Review AJM 1/700 HMS Empire MacAlpine


MV Empire MacAlpine was a grain ship converted to become the first Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC ship).

The Burntisland Shipbuilding Company, Fife, Scotland, built her under orders from the Ministry of War Transport and was delivered on 14 April 1943. As a MAC ship, only her aircrew and the necessary maintenance staff were naval personnel. She was operated by William Thomson & Co (the Ben Line).

She was 433 feet in length, fifty-seven feet in the beam, and 7954 gross registered tons. She had a speed of 12.5 knots and her complement of 107 was made up of roughly equal numbers of Royal Naval and merchant service crews. Her armament was 1 × 4 in (100 mm) dual-purpose gun, 2 × 40 mm anti-aircraft guns and 4 × 20 mm anti-aircraft cannons. Like all MAC ships, she flew a Red Ensign to denote her merchant service status. ‘Empire MacAlpine’ was managed by Messrs William Thompson & Company, on behalf of the Board of Trade, and was employed in escorting convoys to and from Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was the first ship of her class to carry out both a deck landing and a landing at night. Five members of her crew, including her Master, were decorated and two were mentioned in despatches for operations in the Atlantic, in 1943. After the War ‘Empire MacAlpine’ was reconverted for trading purposes and, having undergone several changes of name, was in service until 1970 when she was sold for breaking up at Hong Kong.

Kit History:
I’m not aware of anyone doing a resin or plastic kit of the Empire Macalpine or any other MAC ships before this. All I can find is one MAC ship on Shapeways but obviously, that comes with no PE or decals.

Inside the box:
The box is a top opening box made from corrugated cardboard. The hull and deck are wrapped in bubble wrap and the smaller resin parts are bagged separately.

Inside the box we have:

  • Approx 360 PE parts on one large PE fret
  • Approx 84 PE parts on 4 smaller PE frets for the aircraft
  • 14 PE parts on a small fret
  • 2 large resin parts ( deck and hull)
  • approx 175 resin parts for ship
  • 44 resin parts for aircraft
  • decals sheet
  • 5 pages of instructions


The instructions are printed on 5 sheets of double-sided paper, mostly in black and white but in colour where needed. The build is covered in 62 steps.

An overview of the pages:

  1. Page 1 shows the layout of the parts on the PE frets and part numbers for the resin parts. The painting guide and decal placements are also on this page.
  2. The build starts with the main hull and adding mostly small resin parts around the edge of the hull. As always, part numbers in rounded boxes are resin and part numbers in square boxes are PE.
  3. Page 3 is mostly concerned with assembling the ship’s boats and emergency rafts.
  4. Page 4 adds small parts amidships and the focs’l details.
  5. Page 5 adds the ship’s boats to the main hull along with assembling and installing the gun at the aft end and adding the first parts of the railings at the aft end and amidships.
  6. Page 6 assembles more ships guns and installs them along with some small details at the ow end of the ship.
  7. Page 7 adds more small parts to the 2 ends of the ship before starting on building the island and adds some small details to the flight deck.
  8. Page 8 completes the island and adds some small parts to the flight deck before adding it and the island and railings to the main hull.
  9. Page 9 adds some more railings and then you can optionally add ladders to the side of the ship down to the waterline and you can add windbreaks to the flight deck if you wish too.
  10. Page 10 adds some final small parts to the hull and builds the Swordfish aircraft.

Paint & Decals:

Paints are called out in LifeColor for the ship and Hataka for the aircraft. It’s a pretty simple painting scheme for both the ship and aircraft. There’s a decal sheet with Royal Navy and Merchant Navy ensigns, but I think the one you need is the merchant navy one. There are also decals to do the lines on the flight deck.


This is a nicely detailed build of a ship that’s not been done before. The 400+ PE parts attest to the level of detail. That being said it should be a relatively straightforward build as it’s a carrier with a small island and a simple painting scheme. It would be a good introduction to building a resin ship.

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  1. Paul, thanks for the review. I have never built a resin ship before. I bought MacKendrick, because my father served on her as an officer, and I have some pics of the flight deck and Swordfish, one of which I made using the Airfix 1.72 rerun. One comment..the Swordfish never carried torpedoes, only rockets for RATO, and the occasional depth charge. I guess I’ll be busy over the next few weeks with this model! Cheers!


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