Graham Beeson's 1/96th scale HMS Neptune 1941
"Retired" New Zealander Graham Beeson, who lives in Whangaparaoa just outside Auckland and is a well known and respected expert on the Battle of the River Plate, has been constructing model warships since he was 16 years old. He has modelled many warships which served in New Zealand or which have connections with the Royal New Zealand Navy.
As part of a group representing the River Plate action on 13 December 1939, Graham had already built 1/96th scale models of HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles (the latter then a Division of the Royal Navy, not becoming HMNZS Achilles until 1 October 1941 when the New Zealand Navy came into being). The two were, of course, Leander class sister ships of HMS Neptune so it was a natural progression that he should embark on a large scale replica of Neptune which, but for her loss in December 1941, was intended to become HMNZS Neptune - thus the large contingent of New Zealanders among her crew.
The 1/96th scale model is almost six feet long and weighs about twelve pounds. Graham constructed the model based on a fibreglass hull with decks made of scale wood planking. He modelled the superstructure in wood first and then covered it with metal plate to accurately replicate the look of the original ship. The detailed fittings which complete the model are made from a variety of materials including metal as suited to their construction.
Because of the large scale of his model, Graham took the opportunity to incorporate crew figures which gives a great impression of the true size of the original ship. He chose to have 150 visible crewmen, to represent the 150 New Zealanders who died and a contingent of Royal Marines on parade on the quarterdeck.
Starting the model in 2005, Graham originally anticipated that it would be completed within a year but other commitments intervened and he stopped work on the model for a period. In 2008, when plans were being laid for the construction of the Neptune Memorial on the Otago harbour waterfront at Dunedin, having such an imposing symbol of the ship at the dedication was obviously to be desired. Graham was requested to make his model available and he worked flat out to ensure it was completed in time for the ceremony on 12 December 2008.
The photograph below demonstrates that Graham succeeded in completing the model in time and it was shipped from Auckland across to the South Island and HMNZS Toroa in Dunedin where it was displayed in pride of place in the main hall for the ceremony. As can be seen, Graham and his wife Fay (who doubles as his archivist!) were invited to the ceremony and are seen here with the model.
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