Well, John Snyder warned that it was coming. You should be prepared but mere announcements of a new White Ensign Models product never prepare one for the reality that assaults your senses when you open the WEM package. On Monday there was a package waiting for me at home. Not a box but a thick mailer and I knew, before I saw the South Farm return address, what it contained. Sure enough it was the Bismarck/Tirpitz super set in 1:350 scale to super detail the Tamiya kits in that scale. Also included was another item, WEM PE 3565, which provides brass photo-etch decks for the superstructure of those kits. This is not part of the super set but is a supplemental fret to carry the kits farther than even the WEM Bismarck/Tirpitz does. Typically for WEM, what they claim as a supplemental product instantly becomes essential once you look at it.

Normally I would review the super set first and then cover other supplemental items, however, this product officially called 1/350 BISMARCK/TIRPITZ Superstructure Deck Plating, is on a different plane. What this really means is that WEM provides the textured decks for all levels of the German battleships’ superstructure that formerly was void of detail. Why this fret is being reviewed first is for a number of reasons: 1. The superstructure decks make a tremendous visual impact because of the large surface area of the textured brass; 2. They are produced to the highest standards; 3. The fret reveals two more of Mad Pete Hall’s multiple personalities.

Of course we all know many of the more observable personalities of the chief designer for White Ensign Models, Peter Hall. Whether he is known as boy genius, secretive alchemist, crazed metallurgist, idiot savant or simply as Mad Pete, he has been driving ship modelers crazy for years with his amazing creations in brass and resin. Clearly Mad Pete has more than one personality hiding in his mild mannered appearance. All of the top psychiatric authorities in Vienna and Berlin were consulted in regards to what is exhibited on and though the WEM PE 3565 and the diagnosis was unanimous, two more personalities have appeared in Mad Pete’s already crowded psyche, Peter Hall - Nature Boy and Peter Hall - Man of Steel.

Peter Hall – nature Boy
The majority of the decks included in this fret are standard wooden plank decks. From his treatment of these wooden decks it is abundantly obvious that Mad Pete is a tree hugger. He has lovingly recreated each wooden deck with painstaking detail. There are reassuring solid ranks of wooden planks on these decks. The all wooden superstructure decks include fore top platform, aft lower superstructure deck, deck behind B barbette, upper bridge deck and largest of all, the aft battery deck. The wood decking is very apparent and since it is found on so many superstructure decks it is rather puzzling why Tamiya did not include this detail on their original model. These decks alone will make a major impact on you 1:350 scale Bismarck or Tirpitz. With the wooden decks the hidden Druid in Mad Pete makes his appearance.


Peter Hall - Nature Boy
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Peter Hall - Split Personality
Suddenly there is a change in Mad Pete and his deck designs. The decks become more complex. Although wooden planking still makes up the majority of the decks, another type of decking has made its appearance. Whether this new decking is steel grate decking or wooden duck boards, it is clearly much more ornate and complex than the stately wooden planks formerly found on the previous decks. These decks include aft upper superstructure deck, conning bridge deck, and maneuvering bridge deck. The change in texture and appearance in each of these decks does create a very dramatic appearance. Another consideration is their placement on the ship. Two of the decks go to the forward bridge in front of the tower, which a focal point on the model. The psychiatric experts in Vienna are emphatic that this represents another personality struggling to break free of the peaceful tree hugger of Mad Pete cavorting in forest glades.


Peter Hall - Split Personality
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Peter Hall - Man of Steel
Finally the submerged personality breaks through, none other than Peter Hall – Man of Steel. There are eleven steel decks on this fret found in three different patterns. The largest decks have grid like, non-skid engineer’s plating with a very distinctive anti-skid treadway. The two most prominent decks with this tread are the two forward battery decks. Found on the forward superstructure roof and only on the Tirpitz is this type of deck. Platforms are normally fabricated with this treadway and found on this fret are tower searchlight platform, upper funnel platform and lower funnel platform. The Tirpitz had more AA positions than Bismarck and these positions had their own unique style of steel treadways. These are found in positions atop B turret and on the forward superstructure roof. This last position includes special angled splinter shielding since the position is on a slope. Two additional similar fittings are included as the circular deck plates for the aft searchlight tubs. A third type of decking is found on top of the aft director housing, which uses an open grating. Other solid steel items found on the fret are a number of replacement splinter shields for plastic ones that must be removed to install the new decks. Additionally WEM provides several special splinter shields that have solid splinter shields for the lower half and two bar railing for the upper half.


Peter Hall - Man of Steel
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Art Versus Art
There is no doubt about it, Mad Pete is an artist who works in brass. With utilization of relief etching, his medium is three-dimensional. The relief etching is found on every deck. The only parts on this fret that have no relief etching are the splinter shields. Painters and photographers work in two dimensions but through foreshortening and other techniques can show three-dimensional objects in two dimensions. AJ Press of Poland has devoted five volumes in their Encyclopedia of the World’s Ships (Encyklopedia Okretow Wojennych # 15 through 19) on the Bismarck and Tirpitz. Seen here are comparison photographs of the White Ensign Models brass deck next to a beautifully done CAD painting of the same deck.


Art Versus Art
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Instructions
With this WEM fret the instructions are extremely simple. The first page has a photograph of the Bismarck and general instructions. Page two has a copy of the fret with identification numbers for the parts as well as instructions for these first two parts. The third page has the directions for the next 18 decks or structures.


Instructions
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Verdict
In the first paragraph on page two of the WEM instructions you’ll find, "This detail set provides replacement decking for areas of the Bismarck and Tirpitz kits that do not have any details engraved on them, but in actual fact had planked decks, engineers plating and wooden duck boards that were quite prominent features. Including these will enhance the appearance of the kits many fold." This is an example of British understatement.

There is nothing complicated about the assembly of the parts. With them you install richly textured decks where you had flat, featureless decks before. This is a superb product that will make an extremely dramatic difference in the final appearance of the Tamiya 1:350 scale Bismarck or Tirpitz. This puppy has punch!

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