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HMS Sheffield late 1942 (IWM)
HMS Sheffield
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White Ensign Models
1:350 Waterline Kit

In-the-Box Review
Colin Ritchie

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HMS Sheffield waterline hull views




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Colour Guide






Editor's Note:
The HMS Sheffield is available from White Ensign Models direct only. Click here  for their web site and  ordering details.















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Etched Brass #1

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Etched Brass #2

White Ensign have become the leading producer of scale model ships in Europe, and if quality is taken as the measure, rather than quantity of releases, probably the best in the world at present. Their rise to this position has taken in most of the current RN fleet in both 700th and 350th scale, and they've now extended their range to include WWII RN Subjects in 350th. The first last year, HMS Hood was a magnificent achievement providing the definitive kit of a most beautiful ship. This year has seen the release of their next WWII 350th subject, HMS Sheffield, 10,000 ton Town class cruiser.

Built as a response to the Japanese Mogami class of cruisers in the 1930's the Town (or Southampton class as its better known) became the backbone of the RN cruiser force in WWII.  These ships were much loved by the crews who had to fight and live in them. They were superb sea boats, and this stability coupled with both high speed and powerful weapons fit (12x6" guns) made them a force to be reckoned with.

Sheffield became perhaps the best known of this class. It's difficult to recall a major WWII engagement  in the Atlantic, Arctic or Med in which Sheffield did not participate. The sinking of Bismarck and Scharnhorst, the FW77 convoy battle, action in Norway, Malta convoys, the shiny Sheff was there.

WEM's new kit is, as usual, a mixed media model. The bulk of the parts being cast in a very hard and non-smelly (!) resin, with additional pieces supplied as photo etched brass, and some small pieces of plasticard and brass rod. The whole kit comes in a very stout box, with a superb set of instructions. These run to 25 pages, and combine excellent notes and pictures which lead the modeler through every step of construction. 

The cost of the kit in the UK, 150 plus vat, although seeming high to those coming from other modelling fields, actually represents excellent value, and reflects the work involved in designing and developing such a superb kit.

One area in which WEM rightly prides itself is research they perform when developing a kit. This is reflected both in the level of detail incorporated into the model, and in the detailed painting plans. Many small-scale producers throw a builder some references and allow them to do the hard work. Caroline and Dave Carter do this for you. This is clearly the case when looking at the beautifully illustrated 5 colour disruptive pattern applied to Sheffield in the winter of 41-42 when serving on the Arctic convoys.

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It’s a complex pattern, but it's fully illustrated in colour, with both sides of the ship depicted. This removes any guesswork, a blessing when modeling such a complex scheme.

The Kit
On to the kit itself, the hull is a 23" long single piece casting, (I have the waterline version but a full hull version is also available), and the detail incorporated is awesome. The portholes all have eyebrows, the deck planking is to scale, and the faiheads are all in place and to scale. The list goes on and on and there were no flaws anywhere, truly an impressive piece of casting.

The resin fittings, superstructure, turrets, and the many additional fittings appear to be substantially better than WEM's Hood, clean, crisp, and beautifully formed with almost no flash, . There are some slight casting plugs to be removed, but otherwise the parts appear to be almost Tamiya-like level in definition, (My fav so far, the cylinders on the Walrus engines are discernible, unlike Tamiya's). The bags of pieces initially seem  daunting, especially the mass of tiny deck mounted ventilators, (4 separate designs), but careful study of the assembly instructions make it clear where everything has to go.

After cleaning up the small mould plugs on the main castings, the main bridge castings were offered up, at this point the kit reveals one of its main surprises. It builds like an injection-moulded kit. The major parts simply snap together. This is unlike any resin kit I've ever encountered, aircraft, AFV, or even the WEM Hood. The thought that has gone into the production of this kit is simply breathtaking. Comparing it with a Tamiya New Jersey BB which I also have on the workbench, the resin pieces of Sheffield fit better and look finer than the plastic kit from Japan, which I think says it all.

One area that is particularly well catered for is that of aircraft. The Sheffield had 2 aircraft hangers, and was capable of operating a total of 4 Walrus aircraft. The kit provides a detailed fully operational Walrus, and a second aircraft with folded wings. Anyone familiar with the WEM range of 350th aircraft will know what to expect, beaching gear is included on the PE fret, along with the two Scarf rings, and the smallest Vickers machine gun you ever saw. Along with the complete aircraft there are enough spares to build another complete aircraft. These spares are moulded with support bars to enable them to be stored in the two hanger walls. This is quite wonderful attention to detail, which is only slightly spoiled by WEM not including any aircraft decals, but they shouldn't be too hard to track down. (Does anyone know the serial numbers of the Walrus assigned to Sheffield in May 1941?)

The two etched brass frets contain the remainder of the fittings, handrails, aircraft catapult, yards, beautiful Type 79 radar arrays, and 13, (13!) separate designs of hatches complete with locking handles.  All in all, a work of art!  The secondary weapons, 2lb Pom Pom's, 4" twin mounts and the .5" multiple mounts are all as per Hood, but with an extra degree of fineness, as though the design had been refined. The kit provides a choice of early 1941 fit, (correct for the Bismarck period), and a late 1941 fit, when the ship was serving on the Arctic convoys. One of the main differences in fit is the addition of a number of 20mm mounts. These are multi part PE units with resin mounts and are quite simply wonderful. I feel WEM should seriously consider marketing these as individual items, they're that good.

As regards actually building the kit, it would appear that the method suggested to me by WEM's Peter Hall , "Start in the middle and work out" is sound here as it was with their Hood. The shelter-deck with its hidden hatches, boats, and other assorted fittings needs to be installed first. Once this is complete, the rest of the fittings can be added, painting as required. From there, the rest of the superstructure can be added, along with the mass of fittings, boats and weapons.

The final fitting out of the kit requires the construction of two masts, using brass rod as the base material. This isn't really too difficult, as detailed measurements are given in the plans, along with a actual sized plan with which to compare your efforts. This to my mind is preferable to the resin masts provided with Hood, which were overly brittle and broke more times than I can count during construction.

WEM do list a number of references for the ship, most, of which they can provide. One reference source I would urge any builders to order would be a set of plans. WEM sell a set of Sambrook plans for HMS Manchester, which is as close to Sheffield as can be provided. I found the ability to refer to a plan extremely useful as regards final placement of small details, ladders and so on. During my build of Hood, I had the plans pinned across the wall, as a constant reference source, and dammed useful they were too.

The state of the art in ship modelling has just been advanced by another couple of notches, a wonderful kit beautifully presented. I apologise for the brevity of the review, I've had the kit in my hands for approx. 2 hours so far, and I haven't stopped grinning yet .