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  1. I wasn't at all sure which forum to post this little exercise in. It's military vehicles, but not; it's aircraft related, but not. So, rather than risk the ire of the moderators, I will post here. I like to create vignettes or small dioramas when taking nice photos of my model aircraft efforts. For years now, I've been trying to make sure any supporting vehicles are period correct - no easy task, especially when you leave the comfort of UK airfields in 1940. Anyway, one of those jobs I planned to get around to was sorting out some suitable bomb trolleys and their loads. Airfix was kind enough to produce a 1/72nd scale set of airfield accessories a few years ago. Vehicles, ladders, platforms, bombs and so on, it all came in handy. The bombs in the set were mostly for a bit later in the Second World War for me, but the trolleys were more or less correct. Only a pair of them, though. A bit limiting if you want to reproduce the classic bomb train images often seen on bomber airfields at the time. Back in 1966 Airfix had produced a kit for the Short Stirling, and that included a David Brown tractor and four bomb trolleys. Having one in the stash, I raided it for parts, and hoped I could use the bomb load as well. Here's a shot showing the four Stirling trolleys with one of the later Airfix ones at the front. The Stirling kit ones are basic, but of their time. They do represent something like the trolleys in service at the start of the war, and as such will do until something better comes along. The only enhancement I could reasonably do was to spin the rather conical-shaped wheels up in my Dremel and sand them down to a better tyre shape. Right, that's the carrying set-up organised. What about loads. How do the Stirling bombs stack up? Well, to be charitable, and considering they're from a mould nearly 60 years old, they're vaguely bomb-shaped. The bomb casings were split in two and needed gluing together, but that left a ridge that would need sanding down. The tail rings, though, were nasty. Shaped more like buckets, with thick sides. Could I spend hours refining these? I felt I could better. I piled into my brass tube stocks, and amazingly found a suitable diameter right away. The task then was to cut off 16 pieces more or less the right size, and fit them to the bomb cases. Some time later, and after having made a fair stab at making the bombs more or less the right shape, I was ready to assemble things. Even later, and I got to this stage. I hope @Selwyn approves! I also hope he will correct any major errors I've made. Now, this pile of 250lb GP bombs is far from perfect. The shapes are pretty much anywhere, and I failed to glue the rings on square in many cases. The colour, trying to get close to the "buff" specified, was mixed from Humbrol 93 and Humbrol 24. The eau de nil and red rings were painted with a very fine brush and steady hand while the bomb was clamped in a battery-powered Black & Decker spinning as slow as my trigger finger would let it. I'm still unsure about the red tail rings - which denoted delayed action fuzes, apparently - but felt they would add a little variety to the load. I am open to correction, but assumed such bombs would be spread around in a normal bomb load for some variety. Trolleys loaded, Small Bomb Containers ready, and just masking tape straps to fit to stop the bombs bouncing off the trolleys as they head out round the perimeter track to their intended aircraft. I feel I want to do better, so I may well swap out the Stirling bombs in time. I have several modern Airfix bomber kits which have ordnance in them which will make a better fist of the overall shape. I also know Flightpath have some trolley kits which include bombs, so I shall save my pennies to get those. If there's enough interest in my 1940 rabbit hole I may well keep this thread going as I add other bits and bobs to my set dressing collection. I am trying to get good information on French, Belgian and Dutch airfield support equipment, and adding some German military stuff for the Luftwaffe. Perhaps you, dear reader, might be able to point me in suitable directions there. Thanks for looking!
  2. As modellers and, dare I say it, amateur historians of 1940s British air power, we sometimes throw terms like "Fighter Command" and "Bomber Command" around without really considering what they mean. For many, I am sure, mentioning Bomber Command conjures images of Lancasters and The Dambusters. Forgive me, therefore, if I indulge in a little background history before I get stuck into making models. As I'm sure you may recognise, this thread could well be the start of something longwinded. I don't expect swift progress on any of the planned builds, and neither should you. British bombers tended to be large and often complex machines, so it's fair to expect the same of this thread! Origins Let's start at the beginning. The Royal Air Force was formed in April 1918 by the merger of the British Army's Royal Flying Corps and the Admiralty's Royal Naval Air Service. By the time of the merger, both air wings had been more or less working together anyway. Although the world's first official independent air force, the nascent RAF had a difficult childhood. Both older military arms wanted their toys back, doing all they could to stifle the newcomer before it could get started. The British government didn't really help, starving the RAF of cash, and slashing it to a fraction of the size of the circa 300,000 men with which it ended the war. The service was saved essentially by Sir Hugh Trenchard, its founding father in many respects and by the 1920s the first Chief of the Air Staff, who argued that air power would be a cost-effective method of policing parts of the British Empire. In 1921, the RAF was given responsibility for all British forces in Iraq, aiming to "police" tribal unrest. The RAF was also deployed to Afghanistan, on its own, to deal with other tribal issues. Back home, the RAF was still fighting to survive. Self-promotion, with events like the Hendon air pageants and taking part in (and winning) the Schneider Trophy air races, were very successful in keeping the air force in the public consciousness. At the same time, the still new technology of flight was seen as glamorous and air-mindedness, particularly among the wealthier classes, was taking hold. Air Defence of Great Britain The Steel-Bartholomew Committee, meeting in 1923, recommended that defence of the British Isles, and London in particular, as then capital city of a global empire, should be handled by the new Air Ministry instead of the War Office. The defence structure was to involve the RAF's Metropolitan Air Force, with 52 squadrons of mostly bombers, plus the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers to handle anti-aircraft artillery and searchlights. It also recommended setting up a volunteer Observer Corps. Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB) was formed in 1925, and was organised in three defensive zones: Inner Artillery Zone (IAZ), over London Air Fighter Zone (AFZ), divided in two areas controlling regular squadrons, the so-called Wessex Bombing Area and Fighting Area Outer Artillery Zone (OAZ), a narrow belt along the English east and south coast from Suffolk to Sussex You may well get the impression from that arrangement that much of the military dogma in Britain deemed France as the next potential enemy. It is true, at the time, that the French military was the strongest and best equipped on the Continent and France was also a major colonial power, so perhaps the fears were somewhat justified. This thinking persisted for some time. Planning and developing a British strategic bomber force without a clear idea of who the enemy might be led to some poor decisions about how to equip what was intended to be a deterrent force. Until the mid-1930s, also partially due to limited resources and factory capacity, the bulk of the RAF's bomber force comprised light biplane day bombers, like the Hawker Hart and Hind, cheap and easy to build. Someone at the Air Ministry finally realised that bigger and better machines would be required. Specifications were set out, though still somewhat hampered by various international arms limitations treaties, and the results were aircraft like the Handley Page Heyford and Fairey Hendon. Eventually, specifications laid the groundwork for the aircraft with which the RAF would enter the next war, the Hampden, Wellington and Whitley, plus the light and medium bombers of the Battle and Blenheim. Advanced designs for four-engined heavy bombers were well under way by the time war broke out in 1939. Rethinking ADGB In 1936 ADGB was abolished. In its place, four new Commands were created: Fighter, Bomber, Coastal and Training. Fighter Command would deal with defending the British Isles, Coastal would protect shipping around the coasts, Training needs no explanation, leaving Bomber Command to handle the task of deterring and attacking a potential enemy. (I am, of course, effectively ignoring much of the geopolitical landscape of the late 1920s and 1930s. I think most of us know what the situation was, and I'm trying to explain simplistically how Bomber Command came into existence.) The new Bomber Command inherited a motley selection of aircraft. Arranged into four Groups, oddly numbered 1, 2, 3 and 6, the last being an auxiliary Group, the Command could field squadrons flying a lot of biplanes, some of which could date their designs right back to the Great War. Light bombers like Hawker Hinds, medium bombers like the Boulton-Paul Overstrand, heavies like the Vickers Virginia, were being supplemented by new machines like the Handley Page Heyford and the massive Fairey Hendon, the first all-metal monoplane bomber in the RAF. Modernisation, frankly, couldn't come quickly enough. Happily, the previously mentioned Hampden/Hereford, Wellington and Whitley were starting to enter service, and plans were already in train for the big four-engined heavies. And to the models So, what do I have in store? Well, as you might expect, we modellers in the gentleman's scale have been pretty well served by Airfix over the past few years. Already built, I have the Bristol Blenheim MkIV twin-engined light bomber and the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley MkV. The latter is lined up for a mild repaint to correct some dodgy transfers, so may make an appearance here in time. News from afar tells me that the long-awaited Ffrom Fairey Battle will be with us soon (May 2023 is currently mooted), so that's a big hole in the light bomber fleet to be plugged. I did attempt to upgrade the rather elderly Airfix Handley Page Hampden a few years ago, but happily I now have this Valom kit to replace it. Ignore what it says on the box, because I know the right parts for the RAF bomber are inside. Good old Airfix is providing a pair of Wellingtons. There's a joke in there somewhere, but I can't find it. Take no heed to what markings come in the box. I'm still to choose suitable squadron markings, and I'm keen to do at least one of these to represent either Czech or Polish air crews. Not photographed is a Revell Handley Page Halifax MkI with some aftermarket bits to improve the Merlin engines. A nice vintage 1975 box of the Short Stirling. Why, you may ask, have I not gone for the Italeri kit? Well, right now they are like hens' teeth, plus having reviewed various builds and noted how much effort builders went to in order to minimise the rather excessive panel lines, I reckoned a tenner spent on the old Stirling plus some fun scratching interior parts and "upgrading" the exterior in ways I've not yet explored was a better bet. Then there's this. Wait, what? Any fule no that the Lancaster wasn't around in 1940. What gives? Well, what gives is the engines. I had planned to nick a couple of the Bristol Hercules engines and props for another kit, but they might just get purloined en masse to upgrade the Stirling. Meanwhile... This quite heavy collection of parts from Blackbird Models will let me de-evolve Roy Chadwick's masterpiece into the Avro Manchester. Now, the more astute among you might have noticed several of these aircraft don't strictly meet my 1940 criteria. This is true. I have a self-imposed rule that I only build models of aircraft in squadron service at any time from 1 January to 31 December 1940. That is actual squadron service, so no prototypes or one-offs or other oddities. No De Havilland Mosquitos, I'm afraid. When it comes to the bombers, however, I am happy to bend that rule. While it is true the Stirling, Manchester and Halifax did not fly operational bombing sorties until the early part of 1941, they were in actual squadrons towards the end of 1940 so crews could begin converting to them and working up to full operations. This bend of my rule means I can begin to show how Bomber Command was being set up to prosecute the rest of the war, which I think is important. Quite when I will begin any of these builds is up in the air. I am currently leaning towards the Valom Hampden as the first off the blocks. The Stirling and Halifax may get a look in as far as deciding what work needs doing, while the Manchester conversion almost inevitably may take the longest to start - and complete! I don't expect much aggro from the Wellington department, being modern kits that go together well. If you've made it this far, well done! I hope it won't be too long before you see more than just words from me.
  3. Short Stirling MkI Series 1, MG-D N3641, No 7 Squadron, RAF Oakington, Bomber Command, late 1940 According to my own rules about my 1940 collection, aircraft such as the Avro Manchester, Handley Page Halifax and Short Stirling shouldn’t be eligible for inclusion. All three aircraft mentioned, although in squadrons by the end of 1940, really didn’t begin proper operational flying until early 1941. I do feel, however, it is important to show how decisions made late in the 1930s led to the aircraft that would take the war back to Germany in the 1940s. Virtually from its foundation, and throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the Royal Air Force followed the doctrine that to be an effective defence force meant having more and better bombers than any prospective enemy. The Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB) was built on this guiding principle from its earliest days. The strategic bombing force was the jewel in the RAF’s crown, with fighters coming very much second best. A country didn’t need silly little peashooters to prevent an enemy attacking it; it just need more bombers to deter the enemy in the first place. This principle, of being able to hit back just as hard, if not harder, remains to this day – only with nuclear warheads instead of aeroplanes. Until the 1930s, the notional “enemy” the bomber force was to counter was France. With the rise of Hitler in 1933, all that changed. The Air Ministry began desperately chasing an almost entirely fictitious figure, that of how many bombers Germany was able to build, and how quickly. The attempts to retain or even beat parity with Luftwaffe bomber numbers would obsess the Ministry for the rest of the decade, and require ever more precious money from the Treasury. Various schemes were put forward to boost front line bomber strength to match that of the Luftwaffe. From 1934, the stated aim was to reach a total of 41 bomber squadrons by the end of March 1939, but this set of goal posts continued to move until war eventually broke out. With a lack of new designs on the horizon, the various expansion schemes tended to fall back on quantity over quality. Many obsolete light bombers were ordered just to make up the numbers quickly. Eventually, sense began to prevail. Specifications, thrashed out by committee, began to be drawn up to encourage manufacturers to tender for new bomber designs. Aircraft, such as the Bristol Blenheim, Fairey Battle, Vickers Wellington, Handley Page Hampden, and Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, were created and filled the squadrons of Bomber Command - but the Air Ministry’s eyes were always on the next level. In 1936, it was realised the RAF may well need even larger aircraft, capable of delivering more bombs further and faster than the current designs. Air Ministry specifications P.13/36 and B.12/36 were circulated in July 1936, inviting tenders from the main British aircraft and engine manufacturers. The former called for a twin-engined medium bomber for “worldwide” use, meaning it would be capable of operating in a wide variety of environments. It was also expected to be able to carry two torpedoes in its bomb bay. This flexibility in the design of the bay meant both the Halifax and Manchester-cum-Lancaster were much more adaptable to new ordnance designs. B.12/36, on the other hand, was the Ministry sort of hedging its bets in case the “heavy twins” concept didn’t bear fruit. The specification called for a four-engined heavy bomber, capable of cruising at 250mph over 1500 miles with at least a 4000lb bomb load. Tenders for designs were submitted by Bristol, de Havilland, Vickers-Armstrong, Armstrong Whitworth, Vickers Supermarine and Short Brothers. Only the last two were given orders, and work began on detail design and prototypes. The Supermarine Type 317 and 318 prototypes were under construction at the outbreak of war in 1939. Supermarine, however, was a small company, and found themselves virtually swamped with orders for their small fighter and the Walrus amphibian. The bomber prototypes were worked on in a piecemeal fashion at the company’s Woolston, Hampshire, factory, until late September 1940 when a Luftwaffe raid destroyed the aircraft and most of the drawings associated with them. The Air Ministry cancelled the order in November. The only B.12/36 design to see operations was the Stirling. The myth has always been the 100ft wing span limitation was to accommodate the new type in standard RAF hangars. The standard hangar of the time was larger than that, and the specification actually expected routine maintenance to be done in the open. It should be noted the reason for the limitation was more down to the Air Ministry wanting to limit the overall size of the aircraft. Worries were voiced that a very large aircraft simply wouldn’t be able to operate safely from typical bomber airfields, which were pretty much universally grass fields at the time. It was also expected that the new aircraft should be easily broken down into manageable pieces that could be transported by road to maintenance centres. The centre fuselage, for instance, was not to exceed 35ft long, 9ft 6in high and 8ft wide. These sorts of restrictions meant the designers had to be a bit creative about where the bomb load was to be carried. The Air Staff had discussed the types of bombs the new design was to carry. No bomb heavier than the 500lb general purpose was expected to be deployed in any future conflict, and such things as 4000lb, 8000lb and 12000lb bombs were beyond comprehension at the time. The designs submitted to B.12/36, therefore, were to carry a large load of 250lb and 500lb general purpose bombs, only just coming into service in 1936. A 2000lb bomb was also being introduced, but it was considered this weapon wouldn’t be used against land targets, designed as it was for use against heavily-armoured capital ships. The B.12/36 specification omitted the requirement for the new bomber to carry torpedoes. This oversight, perhaps intentional since the parallel P.13/36 specification did include torpedoes, would lead to limitations in the Stirling’s operational usefulness. The first prototype Stirling had its maiden flight from Short’s Rochester factory site, with Lankester Parker at the controls, on 14 May 1939. The big plane handled well, but a brake seized on the port main wheel on landing. The aircraft slewed and the undercarriage collapsed. The first prototype had to be written off, and the undercarriage had to be redesigned to make it stronger. The second prototype didn’t fly until December 1939. L7605 was eventually flown to the A&AEE at Boscombe Down in April 1940 for testing and acceptance trials. The RAF’s Scheme L expansion plan called for 3,500 heavy bombers to be delivered by April 1942, around 1,500 of which were to be the new Stirling. Such numbers meant Short began building aircraft at the Short & Harland factory in Belfast, plus Austin Motors at Longbridge providing a third production line, as well as various subcontracted firms for smaller components. The first production Stirling from Rochester flew in May 1940, but Belfast’s first aircraft flight wasn’t until October. On 9 August 1940, Short’s Rochester factory was attacked by the Luftwaffe, destroying six newly-completed aircraft, and another six destroyed by an attack on the Belfast factory a week later. Deliveries were also slowed as priority from May 1940 was given to other aircraft already in production. A total of 15 Stirlings had been delivered by the end of 1940. No 7 Squadron had been operating Hampdens at the start of the war. It had been disbanded in April 1940, but was reformed in August specifically for operating the big new bomber. Deliveries began in late August 1940, but the aircraft were found to be somewhat underpowered. Shorts were busy trying to improve the performance of the Bristol Hercules engines, but until the improved aircraft were ready the fifteen Stirlings at Oakington were designated as trainers, and used to familiarise the aircrews with the new planes. Upgrades and scratch building enhanced the rather basic flight deck in the venerable Airfix kit. Many thanks to @12jaguar John, part of the Stirling Project, who helped with detail research and information. I was attracted to the early camouflage layout for my model. The first MkIs in service had a retractable belly turret, and lacked the dorsal turret more familiar in later marks. There were other detail differences, and I thought it would make an unusual variant to the Stirlings usually modelled. I chose to do the conversion work on an old Airfix kit rather than invest in the now-scarce Italeri modern tooling. I didn’t realise the modern kit contained parts to make an early MkI. Some aftermarket parts, such as a photo-etch detail set and vacuum-formed transparencies, were acquired, and some old-fashioned kit-bashing and scratchbuilding took place. Sadly, the turrets defeated me. I had planned to use the Falcon vac-form parts and scratch interior details, with brass barrels to finish off. I simply couldn’t get the clear parts to fit nicely, and rather than leave the model as a shelf queen when it was so close to completion, I opted to modify the original kit parts and paint them black as temporary fittings. One day, I will either work out how to make decent turrets or end up buying an Italeri kit and doing a new version! Either way, I enjoyed the research and modelling that has given me a fairly decent rendition of a really early Short Stirling for my 1940 obsession. The WIP thread for the Stirling is part of a much longer thread dedicated to all of my 1940 Bomber Command builds. The Stirling part, full of pitfalls and errors, sort of begins here:
  4. I have so much paying work I need to do that I always feel guilty when I let myself indulge in my own interests. I always say each 1940 build will be a slow burn, fitted in as a reward for getting "day job" stuff done. We all know how that so often turns out! Feeling that I’ve been neglecting RAF Coastal Command for too long - please, don’t mention Bomber Command: I know I’ve been neglecting them as well, but they’re all so … BIG and space is currently limited in the display cabinet here - and having completed the Special Hobby Avro Anson recently, it felt right to pick another Coastal subject from the stash. My problem was I wanted something reasonably straightforward and not too big (cf. Bomber Command, et al). That pushed the Italeri Sunderland and Matchbox Stranraer right out of the frame from the off. The ancient Airfix Hudson probably either needs throwing away, or an awful lot of remedial work to correct errors, so that wasn’t likely either. As to the Saro Lerwick, well, that’s a vac form kit, and I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for that! That left the new tool Airfix Beaufort. And here we are. Before getting stuck in, chopping parts out and gluing stuff together, some research was required. Choosing a suitable aircraft was also high on the list. The kit provides schemes for two aircraft, both dated to 1941. The Beaufort was a latecomer to service life, with a rocky development stage that meant it didn’t arrive with squadrons until April 1940. Happily, for the nerd in me, this meant I had quite the interesting choice of camouflage and markings. As first delivered, planes were painted in standard Dark Earth/Dark Green disruptive camouflage, with aluminium undersides. Type A blue/white/red roundels were applied to fuselage, upper and lower wings, squadron codes in light grey, and no fin flashes. By the end of June, instructions from on high were to add a yellow ring to the fuselage roundels (Type A1), and swap the upper wings to the Type B blue/red style. Around this time, the undersides were to change to Sky, or Special Night, or sometimes Eau-de-Nil (which was short-lived and officially unofficial). Choices, choices. I rather like the aluminium undersides, I must admit, and as luck would have it I found a No 22 Squadron profile with it as late as August 1940. It isn’t the aircraft in the kit markings, but I could stretch a point - or make my own markings. I have the technology, even if I don’t have the inclination right now. I guess that means I’m likely to build the model pretty much from the box, which isn’t a problem. Now, Beauforts were initially used for mine laying and bombing operations, only lately coming to their other main role as torpedo bomber. An underslung fish would be nice, so I find I’m really leaning to what comes in the box. That's my decision made, then. Option A, 22 Squadron, N1016 OA-X, it is. Brown/green camo, Sky undersides. Only without the gun pod under the nose, no beam guns, and probably with only the single Vickers in the turret. Backdated a few months, if you will, from the version that tried to sink the Gneisenau in April 1941. Quite when I’ll start remains to be seen. I’m sure it won’t be too long, though.
  5. The Faithful Annie, a classic RAF aircraft if ever there was one. Over 11,000 Ansons of various marks were built from 1935 to 1952, serving the RAF, RCAF, RAAF and FAA into the 1960s. I’m starting back at the beginning, with the MkI in RAF Coastal Command service. I stand to be corrected but, until this Special Hobby kit arrived in 2007, the only injection moulded kit in 1/72nd scale was the venerable Airfix one - with all its shortcomings and dimensional errors, and that nasty greenhouse. I’m not going to knock the Airfix one further. I know, with care and love and elbow grease, it can be turned into a good representation of the type. Anyway, this thread is about a different kit. My copy is a rebox of the original 2007 kit. Markings are provided for three aircraft, all of which fit my 1940 obsession. However, I’m going to build the box art aircraft, N9732/MK-V. I don’t live very far from Detling, in Kent, where there was a Coastal Command airfield (now the Kent county show ground). MK-V was on the strength of No 500 (County of Kent) Squadron, and with two other Ansons got into a bit of a barney with a pair of Bf109s while on patrol over the English Channel in June 1940. The Emils came off worst, both apparently claimed by the crew of MK-V. Why wouldn’t I build that version? It would be rude not to! The moulded plastic looks really nice, especially the fabric treatment on the control surfaces. A rather worrying number of large gaps appear in the fuselage, though. Large expanses of lovely thin clear glazing, which will fill those gaps with luck. I have found that Montex make a masking set for this kit, which must be ordered fairly soon. This kit has lots and lots of moulded resin detail. This lot is mostly the interior, including the framework supporting the roof and glazing, but there are some worryingly fragile-looking external details as well. I shall consider which can usefully be substituted by metal replacements. More resin, this time crew seats, undercarriage parts, engine cowlings and self-assembly Armstrong Siddeley Cheetahs. Individual cylinders? Really? I had better put the local asylum on standby… Like the Blackburn Skua, this is going to be a slow burn build. Rather perversely, I am rather looking forward to getting into all that resin!
  6. Blackburn B-24 Skua MkII, L2991/Q of No 803 Squadron FAA Operating from HMS Ark Royal from April to July 1940. On 13 July, L2991 was shot down during an attack on Scharnhorst. It force-landed at Langvik, Norway, and the crew of Lt Cdr J Casson and Lt P E Fanshawe were taken as prisoners of war. The first operational Royal Navy all-metal monoplane, Britain’s first naval dive-bomber, first deck-landing aircraft with flaps, retractable undercarriage and variable pitch propeller. A pretty impressive list of firsts for the Blackburn Skua, which certainly can’t claim to be among the most attractive of aircraft. The prototype Skua flew in February 1937, powered by a Bristol Mercury IX of 840hp. It proved satisfactory, and was sent off for intensive tests at the A&AEE Martlesham Heath. Orders were placed for 190 aircraft before the prototype had even flown. All the Mercury engines were earmarked for the Bristol Blenheim, the 890hp Bristol Perseus XII was chosen for the production Skua, which became the MkII. All the ordered aircraft were delivered between October 1938 and March 1940, with the first FAA squadrons to see the new planes being Nos 800 and 803 in late 1938. Both squadrons were soon embarked on HMS Ark Royal. The Skua was a two-seat naval fighter/dive-bomber. It was armed with four forward-firing 0.303in Browning machine guns in the wings, and a Lewis gun on a flexible mount in the rear cockpit. Beneath the fuselage was a recess that could be fitted with a crutch mechanism to carry a 500lb bomb. During a dive-bombing manoeuvre, the crutch let the bomb swing away from the aircraft’s propeller arc. Underwing racks could also carry eight 30lb bombs. The wings were designed to fold, saving space in the hangar decks of carriers. The Perseus sleeve-valve engine could get the Skua to 225mph at 6,500ft, gave a service ceiling of just north of 20,000ft and a useful range of 760 miles. As a fighter at the outset of the Second World War, the Skua was already obsolete. As a dive-bomber, however, the type was surprisingly good. Skuas and Rocs were deployed during the Norway campaign in April 1940, and claimed the sinking of the German cruiser Königsberg in Bergen harbour. Many aircraft were lost in a later operation against Narvik. Skuas and Rocs also flew from RAF Detling in Kent, covering Operation Dynamo, the withdrawal of troops from Dunkirk. Skuas were withdrawn from service in 1941, their squadrons being equipped with the Fairey Fulmar and Hawker Sea Hurricane. There is no complete Skua airframe, but a wreck has been salvaged from a lake in Norway, and can be seen on display at the FAA Museum, Yeovilton. Built from the Special Hobby kit, straight from the box, painted with ColourCoats enamels, Revell and Humbrol acrylics for detail painting, and using the kit transfers. The build thread can be found here:
  7. Well, another year rolls around. Another year of memories to file. I started compiling a list of the builds I'd managed during 2020, and it surprised me quite a bit. I've linked the WIP threads, but not the RFIs. You can click the photos to see more in my Flickr stream. Let's see, in no particular order... First, something without wings. The venerable 1/76th scale Morris CS and 40mm Bofors. I've had a couple of boxes around for a while, with a view to an Anti-Aircraft Command display to supplement my 1940 obsession. The other Morris is scheduled for a kit bash into a shorter wheelbase GS truck, but I've built the guns in transit and deployed form. Now on to winged things. Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter MkIF, R2069 ZK-A, No 25 Squadron, RAF Fighter Command, September 1940. Hobby 2000 are reboxing Hasegawa kits with new transfers and masking sets. The Beaufighter is a lovely kit, which fits together well, although it's beginning to show its age a little in areas like the cockpit details. Still, the first MkI to enter squadron service now graces my display case. A few details were modified to suit the as-supplied aircraft, but it's about as close as I could get from the references. My very first BM WIP thread next. Dornier Do17P, 3rd Staffel, I Gruppe, Fernaufklärungsgruppe 22, April and May 1940. This is a classic slow-burner. It nearly ended up on the Shelf of Doom. In fact, it was resident on a shelf for most of 2019 until I decided to make the push and get it finished mostly to my satisfaction. It's a combination of the Airfix Do17E/F with the Monogram/Revell Do17Z to make a Do17P. Well, it seemed a good idea at the time! I know there are proper kits for the Do17M and P series, but I had the parts and I'm always up for some full on modelmaking. Now for something that I'd never heard of, and found by accident when researching something else. Koolhoven FK-58 C.1 No.1, 3e Escadrille GR II/38 (SPA 54), Armée de l'Air, France, May 1940. I don't know if I was more surprised to find an actual kit for it! While we're in France... Potez 63-11, No. 156, 2 Escadrille, GR II/33, Athies-sous-Laon, winter 1939-40. The first of many French twin-engined aircraft to come. I'm not sure why I picked this one off the shelf, but it turned out reasonably well. Montex vinyl masks helped with the vast acreage of glass, and I made my first serious attempt at freehand airbrushed camouflage. Having worked on the French air force for a while, I felt a little refresher was needed. Fokker D.XXI, No. 234, 1st JaVA. The Dutch were not really expecting the Germans to invade. When the attack started, a valiant but ultimately brief defence was raised. There will be more Dutch air force planes in time, so stay tuned to the WIP thread I started with this little plane. Next, attention turns to Belgium. I built the Renard R.31 in 2019, and I felt in the mood to increase my Belgian contingent for 1940. Like the Dutch, the Belgian forces put up a spirited, brief and ultimately pointless defence of their country when the German Army and Air Force started their attack in May 1940. Gloster Gladiator MkI, 1 Escadrille, 1 Groupe, Aéronautique Militaire Belge, Schaffen Airfield, Diest, Belgium. Hawker Hurricane MkI, H22, Squadron 2/I/2AÈ (Chardon), Belgian Air Force, Schaffen Air Base, Diest, Belgium, May 1940. Fairey Battle MkI, T70, 5/III/3Aé based at Evere. Shot down on 11 May 1940 at Vlijtingen while attacking Vroenhoven bridge. You can follow all these repaints and reworkings on the WIP thread below. Warning: Extreme styrene mangling. Some light relief. Auster (nearly) Autocrat. It’s actually a MkIII from the AZmodel 1/72nd kit. I’ve made it sort of civilianised, and it will carry a UK civil registration eventually. I'm still to make the transfers and actually complete the build, but it is actually finished apart from that. Does it count? I think so. While we're on the tiny stuff... De Havilland Dh.82a Tiger Moth II, N-9181, No 10 Elementary Reserve & Flying Training School, RAF Yatesbury, Wiltshire, England, 1940. Airfix's delightful new tool Tiger Moth, with SBS etched rigging wires. Don't worry, there's plenty more yellow trainer aircraft left in the stash. Now we get into Group Build territory. 2020 was the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, so I couldn't refuse to build something for that, could I. Fiat BR.20M Cicogna, 4 Squadriglia, 11° Gruppo, 13° Stormo, Corpo Aereo Italiano, Melsbroek, Belgium, September 1940. 1/72nd scale Italeri with Eduard PE interior and exterior details, LF Models resin wheels, painted with ColourCoats enamels, Humbrol acrylics and enamels for detail work. Fiat G.50 Freccia MM 5403, 352 Squadriglia, 20° Gruppo, 56° Stormo, Corpo Aereo Italiano, Flugplatz Maldegem, Belgium, October 1940. 1/72nd scale limited run kit from AML, in plastic, resin and photo etch metal. Painted with ColourCoats enamels for the main camouflage colours, Humbrol and Xtracrylix acrylics for detailing. Fiat CR.42 Falco MM 5668, 83a Sqd, 18° Gruppo, 56° Stormo, Corpo Aereo Italiano, Ursel, Belgium, October 1940. 1/72nd scale plastic, resin and photo etch kit from Mister Kit. Painted with ColourCoats enamels for the main camouflage colours, Humbrol and Xtracrylix acrylics for detailing. Well, you didn't think I'd just follow the herd and build Spitfires and Bf109s did you? Happily, some other participants in the BoB80 GB tackled Bomber and Coastal Command subjects. I decided to remain left field. Grumman Martlet MkI, BJ519, No 804 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, RNAS Skaebrae, Orkneys, October 1940. Fairey Fulmar MkI, N1868, 7L, No 808 Squadron Fleet Air Arm, Wick, Scotland, August 1940. Nos 804 and 808 Squadrons, Fleet Air Arm, appear on the official Battle of Britain Roll of Honour. For a time during the official Battle period, they were under direct control of RAF Fighter Command. With that GB out of the way, pretty much straight into another. This time the Heller Classic GB. Junkers Ju52/3m by Heather Kavanagh, on Flickr Junkers Ju52/3m, 3U+MT, 9./ZG 26, France, 1940. It's big. I enjoyed the build a lot, even the painting. G-ADBW was impressed into RAF service on 15 July 1940, and given the military serial Z7265. The aircraft had been one of a pair that had been supplied to Jersey Airways Ltd in 1935. All but one of the Jersey Airways’ fleet of De Havilland aircraft had been flown back to the UK mainland from Jersey airport in June 1940 - just before the Channel Islands had been occupied by German forces. It does appear that G-ADBW, although painted in the standard camouflage colours befitting a training aircraft, didn’t carry its military serial and continued to carry the civilian registration. The aircraft was used by an RAF flying school for navigational training. Sadly, barely a month after starting its military career, on 30 August, the plane was involved in an accident at Staverton. I think this refers to what is now Gloucestershire Airport, but which was an RAF training airfield in 1940. The records go quiet at this point, and I haven’t been able to find out if the plane was salvaged and returned to service or not. The records do show it lingered until it was struck off charge on 17 November 1941. I wonder if it ended its days as an instructional airframe, or as a donor for parts. The rigging is from SBS, somewhat rough painting by Humbrol and Revell acrylics applied by brush. As I type, with a couple of weeks left of 2020, I am hoping I might complete a third Heller build. I'm not going to worry if it doesn't make it into this post though. I think 18 completed builds is a pretty good score. Thanks for looking. Thank you to everyone that comments, advises, and donates parts and even whole kits to my 1940 project. It's fun to have you along, and I hope 2021 may prove just as productive for all of us.
  8. Potez 63-11, No. 156, 2 Escadrille, GR II/33, Athies-sous-Laon, winter 1939-40. It's difficult to work out where to start with the Potez 63 series. In 1934, the French air ministry put out a specification for a heavy fighter. The new type needed to perform several functions, from fighter direction where it would lead formations of single-seat fighters, to day bomber escort and night fighting operations. A crew of up to three, and maximum speed of 450kph from a twin engine setup, plus various armaments, were all considered essential. All the big companies were asked to provide prototypes to the new specification, with at least Hanriot and Breguet continuing into series production. Potez, however, seemed to win the most favour, and the 63 series began construction with the 630, after the prototype's maiden flight in April 1936. From there, it begins to get very confused, with multiple variants of the basic aircraft being developed as fighters, bombers, trainers and reconnaissance. Overall, the design was relatively simple, fairly quick to assemble, and shared pleasant flying characteristics, and were all designed for easy maintenance. Then we come to the Potez 63-11, the variant that was built in the most numbers. Developed for the reconnaissance role, the pilot was seated above the observer who occupied a position in a large glazed nose. The fuselage had to increase in depth compared to other variants, which impinged on top speed and manoeuvrability. The end result was an ungainly looking plane which was vulnerable to attack, despite armour and self-sealing fuel tanks. The need to act in a light bombing role was part of the requirements, but the tiny bomb bay in the fuselage was rarely used, and later filled with an extra fuel tank. There were hard points under the wings, and self-defence was in the form of a single machine gun in the rear observer's position, and remote control guns in the tail cone and a belly blister pointing to the rear. Many machines were also equipped with twin machine gun gondolas under the outer wings, allowing them to at least perform some ground attack duties. The kit is typical fare from Azur. Nice fine detail in the plastic parts, but a fair amount of flash. It exhibits a lot of reliance on resin for cockpit and undercarriage details, plus some exceedingly fine PE parts. As is typical, the instructions can be rather vague, and pay careful attention to dry fitting parts before committing to glues. Overall, though, the kit builds up adequately well. Seat belts were made up from masking tape, and I had to re-engineer part of the undercarriage so the wheels fitted properly, the only headache turns out to be dust trapped inside that copiously glazed nose. I bought in a set of Montex vinyl masks for the complex glazing, and the model was painted using French Air Force colours from the ColourCoats enamels range. I tried my hand at freehand airbrushing the camouflage, which I think worked out better than I expected. The transfers, which covered pre-Armistice France, Free French in Palestine and Rumanian aircraft, were finely printed, nicely thin and laid down really well without reliance on setting solution. While I didn't enjoy the build, and it lingered near the Shelf of Doom for a time, I'm pleased at how it turned out. Eventually, similar twin-engined types from Breguet and Hanriot will join it in the display cabinet. I've just noticed I haven't updated my photo copyright watermark since 2019. That kind of sums up 2020 well, don't you think? The WIP thread starts here, in an ever-expanding thread of French aircraft of the 1930s:
  9. Gloster Gladiator MkI, 1 Escadrille, 1 Groupe, Aéronautique Militaire Belge, Schaffer Airfield, Diest, Belgium. The Matchbox Gladiator was first introduced in 1972. It came in two colours of plastic, a bright red and a cream. Markings were provided for an inter-war RAF machine in silver. Being me, I built mine - acquired secondhand at a show about ten years ago - to represent a British Expeditionary Force Air Component aircraft sent to France in 1939. Since then, Airfix produced their new kit, of which I have an example built up to represent the sole RAF Gladiator squadron that saw any action in the Battle of Britain. I also bought another boxing, which included the parts to make a MkII with the three-blade propeller, and transfers for the BEF plane, plus a Belgian example. An idea was hatched to repaint the Matchbox kit using the Airfix transfers to become a Belgian plane. My go-to web site for information on Belgian aircraft is Belgian Wings, created by Daniel Brackx. How better to give a potted history of the Gladiator in Belgian service than to link to his page dedicated to the type. That's the link, bold and underlined. G30 was lost in a weather-related accident in 1938. As such, it doesn’t quite fit in my 1940 theme, but stands as a representative of the Gladiators in Belgian service in May 1940. Paint used was Humbrol acrylic and enamel, transfers from Airfix, satin varnish coat from Phoenix Precision Paints. Rigging is Uschi thread - a fiddle, but worth the effort. The rebuild thread starts here:
  10. Dornier Do17P, 3rd Staffel, I Gruppe, Fernaufklärungsgruppe 22, April and May 1940 We are, perhaps, more familiar with the Do17Z series aircraft, with the characteristic large greenhouse canopy over the cockpit area, but the Luftwaffe continued to use earlier variants of the type well into the Second World War. While effectively relegated from frontline duties after the invasion of Poland and the outbreak of war in 1939, the older planes saw service in reconnaissance, meteorological flights and training duties. The subject of this model, the Do17P, represents the long range photo reconnaissance type, and as such finds a place in my 1940 obsession collection. There are kits of the Do17P and M series aircraft available from RS Models. Being from the awkward squad, and having acquired a second-hand boxing of Airfix's venerable Do17E/F a while back and still having the remains of a Revell Do17Z kit stashed away, my mind wondered how hard it would be to combine the two and get what I really wanted. The Revell kit would donate the wings and engines - and subsequently the tailplane as well - while Airfix's none-too-shabby fuselage would give the characteristic Flying Pencil outline. After some head scratching, comparison with drawings and photos, and a bit of a think, the challenge was accepted. I reckon it could be made to work, and the WIP thread is linked to below. Enjoy the false starts, errors, and final triumph in all its glory! So, to the pictures. The Airfix kit's transparencies had been short shot, so I had to source the Falcon vacuum-formed set. I got a pair of resin wheels meant for the Do17Z, so a little larger than they ought to be, from Kora, and a PE upgrade set for the Airfix kit from Extra Tech. The latter chiefly gave me the cockpit details, plus loop and "towel rail" antennae. Painting began with Humbrol acrylics, but ended with Hannants' Xtracrylix. Transfers were a hodgepodge from the original Revell boxing, spares in my files, Xtradecal swastikas, and a neat bodge using RAF interwar code letters to give the unit markings. As ever, my finishing let me down. I couldn't get the Falcon transparencies under the nose to sit neatly at all. On the whole, though, I am pleased my cross-kit adventure worked out fairly well. It looks like a Flying Pencil, and will sit in my Luftwaffe section happily as an unusual type that isn't often seen. I might eventually source a "proper" Do17M or P kit, but we'll see. The rather lengthy WIP thread is here:
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