So, you have an implacable desire to build a large Royal Navy aircraft carrier? Well, what selections do you have? Yes, there are kits in 1:700 scale but maybe you want something bigger. There are no kits in 1:350 scale. Of course if you want to be courageous, you can scratch-build one, but the largest RN carrier that can be found commercially is the HMS Illustrious/Victorious by Heller. But wait you say! You donít want to be a battler of plastic and fall victim to the vengeance of Villeneuve, as this venerable French kit can use a modern update. Across the narrow seas, Albionís bulwark of modeling, rajah of resin, and colossus of kits, White Ensign Models, viewed the situation and decided to set things aright.

Your career as searcher for FAA detail is instantly over, as the ameer of etching has heard your pleas. Peter Hall, noble thane of White Ensign Models, has completed another period of indomitable activity to bring to modelers of the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) another formidable brass relief-etched set, this time dedicated to the Heller kit. With the thousand eyes of Argus, Mad Pete has taken great pains to create exquisite brass detail parts for this British carrier and WEM, pioneer in deluxe brass photo-etch sets, has produced a goodly number now available for FAA modelers.

So what do you get with this glory of British industry. Well, one hell of a lot is packed into this premier set. You can pull out your ruler, if you will, but with WEM you are guaranteed a supremely accurate and absolutely top quality set of brass details. As audacious as ever, WEM 4007 1/400 HMS Illustrious set comes in two brass frets. The two frets are of different thickness with platforms dominating the smaller, thick gage fret. Although most ship fittings in this set are found on the thick gage fret, the fine gage fret also sports many fine additions for your carrier. On the finer gage, large fret, the largest parts are nine tall three-sided folding lattice masts, which will add aerie elegance to your Illustrious. The stack grating is of a very unusual design and of course Mad Pete has addressed that issue for you. As optional solutions WEM has provided two full sets of masthead details. One set provides the early foremast details, as the carrier was fitted. This miniature gem is a subassembly of 23 detailed parts. This mast detail was changed after a refit and WEM includes a 19-piece subassembly for that version. A ten-piece main mast subassembly is provided for the late war fit. Of course the relief-etched nameplates for both Illustrious and Victorious are always hallmarks of quality from White Ensign Models. There are 16 intricately woven safety nets to adorn the deck edges of this queen of carriers. Two other delicate but sensational parts are a folding conning bridge and island signal light catwalk.

Fret #1
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A good portion of this fret is devoted to antiaircraft armament. There are parts for six 8-barreled pom-poms. One the larger fret 15 fine brass parts for each mount are found with another five parts per mount on the smaller fret. WEM provides individual ammunition belts for each gun. Oerlikons come in two styles, twin and single. WEM includes 12-twin gun Oerlikon mounts and 48-single 20mm mounts. The single guns have shield, gun and base pintle but the twin guns just have the shield and guns. You must attach these to scratch-built pintles. However, the main defense of any carrier comes in the form of its own aircraft. WEM doesnít neglect this area, as detail parts for the Fairey Swordfish and Grumman Martlet (F4F Wildcat for USN followers) are included. For the String bags there are parts for six aircraft. Detail parts include four wing braces, fixed landing gear, tail wheel, rear machine gun, propeller and tail hook. The Grumman fighter is fitted with tail wheel, propeller, two-piece landing gear, two landing gear covers and two wheels. There are parts for six of these aircraft as well.

For the signal and sensor crowd, White Ensign Models includes a treasure trove of electronic fittings, widgets, gee-gaws and whiz-bangs. If it was British and it was naval electronics, it is probably in this set. Any Royal Navy ship worth her grog ration would have to have Yagis. WEM provides six 285 Yagi antennae as well as three 282 Yagi. Other electronic gadgets included on this fret are 281 radar antennae, HF/DF antennae, YE homing beacon, 279b radar antenna, bridge DF antenna, 277 radar antenna and platform. Other detail parts are: four runs of three bar railing; two runs of open stanchion two bar railing; two runs of close stanchion two bar railing; three types of inclined ladders; bridge wind screen; boat oars & rudders; vertical ladder; search light lens plates; accommodation ladders; various funnel platforms and lights; and weather vanes.

Fret #1
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The smaller thicker gage brass fret has structural items for the ship. As previously mentioned, this fret contains five parts for each of the six 8-barelled pom-poms. These are the base plate and four armored screens per mount. One of the choicest pieces on this fret is the inclusion of a late fit gun platform for the stern. This large platform curved around the stern and was fitted in 1944 before the carriers sailed for the Pacific to join the FAA forces that soon operated in conjunction with the USN against Japan . This large platform has eight recessed circular gun mounting plates but particular weapons fitted varied and were upgraded. They started with single and twin Oerlikons but later added single and twin Bofors. WEM does not provide any particular fit and urges the modeler to research the fit intended. Another very attractive feature about this platform is the presence of 17 large, open triangular braces underneath the platform. The lower face of the platform has a recessed locator line for positioning each brace. There are two large cranes included in this fret and each is a beautiful production number. These subassemblies comprise the crane jibs/arms, crane base, two large gears and pulley wheels in different sizes. A plasticard platform and central plastic rod will have to be added by the modeler but the final result has appearance of a ancient siege tower. Other parts on this fret include a signal light bar; life raft access catwalk; gallows cranes; island life raft frame; sliding doors for the bridge; whaler thwarts & cradles; signal semaphores, waffle pattern doors and life raft vertical & horizontal tie down straps.

Fret #2
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White Ensign Models nine pages of instructions to WEM PE 4007. As usual, the quality, production standards and coverage are outstanding. Different subassemblies are covered in modules and each module is thoroughly covered in text and exacting drawings. For the more complex subassemblies, multiple drawings are utilized to allow for a step by step approach to assembly. Page one is simply the general instructions for use and assembly of brass photo-etch. Page two has the large fret outline with ever part numbered. Page three has the outline for the small fret, again with numbered parts and text parts matrix in which each part on both frets are described. Also at the bottom of the page is the first subassembly, that of the 8-barrelled pom-poms with two parts outlines and three assembly drawings. Page four has six assembly modules which cover the Oerlikons; 279 & 281 radar; 282 & 285 Yagi radar; bridge DF; folding deck edge antennae towers; and 277 antenna mast. Page five contains only two assembly modules but probably the most complex of the bunch. At the top is the subassembly for the early foremast with a parts outline and six drawings. At the bottom are the instructions for the late fit foremast with parts outline and five drawings. Page six has two more involved assemblies with the late war main mast (outline and five drawings) and main boat crane assembly (four drawings).  The flight deck safety net positioning and island fittings are covered in two modules on page seven. Page eight has three modules covering life raft mountings; aft hull gun platform and aircraft details. The last page contains modules for accommodation ladders, whaler details, funnel cap and searchlight lenses.

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You donít need the eyes of an eagle to see that the White Ensign Models 1:400 scale photo-etch set for HMS Illustrious/Victorious is a first class product. This glorious British product can be yours through the submission of a pittance to the indefatigable folks at WEM. You will be furious with yourself if you fail to do so. Once this nominal sum is received, this brilliant brass set will wend its way to you over mountain or ocean, on the wings of Hermes aboard the renowned WEM blackbird.