Society of Model Shipwrights Exhibition 2012


The Society of Model Shipwrights (SMS) can always be depended upon to produce some of the very best examples of maritime modelling and their August 2012 show was no exception. Held at Petts Wood near Orpington in Kent, the models were well displayed on tables allowing all-round access to allow them to be fully appreciated. There was also an outside area where steam models and plant were demonstrated and light refreshments were available to visitors. Whilst general viewing conditions were very good, the overhead lighting and the fact that many models were displayed behind glass did make photography a bit challenging so I apologise for any stray reflections! Space precludes showing all the models present, but I have tried to include a representative selection with these notes.


I was made welcome by Peter Rogers, the Society Chairman, who was also exhibiting himself, notably with his latest model of a Scottish ‘Zulu’ fishing vessel dated around 1890 which would typically have been employed in the herring fisheries. This model, with its beautiful timber construction, was just one of a number of large sailing vessel models displayed in the middle of the hall.


As might be expected, the bias in the exhibition was heavily towards scratch built models although there were also some well-crafted kits on display as well. Notable among these was an example of the old Aerokits Solent Class lifeboat in bare wood. I was surprised at the sheer size of this model as it must have posed serious transport issues when it was first introduced, unlike my little Patrol Launch which I used to take to the pond on the bus!


At a show of this type it is very difficult to single out the ‘best’ model as there are so many types of exhibit, many requiring very different skill sets. However, one model which did particularly stand out was Keith Smith’s 3/32 to the inch scale HMS Abercrombie which was the last of the big gun monitors and launched in 1942. Armed with two 15 inch and eight 4 inch guns plus numerous lighter pieces, she was a formidable warship in her own right and saw extensive action during the war as did her sister ship HMS Roberts. Keith's superb model really did bring this unusual prototype to life with its wealth of detail and was awarded the President’s Trophy for best in show.


A particularly welcome sight was a very nice collection of miniatures which seem to have disappeared from other exhibitions recently. Bernard Baldwin’s 1:600 scale model of the Cunard record breaking liner Mauretania really captured the essence of this famous vessel which held the Atlantic speed record for no less than 20 years. Another of Bernard's models was the Ben Line cargo liner Benloyal of 1959 to 1:192 scale. The post-WW2 period probably produced the most graceful commercial ships of all time and Benloyal was a magnificent looking ship, unlike today’s purely utilitarian ,albeit more efficient designs.


Miniatures are generally regarded as difficult model making subjects due to their size and intricacy, so to find a miniature with cutaway interior detail is something rather special indeed and John Longstaff provided two very different examples, namely the Confederate blockade runner Hope of 1964 to 1:148 scale and HM submarine Satyr of 1942 to 1:132 scale. Among the other miniaturists exhibiting was regular John Prothero-Thomas with his Victorian ironclad HMS Inflexible of 1876 and the IJN Mikasa, Admiral Togo’s flagship at Tsushima and now preserved as the only remaining example of a pre-dreadnought battleship.


Open boats are another specialised subject as the builder needs to show the interior detail as well as the exterior and this usually means replicating the original construction process in miniature. There were a number of excellent examples on display and I was particularly struck by the imaginative presentation of three racing dinghies constructed by John Garnish. Among these very detailed open boats was the inshore fishing boat Rose of Portloe c1905, another fine piece of work by Peter Rogers.


Modellers tend to be divided between those who prefer to show their work in pristine condition as it might have left the builder’s yard and those who favour a greater or lesser degree of weathering to add realism. If you are inclined towards the latter then Peter Chattenton’s Liverpool Coal Barge provided a master class in the subject - they don’t get much grimier than this!

As well as the modelling exhibits the SMS also have a photographic display of member’s models afloat, or in the case of static models, depicted in a way as to make them almost indistinguishable from the real thing; not too difficult given the very high standard of workmanship.

Once again I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and the opportunity to see such a variety of really top class models. I hope the photos do them justice. Look out for the next exhibition in 2014.