The United States is one of the few naval powers with two different naval combat forces. Of course the major force is the USN but there is a second, independent force, the US Coast Guard. Although falling under USN control in time of war, in peacetime it is autonomous. From 1922 to 1946 it was under control of the US Treasury Department initially as a result to stem smuggling of alcoholic beverages by Rum Runners during the disastrous era of prohibition. Although the service was placed under USN control on November 1, 1941 to combat the undeclared war against Atlantic U-Boats, the service reverted to civilian control after the war.
Between the two world wars the USCG developed four classes of large cutters, which is the USCG designation for any of their larger vessels. Four cutters of the Tampa Class were designed in 1916 and completed between 1921 and 1922. These were built with a straight stem and counter stern. However, it was the design of the stern, which presented a problem in actual operations. A following seaway would run underneath the counter and smash against the hull from below the counter. This made the ships extremely vulnerable to shock, which had significant negative impact upon the machinery. The second class of large cutter changed the hull design to eliminate the problems of the Tampa Class and is known as the Lake Class because all of them were named after US lakes. The third was the one-off Northland, designed for arctic duty and equipped with a seaplane. The last pre-war class was the very successful Treasury Class, which were very large cutters of 2,350-tons and launched 1936-1937.
The Lake Class consisted of ten cutters built in three groups of five, four and one. The first five were numbered WPG45 to WPG49 and were built At the Bethleham Quincy yard. These were Chelan, Pontchartrain, Tahoe, Champlain and Mendota. The second group was numbered WPG50 through WPG53, built by General Engineering of Oakland, California and consisted of Itasca, Sebago, Saranac and Shoshone. The Cayuga WPG54 was built by the United Dockyard. These cutters were direct successors to the Tampa class but added a slight rake to the cutwater and changed the counter stern design to a cruiser stern, eliminating the shock problem of the Tampa class. The Quincy built ships had different electrical systems from the other five but all ten had turbo-electric drives, where the steam plant was used to turn an electrical generator, which in turn drove the electric motor, which turned the single shaft. The plant also produced more power than the preceding Tampa class.
The Lake class cutters were launched from 1927 through 1931 and proved to be a successful design. Displacing 1,662-tons at trial and 2,075-tons full load, they were heavier than USN destroyer designs. They measured 250-feet (oa) 239-feet (wl) in length, 42-feet in beam, and 12-feet 11-inches in draught. Two Babcock & Wilcox boilers provided the steam to a General Electric turbine. This plant produced 3,350shp and provided a maximum speed of 17-knots. Initial armament consisted of one 5-inch/51 SA, one three-inch/50 DP, and two six-pdrs. Complement was 97.
With the coming of World War Two the history of the Lake class took a radical turn. After the fall of France in 1940 Great Britain fought on alone. Her ship-building capabilities could not keep up with the replacement of destroyer sized warships to counter the German U-Boats. President Roosevelt wanted to help the UK but still maintain some semblance of US neutrality. The solution was to have Congress enact the Lend-Lease Program in which warships would provide warships under a "Lease" program. Most modelers have heard of the fifty flushdeck destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy, which became the Town class destroyers. However, those were not the only "Used" US warships to be transferred to the RN. All ten cutters of the Lake class were also transferred to the RN from April to June 1941. In many ways these cutters were far better suited for convoy duty than the flushdeckers with greater bulk for ASW weapons and sea keeping abilities.
The ten USCG Lake class cutters became the RN Banff class sloops. All were renamed to: Banff (ex-Saranac); Culver (ex-Mendota); Fishguard (ex-Tahoe); Gorleston (ex-Itasca); Hartlant (ex-Pontchartrain); Landguard (ex-Shoshone); Lulworth (ex-Chelan); Sennen (ex-Champlain); Totland (ex-Cayuga); and Walney (ex-Sebago). Three were lost in British service with Culver sunk by a U-Boat on January 31, 1942 and Hartland and Walney succumbing to French gunfire at Oran on November 8, 1942. For British service, the Banff class was armed with one 4-inch/45 MkV QF HA, retained their 3-inch/50 US HA, two 2pdr pom-poms, four 20mm Oerlikons, the Hedgehog and 100 depth charges.
The USCGC Itasca was launched November 16, 1929 and was stationed on the Pacific coast in the 1930s. In July 1937 Itasca was one of the main vessels engaged in searching for Amelia Earhart. The ship was one of the last to have radio communication with Earhart before her aircraft disappeared in her attempt to fly around the world. When the Itasca was transferred to the Royal Navy, she was reconditioned at the Brooklyn Navy Yard before being handed over to the British at which time she was renamed HMS Gorleston after a small British port near Yarmouth. Initially the Gorleston was assigned escort duty to western Africa and Gibraltar. She was escort to one Atlantic convoy to the West Indies in 1943 before being transferred to Freetown, West Africa. Gorleston was refitted in 1944 and then sent to the Pacific. Unfortunately during this voyage she collided with a destroyer in Alexandria and had to receive repairs at Port Said, Egypt before continuing her journey. For the rest of 1944 she was based in India and escorted convoys across the Indian Ocean to and from India and the Suez Canal. In September 1945 she entered Singapore with the Japanese surrender. In February 1946 she returned to Great Britain and in April was returned to the United States and again became USCGC Itasca. In spite of her hard steaming during the war, she was one of the four Lake class cutters that continued to remain in commission in the USCG after the war but she did not return to active duty. On November 28, 1950 Itasca was sold for scrap.
White Ensign Models HMS Gorleston
Maybe it is an example of opposites attract but it is somewhat perplexing as to White Ensign Models producing a 1:700 scale resin model of HMS Gorleston, Banff class sloop. But wait, you say, its natural for WEM to replicate an important class of ASW sloops from WWII, even if they initially started as USCG cutters. But that is the very point, their origin, which should have precluded their production by this British firm. We all know that Token Yank John Snyder, that watercress-loving ex-pat from California is part of WEM. Given John’s known affinity for spirits and his long association with rum-running in the 1920s, it is odd that he should be involved in the production of a class designed to enforce prohibition. Regardless of the reason, all modelers are enriched by WEM’s decision to produce the Banff class.
The hull of the 1:700 scale HMS Gorleston is cast on a thin resin wafer. The hull is easily removed from this wafer but the waterline will require some gentle sanding to remove any slight residue. As with all WEM products, the casting is crisp and flawless. The hull sides exhibit the no nonsense utilitarian design of the cutter with solid bulkheads at the fore of the forecastle and at the stern of the quarterdeck. There is a slight knuckle where the forward solid bulheads begin and faint hull anchor hawse, which could have a little bit better definition. A single row of portholes runs along each side. The deck has a pleasing clutter of assorted fittings. Within the confines of the solid bulkheads on the forecastle are guide fittings for the anchor chains entrance into the chain locker. The chains will be on a short run to the anchor windlass, which has significant detail. Flanking these fittings are twin bollard plates. Between these bow fittings and the gun mount plate is a centerline deck access hatch. To the aft of the gun position are two ready ammunition lockers, which slant outward from the gun mount. My main complaint about the hull casting is the lack of locator lines for placement of the superstructure parts. I recommend white glue to allow sufficient time for proper placement. However, the forward gun platform fits almost flush with the ammo ready lockers so use them as a guide in conjunction with the plan provided in the instructions.
In a throwback to World War One armament placement, two 6pdr mountings are mounted on each side of the ship a small distance behind the centerline main gun. Between these two positions is a small rectangular fitting flanked by attached ready ammunition lockers for the 6pdrs. Three more lockers are aft of these guns with two to port and one to starboard. Another centerline deck hatch is located between the 6pdr positions and the superstructure. Two more twin bollard fittings are located, one on each edge of the deck. Deck planking is very finely etched in the resin casting. The deck amidships is devoid of fittings, as the superstructure takes up much of this area. Deck fittings resume again at the stern. Before you arrive at the stern bulkhead are four more twin bollard fittings with two on each deck edge. A base plate for the 3-inch gun is mount just aft of the superstructure. At peaked, long skylight runs athwartship aft of this gun position. Another cluster fittings is centered around a round base plate for a capstan. These fittings consist of rectangular deck plates with a locator hole aft of the capstan position for a towing bitt. The area of the quarterdeck behind the solid bulkhead is dominated by cast on depth charge positions. On each side are three positions with two depth charges for the K-guns and two long runs of rack held depth charges protrude through the bulkhead at the stern. Three more fittings, which appear to be ventilators are immediately forward of the depth charge racks, with two on centerline and one offset to starboard.
The majority of the smaller resin parts are for the short but piled-up superstructure. The main superstructure part has an angular two level base for the bridge that drops to one level for a short deck from which the single stack and four tall ventilator cowlings emerge. There are solid bulkheads here with openings, which allow access to catwalks on the sides of the superstructure. The catwalks run to the single level aft portion of the superstructure. A small second level deckhouse is position behind the stack location, upon which a number of ventilator fittings are found here. The bridge casting is beautifully done with individual windowpanes with a sun guard running along the top edge. Navigation wings flank each side with cutouts for ventilator cowlings on the aft face. The open navigation deck at the top, surrounded by solid splinter shielding with twin binnacle fittings next to the forward face. Other major superstructure parts consist of an aft ventilator housing with side louvers, stack with cast on steam pipe and forward gun platform upon which are placed two Oerlikons.
Two identical resin runners provide fittings. Each runner has two ship’s boats, six tall ventilator cowlings in two patterns, an open gun 6-pdrs, a quad Vickers machine gun mount, three Carley floats, two signal lamps and two depth charge throwers. The weapons parts are the stars of these parts with very thin machine gun barrels and highly detailed 6pdrs and depth charge throwers. A single resin runner has seven unique parts; the main gun, the aft 3-inch gun, the lantern radar, the aft Oerlikons’ position, the towing bitt, crow’s nest, and director platform. Again, as with the other two runners, the gun detail really shines.
Photo-Etch? With White Ensign? Of course! Detailed and extensive brass photo-etch parts are traditional peter-hallmarks for any model from White Ensign Models. The sheer volume of parts for such a small model is amazing. Although no single part stands out from the rest but all are done in the perfectionist manner of Peter Hall of WEM. WEM includes optional parts for the HMS Gorleston and for the USCG for those who wish to build the ship as the Itasca. Eight runs of relief-etched anti-splinter mattresses are provided. The four-inch gun has an open back gun shield while the 6-pdrs have just from face shields. Other weapon accessories include gun platform extensions, aft gun platform supports, the 20mm Oerlikons, depth charge racks, depth charge davits, depth charge stern rails, alternate RN gun tubs, and alternate gun tub supports. Boat fittings include the davits, USCG whaleboat rudders, RN whaleboat rudders and oars, boat falls, cutter rudders and oars and deck boat cradles.
Equipment fittings include; anchors, anchor chain, stream anchors, bow anchor davit, bridge wing supports, aft rangefinder, aft director lattice tower, carley racks, funnel cap grill, radar platform railing, bridge DF antenna and rangefinder, range light and accommodation ladder davits. Mast details include; yardarm, mast HF/DF, and ESM antenna. You will have to cut 33mm of .6mm diameter brass rod for the mast. Standard fittings include: main deck railing, superstructure railing, vertical ladder, bridge roof ladder, accommodation ladder, accommodation ladder rails, and inclined ladders. White Ensign Models instructions are the best in the business. Three double-sided pages are included in the Gorleston instructions. Page one has the history, which includes the specific Itasca/Gorleston history above. Page two is a comprehensive resin and brass parts laydown presented in photographs and text. Page three has seven assembly modules with major component location, forward gun assembly, 6pdr assembly, 20mm assembly, anchor assembly, radar lantern assembly and HF/DF assembly. Page four has five modules with forecastle fittings, funnel & cowl attachment, bridge and mast fittings, forward superstructure fittings, and aft platform assemblies. Page five has the final six assembly modules. These include aft platform location, alternate gun tubs, boat davits, ship’s boats & rafts, aft fittings and accommodation ladder assembly. The last page has the traditional full color plan and profile of the Gorleston with RN designation and WEM Colourcoat paint designation (listed in parenthesis). The four colors listed are AP 507A (RN01), AP 507C (RN03), MS2 (RN05) and bleached teak (C01).
In a strange about face, the Token Yank supports hunting his treasured Rum Runners. The White Ensign Models HMS Gorleston in 1:700 scale is a small but highly detailed of the Lake class USCG cutter Itasca, built in part to support prohibition. Transferred to the Royal Navy, she became the RN sloop HMS Gorleston.