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Background
At the start of World War Two, Dunkerque and Strasbourg were tasked to hunt German Panzershiffes. By October Strasbourg had split off to form the core of another taskforce. In November Dunkerque, Georges Leygues (whom British sailors called Gorgeous Legs), Montcalm and eight destroyers joined a British force, which included HMS Hood, to hunt what they thought was the Deutschland. In reality the ships they sought were Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The book, Flagship Hood, has a picture of Dunkerque’s tower bridge, taken from the Hood during this joint search. This photo is ironic, considering the next meeting between Dunkerque and Hood. In early 1940 Dunkerque was transferred to Mers-el-Kebir to counter any Italian threat in the Mediterranean. On July 3, 1940 Dunkerque again met Hood, which was accompanied by Resolution, Valiant, and Ark Royal, at the Battle of Mers-el-Kebir.

DunkerqueSamek04.jpg (9325 bytes)To avoid capture of the French Fleet by Germans or Italians, Churchill ordered the French forces neutralized. The French were given an ultimatum with several options. They refused to act and British Force H opened fire on the French Fleet. Dunkerque was the target of Hood. Four 15-inch shells hit Dunkerque from Hood. The first hit went through the seaplane hanger and exited below the waterline, without exploding. The light plating encountered by this shell was insufficient to detonate the fuze. The second hit was on the starboard front corner of B turret. Most of the shell ricocheted away but the turret armor was penetrated and the entire gun crew of the starboard half of the turret was killed. The French had built a 40 mm armored bulkhead separating the port and starboard halves of each turret. The port half of the turret continued in action as the armored partition isolated the damage, smoke and fire to the starboard side. The third hit was at the top of the main armored belt near the starboard twin secondary mount. It exploded inside the Dunkerque and caused disruption of electrical power. This hit effectively hamstrung Dunkerque. The fourth hit was close to the second and went under the belt and exploded against the torpedo bulkhead. This explosion shut down a fireroom and limited the maximum speed of Dunkerque.

Dunkerque
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Vital Statistics
Laid Down 24 Dec 32   Launched 2 Oct 35   Commissioned 15 Apr 37
Displacement
35,500 tons full load (26,500 designed)  Length 703' 7"oa, 683' wl"   Beam 108' 3"
Maximum speed 29.5 knots   Endurance 7,500nm @ 15knots
Armament: Eight 13" (2x4), sixteen 5.1" (8x2), sixteen 4", eight 37mm
. thirty-two 13.2mm
Complement: 1,430 officers and men
Sister Ship: Strasbourg 

No longer capable of putting out to sea, it was ordered that Dunkerque be grounded. The British ceased fire and steamed away. The next day Admiral Esteva, commander of French North African naval forces, rather unwisely issued a press release stating that Dunkerque had only received minor damage. Because of this statement Force H returned to visit Dunkerque on July 6. This time the Swordfish and Skuas of Ark Royal were used against Dunkerque. The patrol vessel Terre Neuve was along the port side of Dunkerque, embarking coffins of those that died on July 3 from the fire of Hood. One torpedo cut this patrol vessel in two. On a following attack wave, another torpedo hit the wreckage of the stern of Terre Neuve and detonated 42 depth charges located there. This massive explosion next to Dunkerque, tore a hole 40 meters long below the waterline of the starboard side of Dunkerque. Dunkerque settled by the bow and for a second time, the British sailed away.

Refloated in August, Dunkerque was unable to sail until February 1941, when she reached Toulon with repair scaffolding still in place. She was still undergoing repairs, when she was scuttled on November 27, 1942 to avoid capture by the German Army. The wreck of the Dunkerque was not salvaged until 1958.

References used in the build of the SAMEK Dunkerque were Battleships: Allied Battleships in World War Two by Garzke, Dulin and Webb; Warship 1999-2000, an article on Dunkerque and Strasbourg by Jordan; and the Profile Morskie on Georges Leygues, which has a blow up plan of the Loire 130 seaplane, which was also used on Dunkerque. The Garzke book has a nice two-page plan and profile of Dunkerque as she appeared in September 1939.

Buildup
The SAMEK Dunkerque portrays her in the period of May 1938 to early 1939. Two features on the kit determine these dates. The model has the raised funnel cap. Dunkerque received this raised funnel cap in March to May 1938. The model also has eight AA guns. Dunkerque was designed to have a much more extensive AA fit but the fittings were not ready when she was commissioned. She was temporarily fitted with eight 37mm AA guns. In early 1939 Dunkerque received her designed AA fit.

The parts to the kit went together extremely well and it was a very smooth and satisfying build, except for problems of my own making. Most of the small resin parts were easily removed from the runners. Be careful in removing the searchlights, so that the pedestal is not left on the runner. Also be careful about removing the small boats. I broke several of mine in a hamfisted attempt to remove them from the runner. Fortunately, SAMEK has included extra boats in the kit. There is only one part with a resin plug, the funnel. The funnel rests on two decks and accordingly has a 90-degree angle. I used a Dremel to remove the plug and sanded to fit.

DunkerqueSamek05.jpg (35581 bytes)The hull had only one blemish from the casting process. As mentioned in my in box review of this kit, I had to fill a two mm length at the waterline at the bow of the kit a fraction of one mm in height. This was very fast, using excess resin film from the casting sheet for the small parts and then sanding. By all means save this resin film for future use. It is so thin and pliable that I have subsequently used it to repair curved splinter shielding, breakwaters and other thin resin structures on other kits. It is a nice byproduct of building this, or other SAMEK kits. Be VERY careful when handling the hull because of the thin, delicate boat chocks. I lost several of them during my build. All lost boat chocks were replaced with scratchbuilt versions using the resin casting film previously mentioned. I used a hand drill to deepen all portholes, which were inked prior to spray brushing the hull. By doing this, I prevented having to repaint a great number of portholes after spray brushing. The kit comes with PE anchor chain. The PE chain is OK but doesn’t give you the 3D appearance of prototype chain. Instead of using this, I used 42 links per inch chain that I had purchased from Model Expo. They sell bulk chain in various links per inch sizes for around $12 for ten feet. That’s a lot of chain for the price.

DunkerqueSamek01.jpg (35475 bytes)There are several pitfalls in constructing the superstructure. Pitfall is really a misnomer, in that I made mistakes based on not thoroughly analyzing the instructions, which are in picture/diagram format. The forward tower is in 12 levels and I had the feeling of building Japanese pagoda mast. Because of the alignment of the lower two levels is especially crucial, I built my tower from top down. Not all resin parts are shown on the main instructions. A number inside a box shows director subassemblies. The number corresponds with the number of the subassembly on the back of the instructions. There are six circular platforms in the kit, two each of large, medium and small. The two small platforms are not identical. The small platform with the inside lip is for use as the AA platform between the rear tower and the centerline secondary turret. The instructions are not clear in what order the other platforms are placed. However, it is logical that the fore tower uses (from top to bottom) a small, medium and large and the aft tower a medium and large. Pictures seem to confirm this. In my build of the fore tower, I was using superglue. That was fine until I got to the next to last level. Twice I used superglue and then had to pry the parts apart because it hardened before I could get the alignment right. After cursing my stupidity, I used white glue on the lower two levels of the tower to give myself time to align them correctly. Also I would advise to group all director parts together first to make sure that the larger director arms go with the larger directors. Using a hand drill, pre drill holes in the directors to receive the director arms. During my construction, several director arms disappeared. They were doubtless victims of Hoover, that fearsome and vengeful god of the hobby and abductor of small parts, expertly attended by a high priestess of that dark cult. As a consequence I had to scratch build a few of them.

After building the towers I realized that some levels used railing rather than splinter shielding. The kit has splinter shielding for all levels. However, photographs indicate that all of the circular platforms, except for the small circular AA platform, used rails rather than splinter shields. This is also true with the searchlight deck on the fore tower, the sides of the small triangle deck immediately under the searchlight deck and the upper searchlight deck attached to the rear of the stack. If you are going to use railings, remove the splinter shielding from the appropriate parts and smooth the edge before putting the towers together. It is much simpler to do it before putting the towers together, rather than correcting the mistake latter. I used railings for all appropriate decks. On the boat deck, do not place rails on the edge of the concave indentions alongside the twin secondary turrets. Ship’s boats will go across these spaces and will not sit properly, if you install railing there. The back of the instructions has a profile which shows the platforms that use railing, except for the AA platform, which shows rails when pictures indicate the presence of splinter shield.

SAMEK kits do not come with railing. I used the GMM fret 700-1 (Naval Ship), $12 SRP. Dunkerque is a large ship and uses a lot of railing. I used all of the two bar railing from one fret and part of a second fret. Additionally I used the ladders from the GMM fret. You will need to add a small landing at the top of the aft port ladder going up from the quarterdeck to the deck with the secondary turrets. This small square is actually an extension of the upper deck and fits snugly at the corner of the upper deck and the hanger wall. The Edouard PE provided in the kit went on very easily. The only caution that I have about that PE is on being careful on folding the catapult sides. When I folded the sides, a bow occurred on the top centerline portion of the part. Also the eight AA guns appeared to me to be Hotchkiss MGs rather than 37mm cannons. I could be wrong. At 1:700 the differences in size between a large MG and a 37mm is fairly minute.

The turrets were very easy to build. Be careful not to damage or remove the AA platforms on each side of the main turrets. I originally thought the main gun barrels were too thin. I must retract that statement. The parts looked very much in proportion and accurate when I assembled the turrets.

One of the first things that I built on this kit was the Loire 130 seaplane. That was a fun little build in itself. The instructions show two V struts connecting the engine nacelle to the fuselage but the PE gives you four V struts. Pictures of the aircraft, the 1:100 plans in the Profile Morskie on Georges Leygues and the small profile in the SAMEK instructions show the presence of three V struts. The PE gives you a two bladed propeller. Photos of the aircraft show that it used a three bladed prop. However, it could have used a two bladed prop earlier in its production run. The GMM 700-1 fret that I used for railing also contained three (as well as two and four) bladed propellers. I put one of these on my Loire 130.

The SAMEK Dunkerque is a fun kit to build and it certainly helps that the Dunkerque was such a graceful vessel. All of the parts were very clean and went together well. My only concern is the use of splinter shielding on some platforms that never had splinter shields. It is certainly a minor correction, but I think a better approach would be to have open platforms with enough PE rails for those platforms, even if the deck railing was not included. Be warned, once you build this kit, you’ll want to build other SAMEK kits. Once I finished Dunkerque, I immediately bought the SAMEK Bismarck and have been eyeing their HMS York and USS Alaska/Guam. Mr. Samek, please hurry with Ramilles, Revenge, and Royal Sovereign, I now know they will be delicious.

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