1/350 Richlieu Details Sets
For the Trumpeter Richlieu

Reviewed By  Charles Landrum, IPMS# 26328

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Richelieu Battleship Upgrade Set (KC 350-04)
Suggested Retail Price: $75

Turned brass replacement 152mm barrels (AC 350 70)
9 pieces, Suggested retail Price: $11

Turned brass replacement 380mm barrels (AC 350 71)
8 Pieces, Suggested retail Price: $18

Available directly from L'Arsenal USA or L'Arsenal France.

I would like to thank:
· Tony Bunch of L'Arsenal USA (http://www.modelships.info/larsenal-usa/)
· Jacques Druel of L'Arsenal France (www.larsenal.com) for these review samples.

In 2008 Trumpeter released its 1/350 scale model kit of the lead ship of the last class of French battleship - Richelieu; it was not an "A" or "varsity" team effort. What the designers got right is the hull (save the portholes), the superstructure and the main and secondary turrets (less barrels). The worst parts of the kit are the 40mm and 20mm guns. Plus like any warship model, there are parts in plastic that could be better represented in photoetched brass. That does not mean the kit is unbuildable, and in fact many welcomed a standard scale Richelieu with many enhancements over the old Heller 1/400 kit. But it does require a detail set for the basics and upgrades for the minor caliber guns at the very least. Needless to say the modelers in France had a lot to say about the kit, most rightfully critical. Fortunately one of their own has a ship model business is Normandy and all eyes turned to Jacques Druel at L'Arsenal. Jacques did his own business eye analysis of Richelieu to determine what improvements, upgrades and enhancements were essential to make a nice model from the kit. His answer, three upgrade sets: the large Upgrade Set of brass and resin, replacement brass barrels for the 240mm guns and replacement barrels for the 135mm guns.

Upgrade Set

The Upgrade Set is a multimedia offering in brass and resin -and it is a large set with three sheets of brass and several bags of resin. The brass sheets are double-relief etched and packed with details. The resin is exquisite, with petite details that defy wonder how they came out of the mold. Despite traveling from France to San Diego and then to Norfolk, Virginia, the only issue I had was than some of the 20mm pedestals had separated from the pour block - a testament to sturdy resin and good packaging. So here is what you get:

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· Replacement quad 40mm gun mounts in resin and brass - each a mini kit!
· Replacement 20mm gun mounts in resin and brass - also a mini kit!
· Triple stacked life rafts in resin with brass bottoms

The PE brass details are on three frets, Fret 1 being the largest. Fret 3 has smaller details including the floater net baskets, while Fret 2 is only the ammo racks for the 40mm gun tubs. The details:
· Floater net baskets in two sizes with a folding aid cast in resin (in the bag with the 20mm pedestals)
· Ammo racks for 40mm gun tubs
· Covers for 20mm ammo boxes
· SA radar antenna array
· Gonio Antenna and platform (post war)
· Type 281 radar dipoles
· Type 282 radar dipoles for the direction finders
· Navigation radars
· Mast details including the yardarm
· Replacement cranes, scaling ladders and hooks
· Paravane padeye plate for the stem
· Lower boat cradles
· Upper boat cradle assembly
· Boat details
· Davits
· Deck vent
· Jackstaff
· Main turret ladders
· Turret 2 side railings
· Foredeck and upper deck railings
· Diagonal and vertical ladders
· Accommodation ladders and davits
· Funnel cap ladders
· Water-tight doors
· Cable reels
· Motto plates: "Valeur", "Honneur", "Discipline", " Patrie"

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So I sat down and gave the more complex components a test drive. Given the size and shape of many of the PE components I found my Hold-N-Fold Five speed tool to be indispensable! In the past I struggled through this kind of work with some makeshift tools, but this tool made short work of the assemblies: ( read Hold & Fold Review ).

I started with the boat cradles. The upper framework has a narrow l-shaped edge. Here a folding tool was a must. Once I shaped it I glued on the three cradles. I needed to trim the lower portion to get them to sit better on the frame. Also of note all three cradles are the same shape. In reality the one in the middle must accommodate the wider breadth of the boat and should be shallower. This can easily be trimmed to match the boat hull. When finished it is a much nicer and realistic assembly than the one provided in the kit. The lower cradles rolled on the real ship. The PE replacements also have the wheels which are etched in to the side wall and when you make the fold the wheels stick down. The cradles were quick and easy to fold into shape. You will need to remove the molded cradles on the deck. You can leave a track from the molded plastic or add a new one from strip styrene.

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Next I tackled the cranes. Other PE manufacturers provide the box beam in two parts to ease assembly. This is one piece that requires three folds; the advantage no alignment to mess up, although the final fold is tricky. I folded the three sides and used the tool to start the fourth as far as I could bend it. I then used the metal bar with the folding tool to push down gently and press in the last side. It went smoothly and I ended up with rectangular cross section and not a trapezoid! The scaling ladder was not so easy. The ladder has small mounting points that need to bend over. I accomplished this, but I could not get the ladder to glue into position properly. In the process I managed to irreparably bend it. So I used vertical ladder stock (number 34) to replace both. The rest of the crane assembles without issue and attaches to the plastic base. The real ship used a series of blocks (pulleys) and cables off the superstructure to support the crane - so check your references before mounting to the ship.

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I moved on to try my hands at the floater net baskets; folding both sizes using the resin tool provided in the bag of 20mm pedestals. The tool is scribed with a line marking which side to use depending on whether you are folding a large or small basket - very clever! The brass was soft and easy to work and the basket folded easily. I found it was just a tad to narrow to fold in the end pieces, which if you don't the basket forms a trapezoid when viewed from the top. With a little coaxing I worked them in. The result is amazing and far better than the kits. I like the tool so much I will use it with the baskets provided in other PE sets.

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As I mentioned above each quad 40mm is a mini-kit; I followed the instruction sequence provided. There was no clean up required of the resin parts, and so I added the hand wheels which are misnumbered, they are number 8 not 7 as listed on the instruction. The seat/pedal assembly was confusing and so I consulted some photos. I put a zig-zag bend in the long piece from the seat to the "T" mid way down the part. I also bent the pedal upwards. The "T" should point inward. Attach the seat to the resin locator as directed. Since the "T" points inward you will need to fold the right seat in the reverse of the left seat. Next I folded and attached the rear railing with CA. The gun shield is a more complex fold and care must be taken so it matches the shape of the base. It only attaches by the rear quarter panels, the whole front of the assembly suspended. With that done I added the 40mm twin barrels ensuring I had them at the right angle. The last detail was to add the gun sights, which fit perfectly at the front of the 40mm breech assembly. While there were a few tricks to the assembly, the result is tremendously detailed gun mount. Since the 40mm mounts are so prominent, having detailed replicas will go along way to improving the kit. The addition of the ammo racks for the gun tubs adds that much more detail.

I then tackled the 20mm gun mount. This assembly is more straight forward, but is comprised of a lot of small parts. Again I followed the instructions. The trick is to form the U shape when folding the gun frames together, providing a narrow enough gap to fit the barrel assembly and maintaining alignment. The frame mounted easily to the shield. I did consult photos to ensure I had the barrel mounted in the right location. Again the result is a very realistic 20mm mount.

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There is no comparison between the kit 20mm and 40mm guns and those provided in the kit. The switch is from toy-like to miniature replicas. In addition the resin life raft stacks are a first for L'Arsenal and these details are not offered elsewhere. It is a simple matter to add the brass PE bottoms to the resin sidewalls. The addition of all of the radar antennas including post-war fits, will allow the modeler to build Richelieu at any time during the period of 1943-1955. There are a few additional details I would like to see, like brackets certain platforms, but these are not show stoppers. My favorite detail however are the motto plates, a small but important detail.

In balance this upgrade set provides a great amount of detail in one set and will go a long way to approve the look of your model. If nothing else replacing the small caliber weapons will be a significant improvement. The radars, boat cradles, and replacement cranes are also important enhancements. The fact that you receive three frets of brass and several bags of resin makes this a great value. You can't go wrong with this set

Turned Brass Replacement Barrels

The turned brass replacement barrels for the main and secondary battery are an important offering for the Trumpeter Richelieu. Both the 380mm and 152mm turrets are a major distinguishing feature of this ship and are both highly visible. The kit barrels suffer from shape and dimension issues. The 380mm guns, while the correct length have the odd step at the muzzle. The 152mm barrels are too short and lack proper taper. The brass barrels are both the correct length once mounted and much better in shape. My samples were uniform in all respects. The only drawback to the set is that there are no installation instructions. So I sat down to fit them to the turrets. I found in both cases that the dowel provided for the kit barrels (or a similarly sized rods) are sufficient to back the barrels. To this I attached the barrels with gap filling CA, ensuring that they were at equal spacing and elevation. The effect is superb. The images below contrast the replacement barrels with those of the kits for both sets of turrets.

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There are other issues with regards to the turret openings for the barrels, but these must be addressed regardless of which barrel is used. Inside the turret are shield plates that move with the barrel as it elevates. These are missing in both the main and secondary turrets giving the turret a hollow look. These are easy to add out of sheet styrene. Then there is the exterior of the turret at the slide. The 380mm guns can be found in pictures with or without the blast bags; the blast bags being ubiquitous in the post war period. The kit ones are terrible and need to be replaced. When blast bags were not fitted the turret openings had armored covers that locked the barrels to a set elevation and no doubt provided watertight protection for the shield plates against the seas. When firing these were hinged and locked back. Trumpeter missed this detail. The 152mm barrels appear to never have has blast bags, just the covers. Regardless of which you model, these features will need to be added to the model. Perhaps L'Arsenal can provide PE covers for both sets of turrets…! Or perhaps some resin blast bags.

Bottom line, the brass barrels are a great enhancement for a very reasonable price - the cheapest I have seen on replacement barrels. At this price why would you not get them.