ESCORT                                                       ISSUE 119


Part 1 of a review of the Flyhawk 1:700 kit by Rob Brown



Background – HMS ‘Pepperpot’:

HMS Penelope was the third of the four ships in the Arethusa class.  Ordered in 1933 and commissioned on November 13, 1936 she differed from the first two ships in that she was fitted with twin 4” guns while building.  

At the beginning of World War II, Penelope was serving in the Home Fleet and operated with the 2nd Cruiser Squadron on convoy escort duties.  She was sent to Norway in April 1940 as part of the Allied response to the invasion of that country.

On April 11, 1940 while searching for a German ship at the southern entrance to Vestfjord, she ran hard aground on an uncharted rock, severely damaging 300 feet along the bottom of the hull, tearing open the forward engine and boiler rooms, and damaging three of her four propellers.  With the aid of HMS Eskimo, she was wrenched free of the rocks three hours later and made her way to Skjelfjord in the Lofoten Islands, located on the northern side of the entrance to Vestfjord.  The 45 mile trip took 17 hours on her single remaining undamaged propeller shaft.  

Penelope lay in Skjelfjord for a month while her crew laboured to patch the worst of the damage.  To help her blend into the towering mountains surrounding her anchorage, she was painted up in an unofficial brown and white scheme.  On May 8, she was bombed by the Luftwaffe and 5 crewmembers were killed.    On May 10, she limped out of Skjelfjord under tow.  On May 16, after a very anxious trip across the North Sea and coming under air attack once more she reached the Clyde.  She would be out of service for a year.  

As part of the repair, her catapult was removed and replaced by 2 quad pom-poms; she was also fitted with radar Types 281, 284, and 285 and the masts converted to tripods to carry the extra weight of the radar equipment.  She rejoined the fleet on August 17, 1941.  Again assigned to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, she resumed convoy escort duties and occasionally escorted major fleet units on operations.  On October 12, 1941, she and her sister ship Aurora were assigned to Malta as part of a surface striking force of cruisers and destroyers, the legendary Force ‘K’.    

After arrival at Malta on October 21, Force ‘K’ began operations against Italian convoys bringing supplies to the Axis armies in North Africa.  Successful interceptions on November 8, November 23, and December 1, resulted in two Italian destroyers and eleven merchant ships sunk.  

The initial successes of Force ‘K’ came to an abrupt end on December 19 off Tripoli when the force ran into an unsuspected minefield.  Aurora and Penelope were damaged; the cruiser Neptune and destroyer Kandahar were sunk.  Penelope made it back to Malta where she was under repair until the beginning of January.  Aurora had to return to the UK for more extensive repairs, leaving Penelope as the sole cruiser left in Force ‘K’.  

Due to fuel concerns, Penelope was now restricted to escorting friendly convoys to and from Malta.  She made a round trip to Alexandria from January 5-27, escorting the supply ship Breconshire on one of her many trips to Malta.  She was out again on February 13-15 bringing in destroyer reinforcements for Force ‘K’.  In March 1942, she was part of the British forces engaged in the 2nd Battle of Sirte when Italian surface forces intercepted a convoy bound for Malta.  

On March 26, she was damaged in an air raid and had to be dry-docked in Malta for repairs.  While in dock, she was repeatedly attacked from the air and took so much splinter damage to her hull that she became known as ‘HMS Pepperpot’.  Malta had become untenable as a base and Penelope sailed for Gibraltar on April 8, coming under heavy air attack once more, but suffering no damage.

She was repaired at the New York Navy Yard in the USA from May to September, returning to the UK on October 1, 1942.  Adopted by the city of Blackpool, she was sent out to the Mediterranean once more in January 1943.  She participated in the bombardment and subsequent surrender of the Italian island of Pantelleria in June 1943.  In July she was present at the invasion of Sicily where she provided fire support and in September she did the same for the landings at Salerno.

A brief period in the Eastern Mediterranean followed where she was once again bombed by the Luftwaffe, suffering minor damage.  Reassignment to Gibraltar to search for German blockade runners in the Atlantic came in December 1943.

On January 22, 1944, she took part in the Anzio invasion, once again providing fire support and returning to Naples for replenishment. On February 19 while en-route back to the Anzio beachhead, she was torpedoed by U-410.  The torpedo hit on the starboard side aft, flooding the after engine room and damaging the steering gear.  Penelope circled to starboard and gradually came to a stop.  She was then struck by a second torpedo to starboard in the after boiler room.  The after magazine blew up and the ship broke her back.  With both the bow and stern pointing skyward, she sank in less than a minute.  417 of the crew were lost, only 205 survived.  

Penelope won eight battle honours for her service in World War Two.  Her named lived on in the Leander class frigate of 1962.  

The Kit:

This kit features Penelope as she appeared in 1940 before the replacement of her catapult with 2 quadruple pom-poms.  It is not a simple re-packaging of Aurora or Chungking, but is a new kit with many unique parts.


The kit comes in a well-constructed box featuring a painting of HMS Penelope in Skjelfjord wearing her unique brown and white camouflage.  The box of my kit was squashed in the mail, but none of the contents were damaged and the box is still usable.     

All of the sprues are individually sealed in plastic bags with the exception of the main superstructure pieces and gun turrets which are in their own sealed box.  There is also a large full colour glossy card featuring the box art on one side and a ship’s history with general characteristics on the reverse.  

The kit comprises 375 parts on 27 sprues with all parts moulded in medium grey.  The Deluxe Edition adds 14 metal parts, 128 parts on two photo-etch sheets, and a resin piece.


The one piece hull scales out perfectly to the actual length of 506 feet.  A lower hull and a waterline base plate are supplied giving the modeller the option to build either a full hull or a waterline version.  There are no stands included so those wishing to build the full hull version will need to plan ahead for an arrangement to display the completed model.

The lower hull itself has finely molded bilge keels and the lower half of the armour belt.  Rudder, propellers, and shafts are included as separate pieces.  It has raised locating points enabling an accurate fit to the upper hull.  The instructions for fitting the lower hull do not appear on the main instruction sheet, they are on a smaller separate sheet.

The pronounced bow knuckle is in the correct position, starting just under the anchor hawse pipe and terminating just aft of ‘B’ barbette.  It is a perfect rendition of this distinctive feature, following the contour of the upper deck, curving slightly upwards under the anchor hawse.

There are also raised strakes capturing the line of hull plating from the bow back to the armour belt amidships and from the armour belt aft to the stern.  It is slightly exaggerated in this scale and could be sanded down to be less conspicuous, but I find it so delicately executed that it would be a shame to remove it.  The armour belt itself is exactly correct for dimensions and hull placement.  The portholes all feature eyebrows and the anchor hawse pipe is very clearly defined.  The hull also features bollards, fairleads, and ladder rungs.

A weight is included to give the completed hull some ‘heft’.