by Robert Apfelzweig
1/350 HMS Warspite (Academy)
I just finished the superb Academy HMS Warspite, the Royal Navy's most decorated warship and a veteran of both World Wars, beautifully augmented by the Pontos upgrade set that includes a wood deck, extensive brass photoetch/gun barrel/mast set, blackened anchor chain and resin parts for the 20 mm gun tubes and a few other smaller components. This was my first Academy kit and first Pontos upgrade set. I have already emailed to Pontos to compliment them on the precision with which their components have been manufactured, but a few additional comments are warranted. I have previously used Artwox wood decks for my 1:350 Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen builds; while the Pontos wood deck is very similar in form and application, there were some minor fit problems amidships that required extra attention (and a bit of cutting and excision) for precise alignment. Also, there was, for me, a significant issue with the color instruction sheet that Pontos provides -- many of the illustrations for various photoetch assemblies, especially the 8-barrel pompom and foremast assemblies, are so tiny that, besides requiring a magnifying glass for my 61-year-old eyes, the actual sequence of assembly steps is unclear, and I made several errors before correcting most of them. An example is the 2-pounder barrels for the pom-poms; the instructions do not show that, according to photos and diagrams I found online AFTER assembling them, the four center guns are longer than the four outer ones. Pontos provides barrels of the right length and number, but does not tell you where they are to be inserted. Pontos may be aware of this issue now; I have received their (presumably newer) HMS Dreadnought upgrade set and the illustrations in the instructions are larger, though still, I think, too small for many middle-aged and older modelers.
The 20 mm Oerlikon guns are assembled virtually identically to the photoetch
set from MasterModels, with 3-dimensional gun barrels and solid pedestals.
However, either these guns are slightly overscale or, perhaps more likely,
the resin tubs of the upgrade set (which match the size and shape of the
thicker plastic parts from Academy) are slightly undersized, since when
the guns are mounted within the tubs the shoulder braces at the rear of
the mounts rub up against or protrude over the rear splinter shields, which
would make them impractical for the ship's crew to manipulate. I
found that I had installed the midships tubs backwards (a situation I could
not correct without risking damage when removing the tubs for reinstalling),
but the same situation would apply. Similarly, the Walrus floatplane
has a wingspan slightly too wide to fit onto the catapult unless positioned
at either end, and then the cranes tend to interfere with positioning it.
One other issue with the Pontos set -- they provide dry, rub-on Roman-numeralled
depth markings, in both black and white, for the bow, stern and midships
regions of the hull. These are fairly easy to apply at both ends
of the ship, where the hull is more or less flat or gently curved, but
amidships the torpedo bulges make such applications impractical and uneven
and so I omitted them. You will also note the unusually wide black
boot topping on the hull, which I observed from a number of photos of the
ship during her later years of service, and so I portrayed her that way
in this model. Paints were the RN 01, 02 and 03 greys from WEM.
I would also like to acknowledge Kostas Katseas's extraordinary dioramic
HMS Warspite in assisting me with various superstructure and especially
rigging details -- a model all the more remarkable because he did not use
the Pontos set, but apparently his own choice of miscellaneous photoetch
components. I used his model as a basis for adding the lifeboats
and davits (from my spare parts bin) that appear on either side of the
ship between the twin 4-in. AA gun mounts.