The Racecourse class minesweeper was comprised of 32 ships built and delivered to the Royal Navy under the Emergency War Program during the First World War. At
the beginning of the war, trawlers and smaller warships were adapted to sweep mines. Early war experience showed that paddle-wheeled ships that were hired by the
Royal Navy proved to be better suited for minesweeping duties. These vessels were also cheaper to build and required a smaller crew to operate than similar screw
vessels. To that end, the Admiralty commissioned the Scottish firm Ailsa Shipbuilding Company to develop specifications and draw plans for a paddle-wheeled
minesweeper based on that firm’s Glen Usk, which was a single-funnel passenger vessel.

The
Racecourse Class (also referred to as the Ascot Class), were called so as they were all named after horse racing courses in the United Kingdom. In actuality, there
were two subclasses with very minor differences. The original class was comprised of 24 ships that had the foremast in front of the bridge and derricks abeam of the
second funnel. The “Improved” class, comprised of 8 ships, had the foremast through the charthouse, two large ventilators abaft the forward funnel and no derricks
abeam the aft funnel. These ships were constructed at various shipyards in the UK.

HMS Ascot was the first ship of this class to be completed. She was launched and commissioned in 1916. Tragically she was also the last ship to be sunk during World
War I. On November 10, 1918, a day before the armistice, she was torpedoed by
UB-67 off of the Farne Islands, which are located in the North Sea off the coast of
Northumberland. Most of the remaining ships were sold to private firms and converted to passenger service. During World War II, a few ships were requisitioned again
by the Royal Navy for minesweeping duties.
The Kit - AJM Models is a new resin kit producing company based in Poland and one of their first releases is this 1:350 scale kit of HMS Ascot. This is a multimedia kit
in the truest sense in that it is comprised of resin, photo-etch brass, turned brass and laser cut wood parts and it provides a full-hull or waterline hull option.

The upper and lower hull parts are rather straight-forward. Both parts are attached to a fairly substantial casting runner, which will need to be removed with a razor saw
or an Exacto knife. Mating the upper and lower hull will most likely require sanding along the area where the runners were removed and some putty or filler along the
seams. The lower hull has a pair for slightly raised areas that will fit into the corresponding recesses in the upper hull to help align the two parts. The upper hull has
various portholes, drainage scuttles, watertight doors and slots to fit the tabs on the paddle wheel housing parts. Since the kit has wooden decks, there are no deck details
to speak off. The parts are generally well cast.

The next largest parts are the paddle wheel housings. These parts are to be fitted to the upper hull amidships and, as mentioned above, have a pair of tabs designed to fit
into the corresponding slots in the hull. The housings are of course open to accommodate the paddlewheels and the face also has an opening to fit the photo-etch grill.
Some of the support braces on the underside were damaged during shipping and need to be repaired.
The other larger structural parts include the two funnels and various deck houses. The detail on the deckhouses include water-tight doors, portholes, windows  and
skylights (light colored resin parts are a bit difficult to photograph, at least for me, but trust me they are there). The pilothouse is open, with internal details and flooring,
and it allows you to add the ship’s wheel inside of it. The roof of the pilothouse is one of the wooden deck parts. The windows to the pilothouse will need to be opened
up if you wish to have what little detail inside to be seen. The casting again is generally good though I do see some evidence of rapid prototyping of the masters in some
of the parts. There are also a void here and there from air bubbles that will need to be filled in and some resin film that has to be removed. These parts also have slots to
accommodate the tabs on corresponding parts.

There are a myriad of smaller resin parts that include the frame for the minesweeping gear, hatches and coamings, skylights, a companionway, boats, guns and
pedestals, winches, bollards and chocks, ventilators, Carley floats and other details. Since the kit has wooden decks, a lot of details that would normally be cast integrally
into the upper hull, such as the hatches and coamings, skylights, bollards and chocks, are cast as separate parts. Again the casting is generally good but the smaller boat
is a bit rough. Some clean-up is needed to remove some excess resin and resin film. If you look closely at the larger pair of boats you will see the life-lines cast into the
sides, which is really neat but will be a challenge to paint.
The brass photo-etch for this kit is beautifully done with crisp and clean details and relief etching. In addition to railings and inclined and vertical ladders, the brass fret
provides parts for the paddle wheels, grills for the paddle wheel housing, breakwater, gun platforms, cable reels, boat thwarts, rudders and cradles, ratlines, davits,
bridge wing supports, anchors, funnel cap grills, boom hooks and sundry other parts. The railings have individual stanchion ends rather than a gutter rail along the
bottom; the latter style is my personal preference. Also there are no boat oars provided, which would have been a nice addition along with the other details included.
The part numbers for the photo-etch are etched into the fret. A pair of turned brass masts is included along with several lengths of brass wire to make yardarms,
booms and other details. A small length of chain which looks a tad over scale is also provided along with a strip of plastic. What the latter is to be used for I honestly
do not know as I do not see it referenced in the assembly instructions.

The sheet with four laser cut wooden decks is done well. There is a debate among modelers about using wooden decks, some modelers like them and others do not
and prefer to paint the decks instead. Well with this kit you don’t have a choice but to use the wooden decks, like them or not. Personally I see the value of wooden
decks. The ones provided with this kit include the main deck, the quarter deck, the bridge deck and the roof of the pilot house. There are openings to accommodate
the various structures and fittings that have corresponding tabs or pins and for the few that don’t the locations are clearly marked. These decks are not self-adhesive
as some aftermarket offerings, so you will have to use contact cement or some other form of glue to attach the decks to the upper hull.
A small sheet of waterslide decals are included with Roman numeral draft markings, the White Ensign in two sizes, the Union Jack and the pennant number for HMS
Melton
, which appears to be the only ship in this class to have had them painted on her hull. The decals look good though a bit of the red stripe in the small White
Ensign came off. As a precaution, I would seal the decals with MicroScale Liquid Decal film or something equivalent before using.

The assembly instructions are printed on four pages are very well done. The first page has a breakdown of the kit parts with resin parts having numbers within ovals,
the wooden and turned brass with a prefix of “D” and the decals with a “K”. Photo-etch parts are referenced by numbers within boxes. The bottom of the first page
has the painting and decals placement guide which also serves as a rigging diagram. Color references are for Lifecolor paints so you will have to find paint equivalents
for your preferred paint brand. The rigging diagram shows a close-up of the wireless aerial runs between the masts that show “X” spreaders but they are not included
with the kit’s photo-etch. The remaining pages have several detailed and clear assembly diagrams with dimensions cited for the yards and booms that you need to cut
from the brass wire provided.
The HMS Ascot kit is an impressive and promising debut from AJM Models. I really like the unusual subject and it looks like this kit will build into a detailed model of a
ship in this class. A modernized World War II version, sold as
HMS Queen of Thanet, is also available as well as 1/700 scale versions of both versions. Based on what I
see with the
HMS Ascot, I am really looking forward to what else will be produced by AJM Models. My thanks to AJM Models for the review sample.
Felix Bustelo
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