HMAS AUSTRALIA 1942

Or
“The One with the Little Cranes”
(with apologies to naval and modelling purists)


1/700 Kombrig HMAS Australia


by Robert Hagger


Introduction

The receipt shows that I acquired the Kombrig 1:700 resin kit of HMAS Australia in August 2004 from Starline/ Fleetline Models in Victoria. A little later I acquired a pair of White Ensign Models 1:700 resin and etched brass R.N. 6/7 ton seaplane cranes as the Kombrig kit contained parts for one crane only, the ship carrying two at the time in which it is portrayed. A close friend of mine took a fancy to the cranes thinking them “cute” so implored me to “build the one with the little cranes”.
For a history of the ship go to www.navy.gov.au/spc/history/ships/australia2.html
A review of the kit can be found at www.modelwarships.com, click on the link to Kombrig. (note the Russian “Kombrig” logo on the instruction sheet shown below).



Kit box, parts and instructions.


Reverse side of the instruction sheet.

Ships are prone to refits which alter their appearance. The kit seemed to best portray the Australia as she was in 1942, and the photograph I used as my primary reference can be found at www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/g10000/g12107.jpg. Other photos of the ship can be found at his website. Other references I used are listed at the end of this article.

I finally began the build on Boxing Day 2006 aiming to be finished by Australia Day, January 26th 2007, in the end it took a tad longer. I did take some photos along the way and the following pictures and notes illustrate the project’s progress.


Firstly the hull and major parts were airbrushed with Humbrol 144 Enamel, a blue-grey colour. I do not know if this is accurate but it seems the ship had a relatively dark paint scheme in mid 1942 and I have seen this colour listed as a good match for some camouflage colours used by the Royal navy in WW 2. It is possible US Navy colours were applied to the ship at the time. The deck was sprayed with Humbrol 94 (a brown shade) mixed with a grey to approximately match a teak colour on a woodstain brochure from my local hardware store, the raised details then hand painted and drybrushed grey.

Construction started with the main superstructure and bridge and then worked from the midline adding items laterally. To describe the process however I will start at the bow (pointy end) and move along to the stern (blunt end) rather than be chronological.

~ two semicircular “gun tubs” for 20 mm guns were severed from the “B turret” deck adjacent to the bridge and reattached further forward just to the front of “B turret” (Turrets named “A” ,“B” ,“X” and “Y” from bow to stern respectively).
~ “gun tubs” on “B” and “X” turrets were cut from plastic drinking straw and held in shape by wire bent to form a brace whilst the glue set.

~ shields for 20 mm guns were cut out from styrene sheet. Some 20 mm gun barrels had broken and were replaced with fuse wire.


Construction of gun tubs on 8 inch turrets

20 mm gun shields made from plastic card. Life raft on front of superstructure later removed.

~ main superstructure and bridge as supplied appeared to be too tall compared with the profile photo of the ship taken in 1942. I realised this a little late but managed to pare off some height to lower the profile but was deliberately conservative with the trimming for fear of botching the job.

~ the top deck of the bridge structure was made from sheet styrene to replace the kit item which I felt was too narrow, but photographic evidence is unclear as to its correct size and shape.


Kit supplied part                              Replacement part.

~ the foremost section of the open bridge was elevated slightly, life rafts from the “spares box” attached, and the foremast made from brass rod, styrene card and fusewire.

~ searchlight towers were made from scraps of plastic, styrene sheet and paper strips. Searchlights came from an Airfix 1/600 HMS Suffolk kit and trimmed to size. Life rafts supplied in the kit were attached to the towers. Plating cut from styrene sheet was added either side of the middle funnel and walkways made and attached each side of the funnels. Turret bases were cut out to raise the 4inch guns off the deck and perpendicular ends attached to the 4 inch gun shields. Ropes made of thread were added to the davits.



I’ll get to the cranes later!

~ the Supermarine Walrus-this is where the strength of the resin most impressed me as I did much fumbling but nothing broke.


~ I opened up already present holes and made new ones with a pin in the lower mainplane and pushed struts made of fusewire through to replace the resin ones attached to the floats. Some interwing struts were made from thread, a small ring of plastic added to the rear of the engine to represent the cylinders and a propeller cut from foil. Roundels came from Trumpeter’s 1:700 USS Lexington kit and were modified with a fine waterproof blue ink pen. Photos taken in Macro Mode show the white stars of the US roundels under the ink but the naked eye (mine anyway) can’t see this on the model itself.

~ A smaller catapult launch trolley was made from styrene card to replace the supplied part which made the Walrus sit too high. I elected to not detail the cockpit, rescribe the panel lines or thin the trailing edge of the wings!
~ The rear searchlight tower is represented in the kit by a central pillar and tub to sit on top.

~ The tower was built up by adding four pillars and after trying 2 or 3 different methods, frame work was made with thread secured with superglue and “criss –cross” bars made by adding then trimming fine wire.

 

~ The glue did make the structure a bit “knobbly” but I built this structure twice and for the sake of common sense and sanity allowed myself to be happy with the result. The searchlight again was modified from Airfix’s Suffolk.

~ I found some photos showing the area between the catapult and rear searchlight tower after the tower was completed and on the basis of these altered the shape of the tub a little, added a small block of plastic with life raft mounted on top in front of the tower, and made some air vents made from styrene and snippets of black “Dymo” tape.

~ the rear 8 inch director has been modified from a 1:600 Airfix item. In the real life photos something is present between the 8 inch director tower and searchlight tower- I know not what . To fill in the gap however I made 2 semicircular “gun tubs”, attaching them without guns. As on some other areas of the kit I used only a minimum of Aquadhere glue to allow me to remove the item if I wish at a later date. The shipyards did refits-no reason why I can’t too.
~ the 8 barrelled pom poms had rather long barrels, an attempt to trim the barrels did them no good. I have ordered some White Ensign Model replacements.

NEARLY THERE- one would think…..
~ boats were suspended outboard of the hull with thin strips of plastic card and straps made from Tamiya tape. Simple thread rigging was added to the davits.

~ rear mast made as per foremast using photo to gauge approximate height.

THE CRANES

The cranes referred to earlier went together very nicely and were my first attempt at etched brass folding. Crane bases were cut from tubing from the inside of a defunct ballpoint pen. The crane cabins were attached, the etched brass jibs glued on, and “Lo and Behold”- the cranes were too small compared with those on this class of ship by about half! The cranes are quite a prominent feature if you look at the photo of 1942.

My options were to be happy with the “little cranes”, buy two etched brass detail sets for County Class cruisers (each with 1 crane) which seemed a little extravagant, or to manufacture some new cranes myself-so off to the crane factory it was.

This was a lesson in patience and no doubt good for my soul. It also reminded me not to try modelling when tired, cranky, with a messy workbench or late at night, and to remember my deadline was arbitrary. I tried about four different methods of making the crane jibs, the final method being a mix of the earlier ones and involved making some jigs from plastic card with holes in which to mount lengths of fusewire , gluing shorter strips of wire in place in a lattice pattern, then joining the two ends of the jib together. The final form of the cranes is not perfect by any means, but looks more correct in size. The cranes’ cabins were modified again with plastic card and scrap plastic based on some fairly vague photographic evidence.


NOW - we’re about there……

~ The ship was glued to some masonite framed by a cut down cheap photo frame. The hull protected with some Tamiya tape whilst “Jo Sonja’s Texture Paste” was spread over the base and shaped with spoons, spatulas, paint and other small brush type objects. When dry, the sea was painted with various Humbrol blues (matt 25,109,14 ) with a dash of white and finished with a coat of clear gloss.

 

~ The ship was given a light dry brushing with a light grey Humbrol enamel to weather it, but I did not want to be too heavy handed.
~ the name plate was made by the local “Mr Minit” key cutting and engraving gentleman.



“WOT- no rigging or railings?” you cry…
…I’ve not made a resin ship before and found the basics of the build straightforward and enjoyable. The parts were easy to separate from their casting blocks and had some nice detail. I have not used brass railings or details before and did not want to risk having nasty globs of glue down the deck spoiling the look so elected not to add railings. If I gain competence with these in the future I could add more detail then.

There is a lot of guesswork and artistic licence in this model and it is not in the same league as those I’ve seen on the “modelwarship” and “steelnavy” websites but I am pleased with the result and I reckon that is all that matters in the end with a hobby.

…and thanks to my close friend for showing me which computer buttons to hit for this write up.

References

Books:
1. Australia’s War at Sea 1939-1945 Profile No.5-Revised Edition Topmill Pty Ltd Marrickville Australia
2. Australian Seapower-CRUISERS Photofile No.4 Topmill Pty Ltd
Marrickville Australia
3.Cassells,Vic The Capital Ships-their battles and their badges Kangaroo Press Sydney 2000
4.Gillett,Ross Warships of Australia Rigby Adelaide 1977
5.Harper,Vice Admiral J.E.T. Royal Navy at War Pilot Press London 1941
6. Payne,M.A. HMAS Australia 1928-1955-the story of the 8 inch cruiser
Naval Historical Society of Australia Garden Island 2000
7.Whitley,M.J. Cruisers of World War two-an International Encyclopedia Brockhampton Press London 1995

Internet:

1. www.history.navy.mil (search online photo resources)
2. www.awm.gov.au (search online photos via Collections Search)
3. www.adf-serials.com (search photos of Supermarine Walrus)
4. www.navy.gov.au
5. www.aussiemodeller.com (assistance on discussion forum)
6. www.modelwarships.com
7. www.steelnavy.com
8. www.wikipedia.com (search for HMAS Australia)
9. www.whiteensignmodels.com (catalogue and gallery)

Other

1.Kit Instructions
2.Australian War Memorial galleries-models on display


 

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