HMS Belfast

airfix belfast.jpg (16290 bytes)

Kit Review: Airfix 1:600 scale

Reviewed by Ian Wilkins
Copyright 1997, Ian Wilkins

Brief history:
Belfast was one of two Edinburgh Class cruisers built as improved versions of the Southampton Class. Designed while treaty restrictions were still in force they were originally intended to have four quadruple 6 inch turrets but they were completed with an improved triple mounting when the quadruple failed to work out. Belfast was completed in August 1939 and ran onto a mine a few months later which broke her back and caused extensive damage. After spending a little over three years under repair she returned to service escorting arctic convoys. She took part in the Battle of North Cape in December 1943 and then served as a command ship at the Normandy landings. In Late 1944 she was refitted for service in the Pacific. She survived the war and is now a museum ship on the Thames.

The Kit:
Currently on release, this kit was first issued in the early seventies and is one of the most detailed of the Airfix range.

The kit represents Belfast as she appeared before her late 1944 refit when her aircraft and two 4 inch twin mounts were removed to make way for more light AA weapons and radar sets preparatory to going to the Pacific theatre. Detailed painting instructions are included for the complex camouflage scheme she carried while serving in the Atlantic. The paints listed on the instruction sheet of my example are for the Airfix paint range but the Humbrol equivalents are listed on the side of the box.

Hull and Superstructure:
Most of the components are very well moulded and show some nice detail moulded in. The armour represented on the sides seems a little thick but the knuckle above the bow is sharp and crisp. The hull is very nicely done and the propeller shafts and struts have a quite thin, scale appearance. Unfortunately there is no waterline marked on the hull so you have to mark this out yourself. I got this wrong and my Belfast appears as though she draws more water aft than forward. The propellers are fine and carry only the smallest amount of flash.

The deck moulding is covered in a host of finely moulded details with the anchor handling gear and chains being quite delicate. The same level of detail is exhibited on the upper decks as well with some very fine hose reels, winches, and other gear moulded on. There is even a pair of separate hose reels and a set of paravanes to add detail to the decks. The superstructure sides have some very fine doors, scuttles and the like moulded on, and the doors in particular look very effective.

The torpedo mounts are excellent with quite a lot of detail and clear demarcation between the tubes and the heads of the torpedoes poking out from under them to ease painting.

The 4 inch mounts are not up to the quality of the rest of the kit. One would have expected the shields to at least suggest being hollow but these are filled in solid. The barrels for these were not well moulded on my example and required a lot of cleaning up to look acceptable. The kit includes eight 20 mm singles and these look quite good except for their rudimentary shields. You could cut shields from plastic card or use ones from the Gold Medal Models 1:600 KGV set to enhance these. A few of the 20mm mounts in my kit were not completely moulded.

Six 20mm twin power mounts are also included in this kit which is a real bonus. Like the singles a few of mine were incompletely moulded and will have to have their barrels replaced with (very) fine wire. The relative sizes of the singles and twins are a problem however with the singles towering over the twins and I think these may be a touch over scale. Items like this must be hard to do in this scale though.

The two octuple pom-poms are the nicest I've seen on any plastic kit with exceptionally fine barrels and deserve to be enhanced with some plastic card shields and bent wire for sights etc.

The main armament rounds out a very comprehensive weapons fit out on this kit and is excellent with the 6 inch gun houses very neatly moulded, as are the barrels. There is no real need to replace these with wire as the kit supplied ones look fine.

Other Items:
The cranes, while still too thick, are pretty good for the scale. The radar aerials for the HACS directors are quite fine and the 6 inch directors are very good with a lot of detail moulded on. Masts are OK but most would want to replace these with wire. The walrus is quite nice and has a motor moulded into the upper wing. There is a separate propeller but I replaced mine with a photo etched tail rotor for a 1:700 scale helicopter. The boats in this kit are really nice with only the usual sinkholes between cabins that most plastic boats seem to get. Other than this fault they are neatly done and do look like boats which is something more than a few kits cannot boast. A stack of life rafts is included to populate the distinctive racks along the sides of the vessel. The davits are quite fine for this scale.

I did have construction problems with this kit. Most of these lie with the various layers of superstructure which must each be built up from two side pieces and a deck on top. The fit here was not good and I has to use a bit of filler and do a lot of sanding to neaten it up. Also, my forecastle deck moulding was warped and required a bit of time and patience to coax into the recess in the hull. Once in though the fit here is very good. the combined bridge/hangar structure must also be made up of several side and deck components and I found this impossible to do without gaps appearing and filling and sanding work to be done. These aspects of the model became fiddly, time consuming and not a little frustrating.

I don't know whether all Airfix Belfast kits will have the same problems - perhaps I just got a poor example. The excellent fit of some components and the general superior level of detail earmark this as more likely to be a one off kit with some poor fit and mouldings. I've given this kit four stars but if other examples don't have the fit problems mine had then give it an extra half star. It really is a good kit that's worth putting the effort into, and, like all the Airfix range, its a bargain.

The best source for this ship must be Ross Watton's, Anatomy of the Ship: Belfast. Running a close second is Raven and Roberts' British Cruisers of World war Two. I used M J Whitley's, Cruisers of World War Two: an International Encyclopedia for this article.