Ship Models

German Ships

Bismarck - Peter Beisheim
Model Data
Model build by Peter Beisheim, Charlottenlund, Denmark
Kit Manufacturer Revell, Germany
Scale 1:350
Additional Information The model illustrates Bismarck as it looked 24. May 1941 just prior to the battle of the Denmark Strait.
Construction time 1 year.

Bismarck - Peter Beisheim
The Model
Photographs: © John Asmussen

Review of Revell Germany’s 1:350 Bismarck
With Moderate Modifications by Peter Beisheim

   A new kit of the world’s most famous warship ought not in itself cause a sensation. Nevertheless this seems to be the case, since Revell Germany has made their utmost efforts to approach historical reality as much this scale will allow.

   Since “the trees do not grow up to the sky” the only major point of criticism is quickly warned against: The rail is completely out of scale and absolutely useless! It can easily be replaced by photo etched products (as it should indeed have been by the manufacturers).

   Also please be aware of an error in the deck layout at the stem: This is manufactured ungrooved as if made of bare steel. Major German warships had a double layer of teak planks to take the wear and tear from the anchor chains. The rest of the model can be built largely from the box, consequently the major part of this review will focus mainly on advice and guidelines, so any modeller with some craftsmanship and sense of historical realism should be able to follow me.

   The Hull: Excellent! My compliments to Revell Germany’s research. The complicated water intakes seem correct and shown with differences port and starboard.

   Main Deck: First time in my experience I’ve seen this without the usual raised grooves typical for plastic kits. The deck planks are in good scale size and raised slightly from the background. I recommend to start with a basic colour – “dry sandy beach” as I call it. The rest is dry brushing to create convincing variations. Remember always to be cautious about the small scale, do not let the colours stand out too sharp! Far too many ship models suffer from main decks that are either too yellowish like butter or too brownish like chocolate. The red keel must be scaled down very carefully too. Please look at the model.

   Versions of the Ship: We shall now turn towards the two main possibilities of making a historically correct and complete model of the ship: a) an early spring 1941 Baltic trial camouflaged version, or b) a final Operation "Rheinübung" May 1941 version. I am going to focus on the latter. as this in many ways portrays the completed ship. Both versions will require a comprehensive research. Use this website as basic source material.

It is virtually impossible to make a prestine, i.e. uncamouflaged and fully detailed model of the Bismarck, since such a thing, to the best of my knowledge, never existed.

   Painting of the Hull: The guidelines of the kit are excellent and show her in various versions. Remember to scale down the zigzag camouflage from April- May 1941 or you will get an “ocean going zebra”. The Bismarck’s hull was medium grey, unfortunately often referred to as “dunkelgrau” in German sources, in flagrant contradiction to the vast number of photographs. Her boot topping (waterline belt) was black, not “dunkelgrau”(a different formula), but on the model this will come out as very dark grey allowing for scale. The large swastikas on the deck (stem and stern) are a complicated affair: Sometimes with a belt – grey or red – sometimes not. Likewise the camouflage stripes on the superstructure, when exactly were they painted out? In Norway the camouflage was painted over, but the Bismarck retained her false bow waves. Misunderstandings as to the fate of the large deck swastikas are rampant. First (coming in to Norway) they were covered with canvas which also covered the anchor chains, later they were painted over, but presumably the new layer of paint was partly washed away. Likewise the hull side camouflage could be seen through the fresh paint, although somewhat irregularly.

   Superstructure: We will now take a closer look at the decks and details of the superstructure. Remember that the  superstructure of German warships (at least in early war years) was very light grey (“hellgrau”), not far from the US haze grey. The Bismarck carried this two tone colour scheme with her to her grave, it can still be seen clearly on her wreck. Do not paint the contrast too severe. In the case of decks the model is quite unique compared to other kits in similar scales. The Bismarck carried no less than five different deck superstructure layouts and all accounted for on the kit. The 0.1 deck – the battery deck in German terminology – shows three of these: Ordinary teak planks mainly to the rear of the catapult and forward of the boxlike superstructure, smooth steel rear of the side hangars, and a non-skid layer along the forward anti-aircraft armament. Good research Revell!

   We now move upwards. Here we find the last two new deck layouts: Gratings and “slats”. Slats look somewhat like a bathing jetty. The modeller must be very careful when trying to imitate these.

   Funnel details: The funnel top is often erroneously represented as chromium-plated on models. True it was not painted, but nevertheless relatively matt. On the model it should be painted slightly lighter grey (not quite white) than the rest of the superstructure. Remember that the Bismarck had a relatively simple net over her funnel top as opposed to her sister ship the Tirpitz. If the modeller use photo etched products they often represent the Tirpitz (at least those I have seen) and can’t be used.

   Important details on the Superstructure: Since it would be impracticable to describe all the details on a large warship, I shall limit myself to a few important components in order to give the optimal finish. Masts: The yard arms were quite special on major German warships. This is the first time I have seen them correctly represented, i.e. not like branches growing from a tree trunk, and not shaped  like flower sticks. The kit shows them attached behind and supplied with foot rail. It seems to be impracticable to cast them in 100% correct scale size, but it turned out to be possible to sand them down to almost 1:350. I had to replace some of it by sprue.

   Boats and Planes: Apart from some confusion as to the number and position of boats they excel in quality, not least when it comes to window panes and cockpits. Mind you that one of the captain’s boats on the starboard side forward was never installed and its crutches remained empty. The small boats on the main deck were removed together with their davits and crutches for Operation Rheinuebung.

   The Rigging: Can only be approximated in such a small scale, and I am only able to give some very general advice. An under rigged model is in this scale always to be preferred over the more commonly seen over rigged models on which the rigging becomes too prominent. A model is in many ways a representation of the real ship seen from a corresponding distance! Take a good look at as many photos as you like and add to your model primarily what you always see. On the Bismarck class a dominant feature are the backstays that support the heavy main polemast and its outrigger. They can almost always be seen. Work from these and finish with a few extremely thin antennae between the masts and you should not go wrong. I still stick to medium grey sprue for the main part.