For most manufacturers of models, and Wiking was no exception, accuracy is an important objective. But there are always limits to this, as we have seen in other stories on this website. So, how far did Wiking go in this regard?
In our investigation, we shall also become embroiled in the phenomenon of sister-ships (multiple vessels built to a single design). As we have seen, Triang Minic was quite happy to exploit this phenomenon by selling the same casting under multiple names, and Wiking did the same. But what happens if those sisters are not so identical after all?
HMS Queen Elizabeth
The Queen Elizabeth was launched in 1913, and was the first of a class of five ships (Queen Elizabeth, Valiant, Warspite, Barham and Malaya), all of which saw service in the Royal Navy during both World Wars. At the time of her launch, she was one of the most powerful warships afloat. Heavily armoured, carrying an armament of eight 15-inch guns (the first time guns of this calibre were deployed), and with her oil-fired boilers capable of 25 knots, she was significantly faster than any opposing battleship. She surpassed preceding dreadnought battleships by such a degree that the class became known unofficially as ‘super-dreadnoughts’.
In early 1915, the Queen Elizabeth was called into action at the Dardanelles, where she was able to bombard Turkish coastal forts in the strait by firing right across the Gallipoli peninsula from a position off the Aegean coast. It was an impressive demonstration of the long range of her guns.
For the rest of the war, she served with her sister-ships in the Grand Fleet, bottling up the German fleet in the North Sea and maintaining the naval blockade on Germany. As chance would have it, on the one occasion when both fleets met at the battle of Jutland in 1916, she was undergoing maintenance and so missed it, though her four sister ships all played an active part.
In 1917 she became the flagship of the Grand Fleet, and at the end of the war the surrender of the German fleet was signed on board.
After the war, as the bulk of the navy’s battleships were retired, the Queen Elizabeth class were retained in service. As naval technology developed post-war, most were extensively modernised in order that they could remain competitive with newly built vessels, improving their defences and increasing the potency of their weapons.
When World War 2 broke out, the Queen Elizabeth was in the midst of a major upgrade and it wasn’t until May 1941 that she joined the Mediterranean Fleet for active service. Unfortunately, in December of that year, the Italians mounted a daring attack on the fleet at Alexandria with midget submarines. An explosive charge laid under the ship at anchor caused extensive underwater damage, and she was out of action again while she was sent for repair in the United States.
Returning to service in the summer of 1943, she joined the Eastern fleet in the Pacific and saw out the war with shore bombardment and escort duties. After the war, the Queen Elizabeth and her surviving sisters were quickly decommissioned and broken up.
The Wiking Model
Wiking H351 Queen Elizabeth Class
Year first produced:1937
L157xW25xH33, Metal 126g, Scale 1:1250, Features: 1
As usual with Wiking, the model is a single metal casting. Wires have been embedded forming the rear-mast and boat crane. Unusually, a short length of wire has also been attached (soldered?) to the mast as a cross-tree. The main armament turrets are separate castings with spigots underneath, which have been inserted into holes in the deck, and the ends of the spigots then splayed to secure the turrets in place while leaving them free to rotate.
Though on this example it is difficult to see, on the underside of the model are marked the following
“WIKING MODELL”, “D.R.G.M.” and “MADE IN GERMANY”.
D.R.G.M. indicates a form of copyright registration.
The model is finished overall in gloss mid-grey paint, with a darker shade used to pick out the boats, and some black, gold and silver detailing. For example, the funnel cap is black, the gun muzzles are gold, and silver has been used to pick out searchlights. At the top of the main mast, the spotting top is painted black with white flecks presumably suggesting windows.
The model dates from 1937-9, and there’s no doubt that it is meant to represent HMS Queen Elizabeth, because a transfer on the rear left of the hull identifies the ship.
The box that accompanies the model is worth noting, as it reminds us that Wiking were expanding their production during a dark time in Germany. The box is a simple affair, made from cardboard and stapled at the corners. It is currently filled with shredded paper that provides a good cushion for the model, but I don’t know if this is original.
The box top identifies Wiking, notes the D.R.G.M. protection, and adds “unter dem Protektorat des Reichsbundes Deutscher Seegeltung” together with the sinister anchor and swastika symbol of that organisation. The Reichsbundes Deutscher Seegeltung was a Nazi organisation founded in 1934, and was intended to promote the importance of German maritime power, as summarised in the two lines of poetry underneath which can be translated as “the sea is the gate to the world; a fool, he who fails to keep it open”. The Wiking range of models, which at that time included most of the Kriegsmarine warships, was seen as useful to this aim, as it was both educational and promoted interest in the navy.
Before we can assess the accuracy of our model, we need to firmly establish what date it represents. As we have seen, the Queen Elizabeth was significantly modernised during her life. In fact, there were two major reconstructions, the first in 1926-7, and the second during 1937-41. Each time these significantly altered her appearance. The major visible changes are summarised below.
The forward superstructure of the Queen Elizabeth consisted of several superimposed platforms, and was only slightly altered during the first refit. During the second refit, however, this was replaced by a single enclosed armoured structure, or ‘citadel’, which greatly improved the efficiency and protection afforded to the gunnery, command and control functions of the ship.
During the first refit, the two funnels were joined, or ‘trunked’ together above deck level, creating a single larger funnel (fat as seen from the side). In the second refit, more extensive reworking was carried out deeper within the ship, resulting in a slimmer single funnel.
Aircraft could be flown from the ship using platforms erected on the turrets, but these were inefficient and unusable when the guns were fired, so were seldom used. During the second refit, proper provision was made by installing a catapult midships, the ships boats being moved onto the superstructure in front and behind. A pair of heavy cranes to lift the boats and retrieve aircraft were installed on the remodelled superstructure surrounding the funnel.
In the first refit, a torpedo bulge was added to the hull. Bulges were designed to detonate torpedoes before they could breach the inner hull. The swell of the bulge is clearly visible above the waterline in photographs.
The secondary armament of the Queen Elizabeth was composed of 6” guns mounted in armoured enclosures set into the lower superstructure. During the second refit, with the threat of air attack in mind, these were replaced by dual-purpose anti-aircraft/anti-surface guns in twin turrets positioned on the deck alongside the superstructure.
The following table summarises the above, and compares the features to what we can see on our model.
|As commissioned||After 1st refit||After 2nd refit||H351 Model|
|Forward Superstructure||Multiple platforms||Multiple platforms||Citadel||Multiple platforms|
|Funnel||Twin slim||Single fat||Single slim||Single fat|
|Secondary guns||12 x 6”||12 x 6”||20 x 4.5” turrets||12 x 6”|
Our ship has a single large funnel, and lower down shows the trunking from the two exhausts of the original funnels. The torpedo bulge is visible near the waterline, and the secondary armament can be seen along the side of the upper hull. No aircraft or catapult is carried, and the forward superstructure is of the earlier type. So, the ship clearly represents the Queen Elizabeth after her first refit but before the second. This is of course what we might have expected, given that the model was produced pre-war and so couldn’t reflect the state of the ship after her second refit, since this was only completed in 1941.
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that the model could also represent the sister ships of the Queen Elizabeth after their refits, as they were all modified to roughly the same plan during the early interwar period. In fact, one can find the model named after all of them.
Queen Elizabeth during WW2
Before checking the accuracy of the model, there is one further question worth addressing. Did Wiking produce a model of the Queen Elizabeth as she looked during her service in WW2? The answer is yes – but not exactly. In 1938 Wiking introduced a new model to the range, H352, to represent the Queen Elizabeth, Valiant and Warspite after their second refits. This correctly shows the new-look citadel, the slimmer funnel with surrounding superstructure and the aircraft catapult installed at the time
Model H351 was retained in the range, however, as it could continue to represent the Barham or Malaya, which were not so dramatically altered. In the 1940 Wiking catalogue, H351 is thus identified only as either the Barham or Malaya.
However, without wishing to get distracted by the new model, I just have to point out that it actually only represents HMS Warspite. This is because, as depicted in the model, Warspite retained most of her 6” secondary armament, whereas the Queen Elizabeth and Valiant had it totally replaced with deck-mounted 4.5” AA turrets!
Having established that our model is intended to represent the Queen Elizabeth as it appeared between refits (1927-37), let’s look at it more closely. To begin with, the length and beam dimensions are correct for a model at 1:1250 scale.
The hull shape looks generally correct, with the prominent torpedo bulge and the forward rake of the bow. Near the bow, there is an inaccuracy, possibly a deliberate simplification, where the main deck steps down to the side. I find it almost impossible to describe, but on the real ship there is a diagonal cutaway whereas on the model the step down is vertical. It’s particularly noticeable because it often catches the light in photographs, and gives shape to the fore part of the hull.
The secondary armament of six 6” guns each side is correct, and steps back from the centreline in the correct fashion.
However, there is an issue towards the rear of the ship. As originally built, the Queen Elizabeth was fitted with a further four 6” guns along the side of the rear hull, two on each side, below the main deck level. However, it was realised before the ships entered service that the guns were poorly sited and would be ineffective, so they were removed and the embrasures plated over. However, the scalloped hull shape was otherwise unaltered, so it should be clearly visible on the model – but it is not.
The main turrets on the model are identical and reasonably shaped, with one minor niggle. The two superimposed (higher) ones were equipped with rangefinders, the housings of which extended across the rear top of the turrets beyond the sides – but these are not present.
The bridge structure of the Queen Elizabeth is fairly complex, with multiple levels and shapes, and the model seems to represent this quite well. The complex shape of the funnel behind is also well-captured, including the trunking lower down and the searchlight platforms around the rear. Immediately to the rear of the funnel is a low structure which I can’t find any photographic evidence for; the ships’ boats are correctly stored alongside and behind.
The rearmast on our model is a simple affair – a pole mast with cross-tree, and a boom for manoeuvring the boats. It’s a reasonable simplification of the actual mast and correctly much taller than the forward superstructure.
The finish of the ship is broadly accurate, overall grey being the standard finish of navy ships of the period. However, as was usually the case, the decks have not been painted and although understandable this is another and very visible way in which the model is not accurate. Of course, a careful owner could try to improve the model by overpainting the decks, or even stripping the entire model and repainting it.
As can be seen, Wiking ships lack the super-detailed finish of more modern models, so much detail is simplified or simply omitted. The limitations of casting the hull as a single piece prevent the portrayal of spaces behind outboard items, so for example, Wiking could not model any of the ship’s boats hanging in davits on the deck edge, but had to group them near the centreline.
Allowing for this, I think the model is a reasonably accurate portrayal of the Queen Elizabeth – not without errors, but completely identifiable.
Wiking produced a good selection of British warships, most of which would end up fighting Germany during WW2. All of the major classes of capital ship were represented, including H354 HMS Nelson, H358 HMS Hood and H363 HMS Ark Royal.
Battleships of other nations (but not Japan) were also produced. These included some then-modern battleships H323 Dunkerque (France), H422 Littorio (Italy) and H514 USS North Carolina (United States).