By Rob Morgan
Over the past few months, a couple of colleagues and I have been discussing the many “what if” battleship projects which litter 20th Century naval history.
One battleship I can’t find a model of anywhere is the “Concrete Battleship” of Fort Drum in Manila Bay. Named after US Brigadier General Richard C. Drum, it was built on El Fraille Island between 1909 and 1918, always, one article suggested, known to the Phillipines Garrison and generally in the US Fleet by the “Concrete Battleship” alternative name.
There’s no model of it around, at least as far as I can discover, which is a pity. With two twin 14″ gun turrets, a compact but sturdy structure, entirely concrete, and with remarkably few external features, there was just a cage mast at the upper point of the works, and a low-level launch landing place and a couple of later A/A guns, it seems easy to model, and in almost any scale.
The old long defunct Fortress magazine (not to be confused with the Osprey series under the same name) back in the early 1990s carried a short item on the Defences of Manila Bay, and a 1/1200th scale drawing of the fort, made in 1935,was included, having been at long last declassified by the US authorities.
It would be so simple for any manufacturer to produce, and I wonder why, unless there’s a model somewhere in the USA I’ve missed, it has never attracted the attention of a model maker here in the UK? It did see action, in the attack on Corregidor and Manila, and later at the end of the war in the invasion of the Philippines. A powerful coast defence fort, set in the sea, and with four 14″ guns as well as two batteries of low set 6″ guns, and some A/A protection, makes an interesting addition to the fleet, and has that subtle difference from other battleships, that it can’t actually steam and avoid shells. Mind you Fort Drum can’t be sunk by torpedoes either, and in the Japanese assault, bombs seem to have caused remarkably little damage, despite some direct hits.
I think it’s long overdue in 1/1200th,1/2400th,1/3000th and even in 1/4800th scales. Definitely on my wants list.
I suppose I could invest in some Milliput and scratch-build one!