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Building Airfix's 1/1200 scale Bismarck

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paint and markings...
The Bismarck carried a number of paint schemes during its short existence, but its most colorful was the scheme worn between March and May 1941 while working up in the Baltic Sea. The colors consisted of Hellgrau 50 (aka Silbergrau, or silver gray) superstructure and upperworks and Dunkelgrau 51 (aka Fehgrau, or squirrel gray) hull. Dunkelgrau 53 (aka Anthrazitgrau, or anthracite gray) was painted on the hull ends fore and aft in an attempt to shorten the apparent length of the vessel, complete with white false wakes to enhance the illusion. The primary and secondary turrets were Silbergrau with dark gray tops (not maroon as is sometimes depicted).

The teak decks were left unpainted wood, and the steel decks were dark gray. Aerial recognition panels, each with a large black swastika inside a white circle on red panel, were painted on the main deck fore and aft. The most distinctive aspects of the scheme were large, angular black and white stripes across the hull and superstructure. I don’t know how these were supposed to work; maybe they were to disrupt directional observation, or perhaps the black and white bands were supposed somehow to blend visually with the background at a distance, or they might have been intended to make identifying the ship more difficult by obscuring the ship’s configuration. In any case, U.S. Naval intelligence assessment of the stripes’ effectiveness as camouflage was scathing, dismissing them as “ineffective”. They still looked kinda cool though!

Finding paints to approximate the various colors was not difficult. I used Model Master enamels throughout; Italian Blue Gray (lightened) was a reasonable match for Silbergrau, while Model Master Neutral Gray worked for Fehgrau and Model Master Gunship Gray stood in for Anthrazitgrau. I used a lightened Model Master Armor Sand for the wood decks, Model Master French Khaki for the floatplane, and the boats were painted with Model Master Military Brown. Out of sheer laziness I brush painted the entire project, but if I were to do it again I would use the airbrush to get a more even finish.

Bridge windows were little squares cut from black decal scraps as were the vision slits in the armored tower. For the Hakenkreuz air recognition markings I used decals from I-94 Enterprises www.I-94enterprises.com (product GR-105, German WWII Battle and Air Recognition Flags for 20mm-1/285 armor). These excellent armor decals weren’t 100% correct for the Bismarck as its swastikas actually covered a slightly larger deck area and didn’t have the quarter turn, but they look good. I had originally intended to use larger, more Bismarck-accurate panels adapted from a 1/48 aircraft decal, but the correct larger size tended to highlight the model’s truncated fantail. The less accurate markings actually worked better!

wrapping it up...
Airfix’s little Bismarck is an attractive model, noticeably superior to the more widely available Revell 1/1200 scale “Miniships” Bismarck/Tirpitz. If you want a small scale Bismarck for your fleet (and aren’t bothered by a few inaccuracies), this kit is an inexpensive, fun choice… but you’ll likely have to troll e-Bay to find one!


A terrific website with info on all things Bismarck including color profiles of the ship and a great model gallery.

Another excellent website with lots of Bismarck info.

An interesting summary of the Bismarck sortie prepared by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence in 1942.
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About the Author

About Tim Reynaga (TimReynaga)

I am married with three daughters and a son, and I oversee the team of regional workforce policy advisors for the State of California. My wife is an elementary school teacher. I’ve been building models since I was five years old (my first model was a NASA lunar module bought for a dime from a mag...


Wow, that's some great surgical work there! The quality of the build is right up there in 1/700 territory.
OCT 10, 2008 - 08:38 AM
Hi Tim! Long time without seeing any of your models (since SMML - and there are a few members here too) Glad you brought a model with you - and what an entrance! If 700th scale is hard, you start with a almost half of that! Thank you for sharing Rui
OCT 10, 2008 - 10:48 AM