It is now February 14, 2006, another Valentine’s Day. If you planned ahead, you will have already acquired the perfect gift for your loved one. Candy, roses, teddy bears, diamonds, hey that is all passé. The perfect Valentine’s gifts are His and Hers HMS Starling Royal Navy sloops. Ladies, if you have thought ahead, you will have already acquired for him the White Ensign Models 1:350 scale HMS Starling (click for review of the 1:350 scale WEM HMS Starling). This kit in the big, manly 1:350 scale will give him new confidence in his performance as a modeler. With the instructions in a WEM kit he will know where all the parts fit. Hey guys, what about her gift? The White Ensign Models 1:700 scale HMS Starling is the perfect gift for her. Think about it! Do the ladies like ships with traditional warship names? To her HMS Thunderer probably reminds her of you after you have eaten a substantial Mexican dinner. Would she like a HMS Bruticus or USS Thug? No, she wants a ship with a cute name. The Starling class sloops have cute names in abundance. Named after pretty little birdies, she will never know that she is getting a deadly U-Boat hunter. Thanks to Passionate Pete, the Cupid of White Ensign Models ( Brian Fawcett did the master and Mad Pete the photo-etch & instructions), you can get her that Starling, Sparrow, Wren, Flamingo, Black Swan as well as the Modeste and Mermaid and even the gem Amethyst, if she wants jewelry. Of course 1:350 scale may be too large for her and she may not like the full-hull option. With the White Ensign Models 1:700 scale HMS Starling you can have a smaller more delicate version for her of your trusty WEM 1:350 scale U-Boat buster. Also since it is waterline only you don’t have to worry about answering that dreaded question, "Honey, Do you think my lower hull looks too big?

The Royal Navy had many heroes in the deadly war against the U-Boats, but one of the greatest was Johnny Walker. Frederic John Walker was a rarity in the Royal Navy. He joined the RN as a cadet/midshipman in 1913. He proved very able and served throughout the 1st World War. He served on the battleship Ajax as a midshipmen up to 1916 when he was transferred to the RN destroyers. That gave him the taste for fighting the small ships and even though he had other tours on Queen Elizabeth and Valiant, he kept going back to the smaller warship. After World War One Walker specialized. While the surest way to high rank was command of cruisers and then battleships, Johnny Walker specialized in anti-submarine warfare. Very few RN officers chose that path in the 1920s and 1930s. Even the benighted FAA was more popular than that field. This decision almost cost him further service. Still a commander in 1939 as an expert in an ignored field, he was slated for early retirement when World War Two erupted. 

However, as one of the handful of RN ASW specialists, he was well placed to combat the U-Boats of World War Two. In 1941 and 1942 then Commander Walker commanded the sloop HMS Stork and the 36th Escort Group, comprised of two sloops and six corvettes, and the mission of his force was convoy escort. The primary mission of this Group was to escort convoys bound for Gibraltar. During this command he trained his ships to act as one. A combined unit, acting in concert to a plan was far more effective than ships acting individually. However, the 36th Escort Group was still a passive force, shackled to the convoy that they guarded. Walker didn’t want to wait for the U-Boats. Sometimes the first notice of the presence of U-Boats was when a column of water shot up from a tanker or freighter in the convoy. Rather than wait for the enemy and react to his moves, Walker wanted to go find them on his terms. Command of the Second Support Group gave him that opportunity. 

Plan & Profile
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A hunter is only as good as his weapon. The Royal Navy had the hunter in Johnny Walker and they had the weapon in the sloops of his command. The Second Support Group was founded in April 1943. Consisting of six Black Swan and Modified Black Swan class sloops; HMS Starling (flag), HMS Wild Goose, HMS Magpie, HMS Woodpecker, HMS Kite and HMS Wren, the mission of the group commanded by Johnny Walker was to actively hunt and destroy U-Boats. Based in Liverpool, Captain Walker played "A Hunting We Will Go" over the loud speaker of Starling whenever his command left for their submarine hunts. In May the force supported the passage of North Atlantic convoy ONS8 with HMS Cygnet substituting for Magpie. Although they supported the convoy, they were not shackled to it. In addition to actively hunting for submarines the "Hunter-Killer" group had a secondary mission. They were to act as the cavalry and come to the rescue of the farmers and settlers of the convoy wagon train. When a convoy had been discovered and the U-Boats were massing for the attack, the Second Support Group was to come in and break up their party. 

The sloops of these two very closely based classes were designed specifically for ASW work. As such it is interesting to compare their features with those of the USN destroyer escort, which emphasized ASW. The Black Swan sloops were more ASW specialized, while the USN tried to build more flexibility into the DEs. They were almost of the same length. The Black Swans were 299 feet six inches compared to 289 of the short-hulled Evarts class and 306 of the other five classes of USN destroyer escorts. The British vessels were lighter at 1,300 tons vs 1,660 tons for a Buckley. In the USN the Evarts class was considered a failure because it was only capable of a 20.7-knot top speed. However, that speed still bested the Black Swan’s 19.25 knots. The Buckley class with 12,000shp for 24 knots had almost four times the horsepower of the Black Swan’s at 3,600shp. While the RN was happy with the specialized ASW platform the USN always seemed to want destroyer performance at a cut-rate price. All of them had stern racks, four per side K-guns and hedgehog ASW mortars, added in 1944 on the sloops. Oddly enough, the lighter Black Swan’s had a much heavier gun armament of six (3x2) 4-inch DP guns compared to three (3x1) 3-inch guns for four of the USN classes and two (2x1) 5-inch/38 for two of the USN DE classes. Both types had respectful AA defenses but five of the USN DE classes had triple torpedo tubes compared to none in the RN sloops. The RN sloops were wetter than the USN destroyer escorts. The two twin 4-inch mountings forward on the RN sloops were of such weight that the sloops tended to bury their nose in green water in rough weather. Also the supply chutes for the guns tended to leak, so while a Black Swan was taking it green over the bow, water would leak into the crew’s mess as well. Oh well, maybe there is something to be said for the USN preference for larger ships with a lighter gun armament. 

There were four Black Swan sloops started in 1938-1939. They were a niche design from the start. Designed specifically to hunt and destroyed submarines, the class represents the British tradition of tailoring many warship designs for specific missions. They were specialty vessels that were extraordinarily effective in their specialized field of naval warfare. In stark contrast USN designs stayed away from specializing and quite often would result in a jack of all trades, master of none, warship. You can’t say that about the Black Swans, they were masters at anti-submarine warfare. The design sacrificed top speed for increased range. This was a deliberate design decision to create a more effective platform for ASW operations. The only speed requirement imposed by the Admiralty was that the top speed of the sloops had to exceed that of surfaced U-Boats. 

Quarter Views & Hull Detail
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Construction on the Modified Black Swan design started in 1941. The Modified Black Swan was one foot wider of beam than the Black Swan sloops and a more comprehensive armaments fit. Twenty-nine of the class were launched during the war or shortly after the war. Oddly enough in the 1950s several of the class were transferred to the modern German Navy where they were given the familiar German warship names of Hipper, Scheer and Scharnhorst.

One of the Modified Black Swan Class and flagship for Captain Walker was HMS Starling. One feature found on the Starling and other members of the class were fin stabilizers in addition to he standard bilge keels. These fins were to be deployed to reduce rolling in rough weather and would be retracted into the hull when not needed. They were not an unqualified success as the deployment machinery tended to break down and many RN commanders would have preferred to have more internal storage than using the space for the fin housing and the machinery. Another factor was that the extended fins were easily capable of poking a hole in the lower hull of any vessel that came close along side. HMS Starling was built at Fairfield Shipbuilders and launched on October 14, 1942. She was ready for service in April 1943, just in time to become the flagship of Johnny Walker and the Second Support Group.

The HMS Starling and the Second Escort Group proved to be extraordinarily proficient in hunting and destroying U-Boats. On June 2, 1943 at 00:30 Starling was operating southeast of Cape Farewell, Greenland when she spotted the U-202. She engaged the surfaced submarine with gunfire and then closed and used depth charges to destroy the U-Boat as she submerged. In a few more weeks she was on the other side of the Atlantic. Starling was operating in the Luftwaffe’s back yard in the Bay of Biscay when she caught another U-Boat on the surface. This time it was U-119 that was rammed and depth charged by Starling. So far that was two U-Boats in three weeks but there was a draught before her next victory. On November 6, 1943 Starling was again successful in the hunt but had to share honors with some of her sisters. In a space of seven hours two submarines were sunk. At 0700 Starling, along with HMS Woodcock and HMS Kite depth charged and sunk U-226 east of Newfoundland. At 1400 U-842 was dispatched by depth charges from Starling and Wild Goose

Hull Detail
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Four submarines in six months was a very good haul but Starling was just warming up for 1944. On January 31, 1944 southwest of Ireland Starling, Wild Goose and Magpie sank U-592. February 9 was another double victory day. As the force was still operating southwest of Ireland Starling and Wild Goose sunk U-734 after stalking the submarine for three hours and then the Starling, Magpie and Kite combination sunk U-238 after an 8-hour hunt. A third score for the month was notched on February 19 when Starling and Woodpecker sank U-264 at 1707. For her first victory in March, Starling along with Wild Goose, had to share the credit for U-653 with an RAF Swordfish off the escort carrier HMS Vindex. However, on March 29 Starling did a solo again in sinking U-961 with depth charges. On May 6 Starling with Wild Goose and Wren used depth charges to sink U-473 southwest of Ireland but on July 31 Starling and Loch Kilin were closer to Britain off the Scilly Isles when they caught and sank U-333. Unfortunately Johnny Walker was not aboard Starling for that victory. On July 9, 1944 Captain Frederic John Walker had died of a stroke and was followed in command of the Group by Captain D.E.G.Wemyss in Wild Goose. Johnny Walker was buried at sea in Liverpool Bay after church services at Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool. For Starling’s last triumph, she again shared credit, not with one her sisters like the tried and true Wild Goose, or even with the RAF. On August 11, 1944 the victory over the U-385 in the Bay of Biscay was shared by HMS Starling and Australian manned Short Sunderland of RAAF Squadron 461. During the command of Second Support Group by Johnny Walker, 20 submarines were sunk by sloops of the group. Another 8 U-Boats were sunk by the sloops that had been in his command after his death. HMS Starling survived the war and became the Royal Navy Navigation Training Ship in 1948 and had all of her armament removed. For the next eleven years she served in this role. In 1959 she was placed in reserve until scrapped in 1965. 

The White Ensign Models 1:700 Scale HMS Starling
As a model in 1:700 scale, this WEM HMS Starling has 1/8th the mass of the waterline 1:350 WEM HMS Starling, so the design of this model had to handled somewhat differently than the larger offering from White Ensign Models. The parts count is lower as many parts that were separate in the 1:350 scale sloop are cast as part of the hull in the 1:700 scale version. This certainly does not detract from the hull. If anything the 1:700 scale hull casting is even busier with detail than the larger version. The hull comes attached to a casting wafer. Obviously, this is the first thing that should be removed. Photographs of the hull depict this casting after it was removed from this casting wafer. No other cleanup was done on the hull, other than sanding off any projecting remnants of the casting sheet. The bottom of the hull still needs to be smoothed but this is a very minor job. If you examine the photographs you will see at the bottom of the hull the area where it was connected to the casting wafer. A quick sanding should be sufficient to smooth the bottom of the casting and eliminate the last vestiges of the connection to the wafer. Although I washed the casting after sanding off projecting bits of the casting sheet, you’ll notice specks of sanded resin can still be seen on the decks in the magnified photographs. In a comparison of the hull sides with the larger model, you will quickly note that the 1:700 scale version has almost all of the excellent detail of the larger model. The open portholes and the ones that appear to be covered by plates are all there and the forward breakwater even has the drainage scuttles incised in the sides. 

The deck, especially the quarterdeck is rife with detail. With this version the depth charges are cast as part of the hull. Four rows of charges, plus a set of reloads are clearly picked up at the stern. The aft antiaircraft platform is also cast integral to the quarterdeck, surrounded by what appear to be ready ammunition lockers. The depth charges for the K-Gun racks are also cast in place. Additional detail on the quarterdeck includes open chocks, bollards and deck coamings. It is very difficult to find even a 1/10th of an inch on this deck that does not have some equipment cast onto it. The aft twin 4-inch deck house was a separate resin part in the larger kit but it too is cast as part of the hull in this version. WEM has cast some very clean undercuts for the circular gun platform and extension of the forecastle deck over the quarterdeck at the deck break. Cable reels are also cast within the splash-guard for this position. 

Smaller Resin Parts
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When you get to the aft portion of the forecastle you’ll find more cable reels, deck coamings, as well as boat cradles/chocks as deck detail. Amidships are the base structures for the center AA platform. With this model the base supports as well as deck edge bulkheads for this structure are part of the hull casting. This is actually probably a better arrangement than that found in the WEM 1:350 scale Starling. In the larger kit the AA platform, including the support structure was a single separate piece. Smoothing the seam between the hull and side bulkheads of this part was necessary. Since the side bulkheads of the 1:700 scale version are cast as part of the hull, this step is eliminated. More detailed coamings appear around the recessed square for the stack. The forward superstructure will fit onto a raised rectangle on the hull casting. With most companies you have to slide superstructure parts into the correct position and hope you get it right before the glue dries. If the kit is good, you may have an outline for the superstructure part scribed on the deck to assist this process. With some kits, you don't even have this outline and have to mark the deck yourself or just your own perception to get an exact placement. With this kit the inclusion of the recessed square for the stack part and raised rectangle for the forward superstructure part comes as close as humanly possible to insuring a correct, exact placement for these superstructure parts. Surrounding the A gun mount is the solid bulkhead breakwater that was fitted in an effort to reduce water intake in these wet ships. A series of chocks, bollards and cable reels are cast with the deck in this area as well. The short forecastle in front of the breakwater has a detailed anchor winch, deck anchor chain plates, hawse, two open chocks and two more bollard sets. One feature that is present in the 1:350 casting that is missing in the 1:700 casting are the support gussets for the breakwater. I think WEM missed the boat on these. Although they can bee added with very small triangles of thin plastic card, as seen by their presence in the casting of the 1:700 scale battle cruiser HMS Renown, it was within the realm of their casting capabilities. On other minor grouse is that solid bulkheads such as the splinter shield around X gun mount and width of the deck at the overhang of the deck break are a trifle thick. Some judicial sanding can reduce their thickness but this is so minor I don’t think that I would bother. 

Smaller Resin Parts
The smaller resin parts can be subdivided between superstructure parts and fittings. There are four superstructure parts, the lower superstructure (01 level), bridge, aft deckhouse with AA platform, and stack. The largest of these parts is the 01 level of the superstructure and includes B gun mount. This part as well as most of the other parts have the stub of a resin pour stub still attached, so will take some minor cleaning after removal of the stub. This part has excellent detail on the sides and deck. The sides have doors, ready ammo lockers for A gun mount, other lockers, ductwork and portholes. The splash-guard for B mount has two crisp support frames cast on the underside. The sides had a couple of casting seams that should be removed with sanding. The deck of this level has integrally cast ammunition lockers, cable reels, raised single Oerlikon platforms and several other fittings. The bridge casing is a very nice piece with a number of angles and overhangs. The bridge deck is concentrated with detail with binnacles, chart table, lockers, raised lookout positions and a well done lip running along the front edge of the position. The amidships AA platform has two twin Oelikon platforms with four ready ammo lockers for each position, as well as a number of fittings along the centerline of the deck. The stack has a couple of very fine steam pipes at the base but the stack top does not have any depth. 

The three twin 4-inch HA mounts are top rate. The barrels are remarkably thin and the gun breaches have significant detail that can clearly be seen on these open back mounts. The K-Guns are more remarkably fine pieces of ordnance. There are four these mounts that are attached to the quarterdeck. Each mount has the launcher itself as well as well as a stack of depth charges, stored vertically rather than the much more common horizontal storage. Four twin 20mm power mounts are also in the small parts mix. This is only the gun base as the barrels and other fittings are part of the brass fret. The single director and lantern radar continues with this very high standard of casting. Other very small resin parts include four small ventilator cowlings, four Carley rafts, a signal lamp and three different types of ship’s boats. Also included is a plastic rod used for various fittings, such as the crow’s nest and brass rod used to assemble the tripod foremast for the early fit or pole mainmast for the late fit. 

Brass Photo-Etch Fret
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Brass Photo-Etch Fret
With White Ensign Models you are assured of an outstanding brass photo-etch fret as part of the presentation. Indeed WEM kits are among the most photo-etch intensive warship kits available. Peter Hall, that Love Bandit of Brass (in keeping with the Valentine’s Day theme) has not stinted in his endeavors for this kit. Just remember that the hull of the 1:700 scale HMS Starling is only 5-inches in length with an approximate average width of ½-inch. This represents a deck surface area of about 2 ½ square inches. The photo-etch fret measures 4-inches by 2 ½-inches for a surface area of about 10 square inches. Granted, this is a somewhat unconventional manner in which to measure the extent of the photo-etch in a kit but it does illustrate the high density of photo-etch parts provided in this kit. A quick count showed that the kit consisted of 30 resin parts and 59 brass parts. 

Probably the finest single part in the brass fret is the canvas bridge cover and frame. This part is relief etched and reflects a canvas texture over a metal frame. Ranking right up there are two lattice masts. The largest includes a folding top platform and is the foremast for the late war fit. The other, smaller lattice mast, is the mainmast for the mid-war fit. Although the stern depth charges are cast onto the quarterdeck the racks themselves are part of the photo-etch parts. K-Gun positions receive brass depth charge davits used to move the charges onto the launchers. The barrels and sights of the power twin Oerlikons and guns, training gear and shields of the single Oerlikons are present on the fret. The extremely fine 285 Yagi adds great detail atop the director on aft bridge. Stack grill, HAC platform, stack platform, bridge windscreen, yardarms, boat davits, 291 radar antennae, staffs, booms, flare launchers, semaphores, searchlight lens, anchors, galley stove pipes, inclined ladders, accommodation ladders and other fine parts are all included on this fret. There are also five runs of three rung rail, two of wide spaced stanchion two rung rail, one run of closed spaced stanchion two rung rail, two runs of anchor chain, two runs of vertical ladder and special forecastle railings rounding out the fret. 

No Valentine Card could be as pretty as the graphics in this set of instructions. It does not matter that this kit is of a 1:700 scale sloop. The size of the model does not control the size or completeness of instructions from White Ensign Models. Any set of instructions from WEM is as complete and comprehensive as WEM can make them and as such are the standard in the industry, plastic or resin. The Starling comes with a seven-page set of instructions. Page one contains a photograph of the sloop, two different full color ship’s crests, history of and specifications for the Starling. Page two is a photographic and textual laydown of every resin and brass part found in the kit. The next four and a half pages cover in drawing and text the assembly of the model. As you are probably familiar, WEM uses a modular approach in presentation of instructions. Numerous components are shown as subassemblies, which are added in other modules. Each module features a professional drawing and clear, lucid text that thoroughly explains the assembly steps for that particular module. For the 1:700 scale HMS Starling the modules are: Major Component location; Anchor assembly; 20mm Oerlikon assembly (single mount); 285 Yagi assembly; Forecastle Fittings; Forward Superstructure; HAC Mk 3 director assembly; Bridge & director fittings; Bridge canopy; Early Fit Foremast assembly; Late Fit Foremast assembly; Funnel assembly; AA platform assembly; Searchlight fitting; 4-inch HA mounts; Lantern radar mast; Aft ladder assembly; Deck step area fittings; Mainmast variants; Aft 20mm platform; Depth charge delivery system assembly; 27-foot whaler; Accommodation ladder; Ship’s boats location starboard; and Ship’s boats location port. No White Ensign Models set of instructions would be complete without full color artwork for the painting guide. Starling is shown in two paint schemes. Each scheme features a profile with one in a camouflage from late 1943 to early 1944 and the second one in overall AP 507C from late 1944 to 1948. One plan view is shown, which is the same for either scheme. Strangely enough Colourcoat paint names and numbers are listed for each color needed. 

Box Art & Instructions
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The Cupid of White Ensign Models, Passionate Pete, has done it again. This 1:700 scale sloop is packed with detail on almost every surface. Two distinctly different fits are covered in the parts content presenting a clear choice for the modeler. Some cleanup will be necessary at the locations where parts were attached to the pour sheet or pour stubs but the work involved will be very minor. But, you say, it’s too late! It’s already Valentine’s Day and I didn’t plan ahead! No problem, just tell your beloved that you love her so much that you ordered a very special gift for her from the United Kingdom of the highest British quality and it must have been held up in international mail. With the speed of service from White Ensign Models, your Starling will arrive soon enough to fit your explanation. Of course, if you live in the UK, you’ll have to think of something else.