Wednesday, 19 February 2014

English Medieval Ship The Thomas, Zvezda (9038) Scale: 1/72

This is a plastic model (Code: 9038) of an English medieval ship the Thomas, a square rigged cog, from the Russian company Zvezda.
The Thomas
Although labelled as being 1/72 scale the model is quite suitable for 28mm size figures (just remember not to use the tent on the aftercastle/sterncastle).
Detail of forecastle (or fo'c'sle if you're nautical)
I'm not sure if I rigged this bit up correctly as the ropes have to bend over the woodwork to to be secured.

Detail of aftercastle
The clever design of the model enables you to make the ship either with a complete hull (plus stand) for display or as a waterline version. As I don't want to display the model and that I will eventually use this to play medieval naval battles I choose the waterline option (there are plenty of free rules available online, I have a set from WSS magazine). Funnily enough had I owned this model during my youth I'd have nagged my mom to make this with a full hull and played with it in the kitchen sink, or more probably it would have met the same fate as models of the Golden Hind, HMS Hood and the USS Constitution, none of which unfortunately survived the tidal waves caused by me sliding into the bath (I'd like to point out this wasn't recently, I was only about five years old at the time).

As alluded to in previous posts I purchased this model from Mr. Models in Birmingham just before Christmas 2012 for under £40 (available on eBay for less but I try to support local shops whenever possible) so using this as a bathroom toy wasn't really an option.

There is a very similar model on display in a museum in the capital (the London Science Museum I believe) which I recall seeing a number of years ago. This displays the Royal coat of arms of England and with the included decal set with the Zvezda kit you can replicate the same appearance with this model. Although very impressive I chose to paint the sail to look plain and weathered.
Citadel Technical paint Nihilakh Oxide used on the rudder.
Using Google (All Hail) Images to see how other people had modelled and painted up this kit, for use as a gaming piece that is, I noticed that no one had bothered to complete the rigging. As the kit is supplied complete with quite delicate blocks and pulleys I initially assumed that people were simply opting for the easier version and not bothering to complete the kit, even though it comes complete with two sets of coloured string to use for this very purpose. Curious as to why this was the case, I quickly realised why after reading the instructions.

By not rigging up the model the main mast can by pulled out of its locating hole and stored flat. Rigged up properly the mast is firmly secured in place, ideal if you plan to display the ship properly but a major pain if you want to store the model away or transport it anywhere to play with (the waterline version stands 13"(330mm) high. The kit come supplied with separate black and gold string presumably suitable for a royal vessel for use as rigging. However I've never seen rigging this colour so I looked for a more natural looking alternative. First call was my mom's sewing box. After telling me off for making a mess she handed me a reel of white string and asked me if it was any good. The only problem, she added, was that is a type of elastic (cooking?) string. I experienced an all too rare 'light bulb' moment. Fortunately I hadn't glued the mast into place but thought I could use the elastic string to secure the sail and mast to the hulk but still be able to pull the mast out of its locating hole (it needed about 1" (25mm) of vertical clearance. As you can see, and much to my surprise, it actually worked.
Before
After - Collapsed rigging
Unlike the painting the ship following the assembly instructions, which suggested painting the hull in various coloured bands, I decided to check for any references from original medieval sources. After looking at several medieval illustrations I noticed that the ships appeared to be unpainted all except for the crows-nest, which are normally shown painted red or white. This is in stark contrast to images of the later Mary Rose which always appear in illustrations to have been daubed over by eager volunteers with random tins of paint from an interior decorators closing down sale.
In the same display case in the museum mentioned earlier there was another ship with the mainsail painted to represent a ship displaying the arms of the Earl of Warwick. I've seen this replicated a number of times in model form, so I can only assume that the modellers have seen the same display, it would be a rather odd coincidence otherwise. However the model comes with shields that add to the overall decorative look and obviously can be painted to suit your own preferences.
Being a proud midlander I opted to used the basic form of the famous Beauchamp family coat of arms, one of a handful of families that could afford to have a ship like this built. This shield is painted Gules, a fess or (in plain English - red shield with a central horizontal yellow band). The Beauchamp family actually had many branches so to differentiate between themselves the various families used different devices following the same pattern, three above and three below the band. The main, most influential, family used a crosslet but birds, squares etc. were used by other branches.

Zvezda produce other similar plastic medieval ships which I hope to buy if and when I spot one.