“The One with the Little Cranes”
(with apologies to naval and modelling purists)
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).
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
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
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
Construction of gun tubs on 8 inch turrets
20 mm gun shields made from plastic card. Life raft on front of superstructure
~ 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
~ 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
~ 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
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
~ 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 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
~ 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
~ 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
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.
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
3.Cassells,Vic The Capital Ships-their battles and their
badges Kangaroo Press Sydney 2000
4.Gillett,Ross Warships of Australia Rigby Adelaide
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
1. www.history.navy.mil (search online
2. www.awm.gov.au (search
online photos via Collections Search)
3. www.adf-serials.com (search
photos of Supermarine Walrus)
5. www.aussiemodeller.com (assistance
on discussion forum)
8. www.wikipedia.com (search
for HMAS Australia)
(catalogue and gallery)
2.Australian War Memorial galleries-models on display