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tonyot

`Mitzi-The Spotter of Mers el Kebir' Airfix 1/72nd Swordfish floatplane, 700 NAS, HMS Valiant, 1940

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Hiya Folks,

I don`t appear to have posted this model on BM before and as my MAC Ship Swordfish proved popular I thought that some of you might like to see my Airfix 1/72nd scale Swordfish floatplane? Some may have seen it in Airfix magazine some time ago, but hopefully it is new to most people! Due to the soft plastic and plethora of struts it was harder to build but I`m very happy with the result.

For my subject I chose to replicate K8363 `Mitzi’ from 700 NAS which was one of two Swordfish floatplanes that constituted the catapult flight based aboard the battleship HMS Valiant during July 1940 at the time of the unsavoury but unavoidable action against the Vichy French fleet off Oran at Mers el Kebir, following the fall of France. During this operation Force H of the Royal Navy had been ordered from Gibraltar by Winston Churchill himself to attack units of the Vichy French Navy in harbour if they failed to agree to British proposals to sail to a neutral port or French territories further afield or align themselves with the British in the continued fight against Germany and Italy. If the French fleet fell into enemy hands this would have left the Royal Navy heavily outnumbered and at a distinct disadvantage so this uncertainty had to be dealt with, no matter how unsavoury the result may be. Unfortunately the French declined the British terms leaving them no option but to open fire on the 3rd July 1940, causing great loss of life amongst the French sailors during a fifteen minute bombardment and air attack which sank the battleship `Bretagne’, crippled the battleship `Provence’ and the battlecruiser `Dunkerque’ while also causing substantial damage to smaller vessels, port facilities and barracks. Obviously this led to much ill feeling towards the British from within the French Navy and the entire nation as a whole but the British sailors who were involved took no pleasure in their actions and found the entire incident highly distasteful. Prior to this confrontation the British and French fleets had been working together closely in the Mediterranean for years and many of the `matelots’ had French friends in Mers el Kebir.

The role carried out by K8363 `Mitzi’ in this operation is open to question but the undisputed fact is that this floatplane was catapulted from HMS Valiant on the 3rd July 1940 and was forced to make a landing on the deck of HMS Ark Royal after the arrester wires were disconnected and soap was smeared over the landing area to help reduce the friction between the steel deck and the keel of the metal floats! Some accounts say that Captain Holland of HMS Ark Royal was catapulted in a Swordfish floatplane from HMS Valiant to convey the British terms to the French Admiral Gensoul and that he landed back on the flight deck of his own ship in this aircraft so that Vice-Admiral Somerville who flew his flag in HMS Ark Royal could be quickly informed of the French refusal, however most authorative histories of this action state that the British terms were actually taken into Mers el Kabir harbour by motor boat! One of the men who flew as part of the three man crew of K8363 `Mitzi’ on this day was Roy Tolley and he makes no mention of the carriage of Captain Holland. What he does say is that the name `Mitzi’ referred indiscriminately to either of the two Swordfish floatplanes operated by the catapult flight aboard HMS Valiant, these being K8363 flown by Petty Officer Ben Breese, himself and Sub Lieutenant Peter Starmer and P4197 flown by Lieutenant`s Hugh Davenport and Vernon Graves with Leading Airman Bungy Williams. Roy Tolley goes on to say that on the 3rd May 1940 whilst the tragic action took place ashore at Mers el Kebir both Swordfish were overhead directing naval gunfire but with fuel running low they received a coded morse message simply stating `Land on Ark Royal’. It appears that their home ship HMS Valiant was busily engaging the French warship Strasbourg and therefore unable to recover them both, so despite having floats rather than wheels they both safely landed aboard HMS Ark Royal instead. Some slight damage to the top of a float on K3463 “was repaired with a hammer and a tube of Bostik” and upon arrival back in Gibraltar the Swordfish were craned down onto the water and then water taxied back to their home ship ready to continue their usual catapult flight duties.

Anyway I won`t bore you anymore,...so here is the model!;

Swordfish%20floatplane%20Airfix%20main-1

Swordfish%20floatplane%20Airfix%204_zpss

Swordfish%20floatplane%20Airfix-3_zpsuhb

Swordfish%20floatplane%20airfix-8_zpsgn1

Swordfish%20floatplane%20Airfix%20side-5

Swordfish%20floatplane%20Airfix-7_zpsljp

Massive thanks to Ian G for his help with photos of the real aircraft to use as reference,..cheers mate,

All the best,

Tony

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I have a soft spot for this kit , the airfix swordfish was the 2nd model I ever built back in Jan 2015 when I picked up this hobby . Beautiful kit though proved a bit too much for my inexperience back then .

Your model is lovely and thank you for sharing it here :)

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Nice build tony.

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Very nice Tony - all that rigging! Great job :)

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Hello,Tony - I extend the very same compliments for 'Mitzi' as I have just done for 'Mac'.Two superb builds indeed.I particularly love the floatplane version. ;) All the very best,Paul.

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What a catching and extremely interesting model !!

How did you find out about the unusual camouflage especially the azure blue portions on the undersides ?

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As per the others, lovely build and nicely rigged.

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Another great looking Swordfish Tony,

Interesting history regarding the float planes. You have a good skill of picking interesting colour schemes and aircraft with an interesting historical background.

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As ever - great job there Tony. Must be time for a new display cabinet by now...

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Wonderful, really enjoyed this and the Swordfish you had posted earlier, both beautifully finished. I love the effort you go to with all of your builds, always superbly researched to support your models.

Eng

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She really is a beauty Tony - interesting story of a historically significant aircraft too B)

Lovely job - as usual :)

Cheers,

Stew

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Great build and good story. I was aware of the floatplane landing on Ark and wished to build one, but didn't know which it was.

So, this must be the Airfix kit with kit decals?

Claudio

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Oh yes Tony; a Swordfish: I love Swordfishes !

But a Swordfish with floats, that is even much better.

(When I think, I have the Tamyia 1/48 Swordfish sleeping in my stash

and waiting to be built; but I am afraid with the rigging, I never built any biplane.

Your Swordfish Tony is really great, and you can be very proud of such a realisation.

:goodjob: :goodjob: :goodjob:

Edited by polo1112

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Sad there are so few interesting colour options for Float-Swordfish.

I've the 1/48 Tamiya kit, and absolutely no ideas...

Obviously this led to much ill feeling towards the British from within the French Navy and the entire nation as a whole

Indeed!

Perfect to top off Dunkerque.

None of the surviving ships came under German control. Most were scuttled at Toulon in 1942.

dramepertes.jpg

p9a.jpg

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The Stringbag was not aerodynamic at the best of times,but with floats on it must have had the flying qualities of a brick. :thumbsup: Good work,nice model.

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Interesting background Information and a top notch model. Love these archaic looking planes which their place in WWII.

Cheers,

Michael

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Got to love a Stringbag, especially one wearing floats!

Another masterpiece from your hangar

Trevor

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Another stunning Stringbag Tony, more really wonderful modelling!

I don't think anything you post could ever be boring, always cracking models & really interesting background info!

Top stuff !!

Keith

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Hello Tony,

it would seem both Swordfish from Valiant landed on Ark. Here's what I found:

FLIGHT, 15 April 1955

Deck-landing Floatplanes

IN his letter published with photographs in your issue of February 11th, 1955, J. W. R. Taylor asked if any reader could supply details of the deck-landing of a Swordfish floatplane.

He may be correct in saying this happened before the Dakar operation, though I never heard of it. However, it certainly happened to me, and readers might be interested in the circumstances. During the action against the French Fleet at Oran, I was catapulted from the battleship H.M.S. Valiant to spot for the fleet's gunnery.

During the fight the French battleship Strasbourg escaped and Valiant was sent to intercept her and bring her to action. Valiant, therefore, had no time to stop and pick me up, and instructed me to try my luck with the Ark Royal. The latter ship decided to accept me, cleared her flight deck, and I landed-on. Beyond a few holes in the undersides of the floats the aircraft was undamaged. I remained in the ship until she subsequently returned to Gibraltar.

The Captain of Ark Royal was not with me. He had earlier gone ashore in a motor boat to parley with the French and to persuade them to come over to our side. An alternative was for them to steam their ships to the West Indies and agree to being neutralized there for the remainder of the war. As is well known, his mission was unsuccessful and the ensuing slaughter and useless blood-letting was unfortunately necessary.

R.N. Air Station, Donibristle. H. S. M. DAVENPORT, Lieutenant-Commander, R.N.

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That's an interesting story about the soap on Ark Royal's flightdeck and a splendid model.

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The Airfix Swordfish may be a lovely model, but it still takes something special to make one look that good.

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Sad there are so few interesting colour options for Float-Swordfish.

I've the 1/48 Tamiya kit, and absolutely no ideas...

Indeed!

Perfect to top off Dunkerque.

None of the surviving ships came under German control. Most were scuttled at Toulon in 1942.

dramepertes.jpg

p9a.jpg

It was a tragedy Antoine,......but you have to remember that Britain was alone against the Germans and had the French Fleet come under German control the Royal Navy would have been totally outnumbered in the Med by a more modern fleet. Most British naval men had friends amongst their previous allies both professionally and from runs ashore and nobody wanted to carry out this act,.......the French were asked to come and join the Allies or to sail to neutral ports or to the French colonies but they refused and with a heavy heart this necessary act of evil was carried out. With hindsight we now know that the French planned to scuttle the fleet if the German`s entered Vichy France but at the time Britain could not just take the word of French politicians who had as far as they could see already given in to the German`s,...... resulting in a tragic act carried out with a heavy heart but it did enable the British to continue fighting the war without having to deploy additional naval forces to the area which were drastically needed elsewhere, leading to eventual victory and the liberation of France.

Cheers

Tony

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