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HMS Ark Royal 1939 1:350


Mike
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HMS Ark Royal 1939

1:350 Merit International via Pocketbond

 

boxtop.jpg

 

Despite the fact that the Ark did not survive WWII, she was considered a lucky ship, having a few close scrapes that she survived, and as such she was seen as a good posting.  She was involved in a lot of action, including the hunt for the Bismark before being hit by a torpedo in the Mediterranean in 1941, slowly sinking beneath the waves whilst being towed to port.  Only one crew member was lost, having the misfortune to be low down in the hull when the torpedo struck.

 

Laid down in 1935, with launch following two years later and a further year taken up with the fitting out of the hull.  Several famous squadrons embarked on the Ark during her fairly short service life, flying Swordfish, Skua, Roc, Fulmar and Albacore torpedo bombers.  She was involved in the hunt for the Graf Spee, and before deployment to the Med., where she became part of Force H, returning to duties after a refit.  She also hunted the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau where she was damaged after a failed launch of a Swordfish resulted in the depth charges it was carrying going off under the hull.  After repairs she was involved in hunting the Bismark, having a close squeak that almost ended in the accidental destruction of the Sheffield, followed by eventual contact with the real quarry, where a successful attack from Ark Royal Swordfishes led to the Bismark's partial disablement and subsequent destruction.

 

After this she returned to Force H, ferrying aircraft to Malta but on their return trip to Gibraltar, she was picked up by U-81, which managed to hit her with just one torpedo amidships.  The damage was massive, due to the relatively deep hit, exacerbated by her movement, and she soon began to list to the side.  Although they managed to stablise the situation briefly, water continued to encroach through open hatches, and the list increased after which the crew were evacuated to HMS Legion, who was assisting in trying to keep her afloat.  She later capsized and broke into two parts, ending up quite a way from the expected wreck location.  She was discovered by a BBC documentary crew early in the new millennium, who concluded that after the engines failed nothing could save her due to some design flaws that were not appreciated at the time.

 

 

The Kit

This is a new tooling from Merit International, and has been awaited with baited breath by many fans of the Ark, myself amongst them.  I have no idea why I find her so intriguing, and I freely profess that I'm no expert on her, but I have a fondness that I can't explain.  The box is best described as BIG, as at 1:350, she scales out at 696mm long.  Gulp!  Deep breaths Mike – don't wonder how you're going to photograph the hull parts and the box top.  Moving on.

 

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Inside the huge top-opening box are the two hull halves and the carrier deck, which notably has no cut-outs for the lifts and thereby no view into the interior.  Beneath a card divider are the rest of the sprues, all in the same mid-grey styrene.  There are twenty three sprues of various sizes (excluding the aforementioned hull & deck), plus eight Photo-Etch (PE) frets of varying sizes.  A large black stand and sheet of decals complete the parts list, and of course the instruction booklet rounds out the package with a folded glossy A3 sheet containing the painting and marking instructions for both the ship and her complement of aircraft.  Speaking of which, you get the following spread over thirteen small sprues.

 

5 x Fairey Swordfish

4 x Fairey Fulmar

4 x Blackburn Skua

 

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The Swordfish also have 5 sheets of PE for their interplane struts, which will enhance their realism substantially, especially if you are brave enough to rig them with… human hair?  The detail on the aircraft at this scale is excellent, and even the wings are commendably thin, as are the props.  Ideally you could do with squadron strength of at least one of the aircraft choices, but it's not a major problem, although at this stage there are no extra sprues available separately from Merit.  The absence of aircraft lifts is a shame, as this would have opened up some extra potential deck-handling scenarios that add a little interest to any aircraft carrier model.  I'm sure it won't be long before this happens via aftermarket however.

 

As with most ship kits, there is a lot of repetition in the parts count, as there are multiple instances of anti-aircraft gun emplacements, lifeboats, cranes and of course the aircraft lurking around the decks.  Construction starts with the hull sides, which are detailed up with long rectangular boxes into which dividers and lifeboats are placed, to simulate some of the detail.  A number of PE railings are used to prevent folks from pitching off the sides in bad weather, and these along with the interiors will need painting before they are installed.  With both halves completed, the hull halves are brought together, being held at the correct width by the addition of three strong mini-bulkheads that plug into sockets on each side of the hull.  Inserts are also provided for the open deck sections under the bow and round-down at the stern, which can be fitted once the two halves are together.  A single rudder is also fitted, and additional PE railings are added fore and aft, before the flight deck is dropped into place.  At this stage eight anti-aircraft guns are added to their emplacements, with twin 4.5" barrels slotted through the enclosed gun-shield, the latter being slide-moulded to obtain maximum detail. 

 

The hull is inverted briefly to install the twin screws and their driveshaft fairings, and then she is flipped over again to begin the installation of the various suspended walkways that festoon the exterior of the upper hull, complete with the life rafts that were usually visible in period photos strapped to the sides of the hull.  Eight davits are made up from a combination of PE and styrene in various configurations, and these are added to the sides of the hull in the raised position throughout the rest of the construction process, as are a number of bofors 40mm pom-pom guns.  More railings are added throughout the process, and the two ship's cranes are installed at midships near the launches.  Toward the bow a set of parts for the last-ditch retrieval nets are supplied, which block the route of an aircraft that has failed to trap-on to the front and sides of the last usable section of deck before the pilot gets his feet wet.

 

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The penultimate task is to build the Island, which is fairly simple, consisting of only a few decks plus the bridge, smoke stack to the rear with a PE grating, additional Pom-Pom mounts, and a number of lights for communications.  A set of PE railings are fitted to the crow's nest, around the radar installation, and to form the bracing for the topmost section of the mast.

 

Finally the aircraft are up for construction.  The five Swordfish are complex, and made from a number of parts, including four for the landing gear, separate upper and lower wings, a two-part fuselage with the tail captive to one side for finesse, separate engine cowling and prop, elevators, and of course the PE to simulate both the interplane stuts and the rigging, which will take some care to do well.  The four Fulmars are a much simpler affair, with two fuselage halves, a single piece wing, two gear legs, two elevators and the prop, as are the four Skuas, although they have a single piece elevator instead.  The island is then attached to a raised part on the deck, which prevents it being fitted the wrong way round.  Three more bofors sets are also added along with another set of netting to complement the last-gasp set further toward the bow.

 

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Assuming everything is painted and decaled, the finished model can be rests on the supplied plinth with a name plaque provided with raised lettering to inform the casual observer.

 

Markings

The decal sheet is fairly large due mainly to the white lines on the desk and the markings for the aircraft.  The boot topping must be painted, and as there are no moulded-in lines to assist with this, you will need to be careful when masking it up to ensure that it doesn't wobble during the process.

 

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The decals are serviceable, however, some of the roundels are a little squiffy, but at this scale it isn't all that noticeable.  Some of the more complex lining on the deck has a substantial amount of carrier film accompanying it by necessity, so a good glossy surface will be needed to keep them from silvering, followed by additional gloss-coats to hide the raised edges of the film.  Only the national markings are supplied for the aircraft, and their positioning is shown in scrap diagrams around the guide, with paint colours called out in Gunze shades, but with conversions to Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol provided in tables at the top of the sheet.

 

 

Conclusion

Maritime Modellers have been waiting for a decent model of the Ark in 1:350 for some time, and now we have one.  It lacks a few of the expected aspects such as the lifts and some semblance of a hangar, but otherwise it is well detailed and a good quality model.  It's certainly an item ticked off my modelling wish list.  Apologies go to Pocketbond for the delay in getting this one done, which was mainly due to photographing the large parts and my poor memory.  Keep your eyes open for the upcoming review of the comprehensive upgrade set from Tetra Model Works soon.  It's a work of art!

 

Highly recommended.

Review sample courtesy of

logo.gifUK Distributors for logo.gif

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14 minutes ago, Antoine said:

Thanks Mike,

 

Any idea about the price scale?

 

I got mine from Tiger Hobbies at SMW in November for a good price of £85 but I think most retailers will be around the £100 mark

 

Sovereign Hobbies are doing special orders on the Tetra detail set for this at £175 should be getting mine soon.  :wacko:

 

HTH

 

Beefy

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2 hours ago, beefy66 said:

 

I got mine from Tiger Hobbies at SMW in November for a good price of £85 but I think most retailers will be around the £100 mark

 

Sovereign Hobbies are doing special orders on the Tetra detail set for this at £175 should be getting mine soon.  :wacko:

 

HTH

 

Beefy

 

It is on its way to us presently :)

 

We'll get shelf stock in of them soon too to avoid the waiting.

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On ‎1‎/‎24‎/‎2017 at 4:19 PM, Mike said:

 

The Swordfish also have 5 sheets of PE for their interplane struts, which will enhance their realism substantially, especially if you are brave enough to rig them with… human hair? 

 

 

Sure! I used very fine copper wire on my L'Arsenal 1/400 ones that have PE wings, but human hair on a plastic wing would be a terrific alternative. I can even use my silver hair for greater realism....

 

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Edited by Paul Bradley
Sorry about the dust on the top photo!
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On 26 January 2017 at 0:41 AM, Julien said:

 

 

I think Mike should :wicked:

Beat me to it. Would love to build this icon but don't feel I could do her justice just yet.

Edited by Bangor Lad
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I wish that Merit and Trumpeter would ditch their generic  stands that are included in many of their ship kit releases and make a stand that custom fits a particular model.

Edited by Mick4350
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12 minutes ago, Mick4350 said:

I wish that Merit and Trumpeter would ditch their generic  stands that are included in many of their ship kit releases and make a stand that custom fits a particular model.

 

I suspect many plastic stands are unused anyway. Between the models that are waterlined and those mounted on metal pedestals either free-standing or on hardwood plinths, there are plenty options :)

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  • 1 month later...

Oh no, I served on the last HMS Ark Royal, twice in my time in the RN. I can't afford anymore kits but this may become a must have like the Dragon HMS Liverpool which I also served on for 3 and a half years. I'll be watching this one. Looks like a good kit. 

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  • 11 months later...

Looks as if they got the Pom Pom directors wrong on the bridge as they just look like search lights and not what they should do. They have repeated the error with the Trumpeter 1/700 kit.

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