Minic Ships – Modernity

Modelling the Latest Thing

Innovation

People are always excited by innovations, especially where these push back boundaries and seem to offer a glimpse into a future world. Naturally, toy manufacturers were keen to capitalise on this and so often produced models of the most up to date contemporary subjects. Modelling the latest thing is a sure-fire way of attracting customers! A case in point is the destroyer HMS Devonshire, launched in 1960, the lead ship of the new County-class destroyers and the first Royal Navy warship designed to operate guided missiles.

The County class in the 1962 Minic catalogue
NEW! Both the model and the subject were brand-new in this image from the 1962 Minic catalogue.

The new warships caused quite a stir. In January 1961, while the ships were still fitting out, the Eagle comic depicted them in one of their stunning cutaway diagrams, and in 1963 Airfix produced a 1:600 kit. The German company Hansa released a 1:1250 waterline model in the same era, and even in the 1970s the ships were sufficiently modern-looking to provide the template for the Matchbox Seakings K-308 Guided Missile Destroyer. Minic were not slow to join in…

HMS Devonshire

Tri-ang Minic M785 HMS Devonshire

Year first produced: c1962

The Minic HMS Devonshire

L136 x W14 x H15, Metal 32g, Scale 1:1200, Features: 2

As usual with Minics, the main body of the vessel is formed of a single mazak casting, but in this case the bridge is a second piece attached to it. Manufacturers normally try to avoid complications like this because of the added cost of having to assemble the pieces, but in this case, it was necessary in order to allow the bridge wings on the assembled model to project over the deck below. A good decision, methinks.

To the hull are attached two twin-gun turrets, two plastic masts, and the helicopter rotor. The turrets and masts are ‘standard’ components used in many different Minic warships regardless of their appropriateness, but in this case the turrets at least are accurate.

Underneath the model are the usual comprehensive set of identifying marks, and the whole is painted a very naval-looking light grey, with black topping to the funnels. Sadly, there is no pennant number on the hull. NB: Minic Royal Navy warships were produced in either light grey (as you might expect) or a rather fetching shade of light blue, for which there appears to be no historical excuse. HMS Devonshire however is only ever found in grey. Thank goodness!

The Counties were sleek, elegant ships, and the model is a handsome sight. So streamlined and modern!

Novelty

A tea card showing HMS Devonshire at sea
HMS Devonshire at sea (Lyons Tea, HMS 1902-1962, card 30)

During World War 2, it had become obvious that aircraft posed a serious threat to warships. This threat increased with the development of faster jet aircraft after the war, and it was obvious that ship defences needed to be upgraded. As a result, navies began to experiment with ship-launched anti-aircraft missiles, and designed ships that could deploy them.

HMS Devonshire entered service in late 1962. Three sister ships followed next year.

In keeping with tradition, the Devonshire was a powerful multi-purpose warship, armed with a range of weapons, including guided missiles, and capable of engaging air, sea, land and submarine targets. It mounted a powerful radar-controlled gun armament, and carried anti-submarine homing torpedoes. Perhaps most importantly however, the ship embodied several innovations which mightily impressed contemporary audiences:

  • a dual steam and gas propulsion system
  • an onboard anti-submarine helicopter
  • a new Seacat guided missile system for self-defence against aerial attack
  • and last but not least, the new Seaslug long-range guided missiles

Model Review

Let’s take a closer look at the model to see how it represents these innovations. We’ll use as a guide a cutaway plan provided by the Imperial War Museum.

A cut-away drawing of HMS Devonshire
THE ROYAL NAVY’S FIRST GUIDED MISSILE DESTROYER. JUNE 1960, CUT-AWAY DRAWING OF HMS DEVONSHIRE, WHICH WAS LAUNCHED AND NAMED ON 10 JUNE 1960 AT THE BIRKENHEAD YARD OF CAMMEL LAIRD AND CO LTD. (A 34309) Key to drawing: (1) Seaslug Launcher (2) CPO’s Mess (3) Wessex anti-submarine helicopter (4) crews dining hall (5) Missile-guidance radar (6) missile stowage (7) Seacat close range anti-aircraft missile (8) homing anti-submarine torpedo tubes (9) inflatable life-rafts (10) enclosed bridge (11) 4.5 twin gun mountings (12) gas turbine room (13) gearing room (14) boiler room (15) steam turbine room (… Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205164396

In the Devonshire, traditional steam turbines (15) provided the main power, but this was supplemented by gas turbines (12) which could provide power while steam was being raised, and also boost the speed when needed. Each system vented through a separate funnel, the steam through the streamlined fore funnel and the gas through the fatter aft funnel.

A postcard of HMS Hampshire
HMS Hampshire, sister-ship to the Devonshire, showing the different funnel shapes.

The profile of the two funnels was quite different, as I hope you can see from the postcard of HMS Hampshire. Our IWM illustrator missed this – and so did Minic! Both funnels on M785 are of the slender ‘forward’ variety.

The Devonshire carried a Westland Wessex anti-submarine helicopter (3), capable of detecting submarines using a dipping sonar whilst remaining itself undetected by the target, and attacking them with torpedoes while at a distance from the ship. Minic chose to model the Wessex on the flight deck as part of the hull casting rather than make a separate item. The limitation of this approach results in a rather ‘lumpy’ reproduction, and for some reason the helicopter is skewed across the centreline. On top of the helicopter is a four-blade metal rotor, secured with a pin, which rotates.

When not in use, the helicopter would be stored in a hangar, which is correctly shown forward of the flight deck and just behind the aft funnel. Unfortunately, the hangar did not open directly onto the flight deck, because the type 901 targeting radar (5) for the Seaslug missile stood between them. As a result, the helicopter had to be manoeuvred around the side of the radar whenever it was moved between the hangar and flight deck (the hangar door was on the port side). Awkward!

The stern area of the Minic model
The helicopter and missile systems were crowded together at the rear of the ship.

For self-defence against aerial attack, the Devonshire mounted two new Seacat short-range missile systems, rather than more traditional 40mm AA guns. Each system consisted of a 4-missile launcher (7) positioned beside the helicopter hangar and a domed targeting radar above it, either side of the rear funnel. Minic got this broadly right, with the radars represented by small pimples by the aft funnel, and the missiles below on the deck to the side of the Seaslug radar, just behind the launches.

However, if you refer to the IWM plan, you can see that the missiles are in the wrong position, having been displaced rearwards, apparently to make space for the launches. This arrangement is non-sensical as it would have prevented the helicopter from transiting between the hangar and flight deck! The launches should instead have been placed further forward immediately behind the other pair of launches (8), and the Seacat launchers moved into the vacated space next to their radars.

The County-class were intended to be capable of providing area defence for a task force against high-altitude tracking aircraft or bombers, using the new long-range Seaslug guided missiles. The Seaslug missile launcher (1) was a hulking great structure, which Minic have managed to slim down considerably. The missiles themselves were assembled within the hull (6), and passed out onto the launcher. Once fired, the missiles would be guided onto a target by the aforementioned type 901 targeting radar (5) positioned forward of the flight deck. This is clearly modelled.

In addition to targeting and navigational radars, the Devonshire carried a type 965 air search radar on the top of its mainmast to provide early warning of aerial targets. This was visually quite striking, with its large ‘bedstead’ antenna, but is not represented on the model.

We can see from this brief examination that while the model shows off the novel features of the Devonshire, there are some mistakes. This is a risk which often occurs when modelling novel subjects. In the haste to release the toy while the wave of public interest is still high, designers may have to work from prototypes or plans that are still in development, and may not fully understand what they are modelling.

Shortened Service

Perhaps not surprisingly, the 1st generation Seaslug missile was only marginally effective and rapidly outdated. It lacked a proximity fuse and so required a direct hit to do damage, and without any onboard homing ability was simply too inaccurate to guarantee this. This technological limitation was recognised at the time, and some thought had been given to overcoming this by deploying nuclear warheads which could be exploded to destroy anything with a large radius. Gulp! Thankfully, it was realised that this was a blunt (and expensive) weapon that might escalate a conflict and provoke nuclear retaliation, and the idea was never put into practice. As a result of these shortcomings, the Counties’ service life in the Royal Navy was relatively short. HMS Devonshire was decommissioned in 1978.

SEE ALSO…

Naturally, Minic also produced the sister ships of the Devonshire. The models are identical, differing only in the name and number cast underneath: M783 HMS Hampshire, M784 HMS Kent and M786 HMS London.

Some other Royal Navy destroyers produced by Minic include M771 HMS Daring, M780 HMS Jutland, and from the modern range, P750 HMS York.

Author: hexeres

Amateur photographer, military toy enthusiast, footslogger, dog lover, history buff and ebay trader to mention just a few...

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