"Tickle them Ivories!" You may not be familiar with the American slang term for playing a piano but for the crew of the USS Hornet CV-8 playing the pianos, as in "Chicago Pianos" was very important. The medium caliber anti-aircraft gun for the USN and the Hornet at the start of the war was the quadruple 1.1-inch automatic cannon, nicknamed "Chicago Pianos".
If you are building the 1:350th scale model of the USS Hornet from Trumpeter, one of the shortcomings of the kit is the modeling of those 1.1-Inch guns. They look closer to a pick-em-up gun rack stocked with sawed-off shotguns, than the long barreled but generally ineffective 1.1-Inch AA guns. What chance will the valiant gun crews of Hornet have against the most formidable naval aviators in the world at the start of 1942, those of the Imperial Japanese Navy? Well, none at all, unless…….the Hornet receives a refit at the White Ensign Models Shipyard. Under the exacting care of the Director of Design and Construction, Peter Hall, and the steely-eyed, relentlessly efficient General Managers, Caroline and John Snyder, the WEM yards have become a bulwark for detailists everywhere. Why settle for the mundane, when with a quick e-mail, salvation is at hand? The salvation of the Hornet is at hand with the new White Ensign Models 1/350 USS Hornet Ship Set.
One clear area of emphasis in this fret is the dramatic upgrade in detail for the gun armament for the Hornet. This treatment only starts with the 1.1-Inch guns, which are some of the weaker stock Trumpeter parts. With each six-piece brass WEM "Chicago Piano" that replaces each plastic part, your Hornet will play sweeter music. The WEM replacement parts come with gunners’ seats sights, water-cooling tubes and much more. Why have your gun crews labor on the out of tune plastic guns, when they can unleash torrents of AA music on their WEM Grand Pianos? The Trumpeter 20mm Oerlikons are better than the 1.1-Inch parts but still of only average quality. Slightly over-sized the plastic guns comprise one-piece post and gun, without the gun shield. At the very least guns shields need to be added to these Oerlikons. You can do this with the WEM fret or you can give the small AA guns the complete WEM treatment with each one piece plastic gun being replaced with a four piece brass creation, which includes gun & stand, sight, gun shield and shoulder cradles. For the five-inch deck guns WEM adds far more detail to the plastic mounts. WEM has designed the brass details to greatly expand the detail to the existing plastic pieces, instead of outright replacement. Each gun mount will receive an additional six brass parts that provides the mount detail, gunners’ seats, fusing rack, gun apron and mount railing lacking in the plastic parts. WEM even supplies 24 water-cooled .50 cal machine guns with the coiled cooling tubes.
The evolution with radars and other naval sensors was still in its infancy in 1942 but if you use the solid chunk-o-plastic waffle griddles that are the radar parts in the stock kit your sensor program won’t make it to adolescence. To truly have situational awareness your Hornet needs the delicately attuned brass radars found in the USS Hornet Ship Set. Whether you are mounting the early mattress CXAM radar or the more efficient follow-on SC Radar for long-range detection, WEM provides the power to burn through interference. Your Mk 4 fire control radar will receive the same WEM upgrade as the general search radars. To see the dramatic improvement that the WEM parts will confer, all you have to do is examine the photographs comparing the plastic parts with the WEM high fidelity brass replacements. The Hornet tripod and topmast will come to life with eight brass parts that WEM provides to enhance this prominent structure. With the rigging with footropes, antennae and bracing your Hornet will replicate the delicate tracery of the original.
Another significant area of concentration for this fret is in the area of the island. Whether it is your 1:350th LTC Jimmy Doolittle in his B-25 or your 1:350th Ensign George Gay in his Vindicator TBD, they will be proud to accept the take off order from the island refitted with WEM parts. With the new WEM funnel catwalks, stack caps, bridge extension with supports, perforated searchlight platforms and aft ladder assembly, the island of your Hornet will look the part of the nerve center of the ship. To be night capable, you can install the WEM floodlight assemblies on the island. WEM allows you to efficiently handle the aircraft with the refit of the aircraft crane aft of the island. With the new brass crane arm/jib, jib handrail, top platform, bracing, crane hook and cable guide, your Hornet crane will be a symphony of efficiency, smart in appearance and function.
The structural additions and hyper-detail does not end with the island. Numerous critical hull positions are also included in this fret. White Ensign Models provides the critical bow and aft control platforms/positions, which are called batman platforms in the instructions. Necessary to control the launch and retrieval of aircraft, these platforms are executed with an extraordinarily fine mesh by WEM. Since WEM also provides the windscreen for the forward position, your caped crusader will not even get his cape wet in heavy seas. Other critical additions provided in this fret are the forward catwalk under the forward deck overhang, forward flight deck supports, leadsman platforms at the bow, replacement amidships platform and folded accommodation ladder.
Having addressed the fighting efficiency of the Hornet, WEM then turns their exacting talents to crew survivability. The Japanese Imperial Navy is a tough and talented adversary. The odds are that Hornet will not come through battle unscathed. With a WEM refit, your Hornet will now have the tools for damage control. Hose reels, hose bundles, fire hose points, cable reels, and gun sponson nets your crew will be equipped to speedily fight the fires of any Japanese strikes and to protect themselves. If worse comes to worse, crew safety and survival is maximized with the WEM additions of horseshoe lifebouy positions, life raft paddles & retainers, life raft meshed flooring and additional detail to the ship’s boats, giving them rudders, propellers and railing.
White Ensign Models also provides for the common ships’ fittings in the uncommon fashion of WEM. Sixteen long runs of railing in six different styles, including chain link drooping safety railing are included, along with open chocks/fairleads, closed chocks/fairleads, inclined ladders of various lengths, and a generous supply of vertical ladder are all supplied by WEM on this fret.
As always, WEM provides the best in the industry. Complete in text and drawing and designed for modular construction, the instructions of White Ensign Models allows the modeler to add detail in any order and to the degree of detail desired by the modeler. Six pages in length, the first page contains the general instructions and the second the fret template with numbered parts. Page three has the textual parts list, 1.1-Inch gun assembly and five-Inch deck gun assembly. Page four contains the assembly modules for the 20mm Oerlikons, CXAM radar, SC radar, Mk 4 fire control radar, mast detail assembly, and aircraft crane assembly. Page five has the control/batsman platform assemblies, funnel catwalk assembly, floodlight fittings, island ladder assembly, forward catwalk, forward deck supports and bridge extension assemblies. The last page has modules for ships boats details, horseshoe lifebouys, replacement amidships decking, folded accommodation ladder assembly and an eleven paragraph list of smaller, text only, parts attachments.