by: Tim Reynaga [ ]
One of England’s most celebrated ships, the Golden Hind is famous as the flagship of Sir Francis Drake’s 1577-80 expedition of exploration, raiding, and ultimately circumnavigation of the globe. Officially, Drake's expedition had been commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I to discover the fabled Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Unofficially, although England and Spain were not at war, the Queen also told Drake that "We would gladly be revenged on the King of Spain for divers injuries that We have received..."
Taking the hint, Drake took his fleet of six ships to sea in November 1577 armed to the teeth and looking for trouble, but things didn’t start off well – contrary winds soon drove the fleet back to Plymouth. Starting again the following month, the ships headed South, but by June morale had become so bad that Drake stopped off the East coast of South America and executed a nobleman aboard for mutiny. He also rechristened his flagship, the Pelican, as the "Golden Hind" in honor of one of the chief financial backers of the expedition (whose personal secretary the executed nobleman had been). He also scuttled his two smallest ships, which were supposedly no longer needed, but more likely to reduce the size of his unruly fleet to make it more manageable. Personnel issues weren’t Drake’s only problems. After passing the Straits of Magellan and reaching the Pacific, his reduced fleet was blown 300 miles South to Cape Horn. One of his ships sank with all hands and another became separated and, believing Drake’s flagship too had sunk, returned to England. This left only the Golden Hind to continue… but then Drake’s luck turned.
In December 1578 Drake raided the Spanish settlement at Valparaiso, Chile, in the process capturing a Spanish ship and its cargo of gold and wines – which must have done wonders for morale! In March 1579 things got even better when the Golden Hind captured the Nuestra Seńora de la Concepción (“Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception”) off the coast of Ecuador. This Spanish treasure galleon, known to her crew as the Cagafuego (“Shits-fire”), was to be the Golden Hind’s biggest score; the amazing six tons of treasure aboard took the crew nearly a week to transfer to the Golden Hind, and was so valuable that Queen Elizabeth’s share alone was enough to pay off her entire foreign debt!
Continuing northward, the Golden Hind eventually reached Vancouver, but the Northwest Passage was considered to be too great a hazard so Drake took the ship south and (reputedly) discovered San Francisco Bay. After a month in Northern California (which he named New Albion, or “New England”) careening the ship, Drake took the Golden Hind across the Pacific, through the Philippines, the Spice Islands (Moluccas), and eventually around the Cape of Good Hope and back to England. Despite successfully circumnavigating the Earth, Drake had failed to find the Northwest Passage, returned with only one of his five ships, 56 of 164 men, and had repeatedly committed what amounted to piracy. Nevertheless, upon his return to Plymouth Drake was treated as a national hero and knighted personally by Elizabeth aboard the Golden Hind. Perhaps the 4,700% profit (Ł47 for every Ł1 ventured) for the expedition’s investors, including the Queen, had something to do with it!
As for the Golden Hind, in honor of the circumnavigation the ship was placed on public display in a specially made drydock where she remained as a maritime museum and symbol of English national pride for nearly 100 years. The ship eventually fell into disrepair and was broken up sometime the mid-1600s.
You don’t come across a whole lot of sailing ship models in 1/350th scale, but lately Zvezda of Russia has been filling the gap with a series surprisingly good of snap-together kits. Intended to go with the ”The Ships–Armada Invincible” installment of the popular Art of Tactic war game system by Konstantin Krivenko, the ships are also sold separately as stand alone model kits. These kits include the British galleon Revenge (kit 6500), the Spanish Armada flagship San Martín (6502), and now Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind (6509). Developed more with wargamers rather than ship modelers in mind, these kits are simple to construct and of course, snap together. Nevertheless, they are quite accurate and very well detailed.
Hull and Deck
Not much is definitively known about the appearance of 16th Century ships, but comparing Zvezda’s little Golden Hind model with plans prepared by Mamoli for their 1/110 scale model kit, it matches pretty well. Parts breakdown of the 3˝ inch long waterlined hull is conventional consisting of left and right halves and separate fore, main, and poop decks. A nice plus is a separate lower hull piece, stand, and nameplate to allow for an optional full hull display. There is also an unusual “chassis” type part that fits invisibly under the deck and inside the hull to enable the hull halves and deck to lock securely together without the need for glue – very clever! Exterior surfaces of the hull and decks are covered with fine but sharp representations of beams, hatches, and planking. Separate details on the deck include 12 nicely rendered cannon (which protrude convincingly through the open gunports on the hull sides), stairs, bulkheads, balustrades, lantern, and a finely mastered 2-part boat with separate thwarts. The stern, something of a focal point on ships of this era, is a separate part with sharp detail and an “admiral’s walk”, boomkin, and rudder as separate pieces. All of the hull/deck assemblies, despite being snap together, are so well engineered that the finished product is virtually indistinguishable from a conventional kit requiring cement.
Another great aspect of this kit is the decal sheet. First, there are the flags that one would expect, which are accurate, colorful, and sharply done. Even better are the markings for the ship itself. English warships of the Elizabethan Age, although made of wood, were brightly painted with colorful, sometimes complex, geometric designs and royal crests. Not all specifics are known, but Queen Elizabeth’s ships would certainly have shown among the patterns the Tudor colors of white and green with a triangle motif – which the decals do show. So rather than leaving the modeler to try to replicate these with paint, Zvezda conveniently provides these markings as decals – a big time saver, and they will probably make for a better result for most of us, too!
Masts and Sails
Finally, there are the bowsprit, stepped masts, yards, and crows nests. As with the hull, these parts correspond well with available plans. They are pleasingly detailed, fit together well, and snap securely into place – but it is also in these areas that we encounter the first visible concessions to snap-together design. The attachment points on the yards to clutch the masts, for example, are out of scale claw like structures, and the masts themselves have large holes into which the tops of the ratlines attach (although these holes are hidden after assembly). The ratlines, though credible efforts with appropriate deadeye-and-lanyard details, have flat oval panels with which their tops attach to the masts that are not prototypical. The sails, which are molded as separate pieces, also have claw like attachment fittings to secure them to the yards. These would probably have been more convincing had Zvezda taken the approach of the old Pyro kits from the 1960s which had the billowing sails molded integrally with the spars. Still, when combined together the masts, ratlines, and sails look reasonably good, and the efficient design of the parts makes assembly fast and easy.
Zvezda’s rendition of the Golden Hind is a simple yet detailed model of Sir Francis Drake’s famous flagship. The molded-in-color parts, straightforward design and snap-fit are perfect for the wargamer looking for a quick build game piece, but it has a lot of appeal for the modeler as well. Accuracy and detail are on par with conventional scale models, and the modest design compromises for snap-fit assembly can be readily addressed with ordinary modeling skills. Depending on your tastes, the basis is there for either a cool game piece or a 3˝ inch long scale masterpiece to display alongside your 1/350 battleships!