During World War Two, the one campaign that most concerned Winston Churchill was the Battle of the Atlantic. As an island nation, Great Britain was totally dependent on sea commerce for providing oil, a large portion of required food supplies and almost any other type of resource necessary to fight modern war. As they did in World War One, the German submarine force of World War Two came close to winning the campaign and shutting down the supply pipeline to Britain. 

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In the Pacific Japan was in the identical position. However, the submarines of the USN were successful in their goal and Japanese shipping was eradicated. As the war progressed, the operational tempo of the Imperial Japanese Navy slowed and slowed because of the increasing lack of fuel. Fuel that was not forthcoming because of the catastrophic Japanese tanker losses to US submarines. By 1945 Yamato, the largest battleship ever built, had only sufficient fuel for a one way ticket to Okinawa. 

Merchant seamen and the ships on which they served are the unsung heroes of naval campaigns. The two longest campaigns of World War Two, were the submarine against merchant shipping and escorts in the Atlantic and the Pacific. The ultimate victory for the glamorous warships depended upon the safe delivery of the products in the holds of the slow dowdy merchantmen. Very few kits have been forthcoming, that have modeled these merchantmen. That is starting to change. 

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WSW has just produced a kit that includes four models. Included in the set are a tanker, freighter, and two tugs. The kit, listed as accessory #A 001, provides much more than accessories, the models are complete in themselves. 

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Tanker Casting
The tanker model is the queen bee of this set. By far the largest of the four models (9 3/8" x 1 3/8"), the tanker is cast riding low in the water, filled to the gills with the lubricants of war. WSW has produced a generic tanker, although Pacific Front lists it as being based on the tanker, Salome. Generally the detail is fully up to the high standard of WSW. Details such as bollards, winches, cabin windows, anchors, deck hatches and skylights are cast integral to the hull or deck pieces. All are fully up to WSW standards. 

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I have a couple of minor concerns. There could have been a little bit more detail on the deck stations of the reservoir tanks. With wire or plastic rod you can add extra pipes and fittings for the cluttered deck of a tanker. WSW used "Aztec" steps to provide the numerous inclined ladders on the ship. If you wish, this is easily corrected by removing the Aztec steps with a hobby knife and adding your favorite photo-etched inclined ladders. My most significant concern is the casting of the catwalks. There are two catwalks, one running from the forecastle to the amidships superstructure and the second from the amidships superstructure to the aft superstructure. They are cast integral to the hull. As a consequence they have solid supports and a thin sheet of resin from the underside of the catwalk to the deck below. Using a hobby knife, you can remove the resin between the catwalk and the deck. It appears that it would take much more work to replace the solid catwalk supports with support posts, probably involving removing the entire catwalk and substituting the support structure. However, remember that WSW produced this set as an accessory kit. It may be a small notch less in traditional WSW detail but in return gives you a lot for your money. 

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Freighter Casting
Pacific Front lists the freighter as being based on the SS Nora. It has a wonderful, cluttered look with typical ventilator hoods found in tramp steamers found in WWI and WW2. With the ventilators, winches, bollards, skylights and detailed cargo hold hatches cast integral to the hull, it only takes the bridge-work, funnel, loading derricks and boat positions to complete. Measuring 4 inches by inch, it is significantly smaller than the burly tanker but provides a very nice model. Just right for a tired old steamer, trying to run the gauntlet of U-Boats in the North Atlantic. As with the tanker, replace the "Aztec" steps with photo-etch inclined ladders. 

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WSW provides two identical tugs in the set. They are one piece castings with no additional parts to attach. As you can see from the photos, WSW added extremely fine detail to these small models, including a coiled rope on the deck, deck scuttles and used tire bumpers. You can paint as is or add a little bit of super-detailing. Measuring a miniscule 1 3/16 inch by 7/16 inch, they are perfect workhorses for the harbor. 

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The goal of WSW was to provide an accessory set for dioramas of convoy scenes, harbor scenes or pier-side scenes. They have more than met this goal. This kit provides outstanding versatility, providing the basics (plus) for numerous dioramas, restricted only by the imagination of the modeler. With this set WSW provides excellent value and has produced four unique models for the price of one.