Monday, June 22, 2020

I think it is time for a challenge.

I think that what Anton needs is a little challenge for himself and his little friend Proxie.  So I have been working on a little surprise, Anton knows there is a challenge, but I have not officially let him in on it yet.  This is the official gauntlet moment.

In my never ending quest for obscure, but real military matters I stumbled upon the Madagascar campaign, Operation Ironclad, the British invasion of Madagascar.  Any time the Vichy French are showing up the nation of France I am interested.  France itself held out for barely a month in 1940, but the Vichy French in Madagascar fought for more than 6 months.  Along the way I mused to Anton that it would be cool to do the campaign on both air and sea which led to my Blood Red Skies efforts last quarter.  Back in the pre-COVID past I mentioned to Anton that it would be cool to get the boats in 1/200 to go along with the planes, he said it could be done, but they would be big.  I felt it unfair to dump everything on Anton and resolved to leave it alone unless I could work out the Axis side as the Allies would be easier and thus left to Anton.

Well I have done it, I have assembled basically the whole Axis Fleet (Vichy French and Japanese combined) comprising 11 vessels of various shapes.  So Anton I think you and Proxie should get busy making some Allied vessels.

Here is the Vichy French fleet

So the Vichy French officially had one Armed Merchant Cruiser, One "Aviso", which is there perversion of a standard colonial sloop.  However, the British maintained that there were Two merchant cruisers in Madagascar, and Five Submarines.  The British do not say what happened to the second merchant cruiser, but claim to have sunk four of the five submarines.  I have taken the liberty of adding three French torpedo boats (Vedettes Lance-Torpilles) as such were present everywhere the French did not fight, so I figure they were here too.

These are the raw 3d printed merchant cruisers and Aviso as they came for the manufacturer.  I obtained them from an ebay seller.  All are in 1/160 scale, which is officially a bit bigger than planned, but they work all together as a group.

Here is a closer view of what will become the Armed Merchant Cruisers, The  SS Victor Schoelcher and SS Charles Plumbier.  Each were sister ships, just over 4,000 tonnes and originally  refrigerated merchant vessels.  Both were converted to the Armed Merchant Cruiser role at the start of the war by adding 7 x 6 inch guns, 2 x 3 inch anti-aircraft guns, and 2 x 37mm anti aircraft guns.  The models are called "Coastal freighters" by the manufacturer. 

This is the same manufacturers 70 foot ocean going Tug.  I sawed off the howsers fore and aft and sawed off a raised compartment that was on the aft deck. 

Here I have given the first ship the basic light gray paint used by the French.  In photographs the ships look white so I am probably too dark, but it looks the part. 

This is a pre war photograph of the Victor Schoelcher demonstrating the coloration. 

Admittedly the lay out of my model is off, but trying to find any model in this scale is difficult so compromises had to be made. 

Here we have both merchant cruisers in base color. 

And here are the finished merchant cruisers.  Trying to keep the boat in scale, they are only 4,000 ton vessels, and cram on 7 Six inch guns, 2 three inch guns, and two 37mm guns makes for a cramped vessel.  I went with smaller guns (1/160 scale and most are 3 inch guns instead of 6 inch) to save some space. 

Here is the D'Entrecasteaux in base color. 

And here is a view of the real thing.  I know they look very different, but wait and see the final product. 

Here the basic trim bits have been painted in. 

Here is the final version.  I have added an extension to the upper deck and some railing as well as all the guns.  For fit purposes I had to reverse the main gun arrangement as I could not fit two guns forward.  You can see both finished merchant cruisers in the background. 

Here are the two French submarines I am employing.  They are actually models of German coastal uboats, but the French subs were rather small in size (600 tonnes and just over 200 feet long) so I needed an appropriate model for the size.  Since the French never had more than 2 subs attack the British fleet at once I figured this was enough models for my purposes. 

Here is a photograph of one of the actual subs from the campaign. 

Finally, I decided that since the Vichy French had Torpedo boats in Indochina, and Syria where they did not fight, they probably had some in Madagascar where the French did fight.  So Vedettes Lance-Torpilles it is. 

Here is a photograph of Two real Vedettes side by side.  On the left note the Torpedo storage racks.  The French Vedettes were based on World War I British torpedo boats which launched the torpedoes out the back of their boats.  The Russians also copied this design with their G-5 boats in WWII.  Literally the boast has to turn its back to the enemy and accelerate to launch the torpedo.  At least the French did not periodically accidentally blow themselves up as the Russian boats did.  The boat also carries two MG's forward.  The Torpedo storage is covered by a removable copper alloy grate clearly visible on the boat on the right. 

Here we see my models the originals were obtained from Shapeways.  Here I have mounted a twin MG on the bow (also obtained from Shapeways), and used some left over railing from the Aviso to create the torpedo rails. 

Here we have the completed Vedettes.  I painted them a darker gray and gave them a heavy wash to try and simulate the almost Black appearance in the photo.  I have also added a copper mesh piece  to simulate the deck cover.  A mast set (actually a full sized MG mount, the ones on the front have been cut down, and a lifeboat, again clearly shown in the photos. 

Here is the "family photo" of the entire French fleet. 

Next up the Japanese. 


  1. As I cannot slap you with my gauntlet via the internet I will do so verbally next time we speak. In the meanwhile consider your challenge accepted.

  2. Excellent,

    Remember, the Dauntless, The Jacob van Heemskerck (Dutch Tromp class), a couple of A class destroyers (no more than 3) and a couple of flower class corvettes. Just four designs. I even have guns to help with the arming. I would not want to strain you in your dotage.