Monday, May 9, 2016

Channel Dash - The Battleships

With the completion of the German battleships (also referred to as battlecruisers), I’ve finished up the German ships for the Channel Dash project. Here are some views of the completed battleships and the rest of the ships.

The two battleships, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, were commissioned into the German fleet by early 1939. Early trials showed that both ships were heavy forward and were very wet (meaning they took a lot of water over the forward deck up to the bridge), so both got a new angled “Atlantic bow” that helped mitigate the problem. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau operated together for much of the early portion of World War II, including sorties into the Atlantic to raid British merchant shipping and the invasion of Norway. After Operation Cerberus, Scharnhorst was sent to Norway to interdict the convoys to Russia. In December 1943 Scharnhorst tried to engage Convoy JW 55B, but was caught by the Royal Navy escorts and sunk (see Battle of North Cape). Gneisenau was also slated to go to Norway, but was severely damaged in a bombing raid. She spent the rest of the war in repairs (there were plans to re-arm her with 15 in guns) and was eventually sunk as a blockship.

For model assembly, I built both kits straight out of the box. Because the ships underwent several modifications, the models don’t exactly reflect how each ship appeared during Operation Cerberus.

The Gneisenau model probably represents the ship around mid-1940, based on the fact that the floatplane catapult is still on the aft turret. By the time of the Channel Dash, Gneisenau had radar and two triple torpedo tubes installed, along with additional temporary light AA for the operation. I probably should have removed the aft turret catapult, but it does give another good way to differentiate the ships.
Port view of Gneisenau
From a different angle
For Operation Cerberus, Gneisenau did not have much in the way of camouflage. The superstructure had dark splotches to help break up the outline and the turret tops were painted blue for identification.

A closer view of the superstructure camouflage
The Scharnhorst model looks to represent the ship in late-1940, after the installation of radar and the torpedoes tubes. For Operation Cerberus, Scharnhorst had a dark gray line along most of the hull, dark splotches on the superstructure, and the turret tops were painted blue for identification.

Scharnhorst profile view
A view of the aft side
A closer view of the Scharnhorst's superstructure
While there are some minor differences between the two sister-ships, the main way to distinguish Scharnhorst from Gneisenau is by checking the after mast. Scharnhorst has a tall free-standing mast aft of the floatplane hanger, while Gneisenau had a smaller mast mounted on the funnel.
Sisters, but not twins
Gneisenau on the left and Scharnhorst on the right
Overall the models turned out well and went together fairly easily (although the aft mast on Scharnhorst was a little tough to get right and I should have left the aft turret catapult off of Gneisenau). When put with the rest of the German ships for the game, it looks pretty impressive.
All the German ships for the Channel Dash game (back to front: Gneisenau, Scharnhorst, Prinz Eugen, Z-7,Type 24 torpedo boat and two S-boats)

A slightly different angle (back to front: Gneisenau, Scharnhorst, Prinz Eugen, Z-7,Type 24 torpedo boat and two S-boats)


  1. Very nice! I have enjoyed watching this come together. The guys should enjoy this game.


  2. Replies
    1. The big ships and destroyer are 1/700 scale plastic models. The torpedo boat and S-boats are 1/600 metal.

  3. Hello Dave. I'm sorry for writing in a very old post and I hope you can see this. I wanted to send you an email but couldn't figure out how. I love your Channel Dash project and I'm gathering supplies for making a similar one, but I have encountered a rather simple and complicated problem. The paint colors.

    Which are the ones you used for the cruisers and destroyers main hull and camo?

    1. Hi Max,
      I had to go back through my notes and check the colors. None of the colors I used were exact German colors, but they were pretty close. For the destroyer and torpedo boat, I used Model Masters acrylic paint Light Gray for the base color. The cruiser and battleships used Model Masters acrylic Standard Navy Gray for the base color. The dark color on all the ships was Model Masters Dark Gray RN. I think most of the Royal Navy grays could be substituted for the German colors. I hope that helps out.

    2. Thanks Dave, it did help. Even though they don't sell MM paint where I live, I could get the idea to get similar Tamiya paints. All in all, they are somewhat light(ish) grey colors. I used Vallejo but they turned out to be way too dark.

      Approximate colors and tones will do, I'm not a purist. And I don't think the paint police will come and check if I used the right tone of grey.

      Thanks a ton, Dave!