Some warship designs become instant classics. The reasons are many. Some are admired for their aesthetic beauty, such as the British battle cruisers Tiger, Renown and Hood. Some are recognized for the impact that they made in naval warfare, such as the USS Enterprise. However, there are more classic designs besides carriers and battleships. For the United States Navy the Fletcher class destroyer was a classic design. They came into service when the USN most needed them and were the backbone of the USN destroyer forces during the war. However, the USN needed cheaper, less capable warships for various missions that did not require the armament or speed of a destroyer. Convoy escorts did not need warships of 33-knots speed. Twenty-four knots was fine. The need for escort vessels of moderate speed to escort convoys in the Atlantic and to escort amphibious and CVE forces in the Pacific created another classic design of World War Two, the Buckley class destroyer escort.
Just as every warship design is not successful, so to not every warship model kit is of the same level of quality as others. This is true even with products from the same company. As a case in point, the Trumpeter 1:350 scale kits of the Fletcher class The Sullivans and their release of a Buckley class DE are seen very differently in the modeling community. The Sullivans kit is not well considered but the same company's Buckley has won praise. Starting with a good base, such as the Trumpeter Buckley, the kit can be raised even further to another level with a comprehensive photo-etch set. The Gold Medal Models brass photo-etch set for the Trumpeter Buckley goes beyond comprehensive, its all inclusive. Almost every bell, whistle, gee-gaw or gimcrack you could wish for or even think of for a Buckley class is included in this fret from GMM. The fret is large and packed with relief-etched detail.
First of all are the solid spray bulkheads running aft at deck edge from the bridge. GMM supplies these with open passage door sills so you can add the doors either opened or closed. The open bridge gets excellent detail in the form of a bridge equipment or instruments panel and bridge windscreen frame. A lot of the parts on this fret are devoted to the various weapons systems. One of the most important of those systems was the ASW suite. For the Buckley this comes in three different systems. GMM provides outstanding detail for all three. Of course there is the classic stern depth charge racks. GMM provides both racks with one piece for the top and sides and a separate bottom panel. K-gun racks are provided for the side positions with separate davits for each rack. The third system is the hedgehog. For this detail you remove the existing plastic hedgehogs from the kit, add a frame, add rows of hedgehogs and finally complete with a relief-etched cover. The ASW systems may have been the most important weapons for the destroyer escort in the Atlantic but in the Pacific the AA fit was even more important. Gold Medal Models comes through in this arena as well. Included are the top frame and bottom frame with gunner's seats for the 1.1-inch Chicago Piano. The Oerlikon 20mm guns each receive four detail parts, the shoulder rest, elevation wheel, gun sight and gun shield. Gun tub supports are also included. Even surface gunnery is spruced up with gun sights, gunner's seats, hand wheels and splinter shield gun depression safety railings for the three-inch main guns.
There is a huge variety of other superstructure and mast detail, some of which is so minute and obscure as to create a new level in minute detail. For instance the foremast can be detailed from basic additions to the arcanely minute. Some of the basic details include yardarms with foot ropes, DF loops, radar, vertical ladder, and fighting lights. You can then kick it up a notch by adding BK and TBS arrays and HF/DF antennae. This option to add ever more intricate levels of detail is found throughout the parts included on this fret. For the truly afflicted, there is the option to go the Full Monty with individual eye-bolts, arbor heads, turnbuckles, port hole gutters, and spare control valve hand wheels.
The detail expands beyond just weapons systems and the very small hyper-detail parts. Ship crew survival specific parts further include carley raft platforms, carley raft bottoms, carley raft paddles, ship's boats rudders, rig, pulleys and oars, stokes litters, life rings, and floater net baskets. Gold Medal Models provides all other the other more generic detail that is necessary to completely outfit the kit. This of course includes all of the necessary railings, cable reels, inclined ladders, vertical ladder, doors, chocks and different patterned doors, open or closed. Of course GMM supplies a 1:350 scale figure for the model in the form of a figure of Lt Cmdr Pendleton of the USS England.
The instructions are presented in the typical GMM format. This is a one page, back-printed sheet with various assembly modules. On the front page are modules for 1.1-inch mounts; 3-inch/50 mounts; Oerlikon mounts, Mk 10 Hedgehog mounts; depth charge racks; K-gun racks; boat details; SA radar; carley rafts; stokes litters and floater net baskets. The reverse side has modules for the mast; bridge details; gun depression rails; SG radar; cable reels; depth charge stowage racks; HF/DF array; life raft racks; Lt Cmdr Pendleton; and railings/general assembly. The instructions are presented with very detailed drawings and clear, although small point, text. Get out your reading glasses.
As always, Loren Perry of Gold Medal Models presents a first class effort. If anything GMM has notched up the detail armament's race among the leading photo-etch producers of the world with this set for the 1:350 scale Buckley class destroyer escort.