Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Yes, France had an aircraft carrier

Well, sort of. The Béarn was laid down in 1914 as a Normandie class battleship, but WWI interrupted her construction. By the time work recommenced in 1922, the French Navy had decided to complete her as an aircraft carrier (having first cast a covetous eye on Britain's HMS Argus). Béarn was designed to carry 40 aircraft, but she remained a battleship at heart and had a maximum speed of just 21.5 kts. By the beginning of WWII, she had to strain every sinew to manage 20 kts and 18 was more realistic. From the beginning of the war until the Fall of France, the Béarn aided in the Anglo-French effort to hunt down German commerce raiders in the Atlantic. It was intended that she be equipped with two squadrons of American-built Vought Vindicator dive bombers, but instead, these were committed to the Battle of France and rapidly decimated by German Bf-109s. Béarn then sat idle at Martinique until 1944. Obviously too slow to be a fleet carrier, she served in the Free French Navy as an aircraft transport. 
She continued as a transport after the war, moving men and landing craft to Vietnam. Béarn was scrapped in 1967 having never once launched aircraft in combat. 

Here's my effort, complete with deck decal:
I think she turned out quite well. In reality, Béarn would've been painted the medium grey color of the French Atlantic fleet, but I've gone with the light grey used by the Mediterranean fleet instead. It makes her more useful for "what if" scenarios. GHQ has recently released an aircraft pack that includes Vindicators, so she'll soon have her intended air group. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The treasure hiding in my closet

Yesterday, Mrs. History PhD was doing some cleaning and reorganizing of our closets and she found a small box at the bottom of the "assorted crap" cupboard. Inside were some Plaster of Paris buildings that I bought around 1990, which were too small for the 15mm figures I used at the time. I remember being fascinated by how great the sculpts were, so I bought them on a whim, then just stuck them away and forgot about them. The last time I saw them was seven years ago, during our last home move. 

Now that I'm happily toiling away with 3mm, these little gems will take on a new life. They are by Battlefield Terrain Concepts, which morphed into a couple of different companies (Campaign Architecture, among others) and then went belly-up. I recall that they were in a very odd scale; 1/450 or 1/500, I believe. So, I've dusted them off and mounted them on steel bases and begun the process of texturing and painting them. They seem to fit with 1/600 well enough to not look horribly out of place. So, here are the finds: a boarding house or small hotel
A manor house
Another hotel or inn
A small church
A small village inn
A well-to-do farmhouse
And a mill
They are mostly German half-timbered buildings, except for the thatch-roofed mill and the stone manor house, both of which look distinctly British. The stone church could be anywhere in Northern Europe. These will all easily serve as any time period from Napoleonic to modern. 

Here's the church beside a 1/600 scale church from Picoarmor:
As you can see, there is a definite size discrepancy, but it's not horrendous, so I can easily live with it. All in all, I'm extremely pleased with Mrs. History PhD's find!!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Now that's an aircraft carrier!!

I've just finished applying the flight deck decal by to the Japanese carrier Akagi. Even in 1/2400, this thing is one BIG ship!

And here's what I've finished, still sans aircraft for the moment:

If the model is this impressively large, imagine what those US Dauntless pilots thought as they dove on this thing and it rapidly mushroomed into their canopies!!

As an aside, WW2Central makes deck decals for the six main Japanese fleet carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu, Shokaku, and Zuikaku) that reflect the very early period of the Pacific War (which I've used), as well as decals for their decks as they looked during the Battle of Midway. For the two survivors, they also make late war camouflaged deck decals. I don't have any association with WW2Central. I just think they have a fantastic product!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A well stocked naval wargaming library, part 2

This second post (see the first part in my Oct. 5, 2015 post) finishes off the list of reference books that I find useful for naval modeling. 

First, the Ian Allan series published in Britain from the mid-1960s through the early 1970s:
As it was the first in the series, it doesn't actually say "Commonwealth Warships", but that's what it covers. The rest are pretty self-explanatory:

The Japanese volume didn't have a dust jacket when I bought it, so the outer cover is plain fabric. 
This is the only one of my set that isn't an original edition. It's a 1982 reprint that I bought in the Ft. McPherson PX in 1984.

To cover the Soviet Navy, that the Ian Allan series didn't touch on, I use the following two volumes:

And finally, this is an excellent overview of every navy in the world during 1939-45:

Most of the volumes that I've covered in both parts of this post are still easily available through rare book dealers, websites such as, and even eBay. Depending on condition, they can vary from quite reasonable to totally outrageous. However, a bit of patience and continued checking will turn up affordable copies. I hope this helps you expand your library!

Mrs. History PhD's new FOW project

Having said that she was ready to begin a new Vietnam War vehicle, Mrs. History PhD has chosen to recreate her 1/285 South Vietnamese National Police Field Force M8 Greyhound (see my post of April 13, 2015) in 15mm. She's set to begin, as it arrived in the mail yesterday:
She's tinkering with it as we speak. Stand by for a follow-up post in due course when she finishes!

Friday, October 9, 2015

To carrier or not to carrier

That is the question. For many years, I've had a deep, yet off and on, interest in 1/2400 WWII naval wargaming. My specific love has always been cruiser actions in the Mediterranean and SW Pacific (ABDA, Guadalcanal, and the New Georgia campaign). Those were generally close in dog fights. Battleship actions, with a few notable exceptions were long-range exercises in shell lobbing. I've never really had much interest in aircraft carriers. Aircraft, yes, but the carriers themselves just don't fit into shorter range battles. Carriers sat off at a distance and sent in aircraft to do the work. 

So I never had much desire to buy carrier models. However, over the years, I've occasionally seen eBay bargains that were just too good to pass up and I've built up a stock of unopened GHQ carriers. WW2Central now makes fantastic carrier deck decals and despite having no use for carriers, I've just go to do some!! So, as a test platform, I chose the Japanese light carrier Ryujo:
which had quite an active career before being sunk by US aircraft during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. 

So, here's what I've managed to do:
Obviously, I haven't yet gotten the aircraft painted and mounted on the deck, but the ship itself is finished. I think the deck decal is incredible!! Imagine having to try to paint all that detail!! That's the majority of what's put me off doing this for so many years (decades actually). Let's do another!!

Monday, October 5, 2015

A well stocked naval wargaming library, part 1

In an effort to help new WWII naval wargamers, I think it might be useful to give a look at the titles that I've collected over the years which I refer to when researching and painting naval vessels and aircraft. 

Let's begin and in no particular order:
Alan Raven's outstanding 4-part work on the camouflage schemes of British ships. 

Terribly useful for which grey when and on which ship. Not exhaustive, but most warships and some merchants are contained. 

An excellent work, but only up through 1941. 

And these next two I bought used without dust jackets, so no illustrations on the outside covers:

An endlessly useful set of books!


I have too many for a single post, so I'll do it in two parts. Gives me something to post about during the week!