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Fairey Swordfish Mk.1, (E)5H/P3999. 824 Sqn. Taranto raid, Nov.11, 1940

Pilot: Lt(A) J. Welham Observer Lt. P. Humphreys

Model: Matchbox 1/72

When I began this Matchbox build back in March, WIP here: http://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/234999297-another-matchbox-swordfish/page-1

I naively assumed it would be a relatively simple undertaking. Nearly six weeks of research and obsession later I feel able to present my first RFI on this forum of a Swordfish from the Taranto raid.

I'd like to start start with the words of the pilot, John Welham, describing the run in as part of the second wave:

'There was some light cloud but it was a beautiful starlit night with a rising moon, and I remember that it was surprisingly cold. When we were more than an hour's flying time from Taranto we could see flickering lights on the horizon, and when we were closer this was clearly the mother and father of all anti-aircraft barrages.'

(Sturtivant, Ray. The Swordfish Story p.60)

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A Matchbox mystery...

I don't intend saying anything derogatory about the limitation of the kit - it was fun to make as a teenager in the 70s and just as much fun to do again now. However, as I started doing a bit of research online about the 824 Sqn aircraft option offered in the kit (and featured in the typically evocative box art) I started to get rather confused at the lack of clarity on aircraft 5B/K8419, as an aircraft seconded from HMS Eagle with this designation didn't seem to have taken part in the Taranto raid.

Not being a naval historian, I put this down to my inexperience and duly posted a query on this forum about the matter. I'm greatly indebted to 'Seahawk' who solved this conundrum, pointing out that John Welham's autobiography (p.85) clearly states that (E)5B was ashore at Deikhela airfield in Egypt at the time of the raid. Indeed, the last page of Stuart Lloyd's magnificent Fleet Air Arm: Camouflage and Markings reproduces a photo of 5B undergoing repairs in the Western Desert in late August of 1940. For the Taranto raid in November, Welham was flying (E)5H instead, so by a process of elimination regarding aircraft from Eagle, the Matchbox box art and decal option would appear to be wrong. The individual aircraft histories in Sturtivant's Swordfish book backs this up by indicating that 5H/P3999 did take part in the Taranto raid. 5B's only engagement is listed as the Bomba Bay raid on 22/23 Aug (when presumably it sustained the damage seen being repaired in the photo in Lloyd's volume?). Last night I discovered an apparently correct illustration of 5H from Replic magazine (issue 100), reproduced online here:

http://wp.scn.ru/en/ww2/b/564/9/3

Mentioned in dispatches....

A number of other individuals have also been provided invaluable help on the build: 'iang' did his best to keep my colours and markings matching the historical record (though I'd already applied 'Sky' undersides by that time and decided to live with the shame..). 'John Aero', 'Ex-FAAWAFU' and Nick Millman also weighed in with info and images on the Observer's 'monkey-chain' that stopped him pitching over the side. 'Seahawk' also confirmed the weapons loadout. 'Spadgent' just made me keep buying more gear - watch that lad.... :winkgrin:

The build...

This marked a number of firsts for me: airbrushing, scratch building, photo-etch, custom decals, rigging. Some plan views:

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And some obliques:

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Technical matters

For those interested the following changes were made to the basic kit:

1. Opened up rear cockpit and added long range fuel tank.

2. Cut Observer in half and rebuilt him as standing figure.

3. Built a new arrestor hook and carved out a recessed channel for it to sit in.

4. Added sleeves to oleo legs.

5. Rebuilt torpedo with more detailed prop/fins at rear and added detonator.

6. Built new torpedo cradle.

7. Added a pitot tube and wiring to port wing.

8. Added torpedo sights.

9. Built a new rear cockpit interior, including a (slightly) more accurate mounting for rear Lewis gun.

10. Added control horns for elevators and rudder.

11. Added control cable shrouds, ballast inspection hatch and catapult attachment to mid/rear fuselage on either side.

12. Scribed sides and undersides of fuselage/wings, added fastener details.

13. Added dinghy housing to port topside wing.

14. Added x4 mountings and azimuth compass to rear cockpit. Also added leather trim.

15. Built (Marabu M72011) PE flare racks and a flare.

16. Added folding wing tie-backs onto underside of tail planes.

17. Added canvas cover to housing for rear Lewis gun.

Decals

Roundels and tail flash were OOB, serial and tail number added from Ventura V7252 RN number set. (I'm aware that the tail number/letter should be a bolder style but I only had the ones in this sheet to work from...)

Weathering

Tamiya acrylics for paint scheme, home-made pin wash, various W&N black/umber/sienna oil washes for detailing. Powdered lavender chalk for final fading/weathering prior to final matt varnishing.

Thanks for reading and to all who pitched in on the WIP.

Now to try and choose the next build. Meteor or Stranraer - anyone any preferences? :thumbsup:

Regards to all,

Tony

Edited by TheBaron
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Wow. That is absolutely stunning. The final pictures showcase your work perfectly. I love the sky shots, then the reflections in the work surface picking out the underside detail is wonderful. You should be very proud of yourself. I think there is more detail here than on mine. :goodjob:

As for your next build I was just eyeing up my Meteor too. It's 1/48, yours wouldn't be 1/72 by any chance? :pilot:

John.

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Tony,that has to be one of the best Swordfish builds I,ve seen of any manufacturers kit, given that it's a Matchbox original that speak's volumes!

Great job all round and top marks for the photo presentation too :thumbsup:

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Thanks for all the kind comments lads. Much appreciated on my first RFI.

As for your next build I was just eyeing up my Meteor too. It's 1/48, yours wouldn't be 1/72 by any chance? :pilot:

John.

1/72 it is! Are you up for another 1/48 & 1/72 parallel build then? :) Edited by TheBaron
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Thanks for all the kind comments lads. Much appreciated on my first RFI.1/72 it is! Are you up for another 1/48 & 1/72 parallel build then? :)

Migh be nice :D I bought the Tamiya kit on EBay last month. I was going to make my reluctant Tomcat. It's 1/32 and I'm bricking it. Might have a practice run on a 1/72 Revell Eurofighter I picked up on the bargain shelf a few weeks ago. Decisions, decisions. Feels like I'm cheating on the Fw190. ;) either way I'm in fo the ride. :D

John.

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Migh be nice :D I bought the Tamiya kit on EBay last month. I was going to make my reluctant Tomcat. It's 1/32 and I'm bricking it. Might have a practice run on a 1/72 Revell Eurofighter I picked up on the bargain shelf a few weeks ago. Decisions, decisions. Feels like I'm cheating on the Fw190. ;) either way I'm in fo the ride. :D

John.

PM sent :)
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  • 4 weeks later...

Just followed your WIP and ended up here. Excellent job and lovely moody photography.

Determined to give rigging a go myself at some point down the line but not brave enough at the moment!

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Just followed your WIP and ended up here. Excellent job and lovely moody photography.

Determined to give rigging a go myself at some point down the line but not brave enough at the moment!

Thanks for that Woodo. I found the rigging quite daunting myself to begin with but I found that once I'd planned out where the holes should go and what sequence to rig in, it seemed a lot less intimidating.

Give it a go, I'm sure you'll be surprised at how quickly you gain confidence!

I've only used fishing line so far, but so many people have recommended EZline that I'm going to get some of that for my next biplane build.

Thanks again for your kind comments,

Tony

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Excellent.

A stunning Swordfish and great photo's :goodjob: ...

nice one - haven't seen a lot of these kits being build.

Cheers,

Michael

Appreciate your comments - thank you :)

It was enjoyable taking this veteran kit and bringing it to life with a few extra bits.

Tony

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Very good indeed and an interesting narrative.

Not only a great build that captures the atmosphere and tension of the raid, but great photo's and summary of your build too :)

Thanks for those kind words. Hard not to be fascinated by such an extraordinary event.

Tony

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  • 2 months later...

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