by Bob Pearson
I have long been fascinated by the Dido Class cruisers, so much so that I have scratchbuilt many of them in 1/1200 scale, and had long ago started on my own plans to do a 1/700 one. When I returned to ship models I found this was no longer necessary as White Ensign Models had produced one in resin. However when I first enquired about it I was informed that they were out of stock, but that an updated casting would soon be available once more. Earlier this year it was ready, and I placed my order. Two weeks later it was in the mailbox . .
Preparing the Kit
Construction began by cleaning up the various parts. The superstructure was attached to large flow gates and carving these away would be tedious work, however my Dremel knock-off made short work of this using one of the drum sander tools [NOTE: Be sure to do any heavy sanding of resin parts out of doors]. Once this was done, all of the components were given a bath in warm detergent laden water and scrubbed with an old toothbrush. This is necessary to remove any oils on the parts that may affect paint adhesion. Now the the truly nerve-wracking part began just what Dido was I to do?
The Dido class had many variations among its 16 ships some had five twin 5.25" turrets, some had four, two carried four twin 4" mounts. Anti-Aircraft armament changed as did radar. And then there are all the really interesting colours that they wore. Out of the box WEM give you HMS Dido herself in overall medium gray, but I wanted more colour than that. If I wished to keep the same basic layout as Dido, my choices came down to HMS Argonaut in a three-colour scheme of blue, light gray and dark grey, HMS Euryalus in a five-colour pattern or HMS Naiad in a three colour pattern of white, green and brown. About this time I asked the Ship Modellers Mailing List about Dido colours and was informed that Naiad was really in grays .. so she was ruled out .... Euryalus was a little more complicated than I wished to try. .. that left Argonaut. Of course there was lots of vacillation in this selection.
Returning to the model I CAed an L shaped piece of sprue to the bottom as a handhold and cut a hole in the top of the box the kit came in to put it for hands free work. The box can be moved around to various angles, but the hull stays stable if you place a spring loaded paper clip on the sprue and move it tight against the box. All of the other pieces also received handling aids of some sort as well. Larger parts had the stub from a piece of HSP CAed to their underside, and the turrets were placed into holes pressed into card. This enables all parts to be painted without excessive handling.
After the hassles with painting my WEM Tribal, I decided to use Testors Enamels for the main colours. I purchased a few of the small bottles of matt white, plus a bottle of sky blue. For the basic colour, I mixed a light gray using the white and a few drops of black. Once I had a shade I liked, I airbrushed the entire kit and associated PE. A day later I brushed Humbrol Satin 71 on all the wooden decks, followed by a dark grey I had made for one of my earlier ships on the metal areas. I now had a crisis of faith and was no longer sure I was going to do Argonaut .. at this point I went on holiday for a month and gave my friends a break from my indecision.
After returning I once again decided on Argonaut and using the colour profiles in the Ensign volume on the Dido Class I prepared masks for the other two colours. The drawings were scaled to 1/700 scale and placing them on top of a piece of masking tape that I had stuck to the top of my light table I traced the pattern out using a sharp ex-acto knife. The first section was to cover the areas that were to remain gray.
After placing all the masks on the hull, superstructure and turrets I mixed up a suitable blue from the Testors sky blue with a few drops of black to darken it. The masks were immediately removed after airbrushing the blue. Those handholds previously mentioned help here as they make it unnecessary to touch the parts themselves, as tweezers handle the tape.
The following night I added masks over the gray and blue and proceded to spray a dark grey mixture of Ceramcoat colours. Again, immediate mask removal helps prevent any paint peeling when the tape is removed.
A day later all the HSP holders were removed from the superstructure and they were placed on the hull to see how it looked I was impressed . . . . except the light grey looked white ... drat. Back into the box the project went.
Now wait a minute .. this is the kit I have waited years for, and who knows when I will get another, so back out it came and the masks were once again prepared, this time to leave JUST the grey visible. A medium grey was mixed from Ceramcoat Quaker Grey and a drop of a blue (sorry, I forget which). When done I had mixed feelings, I liked the original paintjob, but this was closer to accurate.
About this time I recieved the Snyder & Short RN Colour chips and found out my blue was waaayyy too light and bright ... NO!!!! this one I left alone ... One other thing I discovered was that my portside pattern is a mixture of the scheme worn at two different periods .. oh well, no one will know.
With all the parts painted, it was time to start putting the pieces together. The superstructure fits superbly in place. The aft deckhouse butts up against a couple of hose reels, while the midships sections go against the foc's'le break and then against each other. The two Pom-pom platforms need to be aligned carefully against the aft funnel. Care must be taken with the bridge, the supplied drawings aren't too clear on exactly where it goes.
Once the major components were joined together I inked in all portholes using a black .005 Pigment liner by Staedtler. The entire hull was given a wash of Rust-All and then streaks were added with a fine brush. After this multiple washes of the No.2 bottle (blackening) were used to vary the appearance of the hull and decks.
Photo-Etch & Final Details
With the weathering done, I turned to adding the PE rails. WEM supply a set of their generic RN rails with this kit. Two pieces are needed for each side of the bow while it took four to go around the stern leaving a gap for the torpedo tubes. I also added them to each deck, although these should really have tw0-bar rails in many places, not the three-bar I used.
After the rails were on the masts were constructed from the supplied brass and plastic rod. WEM supply drawings in double and full size as well as full dimensions of all components. One thing I discovered was that next time I drill the holes for the mast locators FIRST. The various platforms and supports were added to the foremast. I used plastic stock for the horizontal supports rather than the very fine PE supplied. After this, the searchlights, 5.25" barrels, pom-poms, boats and the radar aerials were added.
I went to paint the WEM box, but the label didn't want to come off, so I robbed the bottom from another box and turned it over and painted a seascape on the top and brown on the sides.
The last thing to add was the crew. Using the remainder of my Tom's Modelwork's 1/700 PE figures I populated the ship with a skeleton crew. Someday I will have to add many more.
Easy . ..... I want another one, especially with the new reference material available .. there are many interesting schemes for the Didos in Alan Raven's RN Camouflage book, and the S&S chips will enable accurate colours for my next one.