In the last month at least two different messages were posted to the message board inquiring as to the availability of a model of a YMS, yard minesweeper. That raised a point often overlooked in talking about battleships, carriers, cruisers and destroyers. Thousands of servicemen served on small craft and auxiliaries that played a role just as important as that of the glamorous large surface ships. Some resin firms, such as JAG, Loose Cannon, and Regia Marina have addressed those topics with 1:700 kits. In 1:350th scale the selections have been far fewer. Both L’Arsenal and White Ensign Models have recently released models of modern minesweepers but by far the producer with the largest selection of these smaller craft in 1:350 is Iron Shipwright.
The designation YMS stands for Yard Minesweeper, with the Y standing for Yard, harbor or Naval District. They were designed with the mission of local inshore protection but the relentless requirements and limited assets of the naval war of World War Two saw these small craft serving in all theaters sweeping lanes clear of mines for invasion forces. They performed an essential and extremely dangerous mission, cloaked in anonymity because they were not large and sleek ships of war. They just sailed on from one hot spot to another, enduring shore fire and air attack with very limited ability to reply. If that wasn’t enough, they faced the ever-present possibility of striking a mine or having one detonate too close to their hulls and they were always constrained by their mission of clearing a lane for the glamour boys. If they didn’t successfully complete their mission, an invasion could fail, with disproportionate losses to the invasion forces and supporting warships.
The YMS motor minesweepers of the USN were built in three series. They were motor minesweepers because they were powered by two diesel engines, rather than steam. YMS 1-134 had two funnels, YMS 135-445 had one and YMS 446-481 did not have any visible funnels. They were originally to have been built to the pattern of the British 105 foot motor minesweeper but were enlarged to 136 feet (oa) in order to accommodate a third diesel engine to produce a magnetic sweep to counter magnetic mines. Wooden hulls were used for simplicity and speed of construction, rather than the need to present a smaller magnetic footprint. The hulls were reinforced because of the threat of mines detonating nearby. Great Britain had 80 built to the design of the first series, BYMS 1-80, however others of the other two series were transferred to the Royal Navy. The craft also served with the French, Norwegian and Soviet navies. The design also served as the base for 100 sub-chasers, although the top speed was only 15 knots. Armament was increased and they were designated PCS. Only 59 were built. (The bulk of the history for the YMS minesweepers is from Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946.)
The bridge-deck, bridge and cable reel are the next largest resin pieces. The smaller parts are the main gun with mount, 20mm guns, K guns, ship’s boat, mast, J ventilator, searchlights, struts, props and rudders. The hull and larger resin pieces only require minimal cleanup, usually only to remove the small resin pour plugs. The smaller resin pieces will require removal of flash and pour plugs. The only defect that I observed in my copy was a gouge on the outside of the cable reel, which you can see in the starboard side photograph that shows the reel. On the whole, it is a very clean kit that should not present any significant obstacle to prepare or assemble.
Unlike the larger models from Iron Shipwright, the instructions for the YMS-260 are not CAD produced. They consist of four pages; page one is a parts list and text assembly sequence; page two is an isometric assembly diagram with inserts for inclined ladder positions and mast detail; page three shows the P-E fret and 20mm assembly; and page four shows depth charge and K-gun rack assembly. Depth charges must be cut from plastic rod. With a kit of few parts, coupled with a straightforward and simple assembly, the instructions serve their purpose. I don’t foresee any difficulty for even the novice builder in the construction of this kit.
Iron Shipwright has produced a nicely crafted model of one of the smaller worker bees of World War Two. The model has enough character to interest almost any experienced modeler and yet the simplicity to attract the first time resin builder. If you like the odd, the unusual, the overlooked or the neglected topic, this kit is for you.
The 1:350th YMS-260 cries out for super detail treatment by the modeler, such as a cable for the large reel. Felix Bustelo is working on one of these kits now and I for one can hardly wait to see what magic he applies.