BATTLECRUISER! Ö-can there be a
more evocative term for a warship type? Generally, battle cruisers were similar
in layout and armament to battleships but with significantly less armour
allowing for gains in speed. The concept was conceived by the Royal
Navy's Admiral " Jackie" Fisher who believed " that
speed is the best protection". Fisher's idea centred on battle
cruisers operating with the fleet, the intention being that they would hunt down
enemy cruiser squadrons and evade the battleships. To enable these large ships
to achieve the speed advantage sought the design concept deviated from the
standard practice of providing a ship with sufficient armour to protect against
its own guns. The weight saving from the reduced armour allowed more powerful
engines to be fitted. However, different nations built to widely different
designs. Some battle cruisers were smaller than battleships while others were
larger than contemporary battleships. The chief similarity was the role
specification. They were designed to hunt down and outgun smaller warships and
outrun larger warships that they could not outgun.
The Lion class battle cruisers were an improved development on the previous Invincible and Indefatigable classes of first generation battle cruisers. HMS Queen Mary is often listed as the third member of the Lion class, although a better description would be a half-sistership as she was fitted with more powerful machinery, different secondary armament disposition, carried a sternwalk, as well as the centre funnel being round. This was the easiest visual clue to differentiate her from HMS Lion and Princess Royal. Queen Mary was the only warship fitted with the 'Pollen' gunnery control system. Her 13.5-inch guns were considered to be the most accurate in the British fleet.
Upon commissioning, she joined the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron. On 28 August
1914 she took part in the Battle of Heligoland Bight . At the
Battle of Jutland she had fired about 150 13.5 in shells and scored 4 hits
on the German battklecrusier SMS Seydlitz , nvertheless the Seydlitz hit
back. Queen Mary was first hit above the right gun on 'Q' turret; which put that
gun out of action whilst the left gun kept firing. She took some more
12-in shell hits on her forward 'A' and 'B' turrets followed by another
hit on 'Q' turret. The forward magazine exploded, the ship listed to
port, more explosions followed as the ship was sinking. All but twenty of
her 1,275 crew were lost
Building the Model
Well known German resin ship kit manufacturer NNT has produced an excellent starting point for building a 1/700 scale model of this majestic vessel. Along with various book and web resources, I used primarily the excellent large scale plans supplied with the John Roberts book, Battlecruisers. This has, along with the usual plan and side elevations, some very helpful cross-sections at various stations, as well as a very explanatory large perspective drawing of the bridge-tower structure. I cross-referenced these plans with as many photos as I could find from both electronic as well as printed sources. The ships short career is, I believe, reflected in the relative scarcity of close-up photos. In my opinion had this same plan been used in the construction of the master model, the construction time of my model would have been cut dramatically.
The reason for this is that the huge amount of cast on deck detail is all in the correct place but is however all flat. Study of plans in side elevation and cross-section shows the many flat squares on the deck casting to be actually square and round mushrooom vents of varying sizes and heights, small deckhouses, tackle bins, lockers and skylights which are all very much three-dimensional. I made all these using styrene stock, paper and brass wire, etc. The lower position of wartime boat crutches were all removed and their reinforced skid positions marked in with tape strips. I added the coaling winch drums to the bulkheads as well as made 4 x winches for the correctly placed but flat positions. All the entirely missing cable reels were either scratch-built or White Ensign Models Pro-series resin items. I drew in hinges and clips on all lockers with a very sharp pencil and outlined many of the deck fittings in pencil to sharpen up the final effect. The above comments in no real way detract from the overall excellence of the product, which I would highly recommend to anyone wishing to build a model of this great but flawed warship.
This high quality kit has flawless casting- but there are some areas that required research and further work to be undertaken to allow me to be satisfied. The first major area that required work was the aft casemate/ boat stowage area. The outline plan-view footprint was spot on, however, the walkway around the top on the real ship was supported on pillars giving an undercut not represented in the kit casting-this area being solid. I attacked this problem by first making a paper tracing to use as a template for the new supported deck. Then the offending, to my eye, solid resin area was ground away with a motor tool , taking care not to penetrate the hull sides or to go too deep. A drum shaped grind stone was essential for this operation. The outer 'walls' were lined with Evergreen strip, painted and thereafter, it was time to view the fruits of my labours by applying the new paper deck. Once glued in place with the CA glue fully cured the excess was trimmed off, and sanded flat with very fine sandpaper, as the CA glue lifts the grain of the paper very slightly. The higher level aft was created using more paper and the stairway apertures onto both sides of the quarterdeck were cut through also at this stage. Stairway well was cut in, tackle boxes and other detail added. The funnel bases were somewhat bare-- study of plans and the aforementioned drawings showed them to be festooned with cover plates over vents--easily represented with squares of brass/paper. I thought further investigation revealed that the cover plates were removed when the vessel was underway, so I now had to simulate the vent grilles after some experimentation. I used old Gold Medal Models inclined ladders with the handrails trimmed off into suitable sized square vent grilles. Although obviously somewhat over-scale, the overall effect is pleasing to the eye on the finished model.
The first level of the forward bridge on the real ship
was also open aft and housed some large cable reels, etc. The solid
casting of the kit was ground out from underneath and the stairway
apertures cut in. The entire structure turned into quite a project in itself.
The cast solid splinter shields were cut away and replaced with photo-etched
railing to be filled with white glue to represent the canvas covered railings.
All the connecting stairs were installed and when solid the lower mast was
drilled true and installed, so as to give the structure some stability.
The upper bridge had a taller 3-bar railing. I culled this from an
old 1/600 scale GMM Merchant ship fret. The difference in scale,
giving the taller railing effect perfectly. The platform aft of the conning
tower was cut from brass and was furnished with railings and inclined
ladders. The railings were filled with white glue and the structure placed on
the ship. Styrene filler plates were inserted to make the aft edge flush with
the base according to the photos and plans I had. All the cast doors had
been carved off and replaced with photo-etched items all over the entire
model. The supplied photo-etch blast plates needed a little
fettling to get them to sit flush and fair atop the resin bases.
At this stage the hull was showing signs of slight warpage fore and aft. I nipped this tendency in the bud immediately by affixing the hull to a 3mm stainless steel with stainless steel countersunk screws into pre-drilled holes in the underside. I periodically removed the hull for working on when rotation or access was required to undersides of platforms but always screwed it back onto its metal base between work sessions. The solid funnels had their centres drilled out, although care was needed here to prevent distortion being caused by heat build-up from the cutting tool. Somewhat later I noticed that the forward funnel was 1 millimetre too short in relation to the others. I would otherwise have made a replacement item. As the funnel base was surrounded by boats, I cured the problem by inserting a sliver of styrene underneath. The funnel flange is a little higher but cannot be seen due to surrounding boats.
The complex and delicate funnel caps were made entirely of stretched sprue. With the bridge installed and the mast inserted all the way through into the lower hull, my attention turned to the supporting struts and gussets under the upper bridge level with paper and cannibalized photo-etched scrap giving the desired effect. With the hull topsides painted, the ship was beginning to look very elegant but in spite of NNT having captured the slight tumblehome of the hull sides very well it all looked a little ' flat'. I drew in all the rigoles (eyebrows) for the scuttles with a sharp pencil. Detailed examination of photos of the real ship showed that in most lighting conditions, the fore and aft hull plating strake lines were visible. Reckoning it being impossible to recreate these within scale, I opted to 'sketch' in this detail. Having applied Tamiya masking tape following the layout on the plans I then drew along the tape guide with a very sharp pencil. After removal of the tape the effect was made more subtle by brushing down vertically with methylated spirits, which coincidentally removed the sheen of the pencil rather well as a bonus. The somewhat plain aft rangefinder had observation slits painted on and a brass cross member installed after drilling the top of the small casting athwart ship.
The well-rendered turrets had integral blast bags nicely shaped. Finding no reason to re-invent the wheel, I simply drilled out the resin and installed the NNT supplied Schatton gun barrels. The ships boats impressed with their outline accuracy. Small details such as handrails, folded stacks, doors cleats and life-preserver were added to the steam launches, whilst the oar-propelled boats had the sculling notches cut in using a blade. The aft stern-walk was made using the excellent supplied photo-etch mesh piece in conjunction with a paper floor and a paper roof, which was given its conical shape using white glue. The starfish platform on the forward mast was supplied as a solid resin casting. It had a good outline but was too clunky for my liking, so I made a new platform of cannibalized WEM photo-etch and paper. The open spotting top was supplied as a solid casting. This is fine for when the ship was in harbour, as the apertures were covered with canvas screens. However, with the model representing a vessel underway, I made a new platform of paper and a white glue roof. Siren platforms on the forward funnel were made of paper with pipes and sirens being of brass wire. After installing the nickel-silver wire torpedo net booms, I added more detail. These had brackets that held them in place on the hull side, which appeared to have a locking bar that went over the boom in some way. I mimicked the photos I had and made these from RC Cammett vinyl tape secured with a micro-drop of CA at both ends. This achieved a sharp result with which I was pleased.
I wanted to install the brailing davits for the net. The main feature was perfectly regular spacing and consistent size, which are difficult aims to achieve perfectly. The slightest error in distance/inclination or size would be worse than not having them at all. I cut up old and over-scale 1/350 scale handrails, using the railing joint 'ball' as the pulley block. When bent around by 90 degrees it gave a fair impression of the item but more importantly it was totally repeatable in size and spacing. Torpedo nets were supplied with the kit, however after study of photos I felt that the supplied cord was too thick and regular in appearance-so I used a button cord partially unraveled, then soaked in CA and then painted with PVA. The overall effect is quite pleasing.
The anchor chain was a model railway item, passing through the drilled hawse pipes to the fine kit supplied photo-etched anchors. The capstans are made of N-scale brass buffers topped with some fine photo-etch brass circles from L'Arsenal. The check chains were made of some old WEM photo-etch chain. On the upper bridge platform I added the awning stanchions as well as the portside small chart table, complete with tiny paper chart. The kit supplied photo-etch sea-boat davits featured the griping spar brackets, a nice touch. These were used in conjunction with a boarding net cut from cake decoratorís yellow veil coloured with an indelible marker pen. The model had a GMM photo-etch crew installed and was ready for flat-coat and rigging.
I spent much time attempting to create passable cage aerials. They are always drawn as being very prominent on plans, yet in contemporary photos they are often nigh invisible. Even using GMM Goldplus rails rolled around thin wire, the overall effect was far too heavy for my liking. I elected to leave them off and indicate them on the model by using extremely fine stretched sprue in their positions. All the masts were made of stainless steel welding rod that had been tapered for me by Steve Foulkes, using a drill and contra-rotating sanding disc in an angle grinder. All rigging was stretched sprue tightened in the usual manner with hot smoke from incense sticks and no mean amount of patience. Handrails were GMM Gold plus superfine in the main and the entire model apart from the decks was painted with WEM Colourcoats, washed with white watercolour to reduce their 'strength' a bit. Having not a single photo of HMS Queen Mary at speed I elected to portray her trickling along at about 8 knots or so.
NNT has filled a void in the available ship subjects with a great kit, which would build into a fine replica out of the box but can be much further refined if so desire. My primary source of information was the aforementioned Roberts plan and book along with:
British Battleships of World War One
Anthony Preston Battleships of World War One
Burt and Trotter Battleships of the Grand Fleet
Useful web resources: http://www.maritimequest.com/warship_directory/great_britain/battleships/queen_mary/hms_queen_mary.htm