110-foot WWII Subchaser
Iron Shipwright 1:350 Scale Kit
by
Ed Grune


I wrote Jon Warneke of Iron Shipwright/Commanders Models with comments on his new Landing Craft, Infantry (Large) [LCI(L)] kit. In the letter I offered to review their new products - an offer to have a different set of eyes look at the parts, instructions and assembly for clarity and completeness - before the kit goes into general production. To be truthful, I was hoping to get a pre-production look at one of his upcoming kits.

Jon sent a 110’ Subchaser, this is not the Patrol Craft (PC461) kit that is already on the market. The bag of parts contained a hull, a 40mm Bofors mount, 3x 20mm Oerlikon guns, a bandstand, mast with radar dome, life rafts, propeller shafts, and rudders. There was no etched brass fret. (Later, when I wrote Jon about kit he said that he intended to re-use the etched brass fret from the PC-461 with this kit.) The hull casting is small and petite. It is only about 3 inches long by inch wide at its broadest. It is whole-hull. In my sample, the hull bottom was perforated with numerous air bubbles that will need to be filled. Be sure that the locating holes for the prop-shafts and rudders are not filled-in. My kit’s hull was also missing a piece of the rub rail. It looks like it was a flaw in the RTV mold made from the master.

The topside is well detailed with charthouse, weapon racks, ready service lockers, and vents. There are also a few small bubbles. One bubble in a forward ready ammo locker can be filled easily. Several bubbles in the depth charges will be repaired by replacing the ash cans with pieces of Evergreen rod stock. The mid-ships gun platform is nicely scribed. All in all - the kit hull is salvageable with some putty, sanding, and some Evergreen stock. It will make a unique addition to the fleet in the showcase.


Photos obtained off the net show a navigating bridge on top of the charthouse. Often the railings around this bridge are covered with canvas dodgers. I plan to use Flagship’s railing set (350-5) for this detail. This set will also provide the deck-edge railing and ladders. The photos also show some forestays running from the front of the charthouse roof to the radar mast. I plan to use some brass wire to replicate this detail. Photos also show that a small boat was carried at the stern and handled by a single davit. More brass wire will fill the bill for the davit, and I might forego locating a small boat to add to this model but add some keel blocks to the deck where the boat would be stored.

Painting
I wrote the authors of several WWII Subchaser websites and asked about the colors that the subchasers were painted during the war. The consensus of the information that I received back was that these craft were delivered to the Navy from the yard in coats of either light or medium gray. Hull numbers were applied in black. Later in the war they were repainted with whatever paint stock was available at the maintenance yard. Darker color boats would have their hull numbers painted in white. The subchasers that were converted to gunboats and assigned to PT boat flotillas were painted green. The hull numbers of subchasers assigned to invasion control duties would have their hull numbers painted oversized. Both references state that the decks were left unpainted natural wood. They were allowed to weather and were holystoned as necessary. I find this interesting that the decks were left unfinished, since these craft were made primarily of pine that would not withstand the marine environment well without some sort of protective finish

SC History
The Subchaser of WWII is a direct descendent of the WWI craft of the same name. With the threat of war looming on the horizon the Navy had already begun building these boats. At the time of Pearl Harbor there were already 84 hulls under construction. Subchasers were built in the small boatyards on both coasts, the Great Lakes, and Gulf regions. Many of the boatyards were small, family-owned businesses, only a few of which exist today. The boats were built of wood and were built fairly quickly (60 to 120 days depending on availability of materials and components) by craftsmen who knew how to build wooden boats. Elizabeth City Shipyards of Elizabeth City, NC built 28, the most of any yard. This yard also held the record for the fastest time from keel laying to launching when it built the SC749 in just 30 days. By the time the war ended 438 wooden SC subchasers had been launched and commissioned.

The boats small size and short range precluded open ocean service, but these boats more than proved their worth protecting the coastal convoys. Later in the war they were to see duty in all of the Navy’s theatres of operation. Although the subchaser’s armament was ill matched to the heavier deck guns of a surfaced submarine, the mere presence of one of these boats was enough to force a sub to submerge. There the subchaser’s speed, draft and depth charges were enough to even the match. These boats were not fitted with sonar, they were often teamed with other craft that were and as a team they could successfully prosecute a submarine attack. Later in the war they would be equipped with radar to help them identify and attack surfaced submarines at night.

Naval Historical Center Photos of WW2 110' Subchasers
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The subchaser’s duties were not limited to convoy escort and protection. They were also tasked with harbor security, aircrew rescue, and invasion support. In the latter role they were positioned close to the invasion beaches to provide a line-of-departure reference to the landing forces. For this reason, you will see photos of subchasers that have large-sized hull numbers. The instructions given the landing craft coxwain would be to “pass to the right of SCxxx”. In the smoke and confusion of an invasion fleet anything that could be done to maximize getting the forces to the right beach was necessary. Operating close to the beaches brought the Subchasers under enemy fire.

According to Ted Treadwell at the Splinter Feet website - eight Subchasers were converted to Gunboats. They were up-gunned with a 3:/23 caliber gun forward and had the ASW gear was removed. They were assigned to South Pacific PT Boat flotillas to assist in the barge-busting role. However these diesel-powered gunboats were unable to keep up with swifter PT boats. The experiment was soon canceled

The normal complement on a subchaser was 3 officers and 24 enlisted men. The officers and enlisted men who served aboard SCs were mostly reservists, unaccustomed to the rigid ways of the navy and lacking the finer points of ship discipline and formality. Many of the officers were recent college graduates, with only 90 days of basic training and an additional 60 days of specialized training at SCTC (Subchaser Training Center, Miami.). The Ninety-day Wonders and their freewheeling, often scruffy-looking crews ignored many of the ways of the regulation navy and settled for their own set of rules. They were called the "Donald Duck Navy". The Subchaser men didn't mind. They were a proud lot and many an ex-Subchaser sailor who saw service on other ships says he is most proud of his Subchaser days.

References:
Splinter Feet
http://members.aol.com/diodor/splinterfeet/
Ted Treadwell - webmaster

Submarine Chaser U.S.S. SC1012
http://members.aol.com/Lawman555/subchaser.html
Pete Myers – webmaster