Academy 1/350 HMS Warspite
|NOTES:||Includes photo etch parts. Upgrade Set 35001 F1, Manufacturer Pontos; Price @ $120.00|
HMS Warspite was one of the most famous and hard-fighting British battleships, serving in both world wars. She belonged to the groundbreaking Queen – Elizabeth – Class that introduced oil-fired boilers and the 15 inch gun into the Royal Navy battle squadrons. She was thoroughly reconstructed in the mid 1930ies, with a new powerplant, new superstructure, improved artillery and various other improvements. She was employed almost world-wide during WW 2, most notably off Norway and in the Mediterranean. It was there that she was almost lost after a hit by a German guided bomb. She was never fully repaired, only so far as to be able to render naval gunfire support during and after the Normandy landings. She sustained more damage by a mine in the Channel, and was only provisionally repaired and regunned to provide more bombardment service during the allied advance. She fired her last shots on 1 November, 1944, off Walcheren island, and was then deactivated. On her last voyage to the breakers, she broke tow in the spring of 1947, and grounded off the Cornish coast, where she was broken up over the course of the next years. There is a memorial to this proud ship close to the causeway to St. Michael´s Mount at the village of Marazion.
Academy´s 1:350 kit of HMS Warspite shows her in her mid-war fit. It is a well-fitting kit though not exceptionally detailed. There is no waterline option, and you have to tackle some unsightly seams within the scribed deck. Nonetheless it is a very neat kit that offers a very convincing value for money. The icing on the cake is the Pontos „detail up set“ which is really comprehensive and takes this kit not just to the next level, but rather up a few extra steps.
It contains oodles of dedicated PE, a neat wooden deck, useful resin items, dry transfers, and a veritable treasure trove of machined brass. In all, it extends the scope of upgrade sets and introduces a number of items I for one so far may have dreamt of but never thought I´d really hold them in my grubby pair of mitts. The only downside is the instructions which are incomplete, hard to see and a bit on the arbitrary side. They can, though, be downloaded from the Pontos website as PDF files; when viewed under appropriate magnification, they tend to give away some of their secrets.
First of all it was time to decide on how to present the model. I chose the
drill of mooring the ship to a buoy upon return to a roadstead. A boat with a
mooring party was sent to the buoy to receive the anchor chain lowered from the
ship and shackle it to the buoy. The ship would be kept stationary at the time
against current and winds by engine power. So I cut an appropriate base from 40
mm foam board and built a mooring buoy from a leftover 1:35 scale fuel drum,
some styrene stock, some PE parts and wire. The two halves of the hull were
assembled with their stiffeners, using the pretty strong
Plast-i-Weld glue. It takes great care in application due to its
volatility. After curing the hull was waterlined, the deck was added afterwards
and glued from below. According to the Pontos instructions, various molded on
deck structures were now removed. Some seams were puttied and sanded, which
would have been a hassle if I had not used the wooden deck. At the same time, I
started assembling the superstructure sections, which fit well. As a total
novice in the use of wooden decks, I made some tests and found that the deck
glued very well and could be weathered with thinned oil paint if desired.
A project of this size and complexity consists of numerous subassemblies, some of them more daunting than others, and we´re free which to tackle first. I for one considered the multipart funnel grill and the even fiddlier bridge wind deflectors the most scary of the lot, and so started with them. I was surprised at how well they tackled in the end; they were surely not easy, and needed thought, patience and some skill, but on the whole worked as advertised. The wind deflectors didn´t fit perfectly, but could be fitted to my satisfaction yet. Already now I realized how much this upgrade set would improve the kit. I should find one glitch of this kit later in the project in this area.
Parallel to working on the pretty demanding funnel platforms I fit the hull, the mooring buoy and the ship´s boat to the base and determined their respective positions. Holes were drilled into the foam board that would enable screws to press the vessel to the base for gluing. A cutout was made for the ship´s boat. The base was then painted with white wall paint in a stippling motion to add some structure to it reminiscing of water. After drying, the base was sprayed in green and blue hues using modeling acrylics. That thoroughly cured (more than a week), the base was heavily sealed with solvent based clear gloss from a rattle can. That completed work on the base until the final stage.
I had tackled the next iffy subassembly awhile: Quite traditionally, the Queen Elizabeth class vessels had officer accommodation at the stern, with the admiral having the most spacious quarters at the actual stern of the vessel, with a covered stern gallery for a spot of fresh air in private. Other than with her sister vessels, Warspite´s stern gallery was retained during her reconstruction, so I was tasked to bend and glue very delicate PE parts, if possible without flooding them with glue. The result looked quite all right and was rigid enough, once glued to the styrene cover.
I was now able to prime and paint the hull. I gently sanded the plastic to give the paint better adhesion, then de-greased it with alcohol, prior to spraying automotive primer from a rattle can. Now the boot topping was sprayed a dark grey and masked, followed by masking and spraying the two shades of the camouflage scheme. Vallejo acrylics were used. The hull was weathered only rather gently, by applying filters from artist´s oils. Finally the hull was ready for the application of the wooden deck. I divided the larger part at the breakwater to have more manageably sized pieces first. Wearing surgical gloves for fear of compromising the adhesive coating, I recut and cleared up the deck parts with a fresh X-ACTO blade and pried them loose from the backing. Then the individual parts were placed and pressed on the deck where they stick to the present day, eighteen months later. The deck´s fit was excellent, there was only one place where it was too short, right at the hangar doors. I closed the gap with styrene later.
Now was the time to replace the numerous deck details removed prior to applying the wooden deck. The catapult was the largest and most intricate of these. Honestly I´m not sure whether the catapult was retained or removed upon the deletion of the floatplanes. In an earlier model depicting Warspite at the time of her wrecking, I had omitted the catapult. Here, I used the catapult with its covers as I did not feel up to filling up the gaps it would have left with wooden deck material. I have seen a lot of Warspite models with floatplanes and catapult and AA gun tubs; personally I am fairly sure that one the gun tubs were installed no floatplane would have been operated any more. Hence I omitted the planes from my build.
Pontos has done a billiant job of depicting the numerous details on the foredeck, too. You get virtually anything needed for anchor handling, in multilayer relief-etched PE and assorted resin to boot. That was true modeling fun, especially as the parts fit!
A more iffy job was to apply various large and curved PE parts surrounding the wooden deck. These were pre-painted to minimize the risk of damage to the wooden deck. The numerous PE deck hatches needed preparation and a systematic approach. I usually apply kabuki tape to blocks of foam board and collect my small parts there for painting and weathering prior to installation. In this case, lots of markings were scribbled on the tape to remind me which hatches went where.
The multipart breakwater needed care and time; as it was markedly wider than the deck, I clipped its ends. I may have goofed here but found it looked right.
The two cranes are another example for the high standard of the upgrade set. Using the kit PE, the pastic parts are repalced by a combination of PE and machined brass which renders a delicate yet sturdy plus credible result.
There are some subassemblies that tend to drive me nuts for my incompetence. The type 281 masttop warning radars have been my major bugbears in all my period RN builds. In this case, the Pontos developers have really done their homework and come up with an immensely well thought out design combining PE and machined brass that build easily and really looks the part. Bravo Zulu! Once I had studied and digested the instructions, the masts proved to be equally well designed and very strong. Especially the PE parts for connecting the yardarms to the masts really make the difference and are world apart from gluing or soldering.
The eight barreled pompoms proved a trickier foe, and their big advantage lies in their beautifully turned characteristic barrels. I was not happy with the PE ammo boxes, I feel in hindsight those would have been easier and equally nice in resin. On the whole the pompoms are very good representations of the original, and make the model stand out yet more.
I was most impresed with the 20 mm Oerlikon AA guns, which are very well designed and look very convincing. These guns were shipped by virtually any allied vessel, and having them available in this quality is a vast improvement over earlier offerings.
The heavy turrets were built almost as an afterthought or rather as a sideline. They did fit well, I only had to trim the resin blastbags a bit.
The numerous ship´s boats proved to be models in their own right once they got the Pontos treatment with lots of PE. Given enough care and time, they built well. I put some extra work into the 45 ft launches, opening up the covers sternwards with minidrills and files to achieve a more realistic look. The boats were painted (without any hard evidence) in a different grey from the hull. Their wooden decks were simulated by drybrushing brown artist´s oil paint over a beige acrylic base.
The numerous PE boat cradles were iffy to fold and assemble, but their relief-etched structure looked most pleasing. Parallel to building them I made the ten boat booms. These agin were little works of art assembled from machined brass and PE, „workable“ and with eyebolts for rigging. The wooden booms were painted as decribed above for the boats decks.
Numerous other parts followed, like ready ammunition boxes, flag lockers, bollards, cleats, searchlights, binoculars and so on. May of the ready ammo boxes had to be added to the finely cast resin AA gun tubs, taking good care what went where. More and more foam board blocks with taped-on parts piled up in my modeling den.
Then came the point in the project when progress became visible. Screws were fixed to the three superstructure blocks, both to mount them on my vise and for later fixing the superstructure block to the hull. Now I was able to paint the blocks in camo and add the numerous detail parts. At this point, the first railings were added, too. These are tailormade and relief-etched bending marks are provided to ease assembly. The included supports were helpful and easy to work with. I replaced the anchor chains with items from German supplier Saemann which were smaller and looked more to scale. They were blackened and added to the model.
Finally I was able to add the superstructure blocks to the model, and the many emptied foam board blocks showed how many parts I had already added. When all the railings and the boat booms were mounted, too, I started manning my vessel. I used prepainted PitRoad sailors as well as my dwindling supplies of Goffy resin figures.
And that was when I realized what I should have seen much earlier. The kit splinter shields at the compass platform were much too low, they hardly reached up to the figures´ waists. Reference images showed that the real thing had been much higher. It was time for a brainwave to get out of this situation. Rebuilding the bridge and the PE wind deflector was out of the question, so I came up with a cowardly and brutal solution: The entire bridge crew had their legs amputated at mid-thigh height, which brought their heads to the right height. To somehow hide the carnage, I constructed an awning over the compass platform using various PE and wire items, plus cigarette paper infused in clear acrylic. After curing, it was painted in a canvas shade and was drybrushed.
Now the cutter was also manned, receiving rowers and a coxswain. Two hands were placed in the cutter´s bow, two more on the buoy where the delicate maneouvre of shackling and sealing the splint with lead was performed. The oars were sourced from my collection of leftover PE.
Always working away from the model´s centerline, the last additions to the hull were added - the very nice flagpoles, the cutter´s davits and the stern gallery. The latter ´s fit was worse than during the initial fitting, but I was able to close the remaining gaps with white glue. I placed the accommodation ladders on the deck, as if they were just being prepared for deploying. Some (un-mutilated) figures were placed around the decks to bring some life to the model.
Now I was able to tackle my least favorite job, as in rigging the model. I used UNI flyfishing thread, gauge 8/0 in black and tan; this was glued at the start of any individual line using CA gel. That cured, the line was led to its destination, the excess weighted with pliers or clothes pins or the like to make it taut. Then the end point was secured using thin CA. That also cured, the excess was trimmed with a fresh X-ACTO blade. I tried to follow the spirit of the various rigging plans in my references without aiming at going all the way. Remember, it is my least favorite task. Isolators were simulated with droplets of PVA glue, painted black after curing. The rudder indicators were cut from PE sheet and painted black. The White Ensign is the kit decal, applied to aluminum foil and selaed with clear acrylic paint. The flag was then shaped as desired, the edges touched up with paint, and the flag then glued to its line.
Now the entire model was checked for flaws again and numerous minor glitches addressed. Finally the entire model was sprayed Vallejo Model Air Clear Flat to cover gluey stains and blend everything in.
The „marriage“ of model and base was the final exciting moment. I placed blobs of clear silicone caulking below the hull, placed the model on the base and screwed it tight through the barbettes as prepared earlier. Any remaining gaps between model and base were filled with clear gloss acrylic gel. Now I was able to add the buoy and the manned cutter, also using acrylic gel. After everything was cured, I removed the screws and added the heavy turrets before placing the model into its display box.
We´re living in the best modeling times these days. We have access to vast amounts of references, we can connect with fellow modelers and get helpful answers to a lot of questions popping up in a project, plus we have a growing number of high-quality model kits, and now we also have upgrade sets that make said models even nicer and more accurate. I very much enjoyed building this model and the warm reception it received at various model shows. I even more enjoyed meeting the people behind Pontos and talking to Mr Park, who designed a lot of this upgrade set. I´m looking forward to more new kits and upgrade sets!
Ross Watton: The Battleship Warspite (Anatomy of the Ship series). London 1986
R.A. Burt: British Battleships 1919-1945. Barnsley 2012
If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.
Back to the Main Page
Back to the Review Index Page