The blockade runner ‘Mars’

By Rob Morgan

The very thorough comment on what colour blockade runners were painted means I’ll have to repaint my small 1/1200th collection of them, after 30 years of, well, admittedly fairly infrequent use on the wargames table! Thorough, very, and many thanks indeed. But Robert Walker’s revelation that he designed the original deserves something more.

Now Mars when I first encountered the model, AC64 in the Navwar range, was about 75p for a one-piece metal moulding. Basic but useful, the ship was 50mm long, 18mm wide at the paddle boxes, and with a low funnel, and two small ship’s boats moulded at the stern. These days they sell at £1.75.

Robert Walker’s master mould may have had a small flaw in it, because where my seven Mars models are concerned, all of them are sitting well back, and low at the stern. Not a problem though, in 1/1200th it gives a blockade runner the impression of speed, and the same goes for the other purposes I’m about to mention. In 1/1200th naturally, the model can be given a small gun over the bows and a simple pole-mast to add ‘something’ extra. My interest in the model is in 1/600th scale (or 1/700th, alongside some of the Sky Wave sets). The Mars becomes an armed paddle tug for ACW use if you slip 12mm or 15mm of biro tube over the existing funnel and cement in place. Then file the two tiny boats from the stern. Between the paddle boxes, cement a square of plasticard 5mm by 5mm, for a pilot house. A 1/600th or 1/700th ship’s boat, not on davits, taken from any old kit source, cemented ‘fore and aft,’ adds to the impression of scale. The armament is one  of Peter Pig’s 1/600th scale pack 43 medium deck guns over the bow. A 20mm pole mast in front of the funnel and that’s it. Beefs up your Union or Confederate brown water force, at less than half the price of a standard gunboat.

There are several options in 1/600th and the small conversion thoughts can be changed. A Peter Pig set 13, single ship’s boat on davits can be added across the stern for instance, or a walkway 1mm, by 15mm between the paddle boxes. Or a 20mm by 5mm deck house, bring the changes. It becomes a generic 19th century small auxiliary with little effort, based around one of the small Pig guns — two, that is one gun forward and another aft, seem too much, in my opinion. Keep the funnel replacement though.

Another option is that in 1872, the Germans fitted two paddle tugs, Rival and Zephir with spar torpedoes. A single long pin over the bows will represent this, but no gun.

While as late as World War I, the Austrians had Krystina, a paddle river steamer of similar dimensions to Mars in 1/600th  for patrolling the Danube, a few Hotchkiss guns fore and aft, and a collapsible funnel for going under bridges. See Roger Branfill-Cook’s ‘River Gunboats,’ page 39. Lastly, in 1/600th, on Page 91 of this book is an Egyptian river paddler with side shields, ideal for Mars.

There we are, just a couple of ideas. Mars, simple model though it is, remains the most versatile of all those old Navwar ACW ships. I’ve just found myself looking at the other blockade runner in the series, Banshee. Now, there must be some use for that ship too?

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