RAF Air Sea Rescue Launch
During the Second World War, the Royal Air Force Sea Rescue Service, whose motto was “The Sea Shall Not Have Them”, played a vital roll in saving thousands of highly trained aircrew from the waters around the British Isles and in overseas war zones. Co-operating closely with the Royal Navy, the ASR Service used both aircraft and high speed launches for its task. One of the most famous craft used was the British Power Boat company’s, (BPB), Type two 63ft High Speed Launch, (HSL). Known as the “whaleback” due to its distinctive cambered deck, it was, without doubt, the “Spitfire” of the ASR units. Designed in 1937 by Hubert Scott-Paine, the far sighted founder of the BPB Co. at Hythe, and formerly of Supermarine Aviation Co., the Type Two began joining the RAF Marine Craft units towards the middle of 1940.
For sheer beauty the “whaleback” had few equals. The low cabin, containing the wheelhouse, chart room and sickbay was surmounted by two Armstrong-Whitworth aircraft style turrets, each containing one Vickers machine gun for defensive use. After the disastrous raid on Dieppe, the armament was further augmented by the addition of twin Vickers machine guns on free mounts either side of the bridge. Some boats also received a single 20mm Oerlikon cannon on a strengthened quarter deck. For further protection splinter matting was fitted around the bridge and forward cabin area.
The boats were powered by three 500hp Napier Sea Lion engines, which were based on the Napier Lion aero engine, giving a top speed of 36 knots. At top speed the engined would consume 60 gallons of aviation fuel per hour per engine. At 25 knots the boats had a range of some 500 miles. Each boat was manned by nine personnel and a medical orderly. Sixty nine “whalebacks” were built for the RAF between 1940 and 1942 and they remained in service throughout the war
Originally released in 1979 this kit has been re-released in various different boxes and even re-popped by MPM. Between 1983 and 2004 the kit was out of production, and again between 2005 to the present day. That said, it’s always been a popular subject, which is probably why it’s been released again, this time in the standard Airfix red box, but with the same artwork of the original 1979 release, with an artist impression of boat 156 haring across the water at speed whilst being attacked by an Me109. Inside there are three open ended sprues of bluey grey styrene, two hull halves and the main deck all contained in the contentious single poly bag. A clear sprue is contained in a separate bag, so at least these parts are protected. Considering the age of the moulds they appear to be holding up very well as the detail is still quite sharp and there is little in the way of flash, and what there is would be easy to remove with a sharp blade or several swipes of a sanding stick. The clear parts are quite thick, and translucent so a dip in Kleer or Alclad Aqua gloss will help them look clearer.
Dry fitting of the hull halves shows that they go together really well and won’t require much in the way of filler, and this is where construction begins. With the hull parts glued together the transom is then fitted, followed by the props and rudder, although it may be an idea to leave these off until at least the deck is added as there would be a tendency to knock them off. When mentioning the deck, it should be noted that the footrails around the deck are solid when in fact they should be perforated like the cabin roof hand rails. Before the deck can be fitted, the wheelhouse needs to be built up with the inclusion of the steering wheel and binnacle, after which it can be fitted to the underside of the deck piece. Depending on which boat is being modelled there are a number of holes that require opening up and the boats bitts added to the topside.
The instructions call for the deck assemblies to be built up before fitting to the hull, but it may be prudent to fit the deck to the hull first before any further construction is carried out, to save any breakages. Keeping with the instructions for now, the wheelhouse is built up with a clear rear bulkhead, port and starboard sides with clear parts fitted to the window recesses, the fore part, main windscreen and roof. The gun turrets are then assembled, each out of a tub, gun clearance structure, which is a cause for concern as in real life they are constructed out of tubular steel, whereas the kit parts are solid, two clear turret segments and the Vickers machine gun. The completed assemblies are then passed through the main cabin roof and secured with a retaining ring ensuring that the turrets rotate if required. Also on the cabin roof, a ventilator cap and the rear hatch is attached. Each of the cabin sides are fitted out with the eight clear window parts before being attached to the cabin roof. The completed cabin is then glued onto the deck and fitted with two lookout railings, whilst the wheelhouse cabin has two hand rails, a searchlight, with clear lens, and commanders hatch windscreen attached.
With the deck fitted with the bridge and cabin it is then glued to the hull. From here on in the build continues with the attachment of the various deck fittings, such as the foredeck hatch, anchor windlass, storage boxes, guide rails, ventilators, and various stantions. If building any boat except boat 130, then the 20mm Oerlikon and twin Vickers machine gun mounts are required. The Oerlikon is assembled with a fixed pedestal, rotating pedestal and associated hand wheel, gun support mounts, gun and shield. The completed mount can then be fitted to the quarter deck along with the gun clearance tubular structure attached to the deck to the rear of the cabin. The Vickers mounts are built using a pedestal, splinter matting and two machine guns. One the two mounts have been built they can be fitted to their associated positions either side of the wheelhouse. The final parts of the build include the fitting of the two piece anchor, Jack staff, Ensign staff, two life rings attached to either side of the rear cabin, a small aerial mast just aft of the forward gun turret and the main mast, made up of two trunnion fixtures, the mast and a yardarm, which is then fitted to the cabin roof. Included in the kit is a rubber dinghy made up of upper and lower halves and two paddles. This is attached to the quarter deck for boat 130 or to the starboard side for the boats 127 and 156 which also have the splinter matting attached to the sides and roof of the wheelhouse and forward cabin. Four crewmembers are also included and can be place wherever the modeller wishes, although two of them look like they’re using the twin Vickers machine guns, or the Oerlikon, one is the CO and can be inserted into the wheelhouse hatch whilst the fourth is hold a coil of rope with a monkeys fist, ready to throw it to a downed airman.
The decals look to be pretty well printed, in good register and opacity, but the carrier film looks to be quite thick which may cause problems, particularly with the large boats numbers. A good coat of gloss varnish and copious amounts of whatever setting and solvent solution the modeller prefers will probably be required. In addition to the boats ID numbers there is also a red and white chequered decal for the foredeck of boats 127 and 156 plus RAF roundels used on all three boats positioned on the foreward hull just aft of the stem. There are also small ID numbers for each boat and RAF decals for the life rings. The RAF standard is a separate self adhesive item which will need some scrumpling up to make it look more like a flag flapping in the breeze.
Whilst this kit does have one or two shortcomings, probably more to do with the moulding technology of the time rather than anything else, although I think the tubular gun clearance structures for the turrets really could have been done properly, this is a great little kit. I remember building it when it was first released and enjoying it along with the Vosper 73ft in the same scale. There is scope for improvement which will make scratch builders happy but even out of the box it can be made into a good looking model. With addition of the rigging and correctly spread aerials and on a seascape it can look spectacular. I may have to start planning how to pose the model when I get round to building it, in the near future. Highly recommended.
Review sample courtesy of