L'Arsenal 1/400 Flower Class Corvette
HMCS Snowberry K166
So much has been written about the history of the Flower Class corvette, that there is no need to go into it once again. Suffice it to say that these important little ships hold a place in the hearts of many, myself included. Within the past few months I have been fortunate enough to acquire a half dozen of the L'Arsenal kits and I intend to do an infrequent series of articles on converting them to the various 'typical' configurations that they could be seen in during the Second World War. First off will be an out of box build as the Royal Canadian Navy corvette HMCS Snowberry.
Built by Davie Shipbuilding Co. Ltd in Lauzon Quebec, Snowberry was originally intended for the Royal Navy, and as such she is in typical RN, rather than RCN fit. The main differences between RN and RCN Flowers was in the location of the galley - originally right aft in RN ships, later in front of the funnel and behind and below the bridge in RCN, and the location of the 2pdr bandstand. The RCN moved it aft to open up the arcs of fire. Canadian yards were building ten Flowers for the RN, however upon arrival in the UK, the RCN was persuaded to man these ships themselves, although the RN would pay for their upkeep. This led to the RN-owned, but RCN-operated Flowers being kept abreast of the RN Flowers in new technology and refits, while the RCN owned Flowers were generally a year behind their RN counterparts.
Commissioned on 15 May 1941, Snowbery took part in many of the furious convoy battles of the period and assisted in the sinking of U-536 north of the Azores on 20 November 1943. As built Snowberry had a short foc's'le, no radar, mast before the bridge and the galley right aft. A refit in the US port of Charleston between 8 December 1941 14 February 1942 saw her fo'c'sle lengthened and type 271 radar added. A second refit in May 1943 resulted in the appearance depicted here. Her bridge is in the final configuration and the mast is behind the bridge. An excellent series of photographs in the recent Warship Perspective: Flower Class Corvettes (by John Lambert) show her leaving Charleston harbour on 14 May 1943 at the conclusion of this refit.
Snowberry was returned to the RN in 1945, used as a gunnery target in 1946 and broken up in 1947.
As usual my main problem in building a kit was in determining just which one to do it as. The L'Arsenal kit gives many options, but none of them appealed to me at the time. As there was the great collection of photos of Snowberry, I decided on her as she appeared circa November 1943, around the time of the sinking of U536.
After cleaning up the hull it was cast with a block below the keel, I attached the hull to its display base. As I plan a series of these ships, a simple base design was chosen. The base consists of a section of pine in a 'T' section as used for a drawer runner. Two holes were drilled into the base and the bottom of the hull, metal rod was then glued in the base (using white glue), and the hull using CA. Construction could now begin.
I sprayed all parts with Testors Flat White (in the little bottles). The next day I sprayed both camouflage colours on the hull. Normally I do one colour per day, but this time I tried something a little different. First I masked the areas that were to remain white, then I covered the section that were to be Western Approaches Green and sprayed the WA Blue panels. For the blue I used the same mixture I had done up for my 1/700 WEM Buttercup, a dash of white added to Testors Sky Blue. I removed the cover to the WA Green, gave the WA Blue a few minutes to dry and then carefully covered them. The WA Green (mixture of Agama WW1 German Light Green and Testors White) was then sprayed and all tape immediately removed. The next day I masked the upper hull and sprayed the lower hull with a mix of Ceramcoat red and black. Again the tape was immediately removed.
One more step remained before I could begin adding the details to the model, the decks were painted in a combination of dark grey for the metal areas and Humbrol 74 for the wooden cladding on foredeck and around the stern depthcharge launchers. The bridge decks were also painted in Humbrol 74.
The bridge is interesting as although the basic structure of the wheelhouse and Asdic hut are resin, it is almost all photo-etch. I began by adding the black window decals to the wheelhouse. The open bridge was assembled as per the instruction by folding the verticals upright and CAing them in place. The exterior weather breaks were then added to the sides of the wheelhouse and the bridge was test fitted in place. . . oops, the protective uprights were too high to allow the bridge to sit on top of the wheelhouse. Rather than cut them down I CAed a shim of sheet styrene onto the wheelhouse and CAed the open bridge on top of this. The three sides to the compass platform were then added as was the type 271 radar shack. The final step was to add the lattice supports to the bridge wings. I boo-booed and CAed these upside down the thick side should be up.
Next the skylights were added to the engine room casing. I painted the top of the skylight black, leaving about 1.5mm around the edges white. The PE skylight was then CAed in place over this. Other PE bits were placed where required. These include the two Carley float platforms as well as splinter shields on bow and amidships. The 4" platform was also added at this time.
The next step was to add the PE rails. The kit comes with three-bar rails with a separate foot for each stanchion, however I replaced these with a set of three-bar rails from Tom's Modelworks (with a solid bottom foot)... the real Flowers used two-bar rails, and Tom's Modelworks also stock these in fact I have since acquired some and plan to one day replace those on this model with the correct two-bar pattern. Ladders were also placed at this time.
The vents were CAed in place. Note that they do not need to be placed in any one direction. Photos of Flowers show these at all angles, so feel free to do so yourself. The 4" gun and the 2pdr were built and added to their respective bandstands.
The Carley floats had thin paper strips wrapped around them and they were then CAed to their platforms. The two 16' dinghies were given thwarts from leftover PE sections and CAed to the deck. I then placed their davits over them. I made a mistake and used the depth charge davits for the boats, which meant the lighter boat davits had to be placed aft for the depth charge throwers. Depth charges and throwers were handpainted in a dark olive green and CAed in place.
The depth charge racks went together well and were CAed in place. They depict a type seen on some Flowers, but most would be much lower and exit through the stern rather than over it. I may correct this in the future (or not). Final details were added and the fun part was now about to begin
Decals & Weathering
I looked through 25 years worth of decals and was unable to find any that contained the required K166, however I did find a set with X 0-9, so I made my own 'K' by cutting an 'X' in half and adding an 'I' to it. I dabbed the spot where they were to go with Future and began piecing the various component letters/numbers in place. When done I gave them another dab of Future to seal them in place. Later RustAll Flat was applied over the decals to get them back to the same shine as the hull.
The entire model was now given a wash of RustAll Rust. Later streaks of the same were applied and then a wash of the black stuff was applied. The model was basically done, except I looked at some photos of Snowbery in November 1943 and she was wearing a maple leaf on her funnel. This wasn't there in the May 1943 photos, but I had to add it. . which made the model now in November, not May. Canadians in WW2 used a GREEN maple leaf, not the more familiar RED one of modern times, however I only had red leafs on hand and used two of those.
The base was then painted in Ceramcoat Burnt Umber and given multiple coats of Future. A final touch was the nameplate. I did this on my printer and added the requisite green maple leafs.
Since completing the model I have begun work on all my Flower class illustrations and in my research I found the emblem worn by Snowberry on her gunshield. I shall add this to the nameplate in the future when I next need to print some for the other Flowers I am working on. As mentioned I plan to more of these - here is a preview of my short fo'c'sle conversion to an as yet unnamed RCN Flower.
I am pleased with the level of detail the kit provides. The instructions, while appearing comprehensive are in French and require a good deal of study of the diagrams to understand what is intended. The only real deviation from the kit parts I can recommend is to get some Tom's Modelworks two-bar rails. Do I like the kit? I have over a 1/2 dozen of them. .. you tell me.