Standards – the word has many meanings. One defines a set of qualities or characteristics against which like entities are measured. Another could be a common practice in an organization or industry. Both would have application in today’s industry of model warship production.
Half a century ago plastic warship models were produced in an array of scales. No single scale was used by the US industry leader, Revell. Some may consider that there was no standard scale but there was. It was called box scale. The size of each model had to be able to fit in the standard size box that was used by Revell. In the UK it was different. There Airfix was the dominant producer of warship kits and Airfix selected 1:600 as the standard scale for their kits. Frog was a distant second and selected 1:500 scale. Interestingly, in the US Aurora is also said to have selected 1:600 as their scale for their line of warship kits, although scale was not mentioned on the box. However, if this was so, it was not for their complete line as the Aurora Atlantis was a significantly larger kit than the Aurora Graf Spee. In Japan there was a mix of scales until the late 1960s. At that point a consortium of four Japanese companies, Tamiya, Hasegawa, Aoshima and Fujimi, selected 1:700 as the standard scale for medium size, waterline warship models. The amount of warship models that the four produced in this standard scale through the 1970s basically caused this to become the world’s standard scale. For a larger size model, 1:350 scale was chosen as the standard, because it was simply twice the length, width and height of the smaller 1:700 version. Those are still the two main scales that are with us today.
However, before the Japanese converted the world of ship modelers to their chosen scales, there was another firm that staked their claim on the standard for larger warship kits. That of course was the French firm of Heller, which chose 1:400 scale. In the early 1960s I saw my first warship model from Heller and it left an indelible impression. My friend David acquired a Heller kit. I can’t remember which kit it was but it was an 1:400 battleship. It was large. It was beautiful. It was the first kit that I ever saw that had railing. Heller’s 1:400 scale became the European scale and is still used as the constant scale for new Heller releases as well as being adopted by other European firms, such as Tauro of Italy and Mirage of Poland.
The first large-scale model of the King George V, World War Two British battleship, was the 1:400 scale model produced by Heller. It was not the first KGV kit to be produced. Of course Airfix had an 1:600 version. Aurora had their version, although it seemed smaller than the Airfix kit and even Revell came up with one in some off-scale, probably still determined by the size of the box. Later of course Tamiya would produce 1:700 and then 1:350 scale versions of the battleship.
The Heller King George V is still around. Somewhat smaller and less expensive than the Tamiya 1:350 version, the Heller kit is still popular among modelers. Although when released, the Heller kit set a standard for a high quality, high detail large model, the standards of plastic warship design have markedly increased in the intervening decades. What was extremely high detail 35 years ago is not so now. However, there is a simple cure for the modeler to bring the Heller King George V up to the warship model standards of the 21st century. That cure is White Ensign Models WEM #4005.
White Ensign Models has released a brass photo-etched set in 1:400 scale, designed specifically for the Heller King George V model. This two fret set, WEM #4005, has all the parts a modeler needs to fit the KGV to the latest standard. This set goes beyond simply outfitting the King George V. There parts in this set designed specifically for other members of the class. King George V and Prince of Wales are the two units most modeled for obvious reasons. Both were involved in hunting the Bismarck. KGV served the longest and the loss of the Prince of Wales creates more interest in them than the other three ships in the class. The third member of the class, Duke of York, received some attention in that Matchbox had a 1:700 scale model of her. But what of poor Anson and Howe, arguably the two most overlooked modern battleships of World War Two? With this photo-etched set, White Ensign Models has ensured that the drought is over for the last two members of the class. Using WEM #4005 with the Heller model of the King George V, a modeler can replicate any of the five members of the class with a few additional changes for the late war fits. The major change that still must be done is the removal of the amidships catapult, as the late war fits for the ships had landed their catapults.
The new photo-etched set comes with two frets in two different gages of brass. Fret A is the larger of the two had has the fine brass parts for the detailed radar, AA gun fittings, railings and other equipment and fittings. Fret B is of a thicker gage and contains the substantial structure parts such as the cranes, platforms, starfish, pom-pom bases and armored shields, boat thwarts & chocks, ventilation louvers and external degaussing cable. Many of the parts on both frets appeared only on one or two ships in the class.
Warship Equipment Fittings – Fret A
Originally KGV and Prince of Wales were fitted with UP rocket mounts. After this ordnance proved to be spectacularly unsuccessful, they were landed and quad pom-pom mounts were added. Prince of Wales had a quad pom-pom mount on B and Y turrets at the time of her loss. If anything, the WEM quad pom-pom mounts are even more detailed with relief etching than the eight-barreled versions. With fewer parts, the quad pom-poms will be easier to assemble but still hold their own in fine detail. There is one problem with the quad pom-pom mounts, there are not enough of them. The fret provides the parts for two mounts. That is fine for most fits of ships of the class but not all. In their instructions WEM provides nine plans for the ships at different stages of their WW2 careers. There are enough quad pom-poms for seven of these plans. Plans included are KGV in late 1941 with one quad on Y turret; Prince of Wales in late 1941 with two quad mounts found on B and Y turrets; Duke of York in mid-1943 with no quad mounts; Anson in June 1943 with no quad mounts; Howe in mid-1943 with no quad mounts; KGV in July 1944 with no quad pom-poms; Howe mid-1944 with no quad pom-poms; Anson in March 1945 and Duke of York mid-1945 with four quad pom-poms, two abreast of B turret and two aft of Y turret. For the two 1945 versions two additional quad mounts are needed.
The 20mm Oerlikons are well represented. With ten twin guns and sixty single mounts, the WEM fret provides enough light AA pieces for any fit from 1941 through 1945. Each of the single Oerlikon mounts is assembled from two parts; base & gun with traversing wheel and shield. The twin guns are two piece consisting of the guns and sighting mechanism. However, the gun mount must be fabricated from plastic card. WEM provides the shape in the instructions but the modeler must scratch-build the base.
With all of the RN numbered radar sets and electronic gear found on the WEM fret, the modeler has a good chance to win the lotto. Types 277, 279, 281, 282, 284, 285 radars plus Types 85/86, 91 TBS antennae and FH3 HF/DF and RH 2 DF are included. The yagi in two sizes, Type 282 small yagi and Type 285 large yagi, are especially notable. The detail and fineness of their parts is another area that will require care and patience of the modeler but yet again, the end result will reach a new standard of detail and accuracy.
Parts on this fret that are unique to one or two members of the class are the headache antenna array. There is one piece for the KGV and Duke of York and a piece of a different design for Anson and Howe. Early FH3 HF/DF antenna are provided for the KGV and Prince of Wales. These last two of the class have quite a few fittings unique to them on this fret. These unique fittings for Anson and Howe include main mast antennae, IFF antennae, and mainmast IFF antennae. Some of the different parts vary depending upon the year of the fit with different designs for early war and late war fits.
WEM provides a multitude of other parts common to all of the class. With twelve runs of railing in three styles, three runs each of anchor chain and vertical ladder, plus an assortment of different length inclined ladders, all of the generic parts are covered. Stack gratings, Walrus fittings, a nice siren platform for the forward funnel, boat oars, boat rudders, an assortment of pulleys and rigging for the cranes also go into the mix of 95 parts designs included on this fret.
Warship Structural Parts – Fret B
The starfish for the fore top has 13 parts and provides the intricate detail that plastic parts can not remotely come close to duplicating. There are two types of starfish for the main top. A seven-part assembly is provided for the early war fits and a different eleven part assembly for the late war fits. Ship’s boats also get a makeover with three styles of boat thwarts. For many of these parts, to truly appreciate their detail you need to see them under magnification. Unless you have the eyes of an eagle, you’ll miss such microscopic detail as individual brackets for the boat benches. Without a magnifying glass you may not see them but they are there.
WEM Fittings & Ensign 1