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1⁄700HMS Attacker 1943
Intro...The vital role which aircraft could provide in combating the U-boat threat in the Atlantic Ocean was proved not only by long range land based aircraft and flying boats but also by a variety of designs based on merchant ships. The Merchant Aircraft Carriers, MAC ships, where basically a flight deck built on top of a merchant ship, which meant there was no room for a hanger as cargo was still carried. This limited the number of aircraft which could be carried and made servicing them difficult, nevertheless their limited capability did show that aircraft could be useful in forcing the U-boats underwater, away from their preferred surface attack.
A number of one off designs based on merchant hulls followed, being based on hulls they had the advantage of being full conversions which were built with hangers, so increasing the numbers of aircraft carried and greatly increasing effectiveness. Indeed so effective were these small carriers at contributing to the reversal of the role of the U-boat from the hunter to the hunted that a US design for a small escort carrier based on a simply and easily produced mercantile hull was drawn up.
The Bogue class carriers were based on the C-3 merchant hull, fitted with a full length hanger, catapult and geared turbines to improve speed and operational effectiveness. Eleven of these ships were transferred to the hard pressed Royal Navy in 1942, and renamed the Attacker class.
As the first ship of the class, HMS Attacker entered service in early 1943 spent much of her wartime service as a fighter support ship, largely in the Mediterranean. Her seafires supported the landings at Salerno in Autumn 1943 and in Southern France in 1944, before transferral to the Pacific Fleet towards the end of the war.
The model...My HMS Attacker is based on the Tamiya Bogue kit, which shows a version with increased anti-aircraft armament, and of course US Navy aircraft, other than this changes were mainly minor. This kit was originally the Skywave HMS Tracker, although I haven’t seen the original so I’m not sure how much alteration was made to turn Tracker back into Bogue. It’s a pretty good kit overall, no real fit problems although the hull sides do need some careful filling and sanding to make sure there is no seam shown. I decided to model the ship in the summer of 1943, when Attacker was flying Seafires although still wearing the original camouflage scheme of US Navy haze grey, ocean blue and navy blue.
I wanted to show at least some hanger detail on the finished ship so I cut out the roller doors and fitted the forward lift in a lowered position. Some left over and probably never to be used Fulmars from the Revell Ark Royal kit were cut down and made roughly Seafire shaped to fit in the hanger, as only a shape would be visible rough was good enough in this case. Most of the changes to represent Attacker were in the form of the AA armament, in 1943 Attacker carried only four twin Bofors mounts and ten oerlikons, together with RN mark V 4 inch guns. This meant the deckside catwalks and sponsons would need to be rebuilt to represent the different locations of the early AA fit. Unfortunately this meant losing the raised tread detail on the catwalks, at the time I couldn’t find anything to represent it but have since discovered a steel mesh sold in the UK by RC Cammett which would have been ideal, bugger!
Before attaching any deckside furniture I decided to try a method of deck painting I had seen described by Japanese modeller Omami on his J-Model works site, in his superb builds of Akagi and Kaga. I slightly adapted it as the deck on Attacker was a little easier to do as the planking ran laterally rather than longitudinally. The basic procedure is to slightly lighten and darken from a base colour to give a range of shades so hopefully producing a wood effect. This means masking off the thickness of a deck plank in several random locations around the deck and building up the range of tones gradually. First of all I sprayed the deck in WEM teak which was to be my base colour, some of this would be left to show through. I used four tones of teak lightened with white, four darkened with brown, one with a spot of red and two tones of teak mixed with small amounts of green, all basic Humbrol colours which mixed well with the WEM paint, with the base colour this gave twelve tones of teak. I then worked out that I would need something like 150 ‘planks’, much less than the actual number but enough to create the effect and just as importantly not so many that I would go steadily insane in the process.
I decided to vary the amount of planks which would be covered with each tone, those nearer the base colour I increased in number, as the shade became progressively lighter or darker than the base colour I reduced the number of planks to be painted to as not to overdo the effect. In practice this was actually not too difficult to do, using strips of masking tape I randomly chose where to place each new shade and masked off a small strip of deck. Then sprayed each colour in turn, keeping the previous turn in an airtight jar to create the next tone of paint in turn. Eventually I ended up with a deck with twelve random shades of the base teak colour which created a pleasingly ‘wooden’ effect, although I had slightly overdone the range of tones but nothing which a little damping down with pastels during the weathering process couldn’t cure. I set the deck aside to continue with the rest of the model.
The remainder of the build was relatively easy, I used plastic card to create new catwalks and sponsons and sprue for their ribbing, flight deck supports were made from cut down square sections of plastruct rod and left over etch. I used the GMM escort carrier fret and some WEM parts for gantreys under and around the flight deck, radars, AA details, masts etc, all the usual detail upgrades. I had some trouble getting details of the boat stowage arrangements, but with the help of some fellow modellers on this site I finally worked out how this was done and scratchbuilt davits and used left over cable reels to detail these. Some WEM 4 inch guns I had on back order since starting the build in September turned up a few days after I had scratched replacements at the very end of the build (March, I’m slow), so I decided to use mine as they would be fairly well hidden in any case.
For the air arm I used WEM spitfires / seafires built as the latter. Details from the WEM aircraft set were used including undercarriage, arrester hooks and props, I decided to put some cannons on as well and cut open the cockpit of one and added open ammo loading panels just for a change.
The camouflage scheme follows that in Alan Ravens Warship Camouflage 1942 book as a number of photos I had seen of Attacker showed this as well. This was a pretty elaborate haze grey, ocean blue and navy blue pattern, it thought since this would take a number of coats for each I would not use a primer as this would add to any obscuring of detail. Bad move, when I removed the masking tape after the final coat I found large patches of all three colours coming away with it, leaving me with bare plastic! Reverting to the trusty hand brush I managed to disguise most of this and since I intended to do a lot of weathering I could get away with any visible faults, hopefully.
I left fitting the deck until I had painted the camo scheme to avoid any accidents, at which point I started to look a little more carefully at those reference photos. According to Raven’s book there is no certainty as to whether RN escort carriers used a deck stain as did their USN counterparts. But looking at the reference photos, every photo I could see of an RN escort carrier had a distinctly dark deck. No problem, I will just spray the deck… the deck it has taken me about two weeks…deck blue…ah…
After strong Belgian beer and the kind of language that would make Wayne Rooney blush, I decided to look at those photos again. None of them looked completely dark, most were pretty faded overall, and Attacker in the Med would have been bleached especially since the camo scheme was as originally applied, could I get away with a very faded deck stain? I sealed the deck with matt varnish and made up a mix of black and blue pastels to get a dark blue colour which could pass for deck stain blue. Working from the deck edges in I gave this a light coat and after three passes of pastels alternating with sprayed on matt varnish to seal each coat in (there comes a point when you can’t get any more pastel on so you have to seal it and use another coat), I got to the point where the original deck tones showed through enough to create the effect yet the effect of a faded deck stain darkened the whole deck quite pleasingly. Nothing more than to seal with Kleer, add the decals and finish off with another coat of matt varnish.
Once complete and all sub assemblies were added I weathered the model using a dark wash to pick out details and a little dry brushing to bring out the highlights. I weathered the camo scheme firstly by using fine grade emery paper to blur and fade the edges of the colours, streaked this with pastels, made a few chips here and there and used pastels to create a rust effect. These were busy ships which saw a lot of action with little rest and I wanted to show Attacker in a pretty scruffy state. After all weathering I added rigging and flags and the small radar aerials, crew is the GMM set painted up to include a few pilots discussing the forthcoming trip.
Sea base is the usual foil and acrylic gel with some toothpicks under the foil to create a bow wave and wake as necessary. I haven’t got round to getting a name plate yet.
Altogether great fun despite the hiccups but I learnt a lot on the way. Although HMS Attacker did not spend much of her wartime service as a convoy escort the theme is one I find interesting, probably because I am originally from Liverpool UK, where many Atlantic convoys were bound. Building this little escort carrier has made me want to build another for an obvious reason, the MAC ship Empire MacCabe. If anyone has any information on this ship or a good reference source please email me off line or send a private message. I feel a convoy theme coming on, now where did I put that Flower class corvette?
Copyright ©2021 by Mike McCabe. Images and/or videos also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely the views and opinions of the authors and/or contributors to this Web site and do not necessarily represent the views and/or opinions of Armorama, KitMaker Network, or Silver Star Enterrpises. All rights reserved. Originally published on: 2008-01-25 00:00:00. Unique Reads: 10902