ESCORT                                                       ISSUE 119




1:600 scale models by Nigel Denchfield

All 4 of the early Abdiels were sent to the Mediterranean where they performed superb service as minelayers and as fast supply ships, sometimes in fairly desperate missions.  In such a volatile theatre of operations the loss of 3 of them cannot be a surprise.

Abdiel was the first to arrive at the end of April 1941 and was soon busily engaged in store and troop carrying tasks at Cyprus and Crete before switching to the Tobruk run and the relief of the Australian garrison there.

Latona was next, taking passage around the Cape of Good Hope, arriving in June 1941, carrying much needed stores including a stock of 20mm Oerlikon for the fleet.  She herself was not fitted with any, and was sunk after being disabled by air attack on her fourth run to Tobruk.

Manxman followed, and oscillated between the Mediterranean and home waters fairly rapidly.  In August 1941 she laid mines off Toulon whilst disguised as the French destroyer Leopard.

Welshman initially was used to lay numerous minefields nearer to home, but in May 1942 was used to run stores into beleaguered Malta, completing 3 round trips from the UK by July.  For the first 2 of these she too was disguised as Leopard.  This was a rather hopeful deceit as by then Leopard was in Free French hands and had just come out of refit in Hull, and her 3 sisters were laid up in Toulon, so the appearance of any of them in the Mediterranean would be curious to any informed observer.  But it was worth the risk, as airmen in particular were renowned for being unable to identify ships.

There are some interesting models to make here, and having already produced Abdiel in 1943, I decided to make Latona and Welshman.  Good references exist in the form of Arthur Nicholson’s wonderful book ‘Very Useful Ships’, and the old Profile on the class with the former being much more detailed and benefiting from more photographs, beautiful drawings and testimony from crew members.  The Malcolm Wright camouflage books I discounted on this occasion as he is wrong regarding the colour scheme for Latona.  He gives one scheme and says she only had the one.  There are photographs and crew reports that discount this.  Her initial paint scheme seems to be a 3 layered one and it is possible that the demon Mountbatten Pink was used.  On arrival in the Mediterranean she was instructed to paint ship.

Left: Latona as completed according to the National Maritime Museum

Right: Latona in Alexandria

The Airfix Manxman kit is fairly basic, but armed with decent photographs and drawings it can be made into a good model.  It depends on how much detail you wish to add, and by what method.  I adopted the least harm to my pension fund method, but admit the brass etch sets did tempt me.  The detail differences between Welshman and Latona mostly concern the carley raft arrangement and the AA fit.  Despite carrying those 20mm mountings to Alexandria, she remained in as-built configuration, fitted with quad mg in the bridge wings.  Welshman received seven 20mm singles by the time she was pretending to be Leopard.

The early parts of the build are identical for both ships, so this was done in tandem until I had to focus on one alone.

The good old days!  Anybody remember the newsagent chain ‘Taylor & McKenna’?  I bought 4 Manxman when they were selling off stock.

This will not be a full description of how I built the model, but just a few photographs that give the idea.

The focsl as provided is not correct and sparse in detail.

The breakwater needed remodelling, ground tackle and windlass arrangements adding and the location of A mounting filling as it is too far forward.

I engraved the stern minelaying doors because I was too lazy to cut them out and built them as slightly set in.

The searchlight paltform had 10th sheet added to provide the screen, and the platform for the pom-pom director was removed and remodelled according to the drawings.  The kit bridge is empty, so the raised forward section was added and detailed along with screens, lockers, and eventually lookout positions.

On Welshan screens for the 20mm were needed, along with the pom-pom platform.  Just visible, but out of focus is the pom-pom director.  Loading derricks and carley raft mountings are under construction, and I did delve into the spares box for sections of brass ladders.  Various winches have also been added and the prominent H chimney so this section looks quite busy.

The director as suplied is clunky, so I removed the top and rebuilt it using plastic sheet.  The kit mast was also replaced with a a new version built from 20th rod.  Moving aft you can just see the shutters over the boiler room intakes.

I should have replaced all the depth charges for better size versions, but just built rails around them.

The 4” mountings have the wrong shape shields, and none of my spares from Warspite, Ajax or Belfast kits were suitable either.  For now I simply improved the shape, added some extra bits, and stuck them to the model with PVA.  When I track down some better versions, or when my son begins 3D printing, they will be easy to remove.

Ships boats and davits are always a problem.  Photographs suggest the the boats provided are the correct types, but the whaler in particular is not well  made.  I replaced this with a 1/700 30ft cutter that I reshaped.  The davits are far too thick, and although I toyed with making new ones, I didn’t for reasons of time.  The photographs make them look much worse than they really are.  Similarly with my painting!

The completed stern of Welshman.

Rafts come from the spares box, the pom-pom is a 1/700 resin, but the size seems about right.  Sprue framing was added to the cranes, but new ones could have been built, or brass ones purchased.

The 20mm are 3D printed versions.

The crew have appeared, mostly in overalls as they are likley to receive a visit from the Luftwaffe at any time…

The radar has been added to the director, I was lucky to have some spare sets.

Part of the disguise involved adding slanted cowls to the centre and after funnels.

The false focsl break was achived using black paint.  The other colours are 507C and 507B.

You have to be careful!  The left hand photograph is May 1942, and the right hand one June 1942.  There are significant differences.

Latona required less extra detailing because she had no 20mm, and no disguise.  After much thought I decided that there were enough references to ‘maybe Mountbatten Pink’ that I opted for this scheme.  The learned colour guru Peter French thinks that the official mix for this was 3 buckets of grey to 1 bucket of red.  I used Humbrol 129, and added a few dots of 186 and it came out vivid pink.  I tried again with a hint of 186, and it still came out fairly pink, but I wasn’t going to repaint the model again!

The dark grey was Humbrol 27 with a touch of 186, and the white had a touch of grey added to tone it down.