(Editor's Note: Within a few hours of posting the following review, the Honorable John Snyder, minion of White Ensign Models posted this message. "Following Mr. Backer's concluding statement, "The game's afoot.", we can only reply: "Following your spirits and upon this charge cry 'God for Harry, England, and PT Boats!' "WEM PE 7217 is a U.S. Navy Mk.3 40mm Bofors Single Mount, as used on late-war PT boats. Now, get out those Revell PTs folks. The game's afoot, and there will be more to come...." Since the historical portion of the following review is based upon the assumption that the ordnance was the RN Mk III single gun Bofors, rather than the USN Mk 3 single gun Bofors, I can only conclude with the immortal closing words of noted social commentator Emily Litella...."Never Mind.")
By the late 1930's both the Royal Navy and the United States Navy belatedly saw the threat rising in Europe and the far east. After years of treaty cutbacks and financial pruning both navies started large naval programs. Both navies saw that the aircraft was now a potent threat to the warship and both navies thought that they had a good anti-aircraft defense in the ordnance that each had developed. For light AA guns both relied upon .50 machine guns. The USN distributed sparse numbers of Browning .50 machine guns on their ships in single gun mounts. The RN believed in their .50 Vickers machine gun but rather than parcel them out in single mounts, concentrated them in four gun mounts. For medium AA artillery the USN had developed the 1.1-inch gun, nick-named the Chicago Piano. This heavy mount carried four of the 27mm guns. The RN developed the 2pdr Pom-Pom, which were employed in single, twin, quad and eight barrel mounts. This was a 37mm short barreled weapon that was hailed as the perfect weapon to defeat attacking aircraft. When the RN went to war in 1939 it was quickly discovered that the threat from the air was far greater than realized and that their Vickers and Pom-Pom AA guns were not able to adequately protect the fleet. The USN had much less reason to be surprised at the ineffectiveness of their AA mounts, as they received RN lessons learned for 2 1/2 years before they too were caught flat footed by Japanese air power.
It took awhile before the RN realized that the Vickers MG and 2pdr Pom-Pom were not up to the job. Since in 1939 Germany spent her efforts against Poland, the RN had not yet faced the true strength of the Luftwaffe. It was not truly realized how vulnerable the British warships were to air attack until the evacuation at Dunkirk. Although most of the BEF and a good chunk of the French Army were saved, the RN suffered significant losses to German air attack. The situation grew even more dire in 1941, especially in the Mediterranean Sea. The Royal Navy looked around for replacements for their light and medium AA guns and found the Swiss 20mm Oerlikon as a very good replacement for the Vickers machine gun and the Swedish made 40mm Bofors gun as a replacement for the Pom-Pom. The British Army had already adopted the ordnance as their AA weapon.
When the 40mm Bofors is mentioned, most modelers will instantly associate that ordnance with the USN. The reason is obvious. The USN mounted twin and later quadruple powered Bofors mounts wherever they could find space for them, after they discovered that the 1.1-inch Chicago Piano was a dud. However, it wasn't until the fall of 1942 before they started to make a significant appearance within the USN. What is not normally realized is that it was the Royal Navy that called the USN to the merits of the Bofors gun. The RN recognized its outstanding abilities long before the USN did. However, the RN did loose some time in up-gunning because for some time they kept trying to make the wretched Pom-Pom work. One of the first RN Bofors mounts was the Mk III single gun mount. The Mk III Land Service Bofors mount was a hand worked gun based on the Army pattern gun. The only power on training and elevating these guns was the power of muscle in the use of hand cranks.
White Ensign Models has now introduced their first 1:72 scale heavy ordnance for the Royal Navy. Last Fall WEM produced a single gun 37mm cannon in 1:72 scale for the Kriegsmarine (click for review of WEM German 37mm AA gun) and now its only fair that WEM ups the ante for the RN by going up to 40mm for the RN. The mount selected is the Mk III Land Service single gun 40mm Bofors. The 1:72 scale Mk III Bofors is packaged with white metal and brass parts to build one gun and is listed as WEM PE-7217.
There are four white metal parts to the Mk III Bofors. The gun base is a very substantial eight-sided pyramid which forms a very formidable base for this mount. Then you have a very nice gun cradle with gun trunions, gun mechanisms and other fine detail. The gun itself is very well detailed from the flared muzzle, which is slightly hollowed out, back to the breech with its top-loading shell carriers and side detail. The fourth part is the recoil cylinders and elevating mechanism, which fits under the gun itself in the cradle. All four white metal parts are well done, need little clean up and present a very hefty appearance when fitted together.
While the WEM white metal provides the beef, the WEM brass photo-etch set provides the exquisite detail. After all almost every product of WEM is known for the fine brass photo-etched set that accompanies it. The brass fret for the Bofors Mk III is not huge but as expected, it is top drawer in quality. The detail that Peter Hall works into a fret is really amazing. Please remember that most of the photographs of the photo-etch as seen above are highly magnified. Those gunner's seats that you see in the top row, second photo from the left are very highly magnified. The unaided eye will not see this detail and yet the detail is there because WEM and Peter Hall demand nothing less. Another mark of craftsmanship in WEM photo-etch is the heavy use of relief etching. Even though this is a small threat, the relief etching is still found throughout. Finally, what WEM brass photo-etch fret would be complete without the signature of Mad Pete himself.
The white metal, brass fret and instructions are packaged low drag, high speed plastic baggie, which quite adequate for the task. WEM instructions are known for their comprehensive nature. In one of their warship kits or large brass photo-etch sets, the instructions can run for page after page, just to make sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed. For a change of pace, the instructions for the WEM Mk III Bofors runs exactly one page. Now, is WEM slipping? No, the one page is very clear as this ordnance model is a simple build. Not only does WEM provide their traditional visual and textual parts description but also they provide their traditional modular building format, although in this case, there are only three modules.
What is WEM up to? With their German 37mm AA gun it was understandable that it was aimed at modelers of the Revell 1:72 scale Type VIIc U-Boat, even if to properly mount it, the kit would require a different conning tower/sail. What about the 1:72 scale White Ensign Models Bofors Mk III mount AA gun? What kit is it designed for? When I saw it, I instantly thought - Revell Snowberry. However, when I looked through the armaments section in John Lambert's Flower Class Corvettes in World War Two in the Warship Perspectives series by WR Press, I didn't find a Bofors Mk III listed, or for that matter any Bofors listed as armament. If this ordnance is not for the Snowberry, what is it for? Of course this mount could be part of a stand alone series of armament models, unconnected with any particular kit. They are very nice models just for that purpose. However, I don't recall any mention of such purpose by Caroline Snyder, John Snyder, Dave Carter, Mad Pete or any other herald from on high. What are they up to? What are they hiding? Are they just toying with us as a cat toys with a mouse? The games afoot!