The French navy lost the bulk of her ships during World War Two. Most were lost in action or at the great scuttle at Toulon. Even the ships that had served with the Free French forces were heavily worn from wartime service. As a consequence France had to start almost from the beginning to rebuild her navy after the war. That was easier said than done, as most of her infrastructure had also been destroyed or heavily damaged. As a consequence, until France could re-establish her shipbuilding facilities, the navy had to rely on ships from her allied partners. Some were British but most were American. Several classes on minesweepers were established out of ships borrowed from the United States. The most numerous class was the MSC60 or Acacia class.
The MSC60 class of minesweepers were made up of thirty former AMS type USN minesweepers. Between 1953 and 1955, the thirty minesweepers were transferred into French service. Minesweepers were especially needed in this period because France was involved in the French Indo-China War early on. Originally it was to be 36 of the AMS, later changed to MSC, to be transferred to France but three were returned to the USN at Saigon after delivery as the French Indo-China War had ended, Of these three at Saigon, two were subsequently transferred to Japan, while the other three went to Spain. All thirty vessels were given names of flowers. There was a real need for these minesweepers as mines laid during World War Two were still a threat in the English Channel and along the coasts of France even in the early 1950s. After long useful careers the ships were transferred back to the USN, which subsequently transferred a number of them to other navies, such as those that went to Turkey and Uruguay.
These ships were of new construction and their design maximized the use of materials, which would not detonate magnetic mines. The hulls were wood and ever fitting was designed to reduce the magnetic field of the vessel. The small ships displaced 370 tons standard and 405 tons full load. Two General Motors diesel engines provided 1,200 shp to the two shafts of the minesweeper and produced a top speed of thirteen knots. Dimensions were 141 feet overall, 136.5 feet (pp), a beam of 26 feet and a draught of 8.5 feet. Armament was two 20mm Oerlikon AA guns and the complement was three officers and 35 ratings.
L'Arsenal has produced a 1:400 scale resin and brass model of the Acacia class, although it is referred as the MSC-60 class. It is cast as a one piece full hull but there is a very faint line at the waterline for those modelers wishing to build the kit in waterline format. Of course this will require some substantial cutting/sanding to remove the lower hull. However, to see the kit assembled in waterline format, just click on the link the L'Arsenal MSC-60 class built as the Mimosa by Felix Bustelo. (Click for Felix Bustelo's waterline L'Arsenal MSC-60) The wooden hull construction is especially evident in the bow profile. There is a very prominent keel running from the cutwater to the stern. Indeed if you look at the photograph of the bow section and notice the lower portion of the cutwater, you'll notice how much more prominent the keel is over steel hulled ships. Horizontal strengthening strakes run along the upper hull from cutwater and bumper plates to stern. Additionally there are bilge keels on each side.
The deck plan reflects a load of detail. This includes a short bulkhead at the top of the cutwater followed by anchor billboards on each side. Also at the hull sides are two sets of twin bollard fittings and a closed chock, which apparently serves as the anchor hawse. On centerline of the short forecastle is a windlass, deck non-skid tread for the forward Oerlikon gun and deck access hatch. The compact bridge occupies the aft end of the forecastle. Since the mine sweeping gear takes up a lot of deck space, the deck break between forecastle and quarterdeck comes very far forward in the design. The major feature of the long quarterdeck is a large open deck well for the very large reel of cable used for the minesweeping gear. Solid deck edge bulkheads run from the deck break to just aft of the reel well. Other deck fittings of the quarterdeck include lockers, deck access hatches, twin bollards, closed chocks and fittings at the stern.
As mentioned earlier there is a compact bridge/superstructure at the end of the short forecastle. It is a two level affair with a lower enclosed pilothouse and open topped navigation position above it. The pilothouse has portholes on all four faces. On the front face piping is cast onto structure. Side details to the pilothouse include square lockers, which also serve as the base to platforms for entrance into the pilothouse. On each side a very finely detailed door is found with details for handle, hinges and dogs. The navigation deck is surrounded by a solid bulkhead, except for an entrance position on the starboard aft face of the position. On the deck you'll find a chart table or locker. There is a prominent apron running along the top of the bulkhead. A smaller horizontal strake runs along the base line of the perimeter of the navigation deck. A number of additional lockers are found along the aft face of the pilothouse and further back at the end of the forecastle. Although small ships, the MSC-60 class are loaded with lockers. The hull casting is exceptionally clean, with no defects, no breakage and nil clean-up.
The prima donna of the smaller resin parts is the large cable reel used for the main minesweeping duties. The reel has reinforcement ribs of the sides and the cable pattern is clearly seen on the center spindle of the casting. The largest part is the stack with slanting top. Since the craft are diesel powered, you'll find exhaust gas ports at the top. For the ship's boat, you have the option of an earlier fitted wooden dinghy or later inflatable RIB. There is an assortment of lockers and ammunition boxes provided and L'Arsenal mentions that these fittings varied from ship to ship. Other smaller resin parts include sweeping floaters, Oerlikon pedestals, life rafts, rudders, propellers, propeller shafts, acoustic mine gear, masts, rear winch, cranes and mounting stands. These smaller parts will need to be removed from their casting blocks and a minor amount of flash will need to be removed. However, the parts are very well cast with no defects.
There are two photo-etch frets but the smaller of the two only has one part. That part is half of the relief-etched bulkhead, which surrounds the sides and forward face of the reel well. The other half is found on the main fret, so evidently there wasn't enough room for both halves on the main fret, or it was forgotten when the fret was designed. These bulkheads are unique items and also a number of open lattice structures further create a unique look for the model. There are lattice towers for smaller cable reels, lattice life raft supports, a lattice stern platform and a lattice assembly aft of the quarterdeck winch. Oerlikons are composed of the gun, gun shield, shoulder supports and training wheel. Other photo-etch parts include entrance platforms for the pilothouse, mast yards, inclined ladders, vertical ladder, precut railing, funnel railing, raft bottom grids, ammunition box covers, anchors and optional rudders. The kit comes with a decal sheet, which allows for modeling any of the thirty ships in the class. The decals are all hull numbers. On the actual ships the hull numbers were four digit combinations, the letter M and three numbers. All of the ships start with M63 through M68, excluding M65. Three decals of each of these groups are provided, two for hull sides and one for the stern. Three runs of the numbers 0 through 9 are provided for the forth or last digit.
The instructions comprise five pages. They are professionally done, are clear and concise. Assembly is shown in drawings and English text. Page one has three parts, a short history, general assembly instructions and drawings and descriptions of the resin parts in the kit. Page two has a photograph of the photo-etch fret, a description of all metal parts, and the assembly module for the Oerlikons. The third page has profile and plan drawings for placement of the resin parts. The fourth page features another profile and plan but this time for attachment of the photo-etch parts. The fifth page has a profile and plan showing railing placement at the top. At the bottom of the page is another profile, which shows decal placement. Also provided are painting instructions with WEM Colourcoat colors and a listing of which ships by name carried which hull numbers.
L'Arsenal has produced another excellent kit. Although a minesweeper is not a large ship, in 1:400 scale the L'Arsenal MSC-60 or Acacia class is large enough to sink your teeth into in detail, which is amply provided by L'Arsenal. Whether you are a grognard or novice, this kit provides a very good combination of detail, coupled with comparative ease of assembly.