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Coastal Duties – Converting a 1:350 Captain Class Frigate

About this time last year, I took my first foray into the fine detail world of naval modelling with the superb Trumpeter 1:350 HMS Eskimo kit, a tribal class destroyer we used for some characterful games of Cruel Seas, and when the call of the sea reached me again recently (it reached the top of the plastic mountain), I dug out what I soon discovered to be the equally superb Trumpeter ‘USS England’ kit.

I bought this sleek beauty a while ago with the intention of converting her into HMS Rutherford, one of 46 lend-lease vessels converted from the US Buckley Class of destroyer escorts to fit RN requirements and serving in the North Atlantic, the English Channel and the North Sea in the last years of WW2; mostly in coastal patrols. It's beautifully packed and organised, and comes complete with a 'waterline hull' option.

The hull even has its own in-box compartment - perfect for works-in-progress!

Just as the Navy had to convert their US destroyer escorts, so too then did I – a tricky prospect for someone with no real bits box for this scale and rather lacking in experience at naval gaming. Luckily I did have a few remnants from the HMS Eskimo kit…

Crystal clear instructions supplemented by conversion notes

The dreaded brass etch. In this case, the k-gun depth-charge launchers. It turns out that old Stanley knife blades make great tools for bending and shaping brass etched parts.

The most obvious difference from the Buckley Class is the removal of the centre-line torpedo tubes; the trouble here was it seems that the space was often left fairly open (in fact the removal of the torpedo weight caused trouble with the frigates’ stability), but it appears that the RN often added extra life rafts, so I added some of those taken from 'Eskimo' in the vacant space.

In the image below you can also see my relatively crude conversion of a quad 40mm into a twin 40mm. There were so many variants of these mountings that it seemed fair game. Note also the detached mast - Trumpeter's design means that the mast can be carefully removed for storage, which was helpful!
Captains used in the coastal role sometimes had a ‘pom-pom’ bowchaser added, so I converted this along with some curved armour fashioned from the spare director tower:

…and one other major visual difference the RN made was the addition of an extra boat – the Buckley has only one, on the starboard side, so I simply inserted the kit’s spare to into newly-drilled holes on the port side:

And here she is, ready for priming!

I retained the original eight k-gun launchers at the stern rather than reduce it to four, simply because I couldn’t readily convert the storage racks which apparently replaced them. Lacking sufficient reference books on this topic, and given the widespread variations between individual vessels, it was fairly tricky to work from blurry pictures online. Still, I’m happy with this serviceable conversion, and looking forward to getting her primed and painted.

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