Revell 1/240 USS Ward/USS Buchanan/HMS Campbeltown




The destroyer HMS Campbeltown is famous for its role as an explosives-filled blockship in Operation "Chariot" to destroy the St. Nazaire dock and deny its use to German capital ships, but the class of ships to which it belongs is a very worthy subject for a model in its own right, fighting in two world wars in both the USN and Royal Navy.
The Wickes-class destroyers - along with the similar Clemson class - variously nicknamed "four-piper","four-stack" and "flush-deck" destroyers, were built during WW1 for the US Navy, and served until 1940/41 when 50 were given to Britain under the "Destroyers for Bases" agreement. They were renamed as Town-class destroyers, all being named after town names common to both Britain and the USA. Though ageing and obsolete they provided the RN with much-needed escorts for the Atlantic convoys in the early years of the war. Many of the USN's remaining ships were converted to other roles; seaplane tenders, fast transports, and minesweepers amongst others.

Revell's kit of a Wickes-class "four-piper" destroyer, representing a US Navy ship in 1940/41 fit, was first issued in the 1960s. It has been issued variously as USS Ward (which fired the first US shot of the war, at a Japanese midget sub in Pearl Harbour), HMS Campbeltown, and USS Buchanan (the Campbeltown's original name in USN service); as is usual with Revell, all these various issues are identical kits, differing only in box art! Like all Revell ship kits of this vintage, it is "box scale" with the hull being scaled to fit into a box about 40cm long. As the four-pipers were fairly small ships, this results in a kit in the fairly large scale of 1/240 (Revell also produced a Buckley-class destroyer escort in the same scale)

Though not up to current standards, the Revell 1/240 kit is not a bad representation of its subject and in the 1960s must have been considered state of the art. It's a considerable improvement on the Buckley kit, particularly the guns and railing stanchions. The kit does have a couple of significant negative points, though. The 4-inch guns, whilst a vast improvement on the misshapen blobs found in the Buckley kit, are still very clumsy in appearance, having overscale barrels and massively exaggerated muzzle flare reminiscent of 1800s cast-iron cannons. The railing stanchions, moulded individually onto the hull sides and superstructure deck parts, are very prone to breakage; but this isn't a problem if you're intending to replace them with etched brass (or scratchbuilt stretched-sprue!) railings, and is a lot better than the railing stanchion setup in the Buckley kit (see the link above to get an idea of what I mean...)

Like many of these old kits, it can produce a very impressive model with a bit of extra work . Adding etched brass railings and ladders (these are available from Tom's Modelworks, L'Arsenal, and several other suppliers) along with some basic scratchbuilt detail to the fittings and armament will improve the appearance hugely. Turned brass gun barrels from GPM (Poland) are an affordable way to improve the kit 4" guns; they don't produce a set specifically for this class of ship, but most of their 1/200 4" guns will look OK. If you can afford it, Gold Medal Models produce a photo-etched brass set containing all the railings, ladders and detail parts required for both this kit and the Revell Buckley in the same scale (link). White Ensign Models also plan to release a PE set for this kit in 2009, which will probably be more affordable for modellers in Britain and Europe.
The kit has a huge amount of conversion potential - a WW1 USN ship, mid/late-war RN convoy escort, and USN APD troop transport are some of the many possibilities, as of course is HMS Campbeltown.
One important fact to note is that, though this kit was most commonly issued (including the 2008 Revell Germany reissue) as HMS Campbeltown, it doesn't accurately represent this ship as it appeared during the St. Nazaire raid. Campbeltown was heavily converted to resemble a German torpedo boat destroyer, and also had modified armament, armoured protection for the troops on deck, and other changes and additions. Converting the kit to an accurate "Chariot" Campbeltown is certainly possible but will require nearly as much work in scale form as was required to convert the real ship! The Anatomy of the Ship (AotS) book (see below) is the best reference source available for this conversion.
However, the Revell kit can be built as an accurate HMS Campbeltown in its earlier role as a convoy escort, without much extra modelling work needed; the initial changes made to the Town-class destroyers were fairly minor. Again, the AotS book should provide all the information you need.

One of the best reference books for this class of ship is Anatomy of the Ship: HMS Campbeltown. Though the book focuses on this particular ship, and includes detailed plans of its heavily modified "Operation Chariot" configuration, it also contains similarly detailed plans showing the ship in its 1919 USN, 1940 USN and 1941 RN configurations, as well as plans and perspective drawings of fittings and armament, making it an invaluable and very comprehensive reference for modelling (in any scale, kit or scratchbuilt) any 4-piper from WW1 to early WW2. What is missing is information on later WW2 fits - RN Atlantic convoy escorts and USN conversions to APDs and similar. This can be obtained from other sources however (the instructions + drawings for Mirage's kits are a good start for a RN escort conversion)

2008 reissue
In 2008, Revell re-issued this kit (as HMS Campbeltown). I've revised this preview (originally written in 2007) to include photos of the new kit as well as a more comprehensive text description. The moulding quality of the current issue is actually much better than the 1990s-vintage kit I also have, with almost no flash or mould misalignment.
As of June 2008, this kit is widely available in British and European hobby shops (no idea of availability in the US or elsewhere) and online. Though described as "limited edition" hopefully Revell have produced enough to keep this kit on the market for a few years to come; despite its 40+ years of age, this kit deserves to be still in production - at least until/unless someone produces a new-tool kit in 1/200 or 1/144 scale! (not completely beyond possibility, considering Revell have announced a 1/144 Fletcher...)

Mirage 1/400 kits
In 2007 Mirage released a 4 different 1/400 scale kits of 4-piper destroyers - see here for a preview of their USS Ward and HMS St.Albans - with more announced for future release, including HMS Campbeltown in "Chariot" configuration. These are certainly the best 4-pipers currently available in plastic kit form.



Hull halves.


Deck, superstructure and smaller parts.


Ship's boats, funnels, torpedo tubes, and more smaller parts.


Display base, davits, searchlight platform, etc. and the decals + flag sheet.


Closeup of some of the smaller details including the guns.



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