Early in World War One the Royal Navy developed a light cruiser design with which they were well satisfied. This was the C Class light cruiser armed with five 6-inch guns on centerline, with a top speed of 29 knots, this design was clearly superior to known German light cruiser designs. No less than six groups of C Class cruisers were ordered and they displaced from 4,200 to 4,300 tons standard. However, the Admiralty began to receive reports in 1916 that the Germans were developing a new class of light cruiser to mount ten to twelve 5.9-inch guns. The reports were erroneous but the navy thought that these new German ships would outclass the most modern British light cruisers of the C Class. Since German designs still concentrated guns in a broadside arrangement, rather than centerline, it was decided to build a new class of cruiser somewhat larger than the C Class that mounted an additional 6-inch gun on centerline than that Class. This design became the D Class light cruiser.
The design was twenty feet longer than the previous design, to allow for the extra 6-inch gun on a new deck house in front of the bridge superfiring over A gun and averaged about 500 tons heavier in displacement. Also the bridge was moved further aft than in the C Class. An additional 2-feet 9-inches was worked into the beam of the new design because of the added top weight of a larger bridge and the additional gun. As the design progressed the Battle of Jutland occurred on May 31, 1916. Because of the outcome and deficiencies observed in existing designs, armored boxes were added to the magazines, along with better gun shields for the 6-inch guns. The class also fitted with triple 21-inch torpedo mounts, rather than the previous twin mounts. The first three of the class were ordered in September 1916 and were Danae, Dauntless and Dragon. The first of this trio to be laid down was Danae on December 1, 1916 with the other two following in January 1917. Three more were ordered in July 1917, Delhi, Dunedin and Durban. Six more were ordered in March 1918, Daedalus, Daring, Despatch, Diomede, Dryad, and Desperate. Designed for operations in the North Sea, probably the major short-coming of the class was their limited range, which caused operational problems for the class during World War Two.
With the end of the war four of these were cancelled in November 1918 with only Despatch and Diomede allowed to proceed. Dragon and Dauntless were completed with large aircraft hangars and all of the others, except Danae, were fitted with flying off platforms. Danae was the only member of the class never to carry aircraft. In 1917 it was proposed to give all members of the class catapults when the equipment became available in 1933-34 but this never materialized as production of the catapult was far slower than anticipated and the D Class was not a top priority. The hangars disappeared in the 1920s and all aircraft facilities were gone by the end of the 1930s. After the 1916 trio, the other members of the class were given a greater sheer for the bow. In 1929 it was proposed to increase the bow sheer of the first three to match that of the other five, but this too came to nothing.
Although Danae was first to be laid down it was Dragon that was first launched on December 29, 1917 with Danae following almost a month later. However, Danae did prove to be faster in finishing and was completed on June 18, 1918. The D Class was well regarded and proved to be good steamers. Dragon, finished on August 10, 1918, was the only other member of the class to be completed before the end of the war. Danae was assigned to the 5th Light Cruiser Squadron at Harwich. In 1919 she was dispatched to the Baltic during the interventionist period of the Russian Civil War, for action against the Bolsheviks. In 1923 and 1924 she was part of the Special Services Squadron as escort for the Hood and Repulse in their round the world cruise. After that was completed Danae was assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean and served there from September 1925 until 1929, at which time she went in for a refit. From August 1930 until 1935 she was part of the 8th Cruiser Squadron stationed with the America and West Indies Station.
In 1936 a plan was prepared to convert the class into antiaircraft cruisers by removing the six-inch guns and replacing them with four twin 4.5-inch HA gun mounts, a HA control system, two Vickers quadruple .50 machine gun mounts and a quadruple pom-pom. However, the priority for this conversion was well down on the list of the Admiraltyís requirements and time was never found to convert the ships. In that year Danae was recommissioned on August 25, 1936 for service with the 5th Cruiser Squadron on China Station. She returned home and was paid off on January 14, 1938 but with the outbreak of World War Two she was ordered back to China Station. Based in Singapore Danae was part of the Malaya Force. With the Japanese attack in December 1941 she was assigned escort missions on the sea routes between Singapore, Sunda and Java. By February 1942 Danae was operating from Batavia (Jakarta) and finally on February 28, 1942 left for Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
For the next two years Danae served in the Indian Ocean with the British Eastern Fleet. From August 1, 1942 until July 7, 1943 she returned to Great Britain for modernization. Although in 1939 Danae received some AA defense in the form of two single 2pdrs, a quadruple pom-pom was added in 1942 and because of the modernization, she received a much greater emphasis on AA defense. By April 1943 Danae had a twin 4-inch gun, a second quadruple pom-pom, four twin power operated Oerlikon 20mm guns and 273 and 291 radars. The single 2pdr were removed and shortly thereafter the torpedo tubes were landed.
The Polish Navy had operated destroyers, submarines and smaller craft before World War Two. When the German Navy overran Poland in September 1939 many of the Polish Navy made it safely to Britain. Rather than seeking a safe and comfortable internment in Sweden, the crews of these vessels wished o continue their fight to free their country. The Polish warships were integrated with Royal Navy squadrons and additionally other British submarines and destroyers were transferred to the Free Polish Navy. The Polish Navy in exile thought that it would be only proper, given Polandís participation in Royal Navy operations, if the Polish Navy had a warship somewhat bigger than a destroyer for operations. They began lobbying for the transfer of a RN cruiser for Polish service. Admiral Swirski, commander of the Polish Navy, wanted Poland to be a naval power in the Baltic after the war and he really wanted one of the new Dido or modified Dido Class cruisers. The British in so many words said, No, thank you, but we do have a fine World War One vintage cruiser that will be just perfect for you. On January 15, 1943 HMS Dragon was transferred to the Polish Navy. The Poles wished to change the name of the ship to Lwow after the city of that name in southeastern Poland but the British disagreed because they did not want to upset Stalin because the Red Army had seized that portion of Poland in the partition of 1939. Therefore, the ship remained Dragon.
In anticipation of the naval requirements for Operation Overlord, Danae was recalled to Britain in 1944. During the Normandy invasion she was part of the naval force supporting Sword Beach. ORP Dragon was also there as part of Force B with Warspite supporting that same beach. For a month ORP Dragon supported the British and Canadian ground operations but on July 8, 1944 she was attacked off Caen by German one man mini-submarine and hit amidships by a torpedo, which ignited Q magazine. Although not sunk, Dragon was damaged so greatly that, considering her age, she was not worth repair. On July 11, 1944 the hulk was scuttled as part of the breakwater of the Gooseberry artificial harbor.
The Poles wanted another cruiser to replace the Dragon, which was after all lost in supporting British operations. The Polish apparently wanted a more modern cruiser. The British Foreign Office minutes recorded, "Admiralty told me that the Poles had put in a request for another cruiser to replace the Dragon which has been beached and become a total loss. They naturally wanted a modern cruiser, and indeed after the performance of the Polish Navy, they well deserved one. There is little likelihood of any further use of modern cruisers except in the war against Japan in which the Polish Navy would probably not take part."
However, the Admiralty really didnít want to part with any of their modern cruisers. The Royal Navy selected Danae as the replacement for the lost Dragon. On October 4, 1944 she was transferred on loan to the Polish Navy and renamed ORP Conrad after the writer Joseph Conrad, which was the pen name for Joseph Korzeniowski. This name was very appropriate as Conrad was a Polish writer of international renown and yet he had done his writing while serving as an officer in the British merchant marine. ORP Conrad was the last Polish warship to be commissioned during the war. She still served with the Royal Navy as part of the 10th Cruiser Squadron based at Scampa Flow. She was under refit from date of transfer until January 23, 1945. Conrad escorted a couple of convoys to the Schelde delta area in the Netherlands. On February 12, 1945 Conrad had serious turbine damage during work-ups and had to go back to the dockyard. She was still there when the war in Europe ended and on May 29, 1945 left the dockyard and returned to Scampa Flow. From July through the rest of the year Conrad was engaged in relief operations to Scandinavia, in which she made eight voyages.
On April 17, 1946 she arrived at Plymouth, where all of the other Polish ships were based. By August she was reduced to half-manning. On September 26, 1946 ORP Conrad was returned to the Royal Navy and reverted to HMS Danae. On January 22, 1948 she was designated to be scrapped and two months later on March 27 arrived for breaking after almost 30 years and two World Wars of service. The cruisers of the D Class had been a good investment for the Royal Navy. They were small enough to be produced in quantity and yet large enough to have respectable armament with a good turn of speed. As another distinction, two of the class Dragon and Danae, were the only two cruisers to serve in the Polish Navy. (British Cruisers of World War Two, 1980, by Alan Raven and John Roberts; Cruisers of World War Two, An International Encyclopedia, 1995, by M. J. Whitley; Polandís Navy 1918-1945, 1999, by Michael Alfred Peszke)
Niko Model Conrad
The Niko Conrad reflects this situation for basically in looks and in the majority of her armament, the Conrad is still a late WWI Royal Navy light cruiser. The hull is still substantially larger than that of a destroyer. However, it is also far more slender and shorter than the hull of a cruiser built during the interwar period from the mid-1920s on. The hull sides reflect this as there is only a slight sheer forward, as in the first three of the class the deck only rose very close to the cutwater. There is no knuckle and in fact the sides of the bow are slightly concave, flaring out at the deck to cut down on water coming aboard. The cutwater reflects a graceful profile of jutting forward slightly as it ascends towards the deck. The raised forecastle runs about the first third of the length of the ship and features only a top row of portholes. At the deck break, youíll find a short solid bulkhead on each side before the main deck runs to the aft with a fairly low freeboard. There seems to be a slight sheer upward at the stern, which in itself forms a graceful curve to the waterline. The hull at main deck level has only a handful of portholes on each side, just aft of the deck break. The most significant visual aspect of the hull sides is the stepped line that appears to reflect where the thin armor was placed atop of the hull sides. This RN design characteristic was also seen in some more modern interwar RN designs. There is a slight hint of flash along the waterline of the hull casting that will be easily removed with light sanding. There were no air bubbles, casting errors, warp or casting errors of any description. With the exception of the light sanding at the waterline the Niko hull is ready to go right from the box.
The deck of the Niko kit is also perfectly cast with no defects or breakage. The extreme forward end of the forecastle is metal deck. Since Niko chose to provide photo-etch anchor chain and additional anchor gear apparatus on the fret, at first glance, it appears to be extremely smooth. There are a couple of sets of bollards and cleats that are present that add fine detail to this area of the deck. Right in front of the breakwater is where the wooden deck begins. From there to the stern the model features delicately scribed wooden decks. The breakwater is delicately done with some forward face support gussets. It is slightly asymmetrical because there is a ready ammunition locker located on the front port quarter of the breakwater. There are also two mushroom ventilators behind and at the center of the breakwater. However, the most curious aspect of the forecastle is a series of short posts forming a line starting at each side of the deck that angle in as they go forward. They form in the nature of an open topped chevron on either side of A gun and I am uncertain as to their purpose. Whatever, their purpose, they present a very unique look for the deck of the model.
The short solid bulkheads are crisply and thinly done and there are entry doors on the aft face of the deck break for entry to the main deck under the forecastle. Next is a design feature that clearly reflects the World War One origins of the D Class. After the deck break there is a very long and very narrow deckhouse that runs for the next third of the length of the ship. This deckhouse is actually in two parts with a cross-deck throughway placed very close to the start of the structure at the deck break. On both sides the deckhouse has a series of what appears to be cabin doors. Also slightly aft of the cross-deck passage are two small rectangular deckhouses flanking the central structure. These serve as the base for the Pom-pom gunís platform. This amidships deck area also has another set of bollards and a hose reel aft of the starboard wing deckhouse.
At the aft end of the central deckhouse are more details with what appears to be a ventilator and galley stack. Even with the end of the deckhouse on the deck edge are more bollards, cleats and deck fitting cast integral with the hull. From there, running aft is a good stretch of deck free of fittings until you arrive at the quarterdeck, where there is a heavy concentration of deck detail and fittings. As with the two rows of short posts found on the forecastle, those lines of short post make their appearance. This time they form a five-sided design surrounding the aft gun position. At the extreme stern is found a deck access coaming, more bollards and short fitting of what appears to be a smoke discharger on the starboard side only. With that long narrow deckhouse aft of the deck break and the plentiful small deck fittings cast as part of the hull, the Niko Conrad will present a very different and pleasing appearance in any collection of World War Two British cruisers, if you build it as the HMS Danae. Of course as the ORP Conrad, she was the only cruiser in Polish service at the time. Although ORP Dragon was lost before the Danae was transferred to the Polish Navy, she would be very similar to the Conrad, as she was also one of the first three D Class cruisers of the 1916 program.
Although the hull casting of the Niko Conrad has plenty of detail and interest, it is in the superstructure castings that this model really comes into its own. Each resin superstructure part is a superb casting and comes loaded with detail. Both the forward and aft most superstructure parts have the very characteristic RN flared anti-splash fairings for the B and X gun positions. These have beautifully done support ribs of the inside face and outwardly slanted outside faces. The forward pieces have lockers lining the sides, as well as doors and other fittings. The deck of the structure has wooden planking, ready ammunition lockers and other fine fittings clustered around the B gun position at the forward end and fine solid splinter shielding at the rear end as the base of the bridge assembly. The aft structure also has the same degree of detail around X gun position, which was a twin four-inch AA mount. There are ready ammunition lockers a tall thin ventilator, lantern radar tower and a whole slew of other fittings on this part. There are two other, smaller levels to the bridge tower, which are also very finely done with thin solid bulkheads, windows, and doors. The top level with the open Navigation Bridge has a series of control apparatus and fittings cast onto the deck. The largest of these superstructure pieces is actually a long thin deck for the centerline deckhouse. This part is also loaded with fine detail, as there is a whole series of smaller deckhouses along the centerline. Highpoints to this piece are the P gun position inside a circular flared fairing in the center portion of this deck, quad Pom-pom platform inside square solid splinter shields at the forward end of this deck and open end, five sided Oerlikon positions near the aft end of the deck. The two stacks have nice detail, including stack cap gratings but are solid. Deck parts were cast on extremely thin resin film that is easily removed. Again, there were no defects of any type with the casting of these resin parts and in quality they equal or surpass those of any 1:700 scale resin ship kit.
The mix in the Conradís armament also reflects a warship caught between two wars. There are five 6-inch gun positions, with very finely cast guns and open backed gun shields. These were the guns fitted during World War One and unchanged since the Royal Navy never got around to a major refit of the D Class. However, the realities of combat during World War Two make their appearance in the form of the hastily fitted new armament that the cruiser received during her short refits during the war. X gun position substituted a twin 4-inch HA gun mount with open back gun shield for one of the original 6-inch guns. Two quadruple Pom-poms were added to wing platforms in front of the forward stack and twin Oerlikons made their appearance on the bridge and in twin Oerlikon mounts on wing platforms aft amidships. This small cruiser was also fitted for ASW work with a depth charge rack angled off to the port stern quarter. This mix of old and new armament is also a very interesting characteristic of the Niko Conrad.
Even after you get through cataloging the major pieces of superstructure, and then all of the finely done pieces of ordnance for this kit, you still have a host of other excellent smaller fittings to go. There is the beautifully done tripod foremast with starfish main platform and multi-tiered top. Niko Models provides a number of separate fittings for the anchor gear, that are attached after the photo-etch anchor chain and plates are in place. Other parts include yagi towers, carley rafts, ships boats, directors, mainmast, yardarms and galley stack. All of these are done very well and in fact many are very small, so care should be exercised in securing these from being lost. Clean up is minimal. Some are removed from resin film and some from resin runners.
Brass Photo-Etched Fret