With all of the model kits out there, it is hard to imagine getting much joy out of buying a pre-built model, like some of the 1:1250 metal models available. Yet as nicely detailed as they are, there is vast room for improvement. Recently, I purchased a Navis 1:1250 scale HMS Hogue, with the intention of converting it to its sister-ship, the HMS Aboukir.
The Aboukir was one of six Cressy Class armored cruisers built in 1900-1901. They were 472 feet in length, displaced 12,000 tons, and were armed with two 9.2 inch main guns, twelve 6 inch guns, three 3 pounders, and two 18 inch torpedo tubes. They were powered by 2 shaft triple expansion engines producing 21,000 horsepower for a top speed of 21 knots.
The Aboukir and her sisters were too slow to keep up with the more modern warships at the start of World War I, so they were used for patrol and escort duties, which is where the Aboukir and her sisters Hogue and Cressy were on September 22, 1914. The three cruisers were covering an area near the Dutch coast, with Aboukir in the lead, with the Hogue and Cressy about two miles astern. All three were steaming along at 10 knots in a straight course, not a zigzag plot.
Waiting for them was the German submarine U-9, under the command of Kapitanleutnant Otto Weddigen. Weddigen’s first torpedo struck the Aboukir on her starboard beam at about 0625. The cruiser then took on an immediate list. The Hogue then took up a position ahead of the stricken Aboukir and the Cressy about 400 yards off her port beam. The Cressy launched all of her boats as the Aboukir was sinking rapidly. Some survivors said it only took between five and ten minutes for her to go down. The Hogue however, had only gotten away two lifeboats, when she was struck by a torpedo from U-9 on her starboard side near the aft 9.2 inch magazine. In less than five minutes she too was gone. Otto Weddigen had struck from less than 300 yards away.
The Cressy, which had been stationary while coming to the aid of first the Aboukir and then the Hogue, got underway after sighting a periscope. A few moments later Weddigen struck again, slamming a torpedo into the Cressy’s starboard side. Then a second torpedo hit Cressy on her starboard beam, and she sank twenty minutes later. From the first torpedo hit on the Aboukir to the Cressy rolling over and capsizing, only one hour and a half elapsed. Between all three ships, 1,459 officers and men perished.
I decided of the three ships torpedoed that day, I was going to model the Aboukir from the Navis 1:1250 scale Hogue. They were very nearly identical, and the differences wouldn’t be noticeable in that scale. The first thing to check on the ship were the gun barrels and masts, to make sure none were bent. A couple of the secondary guns were off a little, so I used a No. 4 blade to gently tweak the barrels straight. I cannot emphasize enough the word gently while doing this, because it is so very easy to break a barrel here. Just place the blade against the casemate or turret, and ever so slightly bring the barrel back in line. Make sure the blade is running along the whole length of the barrel, not just part of it.
The next step was painting, or actually, the repainting of the Aboukir. The model came from Navis in an overall gray. Therefore, I had to brush paint the wood color on the deck, and gave the hull and superstructure a coat of British Medium Seagray from PollyScale. I also took the opportunity to drill out the stacks a little more, and I replaced the stack on the motor launch. That was done by trimming off the molded on piece, drilling out the hole, and replacing it with styrene rod.
Next to add the "sinking" part to this sinking ship. I did this by super gluing on a piece of 1/16 styrene strip to the port side of the hull. I smoothed it down on the bow and stern ends so the Aboukir would be flush on the base.
I then made my water base, by using white caulk, which I spread out over the base. I then used aluminum foil which I crumpled up, spread out, and patted down over the still wet caulk. After letting this dry for about twenty minutes, I slowly peeled the foil back and off. I then placed the model in the still wet spackle, which holds the ship nicely in place once it’s cured. After wards I used a bit of white glue in the spaces where there was any slight gaps between the caulk and the hull. The plastic strip on the left side of the hull gave the Aboukir a very noticeable list to starboard.
I then painted the base with Dark Sea Gray, using light gray and white for the wave caps and around the hull. I also added a wash of black paint near the starboard beam and side. One of the reasons as to why the Aboukir sank so quickly is because she was likely hit in the starboard side latitudinal coal bunker. I then touched up the paint along the hull and waterline. After that I coated the base with two coats of Future Floor Wax to give it a glossy shine.
I ended up spending a lot of time on the rigging, but with this ship it was worth the effort. My rigging material that I use almost exclusively is paint brush bristles. I have taken an entire 4 inch brush, and pull the bristles off as I need them. I use either a black permanent marker, or sometimes black paint, which I paint over the bristles one at a time. I then cut them in their desired lengths, and dip each end in white glue to attach the bristle in place. I had tried superglue before, but I found it was too messy and time consuming. After the rigging was finished, I touched up a couple of areas on the ship, and pretty well finished the Aboukir off.
So, if you see one of those pre-built model ships, and you want to make it shine, it only takes but a little effort. I spent probably no more than 10 hours taking the Aboukir from average to a sinking ship. Now to sink the HMS Pathfinder I think!