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Author Topic: HMS Antelope - A class destroyer  (Read 2292 times)

Martin [Admin]

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HMS Antelope - A class destroyer
« on: March 18, 2011, 07:43:38 pm »

via email to Mayhem:


I'm new to this but thought you might be interested in my uncles 6 foot
tinplate destroyer scratch built in the 1930's which I think makes it an

Best Wishes
John M


          HMS Antelope (Destroyer 1929-1946)   

This model boat was built by my uncles Ted and Bert Swinford who lived in Battersea.  I remember it as a boy in the 1950's being sailed on the pond on Clapham Common. It was completely scratch built.
They were keen amateur engineers and inventors and spent a lot of time at the Science Museum at South Kensington.
The story goes that they gained the data to construct this six foot working model by scaling, through the glass, a two foot static model at the Museum.
I visited the Science Museum in about 1995, shortly after my remaining uncle’s death, and found that there was indeed a two foot model of the Antelope there.  This had become an exhibit from about 1933 (the prototype was commissioned in 1930).  This appears to confirm the story and I think it likely that my uncles built this boat in the early 1930's soon after the prototype went into service.
Originally the model was steam driven but was converted to electric radio control probably in the 1950's.  I still have the original steam engine which was scratch built.
My sister remembers seeing it on TV in the 1950's, probably on 'Blue Peter'.  She also remembers that one of the captains of the prototype was present either on the TV program or another occasion.
Physical Data               
Dimensions   length   1800mm   6’0’’      
      wide        200mm     8 ‘’      
      height   (to upper deck)            
Weight   (with batteries)      28kg         
   Hull      Tinplate with timber keel            
   Cabins      tinplate            
   Conning towers etc.   tinplate   
   Railings      split pin posts with wire rails      
   Portholes      washers soldered on      
   Lifeboats      carved wood
   Deck              wood veneer   
   Sailors      wooden with wire arms         
Electrics (Original)                  
Batteries   (2 nr)                  
   Type   (Yuasa    6N12A)   6V 12 amp      
   Length   154mm               
   Width   54mm      
   Height   115mm         
   Weight   2.150kg    ea            
Motors   (2 nr)         
   Type      2 Nr Decoperm (6V ?)   
   Cooling   mechanical pump pumps water from below water line through coils around motors and discharges
                        through bilge outlet
Controls      Macgregor Digimac 1V Transmitter Type MR1400A   
         Receiver MR 24A      
         Servo changes from forward to reverse (no speed controller)
         2nd Servo controls rudder         
Other items                   
   Electric bell    Rings when motors change from forward to reverse by means of a
                                mechanical device attached to servo
   Port & Starboard lights         
   Smoke       Paraffin drip onto small electric heaters in funnels (  I think).
   Horn      As bell            

My remaining uncle left ‘Antelope’ to me in his will and since the early 1990’s it has been in my loft. About two years ago, after I retired, I decided to restore it.  I had no previous experience of boat modelling but did a spot of model railways some years ago.  I knew very little about boats and even less about ‘electrics’.

At first I spent a considerable amount of time studying how it was constructed and how it worked.  Behind their butcher’s shop in Battersea, my uncles had a workshop, complete with a forge, belt driven lathes, welding gear and all sorts of tools and equipment. They took pride in keeping up with the technology of the time and regularly visited The Science Museum.  Their capabilities ranged from repairing jewellery, repairing radios to large welding jobs and replacing parts of their Norton motorbikes with lighter homemade parts.  It was therefore clear from the outset that I was no match for them and would only be tackling superficial renovations and ‘getting it working’.

Superficially Antelope was very dusty and a bit dirty.  The paintwork was pretty rough leading me to think that my uncles had repainted it in their later years perhaps when their eyesight was failing.  Having said this Antelope could never be described as a fine scale and accurate model.  It was mainly constructed of tinplate and bits and pieces and probably cost practically nothing to build. I’m sure their main objective was its performance and as long as it looked the part from ‘the shore’ that was o.k.  I also believed that the rough paintwork added to its charm and I felt a duty to keep it as near as possible to the way my uncles had it.

I therefore limited myself to general cleaning and only touching up paintwork where necessary.  This consisted of parts of the superstructure that were showing signs of rust including the handrails and balustrades.  The hull also needed attention.  The pointed keel had been built by attaching a triangular timber section to the rounded tinplate bottom and the joints were showing cracks in places. This keel had also been attacked by woodworm as it had many holes in it.  I filled rubbed down and painted the affected parts using Humbrol paints.

The sailors were also in need of attention.  They had been carved from wood with arms made from pieces of plastic covered electrical wire and were showing slight signs of mildew.  I cleaned and re-painted them with Humbrol paints replacing some of their hats, where lost, with new ones cut from bits of plastic bottles.

I had to replace some of the rigging using suitable sized yarn which I rubbed with Briwax to make it look older to match the existing.  The flags also needed replacing.  After a bit of research I replaced these with St George Cross and a Modern White Ensign from

The greatest challenge for me was undoubtedly ‘the electrics’.  It took awhile to figure it all out.  Originally it had been steam driven.  Without any controls my uncles were limited to setting it off from one side of the pond on Clapham Common and rushing round to the opposite side to catch it.  They converted it to electric radio control possibly in the 1950’s or 1960’s 

The power source had been two 6v 12amp Yuasa motorbike batteries.  Although they wouldn’t hold a charge they still enabled me to check that the twin Decaperm motors still worked.  I replaced the batteries with new 6v 12amp sealed lead acid batteries.  These weighed slightly less than the originals, I reckoned I could always add weight but couldn’t take it away.

The transmitter and receiver were Macgregor 2 channel and long past their sell by date.  I replaced this with a Giantcod 2.4g 4 channel transmitter and receiver which works well and is great value for money.

At first I was reluctant to replace the servos and other electrics within the boat reasoning that it had worked before so why replace it.  Speed variation was achieved by a servo operating a circular type of rheostat whereby the current was altered by a brass contact passing over studs. Mechanical links from this and the rudder servo caused make or break contacts to operate the horn and bell.  The bell operated when the motors changed from forward to reverse. Shortly after this an old acquaintance told me about the range of products by Action Electronics.  After studying their website I contacted them and found Dave more than helpful.  I e-mailed details and photos and he produced a suggested installation drawing for Antelope (this can be viewed on the Action website). He also took the trouble to answer the many questions I had. Seeing the advantages of using modern electronics to achieve better control I opted for stripping out all the existing and as first stage installing an Action  P92 Distribution Board, P94 Dual ESC/Mixer and P44A Twin Switch to operate the navigation and searchlight.  I also replaced the two servos and even as a novice I managed to install these items and more importantly it worked.  I decided to keep the mechanical linkage that operated the bell.

Dave’s installation plan also includes a separate sound system using a 12v battery.  Although everything works on the bench I’ve yet to test the Antelope on water, at 6 foot long it’s too big to test in the bath, and I am not sure what effect another large battery would have on the buoyancy.  I’m therefore looking at the sound system as a second stage pending the results of buoyancy tests and working out where I could fit the bits in.

I’m currently just finishing a few remaining bits of rigging and painting and hope to test it in a friend of a friend’s swimming pool in the near future.

"This is my firm opinion, but what do I know?!"    -   Mayhem FaceBook Group!


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Re: HMS Antelope - A class destroyer
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2011, 09:18:24 pm »

Very nice.
I used to spend hours in the ship gallery at the Science Museum.   I cannot remember the Antelope but I was always impressed by the Vanguard.   Are they still there I wonder? or have they been replaced by more modern exhibits?
Like most small boys I also played with the 'working' hand operated, or in some cases air operated, machine models.

john s 2

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Re: HMS Antelope - A class destroyer
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2011, 10:30:32 pm »

How wonderful to own a model with so much history.Especially nice that you remember it from a child.It is a
great memorial to your uncles skills. I know very little about steam. But again its great that the origanal plant
survives. Thanks for posting> john.


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Re: HMS Antelope - A class destroyer
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2011, 11:55:34 pm »

the engine is a Stuart Turner Sirius I think, the sun was larger I believe.


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Re: HMS Antelope - A class destroyer
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2011, 11:13:50 am »

Wonderful, wonderful piece of kit. :-))

One can feel the hours of patience, the love and attention and the handiwork put into the build of this model, it is so tangible.

Although it probably doesn't match up to the finish produced on more modern models, it has the builders personal stamp all over it.

Thanks for sharing it with us John.


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Re: HMS Antelope - A class destroyer
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2011, 01:25:07 pm »

Even if you don't intend to use it John, the steam plant deserves re-furbing if only to display it. Although some fittings were available at the time, the cost would be far in excess than the average man in the street could afford. Todays "Pampered" modellers have all the advantages of check book (Credit card) construction and an endless raft of different material sources to pick from.

  Regards  Ian.
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