The first seaplane carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy built in 1901 as LETHINGTON (4421 GRT) for the WR Rea Shipping Co., Belfast by Duncan, Port Glasgow, United Kingdom.

  tonnage     7,720

    length        365’

    beam          48’

    draught      19’

    top speed      9.5 knots

She was chartered by Russia during the Russia Japanese War. On a voyage from Cardiff to Wladivostok, on January 12, 1905 she was captured by the Japanese TB # 72 near Okinoshima.

Renamed Wakamiya-Maru, she was leased to the NYK line as a transport in 1907.

In 1913, she was transferred to the Imperial Japanese Navy and in 1914 she was converted to seaplane carrier Wakamiya with simple derricks and canvas hangers.  She was also armed with 2x3” and 2x47 mm guns.  She has 2 seaplanes on deck and 2 in reserve.  These planes would be lowered onto the water with a crane, from where they would take off, and then retrieved from the water once their mission was completed.

Starting September 5, 1914 she conducted the worlds first naval-launched air raids from Kiaochov Bay on German held Tsingtao.  Her seaplanes are credited with sinking one minelayer and causing superficial damage to shore installations.  In total, her seaplanes made 49 attacks, dropping 190 bombs on German defenses until the German surrender on November 7.  The bombs used by the seaplanes were about the equivalent to 12 pds shells.

In April 1920, a 66’ flying-off deck was erected over her forecastle, with the first take off made in June by a British built Sopwith Pup.  Through this, she had a pioneering role in developing aircraft carrier techniques for the first Japanese carrier, HOSHO.

Hai has produced three different versions of the Wakamiya:

Hai 641a Wakamiya Maru 1908
Hai 641b Wakamiya with seaplane canvas 1914
Hai 641 Wakamiya 1915

With thanks to Peter Krtina, I purchased a kit of the Hai 641b, which I converted to the 1920 version with the fly-off ramp.

Pictures 1-6: Obtained through Juergen Streich and Terruo Higashiguchi.

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Picture 7: Top to Bottom
2 Hai 641
Hai 641b
Hai 641b with fly-off ramp

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Hai 641

Picture 8: With fly-off ramp and with full canvas.

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Picture 9:
Same as #8 from the front.

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Pictures 10-11: Hai 641b with Sopwith Pup with pontoons.

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Pictures 12-14:
2 Sopwith Pups (Neptun NF-76)
2 Float Planes made by Uwe Jens Hoppe
Railing made by Tom’s Model Work

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Roger Chesneau: Aircraft Carriers of the World, 1914 to the Present
Jentschura, Jung, Mikel: Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy 1869-1945


Harald Scheel