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Trumpeter 1/350 Richelieu French Navy Battleship 1943 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2008 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject Richelieu French Navy Battleship 1943 Scale 1/350
Kit Number 5311 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Unique subject Cons No waterline option
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $134.95

First Look

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The Richelieu was the first-in-class of France's largest (and last) battleship classes. Laid down in late 1935, the Richelieu was launched in 1939, and started sea trials in early 1940. When Germany advanced into France in June 1940, the still-incomplete Richelieu was able to put to sea under her own power and evaded German forces. Escorted by two French destroyers, the Richelieu headed to Dakar and Casablanca.

When France surrendered to German forces, the British attempted to neutralize the French Navy before those ships could be pressed into German service. In July 1940, Swordfish of the HMS Hermes torpedoed the Richelieu and damaged one of her propeller shafts.

Richelieu

In the Battle of Dakar, the Richelieu engaged British forces with her 15" (380mm) guns and forced the British battlegroup to withdraw. Nevertheless, Richelieu suffered damage in the battle, not by the direct hits from HMS Barham, rather due to a propellant blow-back that damaged two of her main guns.

With the surrender of French in North Africa to allied forces, Richelieu sailed to New York in January 1943 for repairs and upgrades. While her main guns were repaired and suitable ammunition manufactured, her defensive armament was replaced with US armament and US pattern gun pits were installed. Returned to operational service, the Richelieu would spend the rest of the war in support of the British fleet. After the war, the Richelieu remained in service until 1958 and was scrapped in 1968.

Trumpeter has released the first of the Richelieu-class in 1/350 scale. The kit is molded in standard Trumpeter gray and presented on nine parts trees plus the hull and four separate deck sections. One styrene display stand molded in black styrene is also included. What is not included with this release is the separate lower hull in red, nor the option for a waterline display.

Assembly appears to be very straightforward with much of the effort installing the gun tubs and US-installed armament during her refit and repairs in New York. Assembly of the superstructure is also straightforward and lends itself to painting the special Measure 32 camouflage during the assembly process.

The Richelieu's two main batteries go together last. These are rather unique in that her eight 15" guns were mounted in two turrets forward. Two additional turrets were mounted aft housing her six 152mm secondary guns.

In this configuration, the Richelieu is represented as she appeared after her New York refit. If you want to backdate her to her pre-war configuration, you'll have to create your own defensive armament in place of the US guns and tubs.

Construction appears to be very straightforward and should be relatively simple as long as you don't fall into the aftermarket photo-etch (AMS modeler) trap.

The kit comes with a pair of French national flags depending on the style you prefer. The ship wore a Measure 32 camouflage scheme and the kit's paint guide is easier to read than some of their previous guides. The paints are all Gunze Sangyo references, with only one color no longer available in the Aqueous (acrylic) line but is readily available from just about everyone else including Gunze's Mr.Color series.

We have the first kit of the Richelieu in 1/350th scale styrene and it will look nice as portrayed in the box. It shouldn't be too difficult to backdate the ship into its pre-war colors and configuration for those so-inclined.

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!

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