Whilst Britain’s new super aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was on trials off the Cornish coast, Falmouth’s own carrier in the form of a huge scale model of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (R09) was safely docked in a modeller’s shipyard awaiting the final finishing touches before completion.

After 25 years of painstaking research and building Dave Fortey has finally completed a 1:72 model of the Ark Royal and in January it will be on display at the London Model Engineering Exhibition which is regarded as one of the leading model shows in the UK attracting over 14,000 visitors.

I paid Dave, a Falmouth Marine Band member, a visit to see his behemoth model which takes him two hours to set up for display purposes. He spent nine years in the Royal Navy primarily serving on the aircraft carriers Illustrious and Invincible as an air mechanic before becoming a Sub Lt.

On first seeing the model I was blown away by the sheer size and complexity of the vessel. The detail, right down to the crew uniforms, deck gear and radars are a credit to Dave’s talent.

This 3.81-metre-long model weighing 90 kilos is awesome in every detail. Dave began the project in 1992. Working from original builders plans direct from the Greenwich Maritime Museum, he converted all measurements to 1:72 scale including all internal bulkheads and frames replicated from the original ships plans.

The entire hull comprises of plywood frames covered with red cedar planking many of which had to be which had to be steamed. Dave said: “Well-known local modeller the late Wilf Burrows showed me the art of steaming the wood in order to bend into shape. The entire hull was then covered in epoxy resin to give a hard, watertight finish.”

In places where you would expect to see rust stains on the real carrier Dave has delicately added these ship-like touches in a simple process. A few nails left in a tin of water to go rusty, then he painted on the rust and sealed the areas to give an authentic nautical look.

The HMS Ark Royal is radio controlled, powered by four 12v Ford fiesta blower motors which run off a single 12v car battery.

The motors are independent and handle exactly the same as the full-scale version, the only addition is the incorporation of a bow thruster, to overcome the scaled-up effect of wind.

Dave explained that his model behaves in exactly the same way as the ship. “In any wind she has a mind of her own and is difficult to control therefore I have added a bow thruster.”

The model has six water ballast tanks controlled by 12 remote pumps for trim purposes.

All the aircraft involved on-board have undertaken extensive modifications, ranging from folding the wings, to having ladders, chocks and lashings added, they all have individual recognition numbers and miniature motors allowing rotors and propellers to spin.

The model has five operating radars, anchors, aircraft lift, blast deflectors, and to assist with tugs it is fitted with self-operating towing cables and winches.

Dave’s model is of the fourth HMS Ark Royal which was in service from 1955 to 1978. Readers may well remember the ship was the centre of a TV series called “Sailor”, a fly on the wall documentary about day to day life on-board the carrier. This ship was the last of the Royal Navy’s fixed wing carriers, which was eventually replaced by the three Invincible class carriers of which the last Ark Royal was one.

At the Model Engineering exhibition over 50 clubs and societies will be present displaying their member’s work and competing to win the prestigious Society Shield. In total, nearly 2,000 models will be on display.

All of the leading suppliers will also be present showcasing new products and special promotions and giving hobbyists an excellent opportunity to see and compare products under one roof.