During the early days of the Battle of the Atlantic, German U-boats clearly had the advantage, sinking thousands of tons of merchant shipping. The Royal Navy needed convoy escorts and a lot of them. However, to build them in the numbers needed,
the designs and machinery had to be simple so that they could be built in civil shipyards. Naval shipyards were already at capacity, so the latter point was extremely important. From this necessity, the
Flower class corvette emerged. Yet as the Flowers
were designed for coastal operations and not for convoy work in the Atlantic, it became clear that a suitable design was needed.

Some of the requirements for this class of vessel included good sea keeping for convoy escort duty in any weather, speed of at least 20 knots and simple machinery that was easy to maintain. The ships also had to have better armament to combat
U-boats based on wartime lessons learned. The requirements called for two 4-inch HA/LA guns, two 2-pounder guns and at least two 20mm Oerlikons. Anti-submarine weapons would consist of eight depth charge throwers, four each port and
starboard, and two roll-off racks. The ships would also be fitted with Type 271 radar. Initially the design called for a ship measuring about 350 feet long with twin turbine engines and a light welded hull. Arguably, the most important requirement was
that they could be built in large numbers. However, the reality of production constraints, especially those of civil shipyards, dictated that a ship of this size could not be built in the numbers needed. The ship would have to measure about 300 feet in
order to be built in civil yards. The reduction in length would give insufficient capacity for turbines, which would take about 18 months to produce in any event.
This design became the River class. They had the endurance and anti-submarine capabilities of the Black Swan class sloops, but were quicker and cheaper to build in civil dockyards using the machinery and construction techniques pioneered in the
building of the
Flowers. The Rivers had reciprocating steam engines instead of turbines, which facilitated construction. The Rivers were originally classified as a twin-screw corvette, but the term frigate was suggested by Vice-Admiral Percy Nelles of
the Royal Canadian Navy and it stuck.

The
River class frigates measured 301.25 feet (98.1 meters) overall, with a beam of 36,50 feet (11.1 meters) and a draft of 9.0 feet (2.7 meters). The ships were fitted with two 4-inch (102mm) quick firing guns in single mounts fitted forward and
aft, a pair of single quick firing 2-pounder guns fitted in tubs aft of the single funnel and a pair of single 20mm Oerlikons fitted on the bridge wings. Later in the war, additional 20mm Oerlikons were fitted, with the numbers varying from ship to ship.
Anti-submarine weapons included a 24 spigot Hedgehog launcher fitted forward, eight depth charge throwers and two depth charge rails. The twin reciprocating vertical triple expansion engines gave only 3 knots more speed, but extended the range of
the ship to nearly double that of a corvette, to 7,200 nautical miles at 12 knots. Improvements over the corvette design also included much better accommodations. Five ships,
HMS Cam, Chelmer, Ettrick, Halladale, Helmsdale, and Tweed, had
Parsons single reduction steam turbines.
The first orders were placed by the Royal Navy in 1940, and the vessels were named for rivers in the United Kingdom, giving name to the class. In Canada, they were named for towns and cities, though they kept the same designation. In my research
for the background on the
River class I can across some discrepancies in the number of ships actually built. Wikipedia (yes, I am aware of the caveats with this source) states that a total of 151 ships were built and launched. However, David Brown,
in his book “
Atlantic Escorts”, provided a count of 128 ships. The list of River class ships in Wikipedia is grouped by the navies they served in so there were repeats, When I reviewed the list and removed the double counting, I came up with 140
ships. So, we can say with a degree of certainty that a lot were built. The ships were built in yards in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Some built in the UK were transferred to Royal Canadian Navy. Some built in Canadian yards served in
the Royal Navy. Two Canadian built
Rivers were transferred to the United States Navy and designated as patrol frigates (PF). The ships built in Oz served with the Royal Australian Navy in the Pacific. During the war, some ships were transferred to
the Royal Netherlands and South African navies. Ten
River class ships were war casualties.

After the war, ships that were paid off were sold to navies around the world.
HMCS Stormont was purchased by Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis and converted into his luxury yacht Christina O. Two ships have been preserved as museum
ships:
HMAS Diamantina at the Queensland Maritime Museum and UBS Mayu (ex-HMS Fal) in Myanmar.
The River class design was used as the basis for the United States Navy's Tacoma class patrol frigates (which served in the Royal Navy as the Colony class frigate). The hull design was the basis for the Loch and Bay class frigates.,A total of six
Rivers were transferred to the Free French Navy, one of which was La Découverte (K370) which is the subject of the artwork for Black Cat Models kit. She was originally HMS Windrush, built by Henry Robb. Ltd, at Leith Docks in Edinburgh.
Scotland. She was launched on June 18, 1943 and transferred to the Free French in February of 1944. She supported the D-Day landings, serving as an escort for a convoy for Canadian forces heading for Juno Beach. The convoy consisted of more
than 100 LCTs. She also provided fire support for the landings. On July 29, 1944,
La Découverte was the first French ship into Cherbourg. After the war, she remained in French service. In 1967, she was beached and concreted into position in
Cherbourg to become a training ship. Renamed
Lucifer II and served as a training ship for the French Navy Security School as well as for fire control training for ship board firefighters. She was eventually broken up in 2009.
The 1:400 scale River class kit is Black Cat Models first offering in this scale. Why 1:400 scale you ask?  Well, the venerable French scale model firm, Heller, offered many ship kits in 1:400 scale, with many of those naturally being French naval
subjects. So, to many French modelers and to a certain degree, European modelers, 1:400 was the standard scale. Today this scale may have more of a cult following but there are a number who still build in this scale, especially in France. Starling
Models second release in this scale. The kit is comprised of resin and 3D printed parts, turned brass parts, brass photo-etch and decals.

The model is a one-piece full hull affair with detail primarily along the sides and at the foc’sle. The hull has the anchor hawser, portholes, breakwater and aft 4-inch gun position splinter shield. Along the bottom you have the bilge keels, propeller shaft
fairings, and openings for the rudder and propeller struts. The deck is festooned with depressions, slots and openings to accommodate the structural and smaller parts. There is a long, raised section forward that will fit into the opening in the
superstructure part. The casting for the hull is overall very clean and well done. Along the keel there are two spots were resin casting gates were present that need to be sanded smooth.
The next largest part is the superstructure which also a lot of detail cast into it, such as watertight doors, lockers, a pair of cowl vents and vertical ladders. The opening underneath and the bottom edge have some excess resin that need to be removed so
that it will fit properly into the corresponding raised section on the deck. There is also a little bit of resin film the needs to be removed to open up a breezeway on the forward section of this part. The locations for the forward 4-inch gun and bridge are
scribed into the deck and there are some slots to fit smaller parts. The bridge housing is also extremely well done, with the open bridge having a piping, lockers, running lights and the foot rings for the 20mm Oerlikons. There are openings to fit the pelorus
and binnacle. A wee bit of casting plug needs to be removed from bottom as well as some resin film. The funnel is the other larger resin part in the kit and it is very well done with the external piping and grill cast into it.

The smaller resin parts include the midship gun platform for the 2-pounder guns, some smaller deck housings and a coaming with hatches. Other resin parts include the Type 271 radar lantern housing and platform, various lockers, cowl vents, rudder,
shaft struts, and four boats (two motor launches, whaler and dinghy). The smaller resin parts come on casting blocks with fairly thin attachment points and part numbers cast into the runners. The smaller resin parts are well cast and clean, with some
possible clean-up along the edges coming of the runners.

The numerous 3D parts are of the quality and detail that has become synonymous with
Black Cat Models. The parts come printed on several bars with very thin attachment points for easy removal. The 3D parts include the 4-inch guns, mounts and
shields as well as the 20mm single Oerlikons with shields and other details. You are also given the choice of a either a pair of two-pounder guns or a pair of twin powered 20mm guns, which were fitted on the Free French ships. The hedgehog launcher
and depth charge roll-off racks, throwers and storage rack are beautifully done. Other 3D printed parts include the anchor windlass, anchors, Carley floats, searchlights, mushroom and other vents in several sizes, crow’s nest, floater nets, flag lockers,
pelorus, binnacle, mooring bits, fairleads, chimneys, propellers, HF/DF aerial, DF antenna and some smaller fittings.
The brass photo-etch fret contains all of the railings in pre-measured lengths, inclined and vertical ladders, a pair of platforms with railings, bridge wing supports, searchlight platform supports and shielding, aft gun platform supports, Carley float
storage racks, boat davits, boat rudders and cradles, depth charge handling davits, jack and ensign staffs, anchor chains and other detail parts. The photo-etch is nicely done with some relief etching and with part numbers etched into the fret for easy
identification. Some turned brass parts from Master Model are provided and are comprised of the foremast, yardarm and tripod legs, the mainmast and yardarm and the propeller shafts. A decal sheet with the black letters K and numbers in square and
rounded fonts the pennant numbers is provided.

The instruction guide is a 16-page booklet with each step of the assembly detailed with 3D CAD renders in color. The cover has a brief class history in English and French. Pages 2 through 5 have a breakdown of the resin, 3D printed and turned brass
parts with corresponding identification numbers. Page 5 also has an image of the and decals and a small image of the photo-etch fret. Pages 6 through 14 contain the 3D renders with images of the various sections of the model from different
perspectives. The renders are very well done and clearly show how the different subassemblies go together and were everything goes on the model. Page 15 has two views of the completed model. The final page has color plan and profile drawings with
Western Approaches camouflage scheme and pennant number worn by
La Découverte. The color references are for standard Royal Navy colors. Modelers will need other references to look up camouflage schemes for those wishing to build another
ship in the class. A rigging diagram is not provided which would have been useful.
The Black Cat Models River class kit is another excellent product, this time in 1:400 scale. The target market is obviously French modelers who will wish to add Free French escort ship to their Heller ship model fleet. Heller did not produce any WW2
era French destroyers or smaller combatants, so this kit is a way fills a void. However, some other modelers also build in 1:400, and you can build this kit into any
River class ship in any of the navies they served in. My thanks to Ben Druel for
providing the review sample.

Felix Bustelo
New York
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