Ship model, Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship, miniature, comprehensive details, finished in black and grey and mounted on stand, R E Kippel, 1942
This model is one of 5 miniature model ships made by Robert Klippel when serving in the Royal Australian Navy during WW11. Klippel is now regarded as one of Australia's greatest sculptors, and these ship models are highly significant as examples of his earliest work. As a boy, Klippel was fascinated by the collection of model ships in the old Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, precursor of the Powerhouse Museum. He trained as a wool classer ,but, at the outbreak of WW11, joined the Royal Australian Navy serving first as a seaman on an auxiliary minesweeper, and then as a gunner on a tanker. This model was carved in 1942. In 1943, his skill in carving miniature ship models led to his joining the Naval Gunnery Instruction Centre to make scale models of ships and aircraft used to instruct sailors in recognition training to be able to identify different types of vessels and aircraft. In his leisure time, apart from attending evening classes in sculpture, he continued carving models of sailing ships. After the war, he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in New York, and the following year at the Abbey Arts Centre in London. From 1950 he worked as an industrial designer to produce functional and contemporary furniture. A prototype coffee table of his work is on exhibit in the Powerhouse Museum.
Klippel is now regarded as one of Australia's greatest sculptors. He was very prolific, and utilised an extraordinary diversity of materials ; wood, stone, plastic toy kits, wooden pattern parts, typewriter machinery, industrial piping and machine parts, as well as bronze, silver, oils, photographs, collage and paper. he is noted for the great diversity of scale of his work, from intricate whimsical structures in metyal, to large wooden assemblages. he had completed over 1200 sculptures before his death in 2001.
Model made by Robert Klippel, 1942.
Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship ( DEMS) was a British Adniralty Trade Division programme established in June 1939, to arm 5,500 British merchant ships with an adequate defense against enemy submarines and aircraft. The acronym DEMS was used to describe the ships carrying the guns, the guns aboard the ships, the military personnel manning the guns, and the shore establishment supporting thr system. During WW11, the objective was to equip each ship with a low-angle gun mounted aft as defence against surfaced submarines, and a hugh-angle gun and rifle calibre machine guns for defence against air attack. 3400 ships had been armed thus by the end of 1940, and all by 1943. The low-angle guns were typically in the 75-150 mm. range depending on the size of the ship. Rifle calibre machine guns were augmented or replaced by 20mm. Oerlikon as they became available. The High-Angle QF 12 pounder Mk V mount was the most common anti-aircraft gun, and later ships sometimes received 40mm. Bofors guns. THe RAN supplied sailors as gunners to the Australian DEMS, Kippel being one as gunner ,on his second ship in wartime, a tanker.