by: Russ Amott [ ]
The DKM Bismarck is one of the most famous battleships of all time, easily recognizable and remarkable for a ship whose career lasted roughly 8 months and only participated in a single operation, "Rheinubung" which began on Sunday, May 18, 1941, and ended with her sinking nine days later, on May 27. Her wreck was discovered by Dr. Robert Ballard on June 9, 1989. References for this review come from two excellent web sites, http://www.kbismarck.com/histoperi.html and http://www.bismarck-class.dk/.
Laid down on July 1, 1936 as a counter to the French Richelieu class battleships, by the time of her completion Bismarck was the largest battleship built by a European nation, with a full load displacement of over 50,000 tons. Her armor was thicker than other ships of the time period, made of Krupp Cemented armor plate with exceptional strength, nearly compatible with British cemented armor and superior to US Class A Plate. Armor at the waterline was 320mm thick and covered 70% of the waterline and in photos of the hull is clearly visible as it protrudes visibly from the 145mm armor thickness that runs up to the deck line.
Bismarck's primary armament was 8 38cm guns mounted in pairs in four turrets, A or "Anton, and B "Bruno" both located forward of the main superstructure, and C "Ceasar" and D "Dora" aft of the superstructure. Turret Anton was without rangefinders as it was found that sea spray interfered with their operation. The guns could be elevated independently. Secondary armament was 12 15cm guns, again mounted in pairs with three turrets per side. The anti-aircraft battery consisted of 16 10.5cm guns in twin mounts, four per side with two pairs forward and two aft, 8 3.7cm twin mounts, 10 single 20mm mounts and two 20mm quad mounts installed on the foremast. The placement of the AA batteries was incremental and modelers wishing to depict Bismarck prior to May 1941 will need to check references to see when gun mounts were added, as well as rangefinders and other equipment. Blast bags are not seen early on but by May 5, 1941 are present on main and secondary armament.
Bismarck's paint scheme also varied in time. Both of the listed references provide detailed pain schemes as she appeared throughout her operational life, with some minor differences. At commissioning, Bismarck was painted light gray above the waterline. By December of 1941 the turret tops had been painted dark gray. In March 1941, Bismarck carried the Baltic scheme camouflage pattern, with the turret tops of the main and secondary batteries painted dark gray, a false bow and stern with wave painted on the hull and broad white and black disruptive stripes painted on the hull sides and superstructure. On the fore and rear decks a red band was painted, with a white circle and swastika centered in the stripe. Prior to 19 May the stripes on the superstructure were painted over. Also, a photograph showing Bismarck while sailing to Norway shows the red stripes painted over, with just the white circle and swastika remaining. On 21/22 May the false bow and stern, and the stripes on the hull side were painted over. Only the false bow wave remained. The turret tops may have been repainted in light gray. Also, the boats on the main deck, anchor on the bow stem, jackstaff and flag staff on the stern were removed. The swastikas were either painted over with gray paint or covered with canvas as well. On 26,27 May orders were sent to paint the tops of the turrets yellow for aerial recognition, but it is not likely this occurred due to heavy seas. Visible in photos in Norway is a large black smudge on the starboard side of the hull, about even with the rear of turret "Ceasar". This was from a leak while refueling. The wreckage of Bismarck shows the paint applied over the "Baltic Camouflage" has worn away and the dark gray on the turret tops is visible.
Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were originally to slip out to sea unnoticed, join with other German heavy ships and raid merchant shipping in the North Atlantic. No other German ships were available, all being under repair. Bismarck's departure was discovered and relayed to the British, which assembled everything they could to intercept. Cruisers Suffolk and Norfolk began tracking her just after she entered the North Sea. Bismarck turned and fired on Suffolk, the muzzle blast disabling her radars. As a result Prinz Eugen took the lead, with Bismarck following. Then then encountered HMS Hood and Prince of Wales. Hood fired on Prinz Eugen and Price of Wales fired on Bismarck, hitting her in the bow, through the false wave, and amidships. Damage was minor but did result in critical loss of fuel. Bismarck returned fire and five minutes into the fight scored a critical hit on Hood, causing a catastrophic detonation which blew Hood apart. Prince of Wales was crippled by hits from Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, as well as critical mechanical failures and turned away. Every available ship in the Royal Navy was called on to hunt the Bismarck.
The hunt would last two days with almost every dramatic turn possible taking place. Finally, just before dark, Bismarck was hit by a torpedo dropped by a Swordfish biplane torpedo bomber, in the stern, jamming her rudder and leaving her unable to steer. Attacked all night long by British and Polish destroyers, by dawn the crew of Bismarck was exhausted and depressed, knowing there was no escape. The following morning, HMS Rodney and King George V engaged Bismarck and in the following battle Bismarck was sunk. Of the crew of just over 2200, only 115 survived.
Flyhawk is a Chinese manufacturer that is well known for making highly detailed and accurate ship models. This kit was released in 2018. The kit comes in a top opening box with parts carefully packaged. The hull, waterline hull, upper hull and main deck are wrapped in light foam and protected in cardboard sleeves. This protection was mostly effective, but the bow of the lower hull on my sample was bent. Other pieces were carefully packaged as well with small sprues placed together in plastic bags. I did have 3 small parts that were knocked free and floating in the bags but they appear to be undamaged. There is a small amount of flash visible on a few parts, most noticeably on the mounts for the 10.5cm AA guns. Many of the small parts are tiny, measuring 2mm or so. This is to maximize detail but unless you have excellent eyesight, you will need good lighting and magnification. Removal of parts must be done with care so as to not lose them or damage them, as many are fragile and have multiple attachment points. I have found that placing the sprue on a strip of tape before I remove tiny parts helps keep them where I can see them.
Detail all around varies from remarkable to astonishing. The kit provides options, such as barrels for the main and secondary armament with and without blast bags. The muzzles of the main guns are hollowed out.
The superstructure pieces are very nice and again carefully packaged so as to not get damaged. I did some test fitting and the part fit was very good.
Small sprues, lettered DE02-DE18, hold many of the small details like the AA guns, search lights and boats. With the exception of the single 20mm mounts, the AA guns are all multi-part assemblies. The 3.7cm gun barrels have attachment points on both barrels on the sides and all but one had a small sprue nub on the muzzle ends. There are two different types of 10.5cm mount. These small assemblies are called out separately in the instructions.
The masts are multi-part assemblies and are very fine in detail but the plastic is somewhat soft and they are fragile. No rigging guide is included for the kit but the parts will not support tension so only something like stretched sprue would work.
The only photo etch part included is for the catapult. Four scale Arado 196 float planes are included and provide the option of the wings in folded position. These are multi-part assemblies made of 10 parts each.
The instructions are long, foldout sections in two pages, with full color highlights. Line drawings show assembly steps with sub assemblies provided in side boxes. Total assembly is shown in 17 steps but much care is needed to follow all the small parts attachment. A painting guide is provided with color callouts for Mr Hobby, Tamiya and WEM Color coats as well as generic paint names listed. The paint scheme shown depicts Bismarck as she would have looked after leaving Norway on 23 May.
The decal sheet includes markings for the swastikas on the hull, with both plain white circles and the red stripe included as well as flags for the ship and markings for all four Arado 196 aircraft. All of the swastikas are multi-part sections that will have to be pieced together carefully. The decals appear to be in register.
A small metal bar is included for the waterline hull version to provide some weight.
For those who want even more detail than what the kit provides, Flyhawk provides either a detailing set that includes extensive photo etch and a wooden deck, or the kit and detailing set as a deluxe edition set, FH1132S. There are a number of other aftermarket sets available from different manufacturers as well. For an idea of what can be done, here is an outstanding build provided by one of Model Shipwright's own members:
Current online prices are generally around $45 US for the standard kit, though they can be much higher depending on shipping.
Bismarck has been a popular modeling choice for many years, with nearly every manufacturer offering at least one kit. This Flyhawk release is the best you will find in 1/700 scale. It isn't a beginner's kit but with care in assembly anyone can turn it into an exceptional model.