Building a 1/700 French Navy Bretagne as in 1929/1932'ish..... by Jim Baumann

The Bretagne was one of  three sisterships( Lorraine and Provence) and was completed in 1915. She was armed with 10 x 13.4 in guns in five turrets along with originally 22 x 5.4 in guns in casemates, though the fwd four were as in many other navies later removed due to being unservicable in a seaway as they were very wet ships fwd(note the VERY short foredeck for a Battleship). She was refitted and modernised in 1920, 1925,1928 and again in 1935.

She was sunk by British capital ship gunfire  on July 3  1940 at Mers-el-Kabir with the loss of 977 crew  along with other units  of the French Fleet  to prevent her falling into German hands and being used against the allies.

The model is based  on the  1/700 Delphis resin kit which portrays the ship as sunk. I have always been an admirer of the class in their heyday during the  interwar years when they sported the most unusual practice of black turrets and barbettes which I thought to look VERY cool and after getting the model from WEM some years back knew that someday I  too had to have a Black turret ship in my collection.

To realise my wish I had to do a fair bit of scratchbuilding and some  careful study of many photographs. I soon realised that I would have to completely reconstruct the fwd tripod and all platforms and bridge structures . I was aided here imensly by the superb photo of Bretagne  on p67 of R Houghs book DREADNOUGHT along with the plan views in the Dumas book(which I do not own..!!) but L'Arsenal came to the rescue. The drawings are also to be found in WARSHIP Vol 10 but are very small. This aspect took  an absolute age but I hope the photos illustrate the method I employed  first with styrene sheet and then with brass.

click images
to enlarge
Spotting top was made of brass with ladderstock for windows then filled with white glue; rangefinder clock was a WEM  Iron Duke  brass circular item mounted on a brass shim.

I was not happy with the funnels as they were slightly 'waisted'; in any case the after funnel was shorter than the fwd one till her refit in 1935 so new items were made in my usual way using alloy tubing with the fwd funnel being squashed to an oval shape between two wooden blocks with a timber dowel in centre to prevent total crush.

The casting at the bow was the wrong profile so a piece of styrene sheet was glued on and retroshaped (Note the lousy paint finish at first coat!!) The casemates were simply flat and lacked any definition so they were enhanced with trimline selfadhesive strips and sealed with CA.

The blastbags on the main guns were very nicely cast on with the correct amount of  protrusion upwards, but  they needed to be 'saggier at the bottom, this was done with CA gel. Search lights were from the kit, the large searchlights on the  fwd platform were scratchbuilt from alloy tube with the domed back being made using white glue.

The paravanes required were scratchbuilt as nothing I had in the spares box resembled the French items.

The build was proceeding quite well when I decided that I needed more info!  Hence a visit to the Musee de Marine in Paris was the  result (along  also with a wonderful long weekend of culture in that beautiful city...)
An e-mail and some Euro's resulted in Jaques Druel from L'Arsenal supplieing me with photos and plans of Bretagne as built(from original builders plans).This VERY usefully had cross  sections which resulted in my realising that the kit had been simplified in the area of the boat stowage .... out came the  motor-tool, a dose of  courage and the offending resin  was removed without any PE casualties....!! 

I then set about  making from PE scrap the  required boatracks and installing the boats underneath also. This gave the whole area a much lighter and more delicate feeling and I was becoming increasingly  happier with the model....
I was not totally happy with the crane masts or jibs as supplied so made new masts from cocktail sticks spun in the motor tool with sandpaper then impregnated with CA to stabilise, new jibs were made from styrene sheet shaped with blade.

Some of the opening portholes  on the hull had hinged lids, these were made from very thin wirewound around a small drill shank,  the large openings on the superstructure midships had frames made from ladderstock. Ships boats were a mixture of kit supplied and modified WEM and some guesswork....

Rangefinders were scratchbuilt allong with numerous other miniscule items. I was particularly pleased with the aircraft ramp on the midships turret and the extended crane jib on the  stb side .
The box  lattice ariel spreaders were a real problem  and went thru many guises, they were in the end fashioned from GMM 1/700  RN aircraft carrier  radio masts suitably shortened, they are only three sided off the fret; so had an extra face added carefully....
The ship was painted in WEM colourcoats and Humbrol enamels, figures are GMM as is the Ensign. 
Rigging is all sprue with patience and swearing in equal measure....!!
Special thanks must go to: 

Jean Paul Binot of France  for supplying lots of photos  and advice,
Vladimir Yabukov of USA for e-mailing me lots of photos also, 
Stefano for inspiring me to visit the Musee de Marine to research first hand, 
Chris Amano Langtree for advice and critique
Jaques from L'Arsenal for giving me the drawings and photos from that priceless Dumas book 'Les Cuirasses Francaise de 23,000 tonnes' , of  which I failed to find a copy of at under £ 175.00!!)

I sort of enjoyed the construction of this model, I even had a break while waiting for information halfway thru and built the RIN destroyer Boevoi/Som which restored flagging spirits....It was at times frustrating to find relatively little concrete information (in English..!!) on the net or indeed elsewhere, or be able to accurately verify the info I had due to linguistic limitations...!!

That said I was suitably inspired with the French navy that I have among other projects the 1/400 Heller surcouf on the workbench..... more soon!!


More of Jim Baumann's work.