Ship model, 'N' class Destroyer, miniature, complete with masts, radio and radar aerials, signal halyards and flags, deck detailing, aerial of human hair, set in plaster painted sea (by John Alcott), mounted on wooden base, R E Kippel, 1944
This model is one of 5 miniature model ships made by Robert E. 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. John C. Allcot, who painted the plaster seascape, is recognised as one of the leading Australian artists painting landscapes, sailing ships and steamers. 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.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 Arts 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 metal, to large wooden assemblages. He had completed over 1200 sculptures before his death in 2001.
John C. Allcot ,at 16, ran away to sea, first on Mersey tugboats, then as a deck-boy on the barque "Invermark", and then signing on in Sydney on the clipper "Antiope". He also supported himself by painting theatre sets, obtaining commissions for ships paintings, painting and selling landscapes, and as an illustrator and writing articles about the sea for the 'Sydney Mail'. He gained widespread recognition in the 1920's with a series of oil paintings on the founding of the Australian colonies. In the 1940's, he collaborated with Robert Klippel on painting backgrounds for his ship models, as in this model of an 'N' class destroyer. Allcot used water colour ,oils and gouache to paint nostalgic views of sailing ships and steamers for an appreciative market of shipping companies, ship-owners, captains and crews, as well as continuing to paint landscapes.
Model made 1944 by Robert E. Klippel, and painted plaster seascape by Jphn C. Allcot.
There were 5 'N' Class RAN destroyers,designated the "7th Destroyer Flotilla ", comprising "Napier", Nizam", "Nestor"," Norman", and "Nepal" ,replacing the ageing V&W class destroyers ,commonly referred to as the "Scrap Iron Flotilla ". Theses modern 'N' Class destroyers mounted 6 X 4.7 inch guns in 3 twin turrets , 2 depth charge throwers with 45 depth charges, aft torpedo tubes with10 torpedoes ,and Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns. "Napier" and " Nizam " took part in the evacuation of Crete embarking hundreds of the Australian Army's 6th Division, with the captains of both ships being awarded the DSC for their efforts. Both ships were later involved ib the "Tobruk Ferry Service " and as fleet and convoy escorts involved in the relief of Malta. " Nestor's" area of operation was in the Atlantic ,where she was credited with sinking a U-boat. These 3 destroyers left the Mediterranean in 1942 escorting a Royal Navy aircraft carrier loaded with fighter planes bound for Singapore to assist stem the Japanese attack on Malaya and Singapore. The same 3 ships,"Napier", "Nizam", "Nestor", now joined by "Norman", were recalled from Indian Ocean duties to the Mediterranean for convoy duties, during one of which the "Nestor" was badly damaged by bombs and had to be sunk after attempts to tow her to safety.
Returning to the Indian Ocean and the Eastern Fleet, the 3 destroyers were now joined by "Nepal" and through the remainder of 1942 and through1943 patrolled the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans as convoy supports and U-boat hunters. From 1944 the 4 'N'class destroyers were based mainly in Trincomali but also for a period in Chittagong ,and were engaged in fleet support actions against the Japanese.
They were particularly involved in supporting British Army troops in their push against the Japanese down the coast of Burma. The formation by 1945 of a British Pacific Fleet based in Sydney meant that the 'N's could at last be stationed in Australia ,to join the rest of the RAN in the final months of the war in the Pacific. The presence of "Napier", "Nizam", "Norman", and "Nepal" in Tokyo Bay on 2nd September 1945 when surrender documents were signed on board USS Missouri was a fitting tribute to the illustrious record of active service of the 'N' clss destroyers in every ocean of the world since 1941.
All 4 ships returned to Australia, handed back to the Royal Navy and joined the RN reserve fleet. They were eventually broken up in 1956.