Choices. Life is full of choices, some inconsequential, some life changing. The Royal Navy had a choice. Before World War Two, the admiralty recognized that HMS Hood needed a refit to bring her on par with contemporaries but they decided to wait.

On May 24, 1941 Admiral Holland aboard his flagship, HMS Hood, faced a choice; How to engage the Bismarck. Since he had been receiving reports from Norfolk and Suffolk on the location of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen, he could within certain limits, choose the time and method of engagement. He chose to come in fast. "To approach nearly bow-on, as they were doing, appeared to me absolutely foolhardy; it reminded me of an enraged bull charging without knowing what he’s up against. But, since the British admiral obviously knew that, his impetuous approach must, I thought, have something to do with gunnery. Presumably, he wanted to close the range rapidly, so as to get out of the way of plunging fire. "Battleship Bismarck: A Survivor’s Story at page 85) Admiral Holland knew of the vulnerability of the Hood to plunging fire and tried to get under that zone to where she would be much safer, facing flat trajectory fire. His choice was a wise one but then he chose to turn to unmask his after turrets, while still in the zone of plunging fire. It was then that her aft magazine was detonated by a strike. 

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HMS Hood has always been one of the favorites of modelers. Modelers have faced many choices. What size model, small, medium or large? In small scale the choices were the Neptun 1:1250 model or the slightly larger Superior 1:1200 version. For medium size there are the Italeri 1:720 model, Tamiya 1:700 model or the old war-horse, Airfix 1:600 kit. But what if your choice is something larger?

Again you face choices. There have been two 1:350 scale resin models of the Hood. White Ensign Models had one that is no longer in production and will never go back into production again. If you can find one, and that is a BIG IF, it will be very expensive. ISW still has one but that too is quite expensive. In the realm of legend and myth is everybody’s favorite Flying Dutchman, the ICM Hood. This project has transcended reality on its way to fantasy. Ahh, but there are other choices that won’t cost you your first born child. Lindburg and Heller both make kits of the Hood that are affordable and available. What can you say about the Lindburg kit? I have not seen it since I was a kid. It contains all the attention to detail (more appropriately, lack thereof) for which Lindburg is famous. Now we come to the Heller 1:400 scale HMS Hood

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The Heller HMS Hood is no spring chicken, having been around almost as long as the Airfix kit. As I was growing up, my staples were Revell, Aurora and Airfix. I considered Renwall high-tech. I still remember seeing my first Heller kit. Incredible! Fabulous! What detail! It comes with plastic railings! That was a third of a century ago. Both the Heller Hood and I were much younger then. Although it is not now state of the art, it has held up very well. However, what was high-tech then is so-so now. In spite of this, the Heller Hood is probably the most popular choice of those modelers that desire to build a large scale model of this famous ship.

You have a choice; you can build it right from the box or you can use the White Ensign Models dedicated 1:400 scale photo-etched fret to substantially improve this dignified but aged entry. So what go you get with the WEM fret?

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I always first look at the fret to see what jumps out at me. With this fret it was starfish! So characteristic of Royal Navy capital ships, the mast starfish, whether on tripod or pole mast, were one constant symbol of the battleships and battlecruisers of the Royal Navy. WEM gives you starfish for both masts. For the all-important tripod, you get a relief-etched platform along with 14 support braces. The mainmast starfish has the relief-etched platform and 12 braces. There is no need to use the ungainly plastic quad Vickers parts in the kit, when you can add WEM four piece relief-etched brass Vickers mounts. Along with that, you can spruce up the staid plastic pom-poms with brass mount, gun railing and ammo magazines that come with this fret. What about the prominent degaussing cable? It is not on the Heller kit. If you want it, you have a choice of scratch-building it or using the ten piece degaussing set in the WEM fret.

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Boat details, mainmast block & tackle, stack cap grills, radars, boat chocks, accommodation ladders, doors & hatches, boiler room vents, X turret catapult platform and fighting top windows are just a few of the more noticeable items that WEM gives you to get the old lady into fighting trim. Most of these are also relief etched. Are they for you? Just examine some of your choices.

Your Choices
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The WEM 1:400 scale HMS Hood fret comes with five pages of instructions. They are laid out in the standard comprehensive fashion of WEM. Page one contains general instructions and page two a number keyed photo of the fret. Page three has the parts list and some basic replacement instructions, which state which brass part number replaces which plastic parts number. Also page three starts the presentation of modules for the utilization of this fret. This method continues on to pages four and five. One particular area of the ship is the subject for each module. I really do like this approach. It breaks down the large fret into manageable slices. You just tackle one module at a time. There is no getting lost in a forest of parts and confusing directions. The modules are: X turret catapult platform; 35’ motor boat fittings; starfish assemblies; main mast assembly; 279 radar assembly; 279 radar and main top platform assembly; spotting top & 684 gunnery radar assembly; pom-pom assembly; Vickers quad assembly; open boat fittings; accommodation ladders; degaussing cable; wireless house details and main director support arms. WEM gives you a clean, efficient way to utilize a complex fret with no muss or fuss.

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Should you purchase the White Ensign Models 1:400 scale photo-etched fret for the Heller HMS Hood? In keeping with the theme of this article, that is your choice. You can build her straight from the box and send her into action with the newer, more powerful Bismarck. Or you can give her a WEM refit to bring Mighty Ood into line or surpassing her newer competition. Whether peacefully at anchor on your mantle or cleared for action in the storm-wracked and shell filled maelstrom of IPMS competition, the Heller Hood, reinforced with this fret will surely not let you down.

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