The Royal Navy did more to develop the aircraft carrier than any other navy. From the early converted merchantmen and warships to the first carrier built from keel up, the Royal Navy led in carrier construction, as well as introducing carrier equipment still found in the nuclear powered carriers of today. When Great Britain finally realized that it was imperative to rearm in the 1930s, their first new carrier was HMS Ark Royal. For subsequent designs the Royal Navy decided to armor the hangars of future carriers. For the Illustrious class the hangar was an armored box with an armored flight deck. This decision was made under the realization that land based bombers would be an every present foe in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. These armored carriers proved themselves by surviving intense bombing attacks during the war. However, there was a serious disadvantage with these armored box carriers. They had small air groups compared against their USN contemporaries and the armored box concept prevented aircraft from being warmed up in the hangar before being lifted to the flight deck. The armored box design prevented the installation of large areas that could be opened up to provide the ventilation necessary for hangar warm-ups.
The USN went a different route in carrier designs. By far the most important characteristic was size of air group. The USN focused on the large strike and carrier designs maximized aircraft capacity. USN fleet carriers had, in some cases, more than twice the aircraft of RN carriers with the same displacement. With USN designs the hull ended with the hangar deck and the flight deck was in reality superstructure. This allowed for large areas of the hangar sides to be given roller doors, which could be rolled open during flight operations, allowing aircraft to be warmed up in the hangar. This in turn allowed for a far faster operational cycle than RN carriers. The RN studied the early events of the war in the Pacific and saw the benefits of the USN approach, just as USN officers saw the benefits accruing to the armored RN carriers. Remarkably both navies came a melding of design philosophies for large carrier designs late in the war. For the USN it was the large armored Midway class, whose first unit arrived shortly after the war had ended. For the RN the result was the Malta class whose units never did arrive.
The four ships of the Malta class were to be Malta, New Zealand, Gibraltar and Africa. The design was for ships 916.5-feet long and displacing 46,900-tons standard and 56,800-tons deep load with a beam of almost 116-feet. Aircraft complement was slated to be 80. Although armored, the Malta incorporated the USN concept of hangar bulkhead panels that could be opened to increase ventilation, allowing warm-up of aircraft in the hangar. Before the ships could be laid down the war ended. Gibraltar and Africa were cancelled immediately, while Malta and New Zealand lingered until January 1946, when they too were cancelled. Mountford produces a resin and white metal 1:1250 scale model of HMS Malta. This is a kit and requires some assembly with white metal equipment and fittings to be attached to the one-piece resin hull-superstructure. Additionally Mountford provides for five propeller and one jet aircraft for the flight deck for aircraft types tat possibly could be used by the design after the war.
The Mountford HMS Malta is available from Waterline Ships Co. of the United Kingdom. Just click on the Red Duster below.