Fife army veteran’s Titanic model set for journey round world

A model of the Titanic painstakingly created by a sight-impaired Fife army veteran is about to embark on a journey around the world.
Bernard Matthews, Fife veteran from Lochgelly,  with his scale model of the TitanicBernard Matthews, Fife veteran from Lochgelly,  with his scale model of the Titanic
Bernard Matthews, Fife veteran from Lochgelly, with his scale model of the Titanic

Seventy-three-year-old Bernard Matthews spent a year building the scale model from various materials, including polystyrene, cotton, wire, clay, metallic sheets and around 1000 pins.

Bernard, orginally from Lochgelly, suffers from glaucoma and was only able to work on the project with the help of strong magnifiers and lighting at Scottish War Blinded’s Linburn Centre, West Lothian.

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Now the finished model has so impressed a Titanic expert that he has acquired it for his collection and plans to display it in the USA later this year.

Sean Szmalc, director of Titanic Honour and Glory Ltd, said he was honoured to add the piece to his touring exhibition.

“When I started this project I didn’t realise this would take off on such a large scale,” said Bernard.

He was inspired to begin the model after Sean visited the Linburn Centre to give a talk on the legendary ship to the charity’s veterans.

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The model is built to a 1:279 scale and in memory of those who lost their lives in the sinking, it also features tiny cut-outs of passengers who were photographed on the Titanic before she set sail on her tragic voyage.

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Bernard was undeterred by his limited sight and used his knack for problem-solving.

He said: “We had to get drawings of the ship at different angles and look at how to reduce it to a scale model from start to finish. Then I just focused on a bit at a time. It was a bit tricky.

“I had to use a big magnifier light to work on it. I can see, but not very well.”

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Bernard, a former army cook with the Army Catering Corps who served from 1963 to 1966, joined Scottish War Blinded five years ago.

He now lives close to the Linburn Centre, attending regularly to take part in the various activities on offer to veterans with sight loss.

Titanic enthusiast Sean works with schools, galleries and museums across the world to tell the history of the Titanic.

He can’t wait to show the model to the public and share Bernard’s story.

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Sean said: “I have contacts at two of the world’s largest Titanic exhibitions – the Titanic Exhibition in Branson, Missouri, and the exhibition in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We are hoping to have the model exhibited in the United States for the rest of the year.”

Crafty veteran Bernard is already back to work on another project – a scratch model of the Queensferry Crossing.

Scottish War Blinded supports former servicemen and women of all ages, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service.


very talented veterans who visit the centre and take part in the art room activities.

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“The Titanic project has been an adventure, working out all the different technical elements and picking out all the finest details of the ship. It would be challenging for anyone.

“Whenever we’ve had visitors at the centre, they’ve been wowed by the model. It’s been really nice to see people’s reactions.”

– with the art room and cookery sessions as some of his firm favourites.

Scottish War Blinded have also provided him with a CCTV magnifier at home, free-of-charge.

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“The CCTV reader makes a big difference to my independence,” he said.

“Linburn is a very important in my life day-to-day. I’ve got something to get out of bed for, whereas before, I was retired and stuck in the house.

“I also do the gym at Linburn and I like the skills kitchen because I was a cook in the army and I like to keep my hand in. I like going to the IT room too – I learn as much as I can with the computers, and in the woodwork room I made a bench that I have at home now.

“I wouldn’t have dreamed of being able to do all this before I came here.”

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And as the Linburn Centre bid farewell to Bernard’s beloved Titanic, the crafty veteran is already back to work on another project: a scratch model of the Queensferry Crossing.

He added: “I think if you’ve got sight loss you’ve to reach out to organisations that can help you – like Scottish War Blinded if you’re a veteran. If you don’t, you’re going to be stuck at home.”

Scottish War Blinded gives free support to former servicemen and women of all ages, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service.

The Linburn Centre and Hawkhead Centre offer activities with transport provided free of charge. Visit or call 0800 035 6409 to refer a veteran to the charity.

For more information on Titanic Honour and Glory Limited, contact the firm’s director, Sean Szmalc on 07833 630 287, or email [email protected].