Bois Belleau by Barrie Hole
Brand: Dragon/DML
Scale: 1/700
Modeler: Barrie Hole - Museum Quality Custom Airctaft Profile Prints

The Diorama


Originally laid down as the light cruiser New Haven but finally completed as a light carrier the USS Belleau Wood served in the Pacific during World War 2, earning a Presidential Citation and 12 battle stars. Placed in reserve after the war, she was transferred to the French Navy in 1953 and saw action in both the Indo-China and Algerian conflicts. Unusually she retained her name (albeit translated into French) as the World War 1 battle of Belleau Wood is historically significant to both France and America. This model was inspired by a photograph on the internet showing the ship anchored in Halong Bay after her arrival in French Indo-China where her planes were deployed in the final stages of the war against the Viet Minh.

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The Ships

The carrier is Dragon's USS Independence. Dragon did a kit specifically for Belleau Wood but I couldn't track one down. To be honest I found this kit a disappointment. The diagrammatic instructions could have been clearer and the clear plastic flight deck and upper hull was brittle and difficult to work. Presumably it was used so the hanger deck would be visible but as the plastic was translucent rather than transparent it rather defeated the object. The main problem however was that the gun tubs for the Bofors mounts were moulded with the flight deck and were far too shallow. After some experimentation I replaced them with my own resin castings. In addition to this I modified the other tubs as necessary and also overlaid the walkways with Eduard's etched mesh. The bridge was also roofed in and the fine details were from GMM's CVL/CVE fret. The Bofors guns were from the kit but improved with WEM's Bofors frets. The Oerlikons were also a combination of kit parts and brass PE. The deck is Artwox blue wood deck.

The auxiliary tanker is a heavily modified Tamiya fuel carrier from their Tugger set. Like the carrier it has an Artwox deck and the fine details came from the scrap box. The fishing junks are resin and brass kits from Rainbow, again with extra detail. The eagle eyed might also spot the fisherman with his cormorant near the islands.

All the figures are Eduard and painting was virtually all acrylics either brushed or sprayed. Weathering was applied using powder colours either as a wash or dry brushed.

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The Air Group

Not exactly a major undertaking after my Saratoga and Forrestal models. The Helldivers are Trumpeter whilst the Hellcats are Dragon from the kit and spares box. All have GMM props. The Dragonfly is Dragon again but with WEM main and tail rotors. The two Piasecki H25's were scratch built and have WEM Chinook rotors cut down to size and undercarts from Skywave S3's. Markings were the biggest problem. Roundels are from GM's Navel Aircraft sheet which isn't that good but it's better than my printer could produce. Tail flashes are from Starfighter's FAA sheet but turned round so the blue is in front. Squadron codes are again Starfighter - their Lexington air group sheet this time. Although not accurate in text they are about as close as I was able to get in terms of appearance.

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The Scenic Details

Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful and distinctive places on earth and I spent many hours agonising over the islands. After considering various methods of casting and carving the solution came accidentally when I found a couple of bits of broken house brick in the garden. These were sprayed grey and adorned with Woodland Scenics foliage and grass powder. The water is transparent brown acrylic sheet overlaid on to a painted background.

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Despite the shortcomings of the kit this was an enjoyable project and the subject matter was quite unusual. French carriers in this or indeed any other scale are few and far between. In fact once you stray from American, Japanese or British subjects then you are really in for a challenge in both research and modelling but then the challenge is partly what it's all about isn't it?


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  Photos and text © 2013 by Barrie Hole

August 11, 2013