by Robert Apfelzweig
1/350 HMS Ark Royal 1940 (Merit International)
After struggling a while back to assemble Merit International's USS Yorktown (CV-5), which I considered poorly engineered, that company's newer HMS Ark Royal was a pleasant surprise. Fit of the parts, especially the hull and flight deck, was excellent, with the minor exception of the triangular devices that hold the 8 phototetch antennas to the hull (more on those momentarily).
Merit claims that this model of the HMS Ark Royal, the same aircraft carrier that played a crucial role in the hunt for the Bismarck, represents the ship as she appeared at the start of World War II in 1939, but the provided air wing consists of four Blackburn Skuas, five Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers (with torpedoes), and four Fairey Fulmar MK.1's. According to Wikipedia, the Fulmars were not operationally deployed to British aircraft carriers until 1940. In any case, various online photos of the ship seem to verify the general correctness of the kit's completed appearance, except that, by the time of the ship's sinking by a U-boat torpedo in November 1941, there seem to have been a number of modifications to the island. There was some sort of lattice support structure beneath the large overhang of the pompom mount immediately behind the island, but I could not find a photo that clearly showed it, so I omitted it from my build.
My model was mostly an out-of-box assembly except for resin and photoetch octuple pompoms and quad Vickers .50 caliber machine guns from Northstar; painting above the waterline was with Tamiya paints, and I want to acknowledge the help provided from an earlier build of this kit on this site by Tony Sutherland, whose description of the hull and flight deck colors greatly assisted me in mixing my paints to the desired colors. The lower hull was prayed with Liquitex Cambium Red Hue. I also added some miscellaneous minor parts (perforated gussets, ammo boxes, funnel pipes, small ladders) from spare parts and Evergreen tubing. Rigging was from stretched black sprue. The kit comes with an excellent set of decals for the flight deck and the aircraft, but lacks the ship's name near either side of the stern and the British naval ensign; I made the former and had a spare for the latter.
As I stated above, the only real fitting problems were the antennas; the triangular holders into which they must be inserted were usually too narrow to accommodate them and were often so positioned (based on the hull pinholes into which they attach) that the flight deck edges did not leave enough room to install the antennas in a fully upright position, and attempting to force them into place would cause them to crush (messing up two of these was quite enough, though I was able to restore them to the right shape). Widening of the antenna openings and slightly repositioning their attachments points was necessary.
The older USS Yorktown kit, besides the fit issues, had often ambiguous assembly diagrams, frequently too small to clearly show exactly where parts were to be attached or what various assemblies looked like when completed. The HMS Ark Royal kit's instructions has some of those same problems, and Merit should address these in future releases.