Based on lessons learned during the Battle of the Atlantic, two anti-submarine ship designs were developed during 1942. One was for a single-screw ship that was
essentially a larger
Flower class vessel fitted with a single Squid mortar. The other design was for a large twin-screwed ship that was similar in size to River class
frigates and fitted with a twin Squid. The latter design eventually became the
Loch class frigate, which was the preferred choice of the two. However, a concern was
raised that smaller shipyards would not have the capacity and facilities to build the larger ship. To that end, it was decided that both designs would be built. The
smaller design was the
Castle class corvette.

The
Castle class addressed some of the limitations of the Flower class corvettes. The Flowers were too small for proper seakeeping in the North Atlantic and also to
accommodate newer weapons and sensors and the additional crew needed to man them. The
Castle class measured 252 feet in length, which was 47 feet longer than
the
Flowers. Though they were larger, they were fitted with the same engines as those in the Flowers, which somehow translated into an increase in speed of only
one half knot. A total of 43 ships were completed and commissioned, with 12 transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy (and renamed) and one to Royal Norwegian
Navy (renamed
Tunsberg Castle).
The Castles were armed with a single 4in gun forward, two twin 20mm Oerlikons in powered mountings, two single 20mm Oerlikons, a triple-barreled Squid with
81 projectiles, two depth charge throwers and one rack with 15 depth charges. Their slow speed of 16.5 knots was barely adequate to keep up with
Type VII U-
Boats and not nearly enough for later types. However, they were effective enough to take credit in the sinking of seven U-Boats during the war. Three ships were
lost during the war, including the Norwegian
Tunsberg Castle.

Portchester Castle was completed on November 8, 1943 and was one of the first in the class to be commissioned. She was part of several Escort Groups,
participating in trans-Atlantic and Gibraltar convoys. She later was absorbed into the 30th Escort Group, which provided anti-submarine patrols and escort duties in
the Western Approaches. As part of this group,
Portchester Castle sank U-484 with her Squid Mortar, marking the first such sinking using this weapon. Later she
participated in the sinking of
U-1200. After a refit in early 1945, which was transferred West Africa and later Gibraltar performing Air Sea Rescue duties until she
placed in reserve in early 1946. In 1951, she was re-commissioned for service in the 2nd Training Squadron based in Portland. During this duty,
Portchester Castle
became a movie star, playing the role of the fictional ship
HMS Saltash Castle in the film “The Cruel Sea”. She was withdrawn from service in 1956 and eventually
sold for scrap in 1958.
The Kit - The HMS Portchester Castle kit was the last kit released by White Ensign Models before the ceased operations in November 2014. Tom’s
Modelworks
announced that they purchased most of the assets of White Ensign and began selling the photo-etch sets again, but the catalog of kits remained in
limbo. Then in the summer of 2016,
Peter Hall of Atlantic Models announced that he acquired the White Ensign kits and would be releasing them under the
Atlantic Models label. So this is a homecoming of sorts as Peter Hall was the pattern maker for White Ensign Models. Now the HMS Portchester Castle kit is
the first release under
Atlantic’s White Ensign Range. With this kit you can build just about any ship in this class, but that will require research on the part of the
modeler. There are optional parts provided to build a model in a later upgraded fit. The layout of this kit is very similar to
White Ensign and Atlantic Models kits,
in that the resin hull has a waterline/full-hull option, the smaller parts are a mix of resin and white metal and it comes with an extensive photo-etch detail set.
However, like
White Ensign kits, no decals are included.

The two hull sections are clean hollow castings with very good details. The upper hull has such items as bitts, breakwater, hatches, the forward gun platform, a
small deck house and portholes are cast into the hull. The metal tread plates at the foc’sle and aft edge of the upper deck are finely reproduced. The bulwarks and
support ribs that run along the edge of the quarter deck at the stern are very well done. There resin pegs and some openings for the placement and alignment of
other parts. The lower hull is also well done and very clean with the bilge keels and propeller skeg cast into the part. An opening is present to attach the rudder.
If you plan to build the model full-hull you will see corresponding pins and holes at the bow and stern and on the lower hull you will see a pair of tabs to help align
the upper and lower hulls when gluing the two parts together. Before joining the two halves you will have to sand down some bumps that appear to be the resin
equivalent injector pin marks. A dry fit of the two halves show that two parts line up rather well and that some putty will be needed to fill in the relatively minor
seam at the joint.

The next largest resin part is the main superstructure, which is well cast with lots of details like watertight doors, vents, portholes and lockers. The bottom of this
part has locater holes that correspond to pins that are on the deck of the upper hull. The other resin structural parts include the open bridge deck, funnel and
anti-aircraft funnel platform. The smaller resin parts include the 4-inch gun shield, anchor windlass and the three boats. All of the resin parts are well cast and
fairly clean with some having bits of flash and extra resin which will need to be removed and cleaned up.
The rest of the parts are white metal and include the 4-inch gun barrel, Squid, cowl vents, twin 20mm Oerlikon mounts, searchlight, crow’s nest, Carley floats,
rudder and propeller. The white metal parts require a little more cleanup and are not as refined when compared to the small resin parts but they fit the bill. White
metal is malleable so be careful when handling the 4-inch gun and vent as can be easily bent.

The photo-etch brass is excellent, with lovely relief etching, and is quite extensive for a model this size. There are a number of pre-measured lengths of railing,
which helps to eliminate the need to measure and cut generic lengths of railing and facilitates assembly. In addition to the railings, the brass fret has inclined and
vertical ladders, lattice mast and associated parts for both an early and late fit, bridge platform supports, various yardarms and footropes, funnel cap grill, rocket
flare launchers for the side of the gun shield, parts to detail the boats, boat davits and cradles, radar lantern housing, radar antennas and aerials, wire antenna
spreader and various other detail parts. Ship name plates for most but not all of the Royal Navy ships are provided. As mentioned above, there is no decal sheet
provide for the pennant numbers and flags, so you will need to look for an alternate source.
A total of 7 pages of assembly instructions are provided in the familiar format you become accustomed to with White Ensign and Atlantic Model kits. The
instructions are still among the best out there and provide numerous illustrations to aide in assembling this model. The first page provides a brief history of this ship
and an inventory of the smaller resin and white metal parts. The following page has a keyed image of the photo-etch fret and a general assembly diagram for the main
structural parts. The remaining pages cover the various assemblies and sub-assemblies and the last page was a painting guide in color for two schemes worn by
Portchester Castle with references to Colourcoats paints. One scheme is of a Western Approaches camouflage pattern worn in 1943 and the other is for a post-war
overall gray paint job.
It is great to see the Portchester Castle kit available again through Atlantic Models, so if you missed your chance the first time you now have a new opportunity to
get it. The possibility of other ex-
White Ensign kits being released again along with the growing line of Cold War Royal Navy vessels will mean that Peter Hall will
be very busy and much to ship modelers’ delight.
Felix Bustelo
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