Sunday, 13 March 2011

Hidden Gem: Model Ships at the Science Museum


A recent trip down to South Kensington in London, and the triptych of V&A, Natural History and Science Museums saw me stumble upon some hidden gems amongst the latter's collections.
Tucked out of sight at the furthest far end of the second floor away from the entrance, the Science Museum has a large collection of model ships in a number of scales, principally around perhaps 1:50th or so, spanning maritime history from the ancient to modern.
I say modern, but the reality is that in stark contrast to the cutting edge high-tech parts of the main museum, this collection is charming in its old-worldliness, with most of the exhibits having been built or donated in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries.
Away from the bright lights of the main halls, which of course have much to entertain the scientifically minded, and more importantly away from the hordes of over-excited kids, is a small haven of naval-themed tranquility, which has much to interest those who have a yen for military shipping.
There are of course, models of civil interest, but I'd thought I'd share some photos of the more interesting naval items to whet your appetite, and recommend it as a good place to duck into if you ever have to visit the museum with family in tow; leave the tiny terrors to explore the cutting edge stuff and indulge yourself in yesteryear.......
Above we can see the charismatic HMS Arrow of 1871, which was from a class of river and coastal gunboats equipped with a 10inch MLR gun that could be raised and lowered to aid stability - the weapon had to be layed by using the rudder, so rather like a maritime version of a self-propelled gun, I suppose - anyway it would make some nice inspiration for a VSF craft, I think!
From the small, we move up the scale a bit to HMS Monarch, and below her the HMS Queen Elizabeth and then the Vanguard of 1944, the last battleship built in Britain:
These are all cracking models with a lot of detail, and are accompanied by others that include everything from 17th century galleys to Napoleonic warships and beyond - there is even a nice submarine display:
Of course, I made a beeline for all things Steam and Sail and Pre-Dreadnought in nature, but I think you could find something of interest whatever is your period of choice.
Highlights for me included HMS Eclipse of 1867:
HMS Albion:
and the pre-eminent ship of her time, HMS Warrior:
I thoroughly recommend discovering this somewhat dusty and neglected corner of the museum for yourself - I know I certainly enjoyed these relics of a gentler age whilst the rest of my party was in the 'Interactive Internet Interconnectivity Zone' or wherever......
Stay tuned for some more pics from what was on show, next time with Pre-Dreadnought era torpedo boats very much to the fore.


  1. Wonderful pictures of some gorgeous models, thanks for sharing. Especially love the Arrow and the Eclipse.

  2. Hi SoS,

    Now that is a good scale for gaming in....;-)

    All the best,


  3. Delightful models, and what a wonderful find! I love the pre-Dreadnought era of warship construction. Those vessels had a style all their own. I can definitely see a model version of HMS Arrow steaming along the rivers of my Darkest Africa campaign world. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I remember seeing these when I visited the UK in 2001- lovely ships indeed!

  5. Great photos. Reminds me of the models at Greenwich, which I last saw in 1986.

    Iron Duke of 1944? The model looks like the Vanguard.

  6. Hi Guys, thanks for the comments, glad you liked the photos so far - the lighting in that area isn't great, and some of the display cases could do with a good spray of Windolene/Windex - so not the best fro photography!

    @ncc1717 - you're probably right about the Vanguard - I was snapping left right and centre in the time in I was in there, so probably got it confused.

  7. Hi SoS, some great photos there; I'll keep an eye out for those ships next time I take the kids there!

    I would like to get your advice on 2mm Weird War One; are you using Brigade's infantry blocks or irregular's 20th Century infantry? I think the blocks are too formed, but can't find photos of the irregular 20C stuff ... do you know of any?

  8. Hiya, yes, it is the one area where 2mm does rather fall down; irregular or deployed 'skirmishing' troops - it's really art its best fro linear warfare....the BG23 10man skirmisher block is a possibility - I've used this for WwwwI, but most of my units there are really artillery and mechanical.

    The 20th Century skirmishing Infantry is actually not that badf from Irregular - some representative pics can be seen here:

    The men are lying down, but are quite well sculpted - not blobby - I've actually used them as casualty figure strips for pre-19th Century warfare - unbased, they can be popped on a large base beside the existing figures to mark attrition or even disorder....

  9. Thanks SoS - that's a great help! putting in a pre-order to Brigade and Irregular now!