Mighty mini fleet

Gerry Westenberg with one of his amazingly detailed model ships.

GERRY WESTENBERG has been hand-crafting scale model ships for half a century, and now has 120 in his exquisitely detailed fleet.

Mr Westenberg’s models are now on display at the WA Shipwrecks Museum on Cliff Street, Fremantle.

The Naval Sea Power in Miniature exhibition was opened by WA defence industry minister Paul Papalia earlier this month.

The exhibit is one of Australia’s largest collections of hand-crafted naval ship models on display in one venue. 

Mr Westenberg’s passion for miniatures began when he was 16 years old when he puchased his first plastic model, a 1/600 scale model of the Royal Navy light cruiser HMS Ajax. 

“I bought a model set of HMS Ajax and kind of butchered it and it came out looking more like HMAS Perth. From then on I bought more and more kits and started changing the materials that I liked to use and scale that works for me.”

His models are now in the scale of 1/192 based on the Empirical scale of 1 inch to every 16 feet. 

He uses balsa wood to build the hull of the ships, with the rest made from plastic tubing, copper wire and cardboard. 

The exhibition includes a replica of one England’s most famous battleships, the HMS Hood which was sunk in 1941 by the feared German battleship Bismarck. 

There are also models of HMAS Perth which was sunk in 1942 by a Japanese torpedo at the battle of Sunda Straight, and the HMAS Sydney which sank off the coast of Geraldton following a battle with the German Kormoran. It was the largest loss of life in the history of the Australian Navy and the largest Allied warship lost with all hands during World War II. 

“If there is a class of ship that served during the war and if it sank, I’ll build that one. It’s my way of saying thank you to the sacrifices that our soldiers made.”

Most of the models are based on ships from the Australian and British naval forces, however there are some from the Age of Sail. Of particular interest will be the HMS Hood, Great Eastern and the sail training ship Leeuwin II.

“I’ve got about 30 warships that the Australian Navy used. I’m missing about four or five that I am currently building and I am also building the support ships such as the oil tankers and the tenders.”

On Thursdays and Saturdays from 9:30am – 5pm Mr Westenberg will be available at the exhibition space to answer questions about the miniatures on display and their history.

This will be the third exhibition of models held at WA Shipwrecks Museum and will be on display until July 30. Entry to WA Shipwrecks Museum is by gold coin donation.

by DANIEL SPENCE

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