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Converting the 1:72 Airfix RAF

Converting the 1:72 Airfix RAF Air-Sea-Rescue-Launch Into A Royal Navy MGB
(Motor Gun Boat)
Model Built By: Stan Pienkowski
Photos By: Stan Pienkowski
Article By: T. Garth Connelly
Model Owned By: T. Garth Connelly

The Real MGB-61
The real MGB-61 in 1942 (T. Garth Connelly Collection)

How does one transform a kit of a rescue craft into a model of a Motor Gun Boat? 
Take one 1:72 scale Airfix RAF Air-Sea-Rescue Launch, add in a few after-market accessories, mix in the talents of a skilled modeler and baked well and you will come away with a beautiful model.

For years, ever since I bought the Airfix kit and saw a photo of MGB-61, I have held a theory that a conversion of the kit into a MGB could be done.  I even was told that it could not be done without major “plastic surgery” to the hull and basically that it could not be done.

Still, I never let go of that theory and I knew that, one day, as soon as I met the right modeler that it could be done and done correctly and from that kit, without major “plastic surgery.” 
The modeler who did my bidding was Stan Pienkowski.

I gave him my kit (that was originally purchased in 1980 but never built) and the following items

  • Two of Great Little Ships’ single depth charges and racks sets in 1:72
  • One of White Ensign Models’ 20mm Oerlikon on a Mark IV mount in 1:72
  • One tin of White Ensign Models’ Colourcoats RN 03 (AP 507C Admiralty Light Grey)
  • One tin of White Ensign Models’ Colourcoats RN 01 (AP 507A Admiralty Dark Grey)
  • One 1:72 scale cloth Royal Navy White Ensign made by Accurate Model Parts

I don’t know how since the box has not been touched since around 1980 or 1981, but one important part had gone missing down through the years and that one of the superstructure’s sides was missing.  When Stan emailed me to tell me that it was missing, I put out a request for that part on a website on the internet.

A modeler named Dave Dinan was kind enough to offer to send the part to me, and in fact, he was kind enough to offer to send both sides and I said that I only needed the one side.  I did not want to be greedy, as the gentleman was doing me a favor

In Stan’s words, this is what was done:

Model Taking Shape
The model taking shape

The process of changing the R. A. F. Air Sea Rescue boat into a Motor Gun Boat (M.G.B)  was a little less complicated then I first thought it would be. Because the basic shape and construction of the two boats were somewhat the same it only required adjustments to the upper deck areas.  Although the actual size of the M.G.B was a bit larger in length, it was decided not to increase the Airfix kit. Looking at a lot of photos we decided to keep the kit at its 1: 72 length and work from there The necessary length change would have been a lot of work and I think the outcome proved to be effective If you look at the photos and compare it to the model you could see a slight difference in length when next to each other. Apart it looks like the same boat.

MGB-16 - depth charges
Four of the eight depth charges from Great Little Ships in place,
as is the 20mm gun from White Ensign Models

MGB-16 - Mark V turrets
The two Mark V turrets for the twin Vickers guns are in place

Starting the project entailed removing quite a bit of canvas protection from the cabin & deck as the M.G.B did not have any.  The main change was in the rear gun area and the main cabin.   The deck area entailed removing the flat sections in the aft gun area and installing the round base and eight depth charge racks. Four on each side. The cabin gun turrets had to be removed and covered over because the twin Vickers were installed on either side at the forward side of the cabin area. These had to be scratch built. I am not sure if 1: 72 scale kits of these guns exist. 

These turrets were completed thanks to Mr. Connelly getting set of line drawings from John Lambert (www.lambertplans.com).  These drawings were very helpful to me in that I had little knowledge of the Mark V mount.

The turrets were constructed from a small test tube, around which I wrapped some canvas.  I decided to use canvas because the photos that I had as references seemed to indicate a fabric material was around the turrets.  The guns, supports, and sights I made from wire, wood and styrene plastic.  I fashioned the gun-sights from photo-etched ones from another model. 

Other location changes were necessary for the mast, life rings, ready service lockers, lines, canvas containers and the Carley float was located on the foredeck.

MGB-15 Casrley float life-raft
The Carley float life-rft is located on the foredeck.

The rear mast attachment area was also adjusted for upfront protection of the rear gun. The biggest difference in the looks of the boat are the lack of canvas protection and the Vickers gun turrets which are along side of the main cabin.

MBG-15 nearing completion
The MGB-16 model is nearing completion.

Rear deck details
The stern area with depth charges, 20mm and depression rails.

MGB-16 nearly finished

 The color scheme was created by using White Ensign Models’ Colour Coats  RNO3, Admiralty Light Grey,  and RNO1 Admiralty Dark Grey. The black was model master flat black and the others are as listed by Mr. Connelly. The black base was used to match the bottom of the boat.  I am pretty happy with the outcome of this project since I have not built too many British boats.
I considered this project to be what one might call a semi-scratch-built model.  That is because of all of the changes made to the basic kit.  I want to thank Mr. Connelly for the opportunity to work on this type of project.

In conclusion, I would like to thank, one, my brother for giving me this built-up model as my 2009 Christmas gift and two, I would like to like Stan Pienkowski for building it.  This project turned out to be poof-positive of my long-held theory of this result could be achieved with this kit without major work on the hull.  I am very pleased with the outcome.

MGB-16 - the finished model
The finished model. The two twin Vickers gun mounts where scratch-built
by Stan Pienkowski and the flag in this and accompanying
photos was
replaced with the correct "White Ensign".

MGB-16 Scratch-built Mark V mounts
Details of the scratch-built Mark V powered mounts
for the Vickers 0.5 inch guns.