Here’s another completion from the shelf-of-shame. This is a 1/700 representation of HMS Conqueror returning to Faslane in July 1982, after her involvement in the Falklands War earlier that year. If you’re old enough you’ll remember the hugely controversial sinking of the Argentinian cruiser ARA General Belgrano, and the huge loss of life.
The submarine itself is a very simple kit, consisting of the casing and an optional ‘sail’ depending on whether the modeller prefers the masts raised or lowered. (The box has long-since disappeared so I have no idea who made the kit.) Orange Hobby’s Bruiser and Rowangarth tugs are in resing, with eye-wateringly small photo-etched metal parts. The crew figures are 3D printed by a company called 3D Model Parts (if I remember correctly).
The sea is made from AMMO MiG Acrylic water “Deep Oceans” with a darkblue oil was and sky blue and white highlights.
Over the last few months I’ve taken stuff from the shelf of shame and finished them off. My only new project has been the Mark 1 Models 1/144 Wessex HU.5. I’ve had a vignette / diorama of this story in the back of my mind for a long time, trying to work out how I could support the model just by the winch wire, but had to admit to myself it wasn’t going to work (especially in 1/48 scale!) I decided to go down a different route with a 1/144 kit, and I think it’s worked out really well.
The model shows the rescue of two sailors overboard from HMS Ardent after the attacks of 21st May 1982, by Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly and the crew of Wessex XT449. Seeing men in trouble they hastily improvised a rescue, saving two men who would have drowned wihout their intervention.
Jolly has been a personal hero of mine since I read his book “Doctor to Friend and Foe” (also published as “The Red and Green Life Machine”.) Do read it, I highly recommend it. Jolly was a remarkable man, genuinely humane, and his efforts in the field hospital he established at Ajax Bay meant that every British soldier who made it there alive survived the war. He was the only man to be decorated by both sides, and after the war continued to promote reconciliation and peace between the UK and Argentina. He died several years and I wish I had had a chance to meet him. Below is an account of the rescue in his own words, taken from the book mentioned above.
The man was drowning. The downwash from the helicopter’s rotor blades was whipping the surface of the sea into a thick spray, through which I could see his agonised expression as he floundered helplessly. The lifting strop that was dangling just in front of his face was also jumping around; he just could not grasp the thing, let alone slip it over his shoulders.
In a flash, I knew that I had to do something and quickly. I had some experience of winching during my time at Culdrose, and this part of the problem was down to me to solve. Replacing the camera in my pocket, and still smarting from the moral dis-grace of my behaviour at Fanning Head, I volunteered to go down and get this drowning young man. Corporal Gleeson looked. at me strangely, then started talking on the intercom to Mike. I was told later that he was expressing his doubts as to whether I’d be able to do anything useful, but Mike knew my Fleet Air Arm background and gave his command approval for me to try. The aircrewman shrugged, winched the strop back up, grabbed it and placed it around my shoulders and beneath my arms. The world suddenly went strangely quiet as I made ready, sensing that I was about to face a serious physical challenge. Seconds later, I was descending towards the surface of the sea. A lot of memories came back at the rush. Winchmen were usually properly dressed in immersion clothing and were always earthed via a braided copper discharge wire before they made contact with the ground or sea, to disperse the likely build-up of static voltage. There was no time for this nicety here. The discharging electrostatic shock was most unpleasant, and only just preceded the even worse shock of immersion. They told me later that the water temperature was 3 degrees Celsius. All I knew was that a sudden and numbing cold had enveloped my whole body as I gasped for breath. I could also feel my heart slowing, and my peripheral vision began to dim as the heart’s output dropped and my retinas became less perfused.
All the while Mike, with marvellous precision flying, was towing me across the swell towards the survivor. The desperate look on the man’s face, his frantic thrashings and punctured life Jacket said it all. A fresh adrenaline surge kicked in, and I forgot my own discomfort. Our outstretched hands touched, grasped – and then I managed to spin him around in the water, and got him gripped in a fierce bear hug. My fingers locked tightly together in front of his chest, and I waited, unable to look up to the helicopter above us. There would be no other way to lift him. Very gently, Mike lifted the Wessex up about ten feet and the strain came on my arms as we left the buoyant support of the sea. It hurt and I felt something tear suddenly in my left shoulder blade area, but I also realised at the same time that if I could no longer hold on to this survivor, he would drop straight back into the sea, and we would never see him again. I begged my shoulder muscles not to weaken in this moment of crisis. It seemed an agonisingly slow process, but Kevin Gleeson was winching us up very gently. He knew what I was going through. The aircrewman then displayed genuine skill and real strength in getting us both back into the cabin He had to raise us almost up into the winch motor housing above the door, making small, precise control movements with his left hand, and then pull hard on my clothing with his right hand as he reversed the winch control and began paying out the wire so he could draw us back in to safety. The blood now flowed back into my arms and shoulders as I collapsed beside the survivor on the cabin floor. We’d done it!
I compressed the casualty’s chest hard, looking for some confirmation of life and was rewarded with a vomited gout of sea water. The young lad then opened his eyes and was violently sick again. I picked myself up off the floor, sat on the canvas seating and breathed a huge sigh of pride and relief, realising that I had now done at least one genuinely useful thing in my life. As a team and against the odds, we had saved another human being from death! I felt really pleased with myself, and especially so that I’d shown my new chum Kevin Gleeson, a Royal Marines Corporal, that although I’d behaved like a tosser up on Fanning Head I was, in reality, made of much sterner stuff. Or was I?
I looked across at Kevin and smiled, receiving a warm grin back. He then made a hand signal with his thumb up and a querying expression on his face. I nodded, putting my own thumb up confirming that I was OK whereupon he turned his hand into a fist, with the forefinger pointing downwards. Then I remembered. There was someone else down there. In a cruel mockery of the poet John Masefield’s famous line-I had to ‘go down to the sea again’…
The aircrewman looked at me anxiously as I donned the winch strop once more, then gave me an encouraging pat on the back as he swung me out of the Wessex for the second time. During this descent a twist that had developed in the winch wire caused me to spiral slowly as the wire paid out. A mad Cinerama projection unfolded before my eyes The burning outline of Ardent with her crew watching was followed by the profile of HMS Yarmouth then HMS Broadsword now close to us for anti-aircraft protection. After that came Grantham Sound the Falklands shore and then Ardent again. I watched, somewhat stunned and rather chilled, until I was just above the surface, when a new sight appeared on the merry-go-round. Lying there quietly in the swell, arms outstretched and blood streaming down sea from amputated fingers and a huge cut on his scalp, the second survivor watched me with uncomprehending eyes. He later told me that because he could not see the winch wire I was suspended from, he thought I was the Archangel Gabriel coming to collect him!
Bang! The horrid static voltage discharged through my body again, and then I was in the water alongside him. I knew that I was now too weak to lift him out manually, and thought instead about slipping the single strop and placing it around his shoulders I would have to take my chances in the interim, including the possibility that my helicopter might be driven off if another air attack came in. Such a prospect was not an attractive one.
Instinct saved the day. At the top of each swell, the taut winch wire went slack, flexing sufficiently to allow me to reach up and get the winch hook into a small nylon becket on the front of his life jacket. In reality, it shouldn’t have worked, but it did, and together we were lifted up to the safety of the helicopter’s cabin. My jaw was now rattling with cold, so Mike Crabtree ordered the door closed, and put the cabin heaters on full blast. Agonisingly, slowly, sensation returned. I could now feel things with my fingers again, and they touched the little Olympus camera still in my combat jacket pocket. It was ruined. ..
The model is Mark 1 Models HU.5 ‘Junglie’ Wessex. I’ve used Prop Blur products that were happily exactly the right size to represent the turning main and anti-torque rotors. There are various 1/114 figures that I’ve had a bash at modifying to a more suitable pose. (Not easy at the best of times, in 1/144 it’s even more tricky!) I made my own decals for the ‘C’ and the serials under the Royal Navy titles. I also had to cut the closed main door out, and scratch build a replacement. The only thing I slightly miscalculated was the centre of the rotor head not quite matching the centre of the downwash, but never mind, I think the whole thing really works, and is one of my best completions. (It’s real bugger to photograph, moving in the slightest draught, and messing up the long exposures I need to use a sufficient aperture. Apologies for any blurriness.
I saw a thread on a forum a few weeks ago discussing the age of tools that people were still using. This got me thinking abot my own collection, and what might be the oldest piece of kit I’ve got. I’m pretty sure it’s this, which is an old butter knife my grandad gave me when I started ‘Airfixing’ in the 70s. It had already lost its handle, which is why I was allowed to use it to open Humbrol paint tinlets, and nearly fifty years later I still do.
Both sides were like this last week, with 5 decades of paint and glue scarring it, but last week I spent half an hour cleaning and polishing the hallmarked side. (Yes, it is solid silver.) I had imagined it was much older but the first hallmark seems to mean it was made in England in 1973. A very enjoyable process, bringing back lots of memories of childhood and my long deceased grand parents.
The basic brass and white metal is now painted, very lightly weathered to bring out some detail. The spare decal folder was raided and the best matches for the maintenance and warning stencils. I’ve never made a seat in this scale, or worked with so much photo etched brass. I’m very pleased with the result. On to the cockpit tub and instrument panel now.
For the last week I’ve been exploring the pleasures of working in 1/24 scale, making a start on the Airfix Harrier GR.3. This will be one of the machines flown in the Falklands War, but quite which I haven’t decided yet. I’ve purchased the Flightpath photo etc detail set to improve Airfix’s plastic (which is very long in the tooth, originally being issued as the GR.1 in 1974 if I remember correctly, before being reissued with replacement nose for a GR.3 and Sea Harrier FRS.1) As a practice for working with the brass I also bought the Flightpath ‘Y’ type loader and BL.755 cluster bomb. Here it is, with a second weapon already provided in the Harrier set.
The bombs are pretty good but at 1/24 scale there’s lots of scope for improvement. I added many lines of Archer Transfers resin rivets, and sourced some white decal stripes from Fantasy Print Shop. Way better than those supplied by Airfix.
The Harrier set provides a complete replacement for the Martin Baker MB.9 ejection seat. Primarily in photo etched brass it requires a lot of folding and fiddling to get in to shape. Again, it’s a lovely model, but can be improved by the builder. The cushions are very basic so I added some piping to the bottom cushion, and some creases and folds to the back cushion. I also scratch built a representation of the central pillar the seat rides up when the handle is pulled. There around 60 parts to this so it’s been a week of work to get to this stage. Here it is in bare metal and then with a grey primer added.
After having the little office at the front of the house refurbished I’ve started moving some more of my models indoors from the shed. I found this little vignette up in the eaves, from the time I was trying to teach myself beyyer figure painting. These are Revell’s 1/48 WWII RAF crew, in a little scene inspired by the Rowley Birkin quote on the brass plaque. (I used to like taking this to shows and watching people’s reaction if they leaned in to read it. It was quite easy to spot the Fast Show fans.)
Have a look at the Work In Progress page to see the conversion of the old Hasegawa Lear Jet in to a Fuerza Area Argentina photo reconnaisance machine. (I’ve borrowed a photo of the box lid from Scalemates to provoke the same nostalgia I have when seeing it. I lusted for this kit when I was a boy!)
Over the last few days I’ve been assembling the pieces of the ceramic poppy that belongs to my brother and sister in law. (I’m told their cat broke it, which is why people should have dogs. A dog would never do this. ;O) ) This is one of those that were part of the 2014 installation at the Tower of London, marking the centenary of the beginning of the Great War.
The ‘kit’ arrived from London as five large parts, and a couple of sherds. My brother-in-law had already tried to repair the poppy with cyano-acrylate glue, but it hadn’t stuck. This is slightly surprising as super glue usually works well with ceramics. First up was to remove the glue from the joints so as to get as close a fit as possible. About five hours work with super glue softener, tweezers and a bit of water did the trick. (I found out, quite by accident, that once the softener has had an effect you need to immerse the parts in water for a few minutes. This makes the glue turn white, and therefore easier to see so it can be picked off.)
Above you can see the cleaned parts. I joined each part with a couple of dots of super glue initially, and followed by flooding the joints with Roket Hot super thin super glue to complete. Despite painstaking cleaning I couldn’t get a perfect fit so had to use some filler. Being a modeller means I’ve got umpteen fillers and solvents on the shelves, so I used some Deluxe Materials Perfect Plastic Putty to fill in the gaps. I found that Tamiya X-20A paint thinner can be used to thin the putty, and make it easy to flow in to the gaps.
Above shows the poppy reassembled, and the putty in white before a bit of sanding back to tidy it up.
And below is the restored flower, with a couple of paint touch ups still pending. (It turns out Xtracolour BS538 Post Office Red is an almost perfect match.)
A very satisfying project. (In the UK we have a wildly popular TV programme called The Repair Shop, and I learned most of the techniques used from that, and the fantastic ceramic restoration work of @kirstenramsay2. If you haven’t seen it, have a look.)