The Society of Model Shipwrights

COLIN BISHOP visits the 2010 exhibition

The Society of Model Shipwrights (SMS) was established in 1974 and is dedicated to the art and skills of exact model making to museum standards of maritime subjects. Every two years a public exhibition of member’s work is held, the current venue being the Petts Wood War Memorial Hall near Orpington, Kent. Chairman Peter Rogers kindly extended an invitation to Model Boats to cover the event which is something not to be missed by anyone interested in seeing the very highest standards of marine modelling on display. The attendance this year was significantly up on previous years with 65% more visitors through the door.
As can be seen from the photos, the models were laid out in a very accessible way enabling close inspection of the superb workmanship. In addition to the displays, a room at the back of the stage was used to give practical demonstrations of the modelling art and to provide refreshments including a mouth watering selection of home made cakes which demonstrated an entirely different set of skills!
I was made very welcome by the members present and especially by old friends Mike Reading and Eric Dyke who were acting in a judging capacity which cannot have been easy given the standard of work on show. The photos give an indication of the wide scope of subjects tackled by SMS members. I was particularly intrigued by the interpretation by Alan Ludbrook of the ancient ship Syracusia of around 240BC built for Heiron II of Syracuse in Sicily under the oversight of Archimedes. The ship was enormous for her time and could not use most of the Mediterranean harbours so Heiron made a gift of her to Ptolemy III of Egypt. Alan has used historical and other sources to arrive at a length of around 230 feet for the full size ship with a displacement of some 3,700 tons – about the same size as Nelson’s HMS Victory! The model is to 1:72 scale. All the detail shown is also derived from historical documents and whilst speculative, the model has a strong authentic basis with lots of fascinating touches and above deck activity.
A notable naval occasion was recreated by Keith Smith who depicted the last occasion when a British battleship made port under sail at Souda Bay in Crete in 1890. HMS Temeraire is shown passing the mastless turret ship Devastation which is at anchor with boats lowered. Temeraire was known as the ‘Great Brig’ carrying the largest ever sail area ever set on two masts. Despite this her bulk still made her a slow sailer although she was reputed to be a handy one.
There is not enough space to mention all the excellent models present, but one other that particularly caught my eye was Robin Burnham’s whaler which had been constructed in miniature to almost exactly the same specifications as the original with a similar result as the photo shows.

The Society always welcomes new members and the Hon. Sec. is Peter Rogers, 5 Lodge Crescent, Orpington, Kent. BR6 0QE. Telephone: 01689 827213. On the water sailing takes place locally on Tuesdays at a local pond. General information about the SMS is available from their website: