Scratchbuilt 1/192
HMS Campanula

by David Dinan

I remember the first time I saw the movie, The Cruel Sea. It was in the 1950s and ran as a double feature with the hit Alfred Hitchcock movie, Rear Window, at the neighborhood theater. Rear Window was great, but, The Cruel Sea made an enduring impression on me to this day. It's my favorite sea story and I named my last sailboat, a 27 foot sloop, Compass Rose.

Except for college and military service in the USN I have been building models since I was a youngster in the 50s. All kids built models in those days. Sadly that's not true today since model building does not provide instant gratification.

For years I collected photos and plans of Flower Class Corvettes. Fifteen years ago I felt I had enough research material and ship modeling skills to build a model of this tough little ship. The enclosed photos are the result of that effort.

I wanted to build a waterline model of a long foc'sle corvette with mast aft of the bridge and painted in a Western Approaches Camouflage scheme. The setting was to be a corvette working through a moderate sea state in mid-1942. All the photos I've seen of corvettes show the decks loaded with gear so I decided to put as many fittings on it as I possibly could.

I named the ship HMS Campanula, K 18. In all honesty I had no photos of this corvette but gave it this name in honor of Nicholas Monsarrat, author of The Cruel Sea. I read in a biographical note that he served on this ship.

The scale selected was 1/16" = 1 ft or 1/192. At that scale the model could easily be displayed on a mantle or bookcase. Except for purchasing the anchor chain and some ventilators, the entire model is scratchbuilt with an airbrushed finish. Working a few hours a night, the model took eighteen months to complete. I spent four months building the basic hull. Fabricating the superstructures and fittings took another thirteen months. Final assemble, sculpting the sea and building a display case took a month.

The waterline hull was rough carved in two halves, port and starboard, out of basswood and glued together. The assembled hull was smoothed and faired with sandpaper. I added shell plating and decks made of smooth Strathmore card; also called Bristol board. It comes in thicknesses of .005, .010 and .015 inches. The best tools to work this material, aside from a good old X-ACTO knife, are single edge razor blades and, for fine cutting, a surgeonÝs scalpel. A surgeon's scalpel is much easier to obtain than you may think. I purchased mine at a hobby shop. Another important tool is a steel straight edge with masking tape or fine sandpaper glued to the bottom to prevent slipping when slicing long strip of stock.

After adding a few details to the hull I airbrushed it with gray lacquer auto body primer and then top coated it with hobby paints in the Western Approaches camouflage scheme.

The hull, without any superstructure lay dormant for the next thirteen months while I made - as subassemblies - the superstructures and countless fittings. This stage of ship model building can become very boring and it's important to stay focused and not stray onto or start another project. You just have to tough it out, stick with it and view every fitting as a separate model.

It would take too much space to go into the details of fabricating the fittings. All I can say is that they were made out of Strathmore card, plastic strips, copper and brass wire. The glues I used were thick and thin CYANOACRYLATE and epoxies, also purchased at the local hobby shop. The flags and canvas around the open bridge were made of aluminum kitchen foil.

With regard to making fittings; I follow the advice handed down to me by older and more experienced model builders. Depending on your skill level, if you can't build it to scale, leave it off.

The most rewarding time came after seventeen months of plodding along when I got to fasten all the superstructure subassemblies and fittings onto the bare hull and in two short weeks the model was finished.

The sea base was sculpted from a mixture of Liquitex brand modeling paste and gel. This medium cures slowly and allows plenty of time for sculpting and correcting errors. The sculpted sea base is about ║ to 3/8th inches thick.

I don't consider a model finished until it's protected by a glass or Plexiglas case. That's the last thing I made.