A lesser-known fact about u-boat attacks is that most came during broad daylight and were conducted with the u-boat's deck gun not at night with a torpedo. The convoy system was yet to be established, so when the u-boats encountered individual unescorted ships rather than waste a torpedo, which they had on board in limited numbers, the u-boat would surface and shell the target with their deck gun. Sometimes the target would surrender, so the u-boat would send over a boarding party to help themselves to whatever they wanted before they told the ship's crew to abandon ship. They then scuttled her using no more valuable ammunition. However, when the target did not surrender or chose to run, the u-boat would just blow them out of the water with the deck gun.
The Q-ship was designed to take advantage of these tactics. Various non-descript merchant ships were armed with guns under the cover of deck cargo, side panels in the ship's hull, etc. and were sent into areas where u-boats were known to patrol or had been sighted. Through it's periscope, the u-boat would see a lone tramp steamer or old cargo sloop so they would surface and fire a warning shot or two. The Q-ship would fake surrender, some even going so far as to lower lifeboats with some of the crew in them to make it look convincing. When the u-boat approached, the Q-ship would drop its camouflage, run up the white ensign and open fire. It doesn't take much to hole a u-boat on the surface and any hit that compromises it's watertight integrity can be a lethal hit. As a sort of protection should the Q-ship actually be torpedoed, they were filled with cargoes such as cork and wood to increase floatation.
At first, the Q-ships had some success, but when the German's became familiar with their tactics, they were much more cautious in approaching lone ships and tended to shoot first and ask questions later. While romantic and dramatic, after the war Q-ships were judged to have sunk only 10% of the total number of u-boats destroyed and tied up resources and personnel that could have been used to greater effect elsewhere.
In WWII both England and the US tried Q-ships again against German and Japanese submarines, but the effect was even less than in WWI.
This is the Round 2 release of the old Lindberg line kit and, as they do, they used the original box art which boasts that it is a giant model 12 inches in length with 41 pieces. I suppose at the time when it first came out what with Aurora aircraft kits having around 10 parts total, that did seem like a lot, but today of course, not so much. They even tout that a display stand is included. That stand takes up four of those 41 parts, so there are really only 37 parts to the ship.
The ship has a two part, left/right, hull and one piece deck which actually took very little putty to fit right. The hull has a plate detail molded into it along with an outline of the anchors, which with painting serves instead of separate parts for those items. Railings are molded on to the hull sides and superstructure parts as are any stairways. The surface of the parts can be a bit rough in some places, no doubt due to the age of the molds. The masts and booms are molded together. I checked the measurements and if scaled up, they would be around 400 feet tall, which seems a bit excessive. In addition, the booms would never fit down into the well decks so they would not be able to remove/stow cargo. I cut them both back to make them look better. Everything fits fine, but again due to age there is much flash and mold seams with a sprinkling of sink marks. The deck guns are a bit odd in appearance, bearing more resemblance to something from Star Wars rather than a 4" gun and fake cargo boxes are supplied to cover them.
For such a basic kit, it is surprising that rigging instructions are included. This is counter-balanced by the fact that the rigging as shown is impossible and owes more to the HMS Victory than a modern ship. The instructions say that only advanced modelers should attempt the rigging because holes need to be drilled in the deck. I rigged it as shown but left off one particularly ridiculous line. A problem arose in that each mast has eight stays running to the top. Tying all these off at the same place results in a pretty bid clot of thread that doesn't look real good.
The decal sheet is interesting. There are a whole bunch of little black dots that you use as portholes on the superstructure and then some larger black dots with a yellow surround to use on the hull. The smaller dots look more in scale. In addition, you get windows for the bridge, a stripe for the funnel and "holes" for the ventilators, complete with shading for a sort of depth effect. All went on well.
The painting instructions call for the ship to be grey over all with a red bottom and a Navy style hull number is provided for the bow. This scheme seemed all wrong to me. The idea was to make the u-boat think this was an innocent merchant man, not an all grey man of war with a hull number. So I chose a more civilian style paint scheme, left off the number and added a name to the bow from my decal stock. (Actually the name of Airfix's Churchill tank.)
This is obviously toy-like in the extreme as is. However, if you cut off the molded in railings, re-did the masts, removed the molded in stairs, replaced the deck guns and got some real anchors, you could make a passable model of a Q-ship or just a tramp steamer. So, if you need a 1/400 (or close enough) Atlmark for your Heller Graf Spee, this kit would fill the bill.
Or you could just build it with your kid and fight over who gets to play with it in the tub. (Caution, ballast will be needed or it will capsize like a real u-boat victim.)
Thanks to IPMS/USA and to Round 2 Models for supplying the kit for review.