HMS King George V
Copyright 1997 Ian Wilkins

Airfix 1/600 scale King George V

Reviewed by Ian Wilkins

Brief History
King George V was the name ship of the last multi ship class of battleships built for the Royal Navy. Because of interwar treaty requirements and the rush to re-arm in the late 30s these vessels were completed with 10 - 14 inch guns where other navies with the luxury of a little extra time were able to launch vessels with 16 inch weapons. The KGVs were armoured to withstand 16 inch shells, however, and gave excellent service during the war. The main armament disposition of two quadruple turrets in "A" and "Y" positions and a twin in "B" position gave these vessels a distinctive appearance, as did the tower bridge structure and the deletion of the armoured conning tower, both Royal Navy innovations. KGV was completed in mid 1940 and served in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Pacific. She took part in the destruction of Bismarck with HMS Rodney in May 1941. She was scrapped in 1957.

The Kit:
The Airfix KGV kit is currently on issue and should be available just about anywhere. The kit has 167 components and comes packaged in a very long but typically Airfix box. The kit scales out very accurately and when complete really captures the appearance of the real thing very well. KGV is here represented as she was just after her launch with an unusual grey, white and green camouflage scheme and UP mounts. It is the most expensive of the Airfix 600 scale ships (at least here in Australia where it retails at around A$ 30 or about 22 USD, or 14 BPS) but, with the exclusion of the out of production Repulse, is probably the most detailed.

In fact detail is where this kit really stands out. The deck has a plethora of small sharply defined details including hatches, winches, breakwaters paravanes etc., and is really quite daunting at the beginning of the project when you realise you are going to have to paint it all. Similarly, the superstructure components carry moulded on life rafts, doors and other details. I was dubious about the moulded on life rafts at first and thought separate items would be better, but they look quite acceptable when painted and save time. The shields surrounding the UP mounts on the 14 inch turrets are commendably thin but, strangely, similar components on the superstructure are not so, being unnecessarily thicker. All the scuttles on this kit are represented with "brows" immediately above them. This lends a tremendous amount of realism when the scuttles are drilled out, and this is the only ship kit I have seen with this feature.

The stand out moulding in this kit, though, is the hull. KGV was the only ship of this class fitted with an external degaussing cable as a magnetic mine countermeasure (all others had internal cables) and this has been beautifully represented on the Airfix kit. This is particularly so where the cable runs along the top edge of the armour plate, where it is represented by exceptionally fine raised lines, and right aft where the ship's name is delicately moulded in fine raised lettering.

All other mouldings on this kit are of the same high order except, perhaps, for the 5.25 mounts which are lacking in detail and suffer from some mould miss-alignment. Also, my kit had a few sink marks here and there which had to be filled, but by and large these were easily dealt with.

Construction of this kit posed very few problems with the hardest part being painting all the deck details. I spread this out over a few days doing a section at a time. I found I could only work on this part for a half hour at a time before getting a headache. Also a problem was painting the somewhat complex camouflage scheme on the hull. The pattern is not conducive to masking (and anyway I don't own an airbrush - this hobby is supposed to be cheap!) so brush painting is the order of the day. I found it impossible to get good coverage with the white sections over the grey hull. I use Humbrol paints exclusively (because they brush so well), but could not get the white to look good.

The deck moulding itself had to be thinned down on the underside forward before it would settle down flush with the edge of the hull. The miss- alignment of the upper and lower halves of the 5.25 mounts is a problem and I solved this by chucking each mount into my variable speed electric drill and running it slowly while I held a file to the side of the turret. The locating stem moulded onto the bottom of each turret made a convenient point to set into the drill, and I found after filing the turret could be sanded smooth by following up with 800 grade wet and dry paper while still running the drill. I also cut a few doors out of plastic card and glued them on to jazz it up a bit (I'll be using White Ensign 600 scale doors and hatches for this kind of thing from now on though).

I highly recommend the use of the Gold Medal Models 1/600 scale KGV photo etch set with this model. That's what I did and it has helped produce my best model to date. The cranes in particular add a whole new level of realism to the completed model.

As far as I know there are only two other full hull representations of KGV class ships, the Tamiya 1/350 scale KGV and POW and the Revell KGV and POW kits in an oddball 1/570 scale. The Airfix kit is both cheaper than the big Tamiya offerings and more detailed than the Revell. I can't rate this kit highly enough, I'm giving it five stars for its value, detail, and finished appearance. Its not quite as good as the Airfix Repulse (one of the best ship kits ever?) but its very good none the less.