hogging. The
wave pattern had been created using cocktail sticks, the embossed artists
watercolor paper earlier had the hull shape cut out fractionally larger than the
waterline footprint. This was affixed to the plate using double sided tape
giving an instant fix. I first separated the well-used timber 'build handle' and
placed the model onto its base having first pulled the 'water paper' up around
the models 'waist'. The model was then screwed down using the pre drilled and
tapped holes, using stainless steel screws. Unfortunately one of the holes was
to close to the stern, possibly the hole had not been drilled deep enough. While
giving the screw its 'final' half turn the stern neatly cracked off. I neatly
re-glued the stern, repainted the area and vowed next time to have more holes in
the plate to give more choice in screw placement. The watercolor paper was then
soaked in CA to make it moisture proof and hard.
While at the stern I elected to make the cranes at the aft hangar entrance. These are unusual in being square in shape so as to allow their stow position under the flight deck. The kit items are solid resin and hence of no use I manufactured two cranes cobbled together from GMM Carrier photo-etch and handrail. The model was painted using WEM and Humbrol enamel paints weathered with watercolor. The sea color chosen was a dark grey mixed with just a hint of green, so as to portray the cold waters off the coast of Norway. I extensively used toothpaste to back fill gaps and create translucent wave crests made with a flat spade brush to complement the spindrift and spray made of torn tissue paper. The pompoms used were WEM resin items dressed up with photo-etch as the kit items were way too large. The cast anchors were removed and replaced with WEM photo-etch items. The large homing beacon was made of aluminum tube on a disc of photo-etch furnished with handrails. from GMM Goldplus as were all the remainder of rails fitted to the ship. The large radio aerial masts were made using a combination of GMM and WEM items topped with wire 'hockeystick ends'. The GMM photo-etch masts were 3 sided only, the 'open box' was supplied with a lid from the WEM set. These were rigged with stretched sprue. The radio aerials are portrayed in an upright position as no flying operations are taking place. Most photos of Furious underway show an empty deck, as RN carriers of that era had no aircraft deck park. This fact contributed to the loss of her half sister HMS Glorious, but that is another story and another model.
In Conclusion- HP models must be commended for having made an excellent choice of a great and esoteric subject that fills a gap in any RN carrier collection. Unfortunately the elation was marred by the kit being disappointing, considering its high price. Many things could have been so very much better, accurate and more satisfactory with only a little more effort. The use of photo-etch for some of the structure would have made the result so much crisper in final appearance. My thanks have to go out to all my 'virtual' message board model friends around the world who rallied to my aid with photos, help, drawings and plans.
Main References used : NMM Greenwich plans; Warship profile 24; R. A. BURT British Battleships 1919-1939.; British Aircraft Carriers Norman Friedman; Alte Flugzeuf Traeger Marine Arsenal ( Breyer)