L'Arsenal 1/700
1941 HMS Ark Royal

Reviewed January 2015
by Martin J Quinn


HMS Ark Royal - the third ship to carry the name - was an aircraft carrier built by Cammell Laird in Birkenhead.  Laid down in September 1935, the ship was launched in April 1937 and commissioned into the Royal Navy in December, 1938.  She had a short but very active career - participating in the hunt for the raider Graf Spee, the fighting off Norway, the pursuit of the Bismarck, and operations in the Mediterranean, including ferrying aircraft to the beleaguered island of Malta.  It was on the return to Gibraltar after one such ferry run that she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-81 on November 13, 1941, sinking the next day.   For more information on her short, but spectacular career, check out her Wikipedia page here
The L'Arsenal HMS Ark Royal
The model comes in a sturdy white cardboard box, which opens at the side.  The large resin hull is cocooned in bubble wrap, and all the small parts are separated in multiple plastic bags.   The photo-etch comes separately in a plastic sleeve tucked inside the instructions. 

The hull is one large, well cast piece of resin.   It features a myriad of pockets in the hull, AA gun platforms, portholes, catapult tracks and a degaussing cable integrally cast into the hull.   The hull - which scales out just ever so slightly long but is spot on in beam - is wonderfully cast.   It's very crisp - the only flash is on the thin over pour on the bottom of the hull.   The only drawback is that some of the pockets on the aft portion of the ship appear to be open from one side of the hull to the other, something that is not shown in the kit, due to the one piece hull.  However, this is a minor quibble. 

Being that the hull is cast as a solid piece, the kit doesn't have a lot of parts - there are only 32 identified parts in the entire kit (though some of these parts have multiple copies).   The resin parts follow the pattern set by the hull - they are all nicely cast.   There is some flash around some of the smaller parts, but this will easily be removed with a sharp hobby knife blade.   The island has some nice relief detail on it, and the funnel is recessed almost 5mm, which is a nice touch.  The separate parts for the bridge are all well cast - there are nicely recessed windows on one level - and are loose in the bag.  That means you don't have to sand them off a wafer or snip them off a sprue.  A very nice touch!

Other bags of parts include the ships boats, rafts, more platforms for the side of the hull, directors and various smaller bits and the anti-aircraft armament.   Everything is well cast.  The 4.5 inch gun turrets are cast in resin, with turned brass barrels for the guns.   I've read that the backs of these guns should be open (the kit parts are not), but I don't know enough about the weapon to be 100% certain which is correct.  The pom-poms are very delicate, as are the quad .50 caliber guns.  Not to sound like a broken record, but the casting is first rate throughout the kit.  At this point, I'll let the pictures do the talking. 

 There are two types of aircraft that come with the kit:  Swordfish biplanes and Fairey Fulmar "fighters".  There are five Swordfish and nine Fulmars in the box.   The fuselage of the Swordfsh is cast in resin, with the wings, tail plane, landing gear, props, struts and arrestor gear (yes, arrestor gear) all rendered in photo-etch.   Impressive looking, but I suspect some folks will find them a challenge to build - myself included.  Those wings will especially be challenging to assemble without bending. 

The Fulmars are a solid resin piece, with landing gear, props, antennas and arrestor gear all part of the small photo-etch fret.   Casting on both aircraft is clean, with the Fulmar's having some flash around the wings and fuselage that needs to be scrapped off with a sharp hobby knife. 

One photo-etched set is included with the kit, with parts for handrails, ladders, stairways, funnel grills, cranes, antennas, windbreaks, gun sights, and catwalks.  The photo-etched is very delicate, with some relief etching.   All in all, very nicely done, and it seems pretty complete. 

No decals are included with the kit, which means you'll have to source your own to finish the aircraft. 
The instructions - which are in both English and French, and in color - are 10 pages over 5 double sided pieces of paper.  The parts are both listed and illustrated on the first page, the photo-etch being listed and illustrated on the second page.  The rest of the instructions appear to be CAD drawings, and show the rest of the assembly in different colors to help with ease of placement.  The last page is a plan and profile view of Ark Royal, showing her in overall 507B.   According to Alan Raven on page 14 of Camouflage Volume 1, Royal Navy 1939-1941, Ark Royal painted into a "Light Upperworks/Dark Hull" camouflage in 1940.   Photos of her sinking seem to show her still wearing this pattern, so check your references before applying paint.   There are also two aircraft profiles, one for the Fulmar and one for the Swordfish.   There is text which indicates the colors for the ship and the aircraft. 

As instructions - especially for resin kits - goes, these are very well illustrated and should be more than sufficient for any modeler who has a few resin kits under their belt. 

The L'Arsenal 1/700 HMS Ark Royal - though being almost four years old now - is still a beautifully cast and state of the art resin kit.   At $140.00 from L'Arsenal USA, it's not inexpensive, but in it you get a complete, well cast model of one of the most famous flattops of World War II.    While some may prefer to wait to see what the announced Fujimi 1/700 injection molded Ark Royal is going to be all about, you can't go wrong with the L'Arsenal Ark Royal if you want a scale flattop to prevent your scale Bismarck from escaping back to the safety of the bookshelf.   Highly Recommended for modelers who've built a few resin kits. 

Thanks to Tony Bunch of L'Arsenal USA for the review sample.