Lee 1/300 HMS Aurora
Review by Stuart Robottom

 When I saw this model selling for less than the price of a 1:700 Dragon FFG model I rushed to the counter and bought it. Previously I had scratchbuilt her sister, HMS Penelope, in 1:144 scale. The four ships of this class (Arethusa and Galatea being the other two) were built as cheap cruisers in the mid- to late-1930s, with six six-inch guns and eight four inch guns. When viewed from the quarters the appearance is certainly unorthodox. Their hull, considered to be the minimum size for good sea keeping, was subsequently used for the Dido class of cruisers. 

Upon opening the kit there are many sprues with parts for the masts and similar pieces, weapons, deck, and supports. The casting quality appears good, with no annoying flash on any pieces. That impressed me and I was starting to get my hopes up.

 This new (as far as I know) offering is generally a more accurate representation of this interesting class of ship than my scratchbuilt example, but it does have flaws. The hull doesn't get the bow or stern quite right according to pictures I have -- the bow knuckle is not pronounced enough for example, and the stern appears too 'full'. It has a one piece hull with internal bracing for an electric motor, though my kit didn't have any in the kit. Externally the scuttles are recesses. I liked the boat booms on each side and may complete the model with these in their 'in harbour' position. Separate pieces are added to the hull for the propeller guards, which is a nice touch, and with care can look special. 

The deck pieces (quarterdeck, foredeck, B gundeck and 4" gundeck plus some smaller pieces) have raised lines for the deck planks, which is surprising for a modern model. These lines can be removed but I left them on to try a new (for me) idea on this model. I painted the decks overall black, then dark brown, then light brown. I then lightly sanded the decks and it gave a nice wood appearance. Not completely authentic but it contrasts nicely with other ships' decks in my collection. The fo'c'sle is a separate piece to be painted gray as this was metal on the real thing. By using rubber bands I was able to glue the decks to the hull with few problems.

 The superstructures all come together well. In fact, the fit is really good generally. The level of detail is not up to Skywave 1:700 levels but how many models of British cruisers are there in this scale!?! The only features are the holes for the scuttles. If interested some extra detail could be added by purchasing 1:350 detailing photoetch. 

The 6 inch turrets are less detailed than the 4 inch mountings, and really look a bit plain, but the four inchers can be made to look busy with some artistic license is taken in their painting. The turrets suffer the same failings as the superstructure in being devoid of detail and this is quite disappointing and I didn't add any detail to them. 

One point in this model's favour is the mast representation. The masts really are a challenge on the patience if you want to get them right, but if you finish them they look impressive compared to most other models. If you can do the rigging (I didn't!) it would probably look even better. A word of warning though -- the supporting legs for the masts don't have locating holes and time must be spent ensuring they are in the correct position. The crane is also worth mentioning. It has the lattice pattern for its boom and the crane mount itself can be painted up to improve its appearance. By doing a good job on these they can distract attention from the vertical surfaces.

 A clear plastic stand is included in the kit four mounting and looks to be a copy of Dragon's used in their 1:350 Spruance and derivative kits. I have not seen photos of the props and rudder, and the only comment is to ensure to 'hand' the propellers the correct way. Despite telling myself to I suffered brain failure and put them on the wrong way! 

Overall this kit is worth buying if interested in British cruisers of the 30s and 40s. This was an important class of warship; indeed, Aurora and Penelope wreaked havoc in the Mediterranean as Force K. The main failings are the lack of detail on vertical surfaces but the number of parts can help with the more complicated assemblies. As mentioned some photoetch could rectify this but I had none, unfortunately. In the kit's favour are several features -- I really enjoyed the masts, and painting the 4" mounts. The deck came out okay, in my (unbiased!?!) opinion. 

Combined with my interest in ships of this period these features outweighed the negatives. The verdict: it has its shortcomings but can build into a nice, large, display model with some effort and will look good on the shelf. 

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