1/350 MGB 75
BRITISH POWER BOAT CO.
“HOW  I  DID  IT"


MGB 75 BRITISH POWER BOAT CO.
White Ensign Models 1:350 scale.   NS – 013


by Roger Pearson

 

Introduction


I need to point out from the outset, that I am by no means an ‘expert’ in WW2 ship modelling, or indeed modelling in general. This article being the first of it’s kind from me will be quite extensive however, future articles will not be so comprehensive as I will not need to repeat my procedures.

Background information

This particular type of Gunboat was built by the British Power Boat Company in 1942, entering service with the 8th MGB Flotilla at HMS Beehive (Felixstowe) in July. The vessel was 71 feet 6 inches in length, displacing 45 tons and powered by three supercharged Packard engines giving a maximum speed of 40 knots. It carried 2,600 gallons of fuel giving it a range of 1,000 nautical miles at 12 knots reducing to 760nm at 30k. Armament consisted of a Vickers 2pdr (40mm) automatic Pom-Pom on the foredeck, a twin powered 20mm Oerlikon gun aft of the wheelhouse and two twin .303” Lewis machine guns towards the stern. The crew consisted of 2 Officers, 2 Petty Officers and 6 Ratings. Most of these craft came under the command of RNVR officers.

 

One such man was to become a ‘legend’ in the Light Coastal Forces operating in the ‘Channel’ and the North Sea. That man was Lt Cdr Robert Hichens. It has been said that ‘Hich’ was a big brother of every man serving in Coastal forces, the man of experience and proved capacity, the champion of their cause and a born leader. I believe it was his flotilla which was the first to be equipped with these new, purpose built gunboats.

During his rather short career ‘Hich’ was awarded some eight decorations, six of them gained during an eventfull 1942, as he lead “bewildering all out attacks” on the enemy, their size or firepower being of no consequence. His last award, (an MiD awarded posthumously for an action on the night before his death) coming on 22 June 1943. His bravery awards include the DSO twice, the DSC three times and three times he was Mentioned in Despatches.

‘Hich’ himself wrote – “I think one of the most lovely sights I have ever seen is a gunboat unit at speed in moonlight, with the white pluming wakes, the cascading bow waves, the thick black outlines of the guns darkly silhouetted, the figures of the gunners motionless at their positions as though carved out of black rock, all against the beautifull setting of the moon-path on the water”.

His heroic life came to a tragic end on the night of 13th April 1943 when he was killed by the final burst of enemy gunfire after a minor engagement. He left behind a rich legacy – the fruits of his energy in the development of the boats and the fruits of his experience in the way they should be handled and fought.

To learn more about ‘Hich’, may I suggest you have a look at the following two books:

  • “The Little Ships”  written by Gordon Holman, chapter 5, pages 62-75.
  • “We Fought Them in Gunboats”  written by ‘Hich’ himself. His eldest son, Antony is commencing research work with the view to writing his father’s autobiography.

I think I can safely say that ‘Hich’ died doing what he loved doing best, racing towards the enemy at high speed with all guns blazing !! He wasn’t reckless, he first weighed up the odds with a cold, calculating courage then he ATTACKED !!!!

I don’t have any information regarding the exact configuration of ‘Hich’s’ MGB, but I would like to, nevertheless dedicate my model to the memory of:

Lt Cdr Robert Peverell Hichens
DSO and bar, DSC and 2 bars RNVR.

“A Man among Men and a brilliant, dashing Leader”.

Some further information has come to light. Antony Hichens very kindly put me in touch with Tom Ladner who was the young RCNVR officer who commissioned MGB 75 back in 1942. I wrote to Tom in April this year (2006) and he replied in May. I also had the very great privilege to actually speak to him as well which for me was an enormous thrill. In Tom’s letter dated May 24 he told me of a particular action that he was involved in and I quote –

“MGB 75 operated primarily on the east and south coasts of England. MGB 75 was actually the first of it’s class ‘commissioned’. The senior officer of the flotilla was LT CDR Robert Hichens who was the first RNVR flotilla commander. He studied plans of attack employing gunboats and torpedo boats and he evolved the tactic of having the gunboats on the shore side of enemy convoys to draw fire and thus enable the torpedo boats to attack from the seaward side. It was not always successful for the gunboats that received opening fire. It was this type of action that occurred off the French coast when MGB 75 was hit as well as the senior boat which was commandeered by George Duncan,, a Canadian, who was killed in the action. MGB 75 was badly damaged and suffered a large number of casualties. I headed close to a navigation buoy and stopped. As the enemy vessels went passed me I hid behind the buoy, which in the failing light gave me some shelter. Eventually I realised I was by myself on the French coast and that I would have to move as soon as possible if I was to reach the English coast before daylight. In any event I did get back to Felixstowe unescorted. MGB 75 was so badly beaten up by gunfire that it was paid off and re-commissioned much later under another number that I cannot recall. My life after that was heavily involved with MGB 663 (a Fairmile D)”.

Tommy Ladner returned to his homeland, Canada where he became a notable QC.

Unfortunately, I received the sad news from Len Reynolds, current  CFVA  President that Thomas Ellis Ladner, QC, DSC and bar and 5 MiD’s passed away on the 23rd June 2006 aged 89.

Len wrote in the most recent CFVA newsletter –

"Tom Ladner, a very distinguished and long serving officer in coastal forces, died in his native Vancouver on June 23, aged 89. He, and many other Canadians came over to the UK in 1940, served on the east coast, and in early 1942 was CO of MGB 75, one of Robert Hichens’ “Band of Brothers” in the famous 8th MGB Flotilla in the new 71’ 6” boats. He fought many actions before his boat was severely damaged and paid off.

His next command was MGB 663 which gained a tremendous reputation as an always available and efficient boat in the 20th and 56th Flotillas, the latter with all Canadian COs. They served in the ‘Med’, were at the Sicily, Salerno and Elba invasions and took part in countless actions on the west coast of Italy, in the Adriatic and in the Yugoslav islands. Despite 663’s record for gunnery in action, he was always proud that she never suffered a casualty until a week after he left her, when 663 was mined and sunk off Venice.

He was a fine man, had a very distinguished legal career in Canada and kept closely in touch with coastal forces friends and attended reunions on his frequent visits to the UK.”  

Now to the Model

I would like to suggest, as with any model kit read through the instructions and familiarise yourself with the parts and diagrams. As I have very little reference material I will rely on the manufacturers information to be reasonably correct and reliable. I trust that the good people who have produced this model have done some research and consulted some plans and/or other reference material. Having said that, if any reader believes I am grossly incorrect in any way then please don’t hesitate in letting me know. I assure you I will not be offended, I will readily accept constructive criticism, especially if I’ve made a glaring mistake. One thing I have discovered is that you should NOT colour match the colours used on the painting guide as the colours shown are merely depicting where a particular colour should be applied and are NOT in any way depicting the correct shade of colour.

There is no right or wrong way to go about building this model, I’m certain each and every one of you will have your very own sequence of assembling model boat kits. I am merely going to explain  “How I Did It”.

After taking some shots of the kits’ parts, I washed the parts in the ‘usual’ way – the resin parts in warm soapy water and the brass etch fret in what we call here in OZ -- “White King”, using an old soft toothbrush in both cases. I have a little hint for those of you who use good ‘ol Super Glue. When not using the glue, store it in the ‘fridge in a small glass jar (so it stands upright). This prevents the glue left in the nozzle from going off (hard).

Assembly

I chose to assemble the model in the following sequence, for no particular reason other than I considered it to be the most simplest sequence (for me) starting with the smaller ‘out of the way’ parts. I also wanted to take photo’s of firstly the parts laid out, then the assembled model before painting and finally the completed (and painted) model, including crew figures!

Before commencing work on this model I decided to make an ‘Airfix’ style stand for my creation to rest on and to display the ‘under hull’ parts. The assembly sequence then proceeded as follows -- Deck Hatches, ‘Kedge’ Anchor, Ladders, and Liferings.

At this stage I decided to add a Steering (Ships?) Wheel, I chose to use one from WEM PE 736 useing the second smallest wheel. I cut a 2cm length of 10 thou rod styrene and glued the end to the wheel to facilitate painting. I then painted the wheel Humbrol 110 Brown and when dry, trimmed the styrene down to about .5mm in length and glued it in position so that the coxswain stands to the left of the ‘skipper’.

The next parts I added were the Bridge Windscreen, Radio Antenna, Holman Projector, Aft Stanchions, Twin Lewis Guns, The 2pdr Gun – glueing each piece (base, training mechanism and the gun itself) to the boat in turn, Regarding the Gun I chose to separate the two halves and add a piece of 20 thou styrene in between, trimming to shape. I replaced the barrel with 20 thou rod styrene and then glued the brass ‘flash supressor’ to the end.

The twin 20mm Gun – likewise, I glued each piece in turn to the boat –the resin part no. 3, the Powered Mount then the Sight Mechanism – The instructions for WEM’s MGB 660 indicate the Sight Mechanism sits against the vertical triangular shape on the resin part with the front edges of both flush with each otherand finally the Twin 20mm Barrels – I glued the base of the guns centrally side to side and towards the rear of the resin mounting. As my model will have gun crews ‘closed up at Action Stations’ I added the gun Ammunition Drums using very small lengths of 20 thou rod styrene and glued each drum to the right hand side of each gun breach. The next part to add above deck was the ‘Carley’ Rubber Boat.

Now I turned my attention to under the Hull – the Propeller Shafts, glueing the centre one on first, the three Propellers, giving each blade a tiny twist, the easiest way to explain which way is to look at another model. I looked at the props from my 72nd scale Airfix MTB kit. Then followed the three Rudders, again glueing the centre one on first.

Now to the final details above deck, the Mast Halves, the upper and lower Radar pieces. I chose to add  ‘some’  rigging using the Instruction Colour Guide as a guide.

Painting

As I already have a good supply of ‘Humbrol’ paints (they are readily available in most toy shops) I chose to use the following paint colours.

  • Medium Grey G45……………165
  • Dark Sea Grey B15………….156
  • SlateGrey………………………...31
  • Black………………………………..33
  • The Guns…………………………..53
  • Props………………………………..54
  • The Rigging……………………...67
  • Port Nav light……………………19
  • Starboard Nav light…………..38 (You could use #2, but I considered #38 to be slightly brighter and more readily seen)
Painting crew figures

The resin crew figures are produced by L’Arsenal in france and I chose to paint the them using the following (again Humbrol) colours:

  • Faces………………………………..61
  • Uniforms………………………….104
  • Roll Neck Jumpers….…………41

I chose not to try and paint shoes/boots and I also chose not to try and make British style ‘tin hats’.When adding crew figures to my model I found I had to modify a couple of them to allow them to fit into their respective positions. The Pom-Pom Gunner has had his right arm cut off and his legs shortened, he is now also ‘wounded’ with another crew member assisting him. The 20mm Gunner has had his right arm and both legs cut off !! 

Decals

I mentioned the lack of decals to John Snyder not long after purchasing my first ‘Narrow Seas’ kit. His very valid explanation was because all the boats in the range have different sizes and styles of numbers it is not feasible cost wise to produce hull/pennant numbers for each kit. I managed to find suitable numbers from my decal ‘spares’ box.

This was my first experience with a kit of this kind, being resin with a number of quite small (in some cases very tiny) brass etch parts. I am very pleased with the result and I certainly look forward to completing more of these White Ensign Models’ kits.

Pricing and availability

This very fine kit is available from a number of outlets, the old saying goes  “check your local hobby retailer first”. I purchased mine direct from WEM and I cannot fault their EXCELLENT SERVICE, my order arriving just six working days after me placing it !!!!

The prices being GBP 11.75 for the UK and Europe, GBP 10.00 for overseas customers which equates to approximately  $18.40 (US), $24.20 (Aust) and for my Kiwi friends $25.90 (NZD). Please keep in mind these conversions are approximates only depending on exchange rates at the time of purchase.

At this point I would like to acknowledge the assistance given by John Lambert, co-author of the excellent ‘Allied Coastal Forces’ books. Vol 3 dealing with the British Power Boat designs is not still some way off being printed. He very kindly provided some information regarding crew positions for the 2 pdr and twin 20mm guns, Thanks John “Aye”.

I have to say, researching the exploits of these very gallant ‘little ships’ has lead me on a most amazing journey all over the world. I have spoken to some of the extremely brave and courageous men, many of them ‘hostilities only’ volunteers who risked their lives every time they went out to, not only battle the enemy but the sea itself.

From  ‘A Breton Fishermans Prayer’:

“Oh God, be good to me.
Thy sea is so wide
And my ship is so small”.

If you would like to contact Roger about his article his email is: debrogerp@hotmail.com



 

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