Fonderie Miniature 1/35 LCA




$64.95 ($58.97 at Squadron)


One Vessel


James Hohenzy


Short run


After the Gallipoli disaster in 1915, a few farsighted souls in the Royal Navy realized, had the landing on the hostile Turkish shore been done "properly," it likely would have succeeded. Success in amphibious landings, as other battle situations, is often dependent on initial surprise by the attacker. Therefore, the essence of success in an amphibious assault was recognized as putting a large number of troops ashore, in fighting order, FAST, before an effective defense could be organized.

Next step; design a ship-to-shore-optimized landing boat able to carry a useful number of battle-ready soldiers. It must be easily handled by troop-carrying ships AND be simple enough to mass-produce and easily maintain.

One might say the Royal Navy's resultant design was the direct ancestor of veritably all beaching landing craft, since. They got it right, the first time.

Focus and effort paid off for the RN. The initial batch of dedicated, hostile-beach Landing Craft Assaults (LCA) entered service as the Phoney War turned to Blitzkrieg. Not fast, not pretty, not (Thanks, Scott Van Aken!)"racing-yacht-fine-finished," but functional and available in quantity.

Enough LCAs served at Dunkirk for substantial losses to be felt by the type. One does not need much imagination to speculate upon the new LCAs' duty that fateful May of 1940.

Built of wood with many square feet of 10# DIHT armour bolted thereto, the Landing Craft Assault did exactly what it was designed to do, land troops ON a hostile beach while providing them some degree of protection. Considering its being a pioneer design, the new LCA was remarkably "there." The LCA might be said to possess essential landing craft features in the same way Wilbur and Orville's plane had airplane features. Enormous kudos to the (to this writer) unknown designers of the LCA.

Sidebar: The US Navy put its native-designed Landing Craft Personnel (LCP) in production about the same time. The LCP did not have the LCA's front ramp or armour, troops having to embark / debark by climbing over / jumping from the gunwales. Pics of "Higgins boats" at Guadalcanal and North Africa show this not-user-friendly feature.

Acknowledging the LCA's sound design, the USN modified the LCP to incorporate a bow ramp (used on just about all landing craft since), and the LCP[R] was born. Interestingly, even though the USN and USMC and USA needed zillions of landing craft, America did not elect to license produce the LCA.

In the US Navy's opinion, the LCA was underpowered and the ramp too narrow (4'6"). Essentially, the [36 or so] troops had to exit single-file (often taking full-frontal hostile fire, onto a defended beach!!!), the hull too long, and needed 4 crew (the USN liked 1-3). In addition, the LCA used 2 anemic Ford V-8 gasoline automobile engines (65 HP each) on 2 semi-exposed
shafts, good for only 6 knots, loaded.  The magnificent LCVP from Andrew Jackson Higgins' mind (and boatyards) righted all these deficiencies, being produced in larger quantities than any naval design, but that is another tale.

Back to the main story: The RN's LCA served faithfully, in quantity, in every European landing, then Madagascar and with the RAN and RNZN and RN Pacific Fleet, throughout the war. Only minor, non-production-interfering-with changes were introduced; the type was too close to being right as designed.

European production ended with the Normandy and Southern France invasions. LCAs were still being produced "in the east," though, at war's end. The last LCAs in recorded combat service were French, in Indochina in the 50s.

The US employed a number of LCAs, though, apparently, with British crews. Their most famous American use was putting the Rangers ashore at Normandy. Capt. Miller and his men in "Saving Private Ryan" [Charlie Company] reportedly "should" have been landed from LCAs 418 and 1038, not LCVPs. The US Navy records loss of 17 LCAs on Utah Beach (before the storm). Apparently they were not used at Omaha, though LCAs would have been the primary small landing craft at Juno, Gold and Sword Beaches.


For a look at the bits in the box, please visit the preview.


Y'know, gobs of folks have said it, but to reiterate, this is THE best time to be a modeller, let alone a ship modeller! Alluva sudden, one after another, kit subjects show up on the shelves, stuff you NEVER thought you would see! Man, this is fine! Standing applause to Fondrie Miniature for having the 'nads to take on this important subject.

Sidebar 2: Let's face it, we have all read / tolerated unlimited horror stories about blah blah limited injection kits blah blah bad fit blah blah rough finish blah blah gaps blah blah alignment blah blah lack of detail.

This kit was, after reading Scott Van Aken's in-box review and examining the boxed contents...what are they bleating about? So what if it's not Tamigawa shake n' bake?

We are ship modellers, not girly-men!

'Discussed this with Great Kahuna / Editor Scott recently. It's about SUBJECT, not snap-tite-ed-ness. What would these so-called-modelers have done during the 30s and 40s with balsa sheet and block, tissue, newsprint plans and no kits...or for that matter, NOW, with a Mamoli or even Bluejacket ship "kit"? This crabby, middle-aged modeler's recommendation; if the subject's desirability does not outweigh the miniscule bit of traditional modeling skills and work needed with limited injection...there are always your Barbies if you don't like sanding, fitting and filling. (Though, admittedly, ship people seem the least whiny of scale modelers.)

That said....'proceeded to use a Fine tungsten carbide sanding block to true the flats and cut off the most offensive flash (and landing craft have a bunch of flats) and got busy, as they say downtown.

The LCA was a fun build; this was a fascinating subject, a "voyage of discovery," figuring out where everything went and what it looked like. Fondrie Miniature's cast metal detail parts are first-rate, period.

Before the FM kit was available, if ya wanted an LCA, it was buy a pound of Evergreen and Plastruct...and good luck finding ANY scale plans!

Assembly was sorta straightforward, though the kit was not built in the steps a real boat would have been...and attempting to do so is not a good idea. Follow the suggested sequence! The kit gives you one 8 1/2 X 11 double-sided photocopied sheet of exploded assembly views. These were more than a tad vague, considering the relatively complex and unknown subject.

Test fit, test fit, test fit. Remember, test fit. Got it? And be patient....

Mea culpa; this review builder made a couple of boo-boos which made his assembly more difficult than need be; mainly by not following the assembly sequence on the sheet. Thank Heaven, though, the relatively soft yet strong Fondrie Miniature plastic is quite forgiving. The four benches need about a hundred butt-joint vertical supports. Be patient...and make a jig.

And feel sorry for the two poor guys stuck in the back of the boat, in the engine compartment.

The kit REALLY looks like an LCA when built up.

Historic photos of LCAs do not seem to be prolific, and modeller beware; the same sub-type is rarely seen. Some have D/F loops, others, Danforth anchors on vertical racks forward. Hatch layout varies, as does the placement and type of mooring bitts, chocks, cleats, fairleads and gasoline filler caps.


Primary colour per the instructions was given as "USN Grey." (Usually fuzzy) photos showed anything from a light to darkish tone, so Pactra Figure Primer, sprayed overall, was used as the base. It is sturdy and accepts washes well. From there, well, chances are these boats were not only not built like racing yachts, but not maintained like them, either. Polly Scale USN Dark Gull Grey went over this nicely.

A wash of "tinted thinner" of black and raw sienna (thanks, Shep Paine) was brush-slobbered on, blotted appropriately, allowed to dry thoroughly and then the dry-brushing act began with ever-lighter greys. This kit was treated as an armour subject both because of its scale and "mass-produced-disposable" nature. Kit decals look okay but were not used; intent is to hunt around for numbers and photos for the boats which landed the 2nd Rangers at Normandy and mark the boat as one of theirs.

Then disaster struck. After carefully spraying on a clear coat of Tamiya Clear Flat...EVERYTHING turned "crusty," like a windshield frosts over on a December morning!!! Buddy Mike Hanlon, when solicited for emergency assistance said, "Congratulations, you are the one-millionth modeler to have his project spoiled by Tamiya Clear Flat. And don't use Gunze, it'll do the same thing." Get out the Windex, wash the "clear" coat off AND THE POLLY-SCALE PAINT WITH IT...and re-paint and re-weather, the same way, but adding oil pastels and coloured technical pens into the final process. Live and learn....



 The Fondrie Miniature Landing Craft Assault is an important, fascinating, long-overdue subject for the WWII modeler. Kit quality and level of detail is extraordinary for a limited run injection kit and the price is fair. The build took at least 50 hours, though my speed has diminished over the years, and more in-practice builders could surely improve on this...especially if they steer clear of Tamiya Clear Flat.... 

A few specs, courtesy of a reprint of a wartime Office Of Naval Intelligence publication:

Length: 41'6"   Beam: 10'
Draught: 1'1" fwd, 1'9" aft (light)  1'9" fwd. 2'3" aft (loaded)
Weight, empty: 9 tons     Weight, loaded: 13 tons
Construction: Wood, 10# DIHT steel armor bolted to bulkheads and hull sides, 1/4# doors
Engines: 2 Ford V-8 gasoline, 65 hp each, Range 50-80 miles
Fuel, gasoline 64 Imp gal.
Speed 10 kt (light), 6 kt loaded
Capacity: 36 troops and 800 lbs cargo
Crew: 4, with 1 officer per 3 boats


Allied Landing Craft Of World War II, Annapolis, Naval Institute Press (1988) Reprint of Office Of Naval Intelligence publication. Includes a few small photos and some specs.

British Commandos In Action, Carrollton, Squadron-Signal (1988)

Commando, New York, Ballantine Books, (1971), Peter Young

US Amphibious Ships And Craft, A Design and Development History. Annapolis, USNI Press (2003), Dr. Norman Friedman

US Landing Craft In Action, Carrollton, Squadron-Signal, (2003), Al Adcock

James Hohenzy

October 2003

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly , please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Reviews Index Page