Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Flatiron gunboat project

Many thanks to all who left comments and information about the mystery gunboat in my previous post. She was, of course, HMVS Albert, one of the famous 'Flatiron' gunboats common to many navies of the Victorian era. Steve put me on the right track. Jeff supplied the idea of using Reviresco weapons for a model, and Ian's invaluable link to the Wapedia site helped flesh out the class in Australian service and elsewhere.

It's interesting to note these little ships went from being test-beds for ordinance intended for much larger warships, to a class in their own right. Actual combat experience, mostly in naval clashes between China and Japan, showed them to be too weak to stand in battle, even in their intended role as harbor defence vessels. They proved of better value as a naval presence in Colonial waters, where they were backed by the power of the Royal Navy - which brings me to my thoughts for a model.

The defining feature of the Flatiron class was the big gun on a fixed mount in the bows, the whole ship being steered in order to aim it. HMVS Albert had 1 x 8" BL (breech loader) forward, 1 x 6" BL aft, with 2 x 9 pdr. BL and 2 x Nordenfelt MGs on either beam. Pretty strong firepower for wargaming - perhaps too strong.

I'm thinking in terms of reducing the armament to something like a 4.7"/60-pounder BL forward, a 9-pounder aft, and two Model 1871 Long Gatling Guns, one on either beam. 

In the photo below I have (l-r) a 9-pounder, Hotchkiss 37mm revolving cannon, 5-barrel Nordenfelt, and 60-pounder. All these came from the London War Room. The Hotchkiss and Nordenfelt I'll reserve for other models. Since the bow gun will have a fixed mount, I also think I'll scratch build a 60-pounder, as I don't really want to waste the mounting supplied with the model.

So, on to the model. To begin with, I cut a deck from 1/4" foamcore. This measures 13½" by 3¼". (I've yet to shape the bows). Colonel Trollope of the Barsetshire Regt. demonstrates the relative size. The area should be sufficient to stand a four-figure gun crew apiece around the 60- and 9-pounder guns, with two to each Gatling. The bridge will go atop the citadel housing the main gun, and have space for four more figures. The deck will be covered with basswood, which will also hide the small dent to the Colonel's front-left, caused by a marmalade jar falling on the foamcore!


I've yet to decide on what the hull will be made from, although I'm leaning toward cereal-box and Bisquick (™) box card. Both are surprisingly strong when laminated in more than one layer and given a coat or two of paint and varnish. It also has the advantage of being incredibly cheap, a big consideration to any gamer on a budget. The superstructure will be a mixture of fomacore, basswood and card.

I'm rather taken by Reviresco's Bridge Set, and railing stanchions. I do have some London War Room ship's ventilators somewhere, and will dig them out. I will emphasize, this will be a gaming model, not a scale replica, but I hope to work on it over the next few weeks, with the aim of at least getting the 'look' of the period.  


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