The Dido class had their genesis in a letter written in 1933 by the Director of the Tactical Division, Captain Tom Phillips, to the Commanders in Chief of the Home and
Mediterranean fleets asking for their opinions on a 4,000 ton cruiser to replace the aging ‘C’ and ‘D’ classes.  At the time the Royal Navy was committed to building the
Leander class for trade protection, the Arethusa class for fleet work, and the much larger Towns in response to the threat of the Japanese Mogami class.  To make up
the numbers for fleet work, the Admiralty Board was looking for a cheaper alternative to the
Arethusas. CinC Mediterranean wanted a small cruiser that would be handy
enough to work with the destroyer flotillas.  It would have to be heavily gunned enough to deal with enemy destroyers and large enough to be used as a flagship and a
rallying point for destroyer flotilla torpedo attacks.  The Town class was much too large in his opinion to be useful in this role.  

In 1934, the ‘C’ class cruisers
Curlew and Coventry were converted to specialized Anti-Aircraft cruisers with 10-4” guns and 2-8 barrelled pompoms.  Serving with the
Mediterranean Fleet in 1935 during the Abyssinian crisis, these two ships were received very favourably and a requirement for heavy AA fire was added to the list for
the new cruisers. Further design refinements followed and by February 1935 requirements settled on a ship small enough to be built in large numbers, big enough to
keep up with the fleet in heavy seas, maximum gun power, speed and handiness. As the
Arethusas mounted 6-6” and 4-4” guns, a minimum of 10 guns was also
required for the new design. The new 4.5” mounting had been adopted by the Admiralty as the standard AA gun, but they felt that this gun mount was too small for
cruiser sized ships and settled on the new 5.1” Dual Purpose gun then under development.

The development of the 5.1” gun morphed into the 5.25” gun which was also being proposed for the new
King George V class battleships.  This was not an ideal AA
gun as the associated twin mounting was complex and heavy with a slow training speed and low rate of fire. It would however, prove to be a very good gun in its low
angle role. By June 1936 a cruiser of 5,300 tons mounting 10-5.25” guns was approved. The
Dido class was born. It should be noted that the Dido’s were not single
purpose AA cruisers like the converted ‘C’ class but merely small cruisers with a Dual Purpose main armament  The Admiralty still preferred the 4.5” gun for AA
purposes. To save time and effort, the basic hull of the
Arethusa was used as the basis for the new design, with 3 gun turrets forward and two aft.  The bridge had to
be high enough to clear ‘Q’ mounting, which in turn meant the fore funnel had to be raked aft to reduce the effects of fumes. The after funnel and the masts followed
suit.  Tripod masts were chosen in order to minimize the number of stays which would interfere with fields of fire.  
The original design called for a seaplane and crane between the funnels.  This was replaced by two quad 2pdr pompoms in order to augment AA defence. Two triple
torpedo mounts were also added. For surface targeting, a Mk IV director was installed on the bridge. Two high angle directors for AA fire were fitted, one above the
bridge and one aft of the mainmast, giving the ability to engage two aircraft simultaneously. The after HA director was dual purpose as it could also be used to engage
surface targets. The unit system of machinery was chosen with alternating boiler and engine rooms. A quadruple screw arrangement would drive the ships at 33 knots
at 62,000 SHP and endurance was 5,000 nm at 16 knots.  Four turbo-generators capable of generating 1,200 Kwh were also installed. The armour scheme consisted
of a 3” belt abreast the engineering spaces with a 1” deck and transverse bulkheads at the ends.  A 2” platform deck covered the magazines which also had 1”
longitudinal bulkheads fitted abreast.  The turrets had 1” to 1.5” plate and the steering gear was enclosed with 1” sides and deck.  This scheme was deemed sufficient
to deal with 6” gun fire.  As much weight saving as possible was incorporated:  welding of the forward sections, a reduced number of shells, copper piping, no
handing room between the magazines and turrets, no spare gun barrels carried aboard, and lighter High Angle directors.  The Mk II 5.25” mounting was chosen as it
featured combined magazines and shell rooms, saving weight and offering a reduction of some 60 crew members, no small consideration given the small size of the
ships. The following ships were ordered: Five in 1936:
Dido, Euryalus, Naiad, Phoebe, Sirius: Two in 1937: Bonaventure, Hermione: Three in 1938: Charybdis,
Cleopatra, Scylla: Six in 1939: Argonaut, Bellona, Black Prince, Diadem, Royalist, Spartan. This was the largest cruiser program since the First World War. The
class would be split into three groups:
Dido, Euryalus, Naiad, Phoebe, Sirius, Bonaventure, Hermione, Cleopatra, and Argonaut built to the original design;
Charybdis and Scylla armed with 4.5” guns; Bellona, Black Prince, Diadem, Royalist, and Spartan of a modified design with 4-5.25” turrets. By 1939, none were
ready due to bottlenecks with turrets, fire control equipment, turbines, and reduction gearing although the first ten had been laid down and six had been launched.  In
the spring of 1939, with
Bonaventure about a year away from completion, a problem of supply of the 5.25” mounts arose as they had also been chosen as the
secondary armament of the
King George V class with the battleships having priority.

Compounding the problem was the pending order for five ships of the 1939 program. Partly as a result of the shortage of turrets and partly as a compromise to free up
additional mountings and allow a sixth ship to be ordered in 1939, it was decided to complete
Charybdis and Scylla with 4.5” guns instead.  Known derogatorily, ‘The
Toothless Terrors’,
Charybdis and Scylla were in fact true anti-aircraft cruisers. Despite these measures, three of the first four to complete were one turret short:
Bonaventure, Dido, and Phoebe, each mounting single 4” star shell gun instead. Bonaventure carried hers in ‘X’ position; Dido and Phoebe in ‘Q’. Dido would
eventually receive her 5th turret,
Phoebe never would, and Bonaventure would be lost before she received her 5th turret. All the remaining ships completed with the
full outfit of turrets. Construction of the six ships of the 1939 group was suspended in 1940.  All were subsequently restarted, but only
Argonaut was completed to
the original design. The other five were completed to the modified design featuring only 4-5.25” twin mounts, a lower bridge, and straight funnels and masts. Of the
original group,
Bonaventure was the first to complete in May 1940; Argonaut was the last in August 1942. The second group completed from August 1943 (Spartan)
to January 1944 (
Diadem). All of the ships completed with some form of radar, and by 1943 surviving ships all had types 272, 281, 282, 284, and 285 installed. As
first of type,
Bonaventure was subject to extensive trials, complicated by troubles with the 5.25” mounts which took Vickers 3 weeks to correct.  In all other respects
the ship was deemed satisfactory.
Bonaventure suffered weather damage in November 1940 which buckled two pillars under the forward deck; this was solved by
additional stiffening.
Naiad had movement in the deck and bridge which caused leaking; deck movement in other ships resulted in frequent jamming of ‘A’ turret.  
It was determined that most damage was caused by driving them too hard in bad weather. As experience was gained during operations, crews were able to allow for
adverse weather conditions with the result that no further weather damage was reported. Overall, the ships were good sea boats but prone to heavy pitching, mainly
due to the heavily loaded ends.  They were less successful in the AA role than the 4” armed C’ class, mainly due to the heavy and slow 5.25” gun mount.

Many modifications were made to the close range AA armament during the war, references and photographs should be consulted. Camouflage schemes also varied
considerably, references should be checked carefully. They were used extensively mainly in the Mediterranean where they gave good service in the face of constant air
and submarine attack. Five of them were sunk, four to torpedoes in the machinery spaces:
Naiad, Bonaventure, Hermione, and Charybdis. With the lack of reserve
buoyancy on such a small hull it is not surprising that flooding in the large machinery spaces would cause the loss of the ship.
Spartan was lost after being hit by a
glider bomb. In addition 6 of the ships were very heavily damaged from bombs, torpedoes, or shellfire.
Phoebe and Argonaut were torpedoed twice and Cleopatra
Cleopatra managing to survive a torpedo hit in the machinery spaces. Phoebe and Argonaut were fortunately (!) hit elsewhere on the hull. Scylla was not fully
repaired after being mined off Normandy.
Dido and Sirius were both heavily damaged by bomb hits. Cleopatra was also damaged by bombs and a 6” shell hit from
the Italian battleship
The Kit - This features Naiad as built in her original fit as a member of the first group of Dido’s.  

Packaging: The kit comes in a well-constructed box featuring a dramatic painting of HMS Naiad in action wearing a colourful camouflage scheme. Inside the main
box can be found two smaller boxes: a see-through, one containing the two sprues for the masts, and another very solid box with the rest of the kit components. Each
of the sprues is individually sealed in plastic bags, with the exception of the main superstructure pieces which are in their own sealed box. There is also a large full
colour card featuring the box art on one side and a ship’s history with general characteristics on the reverse. The box can be used as a display base by carefully cutting
and folding the box top so that it forms a backdrop for the completed model which would rest on a blue sea scape that comes as an inner flap. Directions for this
interesting feature can be found on the instruction sheet. The kit comprises 256 parts on 20 sprues with a further 82 photo-etch pieces.  

Hull: The starboard and port hull sides are in one piece and scale out perfectly to the actual length of 512 feet. A lower hull and a waterline base plate and weight are
supplied giving the modeller the option to build either a full hull or a waterline version.  There are no stands included so those wishing to build the full hull version will
need to come up with some arrangement to display the completed model. The lower hull itself has finely molded bilge keels and the lower half of the armour belt.  
Rudder, propellers and shafts are included as separate pieces. The pronounced bow knuckle is in the correct position, starting just under ‘B’ barbette and terminating
just short of the bow. It correctly follows the contour of the upper deck, but curves slightly upwards under ‘A’ barbette. This is not quite the correct shape as careful
study of many photographs shows that the actual knuckle was a straight line for its entire length without any curve. Nevertheless, this is a very good attempt at
capturing this very distinctive feature; most people will not even notice the discrepancy. There is also a good attempt at capturing the line of hull plating from the bow
back to the armour belt amidships and from the armour belt aft to the stern.  It is slightly exaggerated in this scale and could be sanded down to be less conspicuous.  
The armour belt itself is spot on as is the external degaussing cable. The portholes all feature eyebrows. The hull on my example is slightly warped as it does not sit
flat. Some attention with a heat source such as a hair dryer will be required to straighten it out.

Decks: The main decks are in two pieces: the foredeck back to the focsle break, and the after deck. Both feature amazing levels of detail with individual deck planks,
bollards, capstans, boat skids, and hatches. The main deck forward of the breakwater features an intricate non-skid pattern. The breakwater itself is a separate piece.
Both pieces drop right into place on the main hull in a good display of precision fitting.
Superstructure: The main superstructure parts are all individual pieces that do not require cutting from sprues. This is a great feature which prevents any damage
from sprue cutters and the like. They all feature immense detail on every face:  hatches, handrails, deck fittings, slots for fitting other pieces. The one piece bridge is
especially outstanding featuring molded in air deflectors and the open bridge windows below the upper bridge. There are no less than 17 pieces to be applied to the
upper bridge, including binoculars, the chart table cover, and the main gunnery director. The forward HA control station above the bridge consists of 4 pieces and has
a simulated canvas cover. The funnels are single pieces with engraved lines, separate caps, steam pipes, and piping for the whistles.  

Weapons: The main 5.25” gun turrets are in two pieces, with separate gun barrels. The turrets are outstanding, correctly shaped with plenty of roof and side details.  
Photo-etch pieces for the gearing used to elevate the guns are provided if the modeller desires to have the guns at full elevation. The quad pompoms consist of 3 pieces
and have plenty of detail on the actual gun platform. The 0.5” mounts are also very detailed. The torpedo tubes are exquisite with plenty of detail and hollowed out ends
allowing torpedoes to be inserted if the modeller wishes. Torpedoes would have to be scratch built. There is an additional open single gun mount to be placed just
forward of ‘X’ turret.  I haven’t been able to find a photo showing this gun or a reference that mentions it. Those in pursuit of absolute accuracy may need to consult
their references to see if this gun mount was ever actually mounted.  

Boats and fittings: There are 3 open boats and one motor launch, each one features deck planks. There are many smaller fittings, every piece of which is incredibly
detailed. The ready use ammo lockers have doors, the cowl vents are hollowed out, the main air intakes have photo-etch grills, the deck winches have detailed motors,
the life rafts are detailed both top and bottom, the davits are extremely thin, the paravanes are accurately shaped, and there is a depth charge rack and a smoke float
rack for the quarterdeck. Photo-etch railings are supplied pre-cut to the correct lengths with very clear instructions on where each piece is to be placed.    

Masts: The masts and tripod supports come on their own sprues and are packaged separately in their own box.  They are extremely thin and can be used as is without
resorting to replacements built from wire. Photo-etch aerials for the Type 279 radar and platform are supplied for the tops of both masts.  

Decals: As Royal Navy cruisers did not carry pennant numbers as a rule, the decals are very minimal consisting solely of 4 White Ensigns.  

Photo-Etch: A very comprehensive photo-etch sheet is also included with all the railings, ladders, grilles, lattice supports, and radar components needed for the kit. It
also contains anchor chain and some smaller structures such as the chart table shelter and a storage locker.    
Instructions: The instructions come on two large, double sided full colour pages. They are very clear and comprehensive and also feature a drawing showing all the
sprues and parts included. Flyhawk uses colour coding to assist with placement of smaller parts; this is a very good feature which takes out a lot of guess work.  

Colour scheme: There is a full colour diagram of the camouflage scheme carried by Naiad from her completion in July 1940 to some point in 1941, with references to
the Mr. Colour and Tamiya paint ranges. The brown and green colours appear to be based on the colour drawing featured in the Ensign title ‘
Dido Class Cruisers’ by
Alan Raven and H.T. Lenton which shows the starboard side only and states that both sides were the same.  Since the Ensign title was published in 1973, more
information has come to light regarding the pattern and the colour scheme. The Warship Perspectives title ‘
Camouflage Volume One: Royal Navy 1939-1941’ by Alan
Raven and published in 2000, has a drawing on page 46 showing both sides of Naiad wearing essentially the same scheme but with colours of black, 507B, and 507C
specified. The two sides are also not identical. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Raven concedes that this second set of patterns and colours is the definitive version.
The pattern provided by Flyhawk provides yet another interpretation, with the starboard side being very similar to the drawing in the Ensign title and the port side being
very similar to the Warship Perspectives drawing. Flyhawk’s drawings have some very subtle differences however, and specify the use of green, brown, and light grey.
So the modeller has a choice of colours and patterns to choose from. Royal Navy camouflage still remains a complex subject and for those without access to the newer
Warship Perspective drawings, you cannot go too far wrong using the Flyhawk supplied patterns with black, 507B, and 507C.  It should also be noted that
scheme was painted out in favour of the dark hull, light upperworks scheme by September 1941. She was wearing this second scheme when sunk in March 1942.

Overall Impression: To put it quite simply, this is a superb kit; it just cries out to be built. The one word that best describes it is ‘precision’. All the main superstructure
parts fit perfectly when dry fitted.  As an example of how precise the components are, all the smaller sprues actually fit together and can be stacked, much like a set of
Lego bricks. It is also very accurate, matching up very well with the drawings and photos in my various reference books.  The only thing I would question is the extra
gun mount ahead of ‘X’ turret. The amount of detail is incredible, considering that the model itself is only 9” long. There is absolutely no flash on any of the pieces and
none of those lines that result when two mold halves are used to make a single component.  Providing all the main superstructure pieces as separate parts is a brilliant
idea, there is very little scope for damage. It does retail in North America for more than the average kit, but considering that it comes with a dedicated photo-etch set and
without much scope for any after-market items, it does represent very good value for the money. In fact, the only thing that could improve this kit would be the
provision of anchor chain instead of the photo-etch chain that is provided. The kit can be used to model any of the 9 members of the first group of
Dido’s, the
exceptions being
Scylla and Charybdis. Careful use of references will be required as each ship differed slightly in details.  
This is a highly recommended kit, and it will make a splendid addition to any collection. Royal Navy enthusiasts have waited a very long time for an injection molded
Dido (or any RN cruiser for that matter) in 1/700 and Flyhawk is to be heartily congratulated for providing such a well-researched and well-engineered kit. One can only
hope for more!    
Rob Brown