Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Universal Carrier - Part 5

With the main superstructure complete, attention was turned to fitting out the vehicles.

Masters of the seats and seat backs were made up in Milliput and then cast in sets of three.   The seats were framed with .20 x .60 thou strip and a packing piece added to give the required height when fitted to the vehicle.   The Gunner's seat being higher than the Driver's seat.   The seat backs had a backing of .10 thou applied to simulate the framework behind them.   They were then applied to vehicle with the exception of the Gunner's seat.   This was left unattached to facilitate painting.

The gear sticks were made up .8 mm brass wire and little glass beads which were two dollars a bag.   However, to paraphrase Napoleon from Animal Farm, "Not all glass beads are created equal"!   Being made of glass there is some variation in the sizes and holes in the beads.   It was just a matter of being selective.  Some .60 x .188 strip and some .20 thou strip were used to make the gear stick housing.

The springs on the suspension units were added next.   Masters were turned from toothpicks on my Hobby Lathe and castings were taken using a two part mould.   I have found the secret to making good two part castings is plenty of airways to let the air escape from the mould as the resin is being poured (this eliminates air bubbles) and a good sized Gate which allows the weight of the resin to force itself into the mould. (also allows for easier pouring)

Headlights were made up using castings I had from earlier models and were secured with a short length of pin and false brackets added to the sides.   The "control boxes"were made up  from sheet and strip with the gauges punched out in thin plastic sheet.   Steering wheels were from Pendle Scale Racing but unfortunately I cannot remember the brand!
Various boxes were made up from strip and sheet and the No 11 Radio was made up as well.   In hindsight, this was one time I should have made a master and cast them up but sometimes it's not always about the easy way!   The last things to be made up were the fire extinguishers which I turned up in the Dremel and detailed with little bits of strip. 

The 3"Mortar Carrier required a little more work in that it needed all the fittings that made it a mortar carrier!   This included baseplates, mortar tube, mortar rounds and stowage.

In the photo above you can see the mortar tube and tripods plus some stowage items such as bed rolls and flimsies.   The Airfix mortar I used for reference is on the right.

The completed 3"Mortar Carrier.

The standard Universal Carrier MkII.

The Australian version of the Universal Carrier, the Local Pattern 2.   Note the raised air intake for the radiator and different angled bow plate.   Still a little more work to do on this mainly the rear stowage boxes.

A covey of Carriers.

In the last post on this vehicle, if the weather permits, I hope to present some of the Carriers painted and decaled.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Joseph Blaxter 1791 - 1847


Some of my readers may remember that in addition to modelling, another one of my interests is Genealogy.    I realise that Family History is often described as "confusing the dead and irritating the living", but I would like to indulge this interest again with a post concerning my Paternal 4th x Great Grandfather, Joseph Blaxter.

The Corps of Marines, later Royal Marines, can trace its beginnings to 1664, and in seniority, ranks between the 49th and 50th Regiments of Foot.    Regularly enlisted like the army, not by impressment, the Marines provided ships with a force of troops capable of fighting as infantry on land, of manning guns aboard ship, and of acting as marksmen and other close combat at sea.   A subsidiary duty was to discourage or suppress mutiny among the seamen; aboard ship the Marine’s quarters separated those of the officers from the seamen.

The value of the Marines was recognised by the granting of the title ‘Royal Marines’ on the 19th of  April 1802 by King George the III. 

The Marines were originally organised into fifty companies in three ‘Grand Divisions’ of which twenty were based at Portsmouth, eighteen at Plymouth and twelve at Chatham.   After the peace of 1763, the ‘home’ of the companies was re-organised, so No 1 went to Chatham, No 2 went to Portsmouth and No 3 to Plymouth. 

Marines were offered bounties to sign up, which were quite generous in time of war (£26) but less so in peace- time.

Joseph, on enlisting, would have been given a medical examination by a surgeon. The examination was a superficial one to ensure that he had no obvious physical disabilities and was in a fit state to cope with the rigours of service life, and the surgeon also noted his height and appearance. He would have then appeared in front of a local magistrate to be attested. He would have answered a series of questions which the Magistrate read from a standard form, swore the oath of allegiance, signed the attestation form, on which the questions and his responses were recorded, then received the bounty. 

Marines were then sent to one of a number of training bases around Britain where they were drilled and trained like soldiers.   Training on shore was almost entirely in the skills of an infantryman. The first thing many marines knew of a ship was on their first posting aboard.

Marine complements for ships were raised from the Division that corresponded to the Home Port of that ship.   
When a new Navy vessel was about to put to sea, the Captain of the ship would apply to the Marines and a number would be sent to serve.

Royal Marine Privates

The Marine on the left is from 1794 and the Marine on the right is from 1812
The facings were changed to blue in 1802 to reflect the “Royal” prefix granted that year by King George the III.

Joseph Blaxter joined the Royal Marines on the 23rd of November 1798 as a Drummer, aged 8.   He served as a drummer for 13 years, 4 months and 22 days.   He transferred to the rank of Private on the 14th of April 1812.

As Joseph was a Portsmouth Marine, he would likely to have been quartered at Fourhouse Barracks, Old Portsmouth.   Fourhouse Barracks were erected in 1760 on the site of four old alehouses.   It could house a thousand men, and was renamed Clarence Barracks in 1827.

In 1797 a Drummer's pay (which incidentally was the same as a Corporal) was one shilling a day on shore and 8 old pennies a day whilst at sea. The Drummer himself however only received a fraction of this as a percentage went graciously to the Drum Major for instruction and administration charges.

Royal Marines 1805
Royal Marine Drummer second from left.

The Drummers' uniform was as for the other ranks with wide regimental lace trim to the collar and the front and rear of the sleeves. A line of lace ran from the rear of each shoulder to the base of the coat and a further line down the centre of the back, trimming the inner edges of the tails.

Drummers wore a single shoulder belt and carried a short straight bladed sword with brass 'D' hilt and black leather scabbard. The Royal Marines upheld the tradition of recruiting 'Drummer-boys' and were one of the few units to allow these twelve to fifteen year old lads to accompany the unit whilst on active service at sea.

The uniform of the Royal Marines was a tall top hat or 'round hat', the brim edged in white, with a white hat band, two black tapes or 'loopings' going from the sides of the brim to the top of the hat, a black leather round cockade with a small RM button at its centre  and inserted in this the wool 'tuft' of white over red.

While white leather cross belts for cartridge box(black) and bayonet(black) were retained, the oval brass belt plate was replaced with a brass rectangle on which there was engraved the 'fouled anchor' (the sign of the Lord High Admiral), surrounded by 'laurel leaves' and 'RM' for Royal Marines, with 'PD' for  either Portsmouth or Plymouth Division. 
Black gaiters worn with knee britches were generally covered  up by white trousers or 'overalls', made from 'duck material', they were hard wearing, more water resistant and easier to clean than the wool britches.

When not on duty, the tunic was kept in the 'Marine clothing room', this was in an effort to keep them clean and dry, as the red dye had an unfortunate tendency to turn black if exposed to sea water for any length of time. For this reason it was common for Marines to receive a new coat every year.

Royal Marine 1815 
Dress Uniform

The pay of a Marine Private was £1 8s per month as per the army. However, on board ship this was reduced to 19s 3d per month as victualling and accommodation were provided free.

According to a recruiting poster of 1813:
“The Daily Allowance of a Marine when embarked is:
One pound of beef or pork, one pound of bread, flour, raisins, butter, cheese, oatmeal, molasses, tea, sugar, etc.; and a pint of the best wine or half a pint of the best rum or brandy together with a pint of lemonade. 
They have likewise, in warm countries, a plentiful allowance of the choicest fruit.”

On Joseph’s Discharge Papers there is a notation “Canada 2/9 days”.   This would appear to indicate that he served in the War of 1812 as two Battalions of Marines were sent to Canada on the 18th of June 1813.   Unfortunately, no further information on this period of service has been forthcoming.

Due to reductions in the Marine Corps, he was discharged from the Service on the 25th of November 1815.   He had served a total of 16 years, ten months and three days.   The reductions began in June 1814 with the discharge of foreigners, the infirm, those aged over 40 or under five foot, three and a half inches in height.   Joseph was five foot, three inches! 

On the 11th of February 1816, Joseph re-enlisted at Portsmouth, joining the Ship’s Company of HMS ALBION.


Painting in the Author's possesion of HMS Albion, 74, Coming to Anchor in the Downs ( after Thomas Whitcombe)

HMS ALBION was a 74 Gun, third-rate ship of the line, laid down in 1802, at Perry’s Yard, Blackwall on Thames, London.    She was 1729 tons and had a complement of 590 men.   She was the third ship in the Royal Navy to bear the name.

On the 16th of July 1816, HMS ALBION, under the command of Captain John Coode, along with other ships of the fleet, was preparing at Portsmouth for the forthcoming expedition to Algiers.   This was the bombardment of Algiers by a combined English and Dutch fleet, designed to halt the slave trade in Christians by the Dey of Algiers and his pirates.   

The Bombardment of Algiers 27th of August, 1816

The Quarterdeck of the "HMS Queen Charlotte",  Lord Exmouth's Flagship during the Bombardment.

Joseph Blaxter would have taken part in this battle as he was aboard at this time.     HMS ALBION suffered 3 killed and 15 wounded during the battle. HMS ALBION returned to England in the spring of 1819 after being stationed at Malta.

Extract from London Gazette 2nd May 1818.

The London Gazette for the 2nd of May 1818, lists the money awarded to the Officers and Company of His Majesty’s Ship ALBION (and others present) for their participation this action.

The allocation of shares is not clear but it is thought that Boys and Volunteers were the lowest (8th Class) and that Able Seamen, Privates etc were 5th class.

Naval General Service Medal with Clasp for Algiers 1848.

On the 7th of June 1848, Her Majesty, Queen Victoria awarded surviving Officers, seamen and marines the above award for their services in that campaign.   As Joseph passed away in 1847 he did not receive this medal.

Joseph paid off from HMS ALBION on the 21st of May 1819.   Joseph’s next ship was HMS SEVERN.

HMS ENDYMION (fourth rate), sister ship to HMS SEVERN

After paying off from HMS ALBION, Joseph joined HMS SEVERN on the 15th of July 1819.   HMS SEVERN was a 50 gun, fourth rate, laid down in 1813 at Blackwall Yard, London.   Of the Endymion class, she had a complement of 350-450 men.   Like HMS ALBION she had also taken part in the bombardment of Algiers.    In 1817 she took up a mooring at Deal on the east coast of Kent as Headquarters and base of the anti- smuggling Coastal Blockade Service.   Smuggling was rife on this section of the coast between England and France and the smugglers were organised into large gangs.   Gun battles between the Coastal Blockade Service and the smuggling gangs were not uncommon. 

Smugglers being surprised by the Royal Navy’s Coastal Blockade Service

The London Gazette for the 20th of November 1821, lists the prize money awarded to the Officers and Company of His Majesty’s Ship SEVERN for seizures on certain dates.
Interestingly “bandanoes’ were handkerchiefs from whence we get bandannas.
As can be seen the seizure of spirits was more profitable than bandanoes!

Extract from London Gazette 20th November 1821

By the 27th of November 1821, HMS SEVERN was in commission and based on Chatham and Sheerness.

Joseph Blaxter discharged from the Royal Marines on the 20th of July 1822.   He did not receive any wounds whilst serving with the Royal Marines. 

As I said before, Joseph was my 4th x Great Grandfather.   A man I obviously never met, but owe my existence to.   I am extremely proud that he was a Royal Marine, as I am of all my ancestors who served their countries.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Universal Carrier - Part 4

Construction started on the internal structures and the first of these to be tackled was the bulkhead separating the driver from the engine compartment.   Again .30 thou sheet was used with the radiator inlet opening cut  and the air intakes? made up from suitably sized strip.   The Australian model differed in this respect in having an intake mounted on top of the bulkhead rather than in it.

Next up was the radiators themselves.   Three masters were made (less mesh) and simple one piece castings were made.   Fine brass mesh was then measured and cut to size and glued in.   The radiators were then attached to the bulkhead at the rear.   In the photo below you can see the completed masters and the radiator covers which enclosed the radiator.   The radiator covers were two part constructions which consisted of a rectangular box and a semi triangular sort of box which led from the air intakes to the radiator itself.

The photo below shows a completed radiator housing and the radiators with the brass mesh fitted.

The engine covers were then constructed, again from .30 thou strip for the sides, .40 thou for the floor and .10 thou for panelling.   These were straightforward boxes (that sloped).   The little grab handles I made up from C channel that had it's edges lightly rounded off and sliced to the correct size on the "Chopper"

The mesh at the rear of the engine cover was cut from Eduard's Rhomboid Mesh 8 x 8.

A surround was made up from .15 thou strip to form a frame, the mesh cut to size and applied and then .10 thou strip was added over the sides to neaten it all up.   A tip when using this very fine mesh is to lay some good quality masking tape (the type that won't lift paint) over the mesh and then you mark out the required size and cut it out with a good pair of scissors.   The tape/mesh is applied to the surface and using a fine pointed tool and tweezers, the tape can then be removed with fear of distorting/tearing the mesh.

The engine covers were left unattached to the hulls at this time as I felt it would be easier to undercoat everything with them off.

The valances/sandshields were made up from .20 thou sheet and detailed with the little step and the reinforcing strips and applied to the vehicles.   Also the two strips of "T"section on the bow plates were added using very fine Plastruct "T" section.   The spare wheel was also sited and temporarily applied.   The above photo illustrates the Australian Carrier, with its curved air intake above the bulkhead.    The Australian version also differed in the shape of the front valances.  Also visible is the 3 inch Mortar I am making for a Mortar Carrier version.   I am using the mortar that comes with the Airfix British Infantry Support Group set as reference.

When I first started this project I thought I would make the 2 Pdr and Mortar Carrier versions of the Carrier as used by the Australian Army.   The 2 Pdrs were not utilised by the Australians during the war but were used for training and the majority of the Mortar Carriers were sent to China as aid for the Chinese Nationalist Army.   However further research showed that these versions were made using an extended chassis but the same number of road wheels etc.   So two more hulls/chassis were made up and construction started on these.   They will be the subject of a later post.   This however gave me two additional basic Carrier hulls.

And finally, just to show that it is not all Hi Tech on my workbench, here is an example of a jury rigged gluing method for gluing the inner valances to the curved top plate.   Basically I'm using the weight of the model to ensure the mating surfaces are in contact with each other whilst the glue dries.
As Plato said "Necessity is the Mother of Invention"!!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Christmas Gift Un-Wrap-Up !!

I have noticed on other modeller's Blogs, the display of what they received for Christmas.   Not wanting to be left out, I have chosen to show what I received!

It seems books were the theme at my place for Christmas (at least for me!) with one notable exception, which I will save for last.

First off is a book on a subject that is deeply interesting for me personally, being an ex Gunnery Sailor -  Naval Anti-Aircraft Guns and Gunnery.

This book by Norman Friedman is 399 pages on  the evolution of Naval AA Guns and associated equipment from WW1 to Post WW2.   Lots of pictures, plans and appendice, the text is easy to read and is very informative.   It was quite refreshing to see the use of photos of Royal Australian Navy ships as well as the other  combatants to illustrate the various guns and systems.

Indeed, the book describes the "Boffin", which was an Australian hybrid single 40/60 Bofors on a powered 20 mm Oerlikon mount.   I had never heard of this one before but I can see how it influenced the later Mk 9 and AN4s which we used on our Patrol Boats.

Example of Illustrations and photos.

Secondly on the book list is "Life in Nelson's Navy"by Dudley Pope and "King"s Cutters and Smugglers"by E.K. Chatterton.   The first title is self explanatory but is a wonderful read and details such things as food, pay, conditions, how the ships were built and a myriad of other subjects.    Paperback, 279 Pages, black and white illustrations.

The second book details the long running battle between the English Government and the smugglers who tried to circumvent the taxes on imported goods.   The Coastal Blockade Service, which was a forerunner of the present day Customs Service was tasked with curbing the smuggler's activities.   Again, a great read on a not very well known subject.
Paperback, 325 pages, black and white illustrations.

Of course, I have a vested interest in these two books, as my 4 x Great Grandfather was a Royal Marine who served in the Napoleonic era and later served in the Coastal Blockade Service.   He will form the basis of another post later this year.

Lastly, but by no means least, I received this wonderful kit of the French WW1  St Chamond, the Elephant on the legs of a Gazelle!   My good Mate and fellow modeller Billy, from the United States was kind enough to send me this model for Christmas.    Extremely detailed, I think this one will be destined to become a "Shelf Princess", no wargames table for this one!
Thanks again Billy.