Sunday, 28 December 2014

Jutland madness!

With the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland appearing on the edge of the long-range radar, my thoughts have been turning to recreating or commemorating this iconic battle on the table top. All to be done in the 'Grand manner', of course!

WTJ 1:1500 model of HMS Lion - tone and balance of photo adjusted to show detail.
So I was intrigued to discover that the good folks at the 'War Times Journal' are working on a series of what they call 'rapid prototyped plastic' ship models in a variety of scales - including the largest, so far as I am aware; cheap and commercially available scale for WW1 Dreadnoughts, 1:1500 scale!
WTJ 1:1500 model of SMS Seydlitz
As something of an experiment, I ordered up 2 from their range, both Battlecruisers, HMS Lion and SMS Seydlitz, to get a feel for their quality, durability and paintability.

HMS Lion now masted and painted
Now when it comes to wargaming scales, I am a firm adherent of the 'big is beautiful' school of thought - I think table top game models should have some presence to assist in the depiction of the alternative 'play' reality, and impart a 'sense of occasion' to one's gaming - otherwise, why not just wargame on a map or chart?
SMS Seydlitz - note the darker deck colour.
So of course I went for the largest scale they do - their 3D printers allow WTJ to produce their products in any of 4 scales: 1/3000, 1/2400, 1/1800, 1/1500.

Now when I said 'cheap', of course that's a relative concept. These two models together cost me $54AUD, which seems fine, particularly in comparison to existing models from German companies such as Navis who don't seem to scale their prices down from the real thing to the same extent as their models! But being shipped across from the States seems relatively expensive, $13.15AUD for these two very light and small models. And playing around with the WTJ shopping cart, the postage doesn't seem to come down if you bulk buy....

On the other hand, that's an inducement to build up my fleets slowly and carefully in time for 2016...

So what's my opinion of the models? Overall, I'm very impressed. WTJ took a good deal of care with the packing so that the models arrived completely undamaged. The detail is extraordinary, and crisp and proud so that its easy to paint. There are even guide holes drilled should you wish to fit masts, which I did using commercially available 28mm size lance/spear rods. The models come in a translucent pale white colour, as show in the heading photo, but do bear a good soaking and light brushing in warm soapy water prior to being painted.

They can be ordered without boats if desired, but the detail on the whalers and Chevertons has to be seem to be believed!

I haven't made up my mind about basing yet, the models seem to me to be pretty tough and internally braced sufficient to withstand warping, so I shall probably leave as is...

Now I know what you are all thinking - deranged and megalomaniacal though he may be, surely even Sparker isn't going to try to do Jutland in 1/1500 scale!

SMS Seydlitz - detail 01Deck amidships - I hope the Boats Officer and the Top Part O Ship King get on well!
No - I'm going to confine myself to the Battlecruiser engagement that started the fun, so that drastically limits the scale of the action. More that a few moments feverish excited thought, though, made even me realise that even so the two scouting groups, much less the Queen Elizabeths, still won't all fit on the same table!

HMS Lion - detail Focsle afterpart - note bollards, secondary batteries, and focsle breakwater. Any FX king would be proud!
So the idea - it doesn't yet deserve elevation to 'plan' - is to devise or adapt a set of rules whereby each fleet sits on its own table, and the relative movement of the two fleets is plotted on a third chart table. All movement on each fleet table will be restricted to show relative position and formation on the Guide, within the fleet, and showing the fall of shot, ships heaving out of line, and so on. I will have to work on some home grown rules that will scale and replicate the relative distance and bearing of the two fleets, attitude to sun, wind and smoke, and so on. Thus I am aspiring to still give a thrilling and exciting duel that can be historically and tactically challenging, whilst still presenting something of a visual spectacle, which is after all the point of wargaming with miniatures!

The real HMS Lion

So why did I start off with these two ships? Well they were both protagonists at the Battle of Dogger Bank, where Seydlitz narrowly survived a shell hit from the Lion on one of her magazines - resulting in valuable lessons being learnt about flash safety in the Imperial, if not the Royal, Navy. HMS Lion was of course Admiral Beatty's flagship at Jutland, and the ship upon which Major Harvey RM earnt his VC - mortally wounded and lying in the 'X' turret magazine which was being approached by propellant fire, he had the presence of mind to order the compartment flooded.

SMS Seydlitz

SMS Seydlitz was no less a witness to heroism and stoicism at this battle, shrugging off an incredible amount of damage, surviving 21 large calibre shells hits and a torpedo strike, and shipping over 5000 tonnes of seawater. She could dish it out of course, being largely responsible for the loss of the Queen Mary, Lion's sister ship.


  1. Hello Sparkler

    Merry Christmas and I sincerely hoped for Happy New Year to you and the Long Haired Brigadier.

    I fully applaud your latest fall into further megalomania. Nice models. I used to not think much of the WWI warships but I am now MUCH older and wiser. Very cool machines of war.

    I wonder if some broom bristles may make for adequate masts.

    I'm guessing that the turrets are fixed. Correct?

    Postage from some parts is a drag. The UK is not exempt from this which is a bit of a rum (do you like the nautical association?) deal. There are some ways around it and some manufacturers are more postage friendly but at the cost of their own profits I suspect.

    I trust that there will be no overshoots form your game that will endanger NZ - not the dreadnought but the country! 8O)

    von Peter himself

    1. Thanks your Vonship! Seasons greeting to you and yours. Yes the turrets are fixed.

  2. Looking good so far!

    1/1500 ships should be big enough to do away with basing.

    1. Thanks mate. Yes I shall probably leave basing unless they develop wear and tear through use...

  3. Are you going to leave the torpedo net booms on the models or sand them off? Most of them had been removed by Jutland after it was realised they were a liability in action, nets decoming dislodged and risking fouling propellers and rudders

  4. Good question David! I hadn't realised that - clearly I must do some more research - its been a while since I learnt about Jutland at BRNC! To be honest I think I'll leave them on - they're kind of iconic of the WW1 Dreadnought era to me. And hey - if the Grand Fleet had kept them, perhaps they'd have pursued the HSF more thoroughly?

  5. Madness sir! Will be great to see what you come up with! :)

  6. Thanks Mark! Not a great deal in the run-up to Waterloo 200 I'm afraid - but then, since interest has been more than I expected, I may share my development of rules to facilitate such large scale foolery with you lucky lucky blighters!

  7. Dear All,

    Jim from WTJ has very kindly written in to answer make a few points about my blog - you seen how I hob-nob with the high and mighty! I post his email below. I should add that its my belief that WTJ's postage rates are entirely fair and compatible with the well-known high price of US international postage:

    Hi Ralph,

    Thanks for posting pics of the painted ships. I'll check postage to make sure
    we didn't end up with too much of a disparity between charge and actual
    shipping and handling, but the US Postal Service has raised prices
    considerably lately. I used to be able to charge only $3.50 for small
    packages to the UK, but now $9.45 is the minimum for boxes, which I need to
    use to protect the models.

    FYI, I also offer a Seydlitz without torpedo nets, but the photos of her
    going into drydock after Jutland do show net booms along her side, so I
    believe that at least in her case they only removed the booms after Jutland.
    Anyway, just in case anyone asks, we do offer both versions.

    Hope that helps, feel free to write if you have any questions, and happy new

  8. Lovely, I do love a bit of a mad projects and Jutland in this scale is mad on an epic scale, congratulations ! My new 1/2400 stuff feels inadequate.

    Regards, Ken