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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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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.

Cheers Claudio,

I was just covering the part played by this particular aircraft in the `spiel' with the model as I did not want to take up too much room or bore people, I did read the above statement which you included as part of my research the for article that I wrote for Airfix magazine and here is some of the text that I sent in to them;

" 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."

Hope this rings true with your own research my friend and if not please let me know otherwise as I really do value your input?

Cheers

Tony

Edited by tonyot

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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 ?

Hiya Occa,

Here is a rather long winded account of my research into the colour scheme,....it was included in the article sent to Airfix magazine but I don`t think that it was included in the finished article;

"It is always better to use a photograph of the actual aircraft as a main source of reference where possible while building a model as drawings are simply another persons interpretation that may become subject to `artistic licence’ especially if the artist has little knowledge of the subject when mistakes can easily creep in. The inclusion of HMS Valiant`s `Mitzi’ as a decal option in this kit is certainly impressive but some research was in order before starting the model so the archives were scoured for photographs or first hand accounts of this aircraft. One photograph which purports to depict one of the `Mitzi`s’ originates from the personal collection of Roy Tolley who has already been mentioned (see `Fly Navy- Journal of the FAAOA’- No. 31 Summer 1997- page 37) but judging by the lack of a yellow outline to the fuselage roundel it was taken prior to Mers el Kebir and it would appear to depict Swordfish P4197. In this photo the full serial cannot be fully determined but there is a wavy demarcation line between the upper and lower camouflage colours along its fuselage and the upper wings are very roughly painted. A very interesting photo from the same source (which also appears as part of a series on page 30 of `Carrier Combat’ and also on page 16 of `The Fleet Air Arm Handbook 1939-1945’, both by David Wragg) was taken by a crewman from HMS Ark Royal and Roy Tolley confirms that it depicts his Swordfish K8363 during its float clad landing aboard this carrier on 3rd July 1940. Just like the Airfix painting instructions it has a straight demarcation line along the fuselage, large fin stripes and the same fuselage roundel but rather than wearing the code ` C8C’ which is depicted upon the fin and wingtips by Airfix, this aircraft sports a large twin figure code on the side of the fuselage instead, which is located just below the rear cockpit, plus the right hand float is an overall cerrux grey or silver painted replacement! By comparing it to the known shades of the fin flash the large fuselage code appears to be red, maybe with a black outline but the full code cannot be read because only the top of it can be seen- the most likely options are either O8 or 9, Q8 or 9 or even C8 or 9.

This photograph set alarm bells ringing and would appear to put the Airfix representation of K8363 during July 1940 in doubt, however upon checking further the code on this aircraft was found to have changed to `C8C’ during August 1940 so they can be forgiven for being only a month out! Having tracked down copies of the reference photos that were used by Airfix to depict this option (thanks Ian!) these confirm that Airfix have actually provided a very good representation of this extremely interesting aircraft, but from August 1940 and not July! One aspect of especial interest which was apparent on both sets of photos featuring K8363 was the application of a darker colour to the metal undersides of the fuselage and floats, and Airfix have picked up on this, stating that the colour was most likely Sky Blue. Judging from the reference photo`s of K8363 and other aircraft which also received this additional application of hand mixed paint, the shade of blue may actually be darker than Sky Blue and the demarcation line on the nose between this new blue colour and the original Sky Grey is different from the way it is depicted by Airfix. In fact the Blue painted area actually curves up from the wing root to the top of the float strut and then runs level across the engine cowling, so it is not level with the lower wing as per the kit instructions. Strangely the underneath of the fabric covered wings still remain in their original Sky Grey finish so there must have been a lack of suitable dope to finish off the job on the real aircraft with only the metal areas being painted,.....maybe the fabric undersurfaces of the wings were doped later? The application of blue to the undersides of Fleet Air Arm aircraft serving in the Mediterranean theatre during the summer of 1940 and into 1941 is historically accurate as other types such as the Skua and Fulmar fighters also had their undersides painted blue, due to the receipt of a signal from the UK stating that undersurfaces should be changed from Sky Grey to Sky,....but no description of what colour Sky actually was (ie pale green!) was sent resulting in some confusion amd matelots being matelots those serving in the Med looked up to the sky above and came up with an Azure Blue colour mixed from the paint locker1 This would help increase their camouflage against the sunny blue skies,.... leaving the side of the fuselage painted in the original Sky Grey, however it is much rarer to find this scheme on a Swordfish as it.was initially intended for fighters only. That said, the individual ships flights were notorious for their non standard application of paint although photographic evidence of this is generally very hard to come by and the photos of `Mitzi' were a rare exception to this."

I hope that this has answered your query Occa and not sent you to sleep!

Cheers

Tony

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Thanks to everybody for your very kind words,.......I really didn`t think that it would be of any interest!!

Cheers

Tony

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Thanks to everybody for your very kind words,.......I really didn`t think that it would be of any interest!!

Cheers

Tony

Tony, as said by someone above, your builds and also your research are never boring and always thoroughly enjoyable

Trevor

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Tony, I have a couple of brush painting questions if you don't mind....first your builds look great. My hobby store sells Testors/Model masters enamels no Humbrol. Do you thin the paint? If so how much? How long to you allow to dry before adding additional coats? Last question... What size flat brush for large areas 1/72 and 1/48 scale? Thank you very much.

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Hope this rings true with your own research my friend and if not please let me know otherwise as I really do value your input?

Cheers

Tony

Hello Tony,

I tried to PM you with no success, so I'll share the message with all BMers. I hope readers won't be annoyed.

I would hesitate to call what I do "research", having no access to primary sources it's rather a kind of jigsaw puzzle with a good deal of pieces missing.

However, in this case there are instead extra pieces, that are harder to fit. Here's what I found in the "Flight" pdf archive:

  • the original letter, accompanying pictures of the Swordfish floatplane skidding on Ark Royal, was published on 11 February 1955
  • first reply came on 25 February 1955 from C.J. Atkinson, who was part of HMS Resolution Air Division. He identified the aircraft as Resolution's Swordfish, whose pilot was Lt. M. W. ('Rupert') Watson;
  • a second reply, on 15 April 1955, was written by Lt/Cdr. Davenport, who stated "I did the landing, being instructed to do so by my ship", which was Valiant.

Finally, the obituary of Lt/Cdr. Ben Breese on the "Telegraph" (7 August 2009) reports that he was the man who landed his floatplane on Ark Royal on 3 July 1940, the reason being the same mentioned by Lt/Cdr Davenport.

This would make a grand total of three Swordfish floatplanes landing on Ark Royal, two from Valiant and one from Resolution, which might sound a bit excessive. Yet, Lt/Cdr. Davenport is describing what he himself had done, so I'd be inclined to trust him (Swordfish P4197, according to the serials you provide?). The landing of Ben Breese is confirmed by Tolley, who seemingly was there.

So...?!?

Best regards

Claudio

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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.

Hi Tony,

I do not agree at all, but this is not the place to discuss this.

I forgot to tell that your Espadon with floats looks great, and well documented.

After all, this is what I like in modelling, close proximity between History and kits building.

Also, this colour scheme stand out of what I've seen so far on a floatplane Swordfish.

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Thanks again everybody.

Tony, I have a couple of brush painting questions if you don't mind....first your builds look great. My hobby store sells Testors/Model masters enamels no Humbrol. Do you thin the paint? If so how much? How long to you allow to dry before adding additional coats? Last question... What size flat brush for large areas 1/72 and 1/48 scale? Thank you very much.

The only paint that I do thin is Tamiya acrylic to which I add some drops of flow enabler. It is trial and error I`m afraid with new paints. As a rule I do not add thinners but only have a minimal amount of paint on the brush and apply thinly,....preferring to build up thin coats and if needed to sand inbetween each coat after it dries. I also used a number of brushes,....preferring a large flat brush for large areas but smaller brushes for applying camouflage demarcations,...sometimes filling in with a slightly larger, flat brush. For my last coat I often dapple the final layer on or dry brush it. Depending on whether the paint is acrylic or enamel obviously leads to longer drying times,....for the former it can be a few hours, for the latter a few days,...it all depends and I do not use any hard and fast rules.

Hope this helps?

Hello Tony,

I tried to PM you with no success, so I'll share the message with all BMers. I hope readers won't be annoyed.

I would hesitate to call what I do "research", having no access to primary sources it's rather a kind of jigsaw puzzle with a good deal of pieces missing.

However, in this case there are instead extra pieces, that are harder to fit. Here's what I found in the "Flight" pdf archive:

  • the original letter, accompanying pictures of the Swordfish floatplane skidding on Ark Royal, was published on 11 February 1955
  • first reply came on 25 February 1955 from C.J. Atkinson, who was part of HMS Resolution Air Division. He identified the aircraft as Resolution's Swordfish, whose pilot was Lt. M. W. ('Rupert') Watson;
  • a second reply, on 15 April 1955, was written by Lt/Cdr. Davenport, who stated "I did the landing, being instructed to do so by my ship", which was Valiant.

Finally, the obituary of Lt/Cdr. Ben Breese on the "Telegraph" (7 August 2009) reports that he was the man who landed his floatplane on Ark Royal on 3 July 1940, the reason being the same mentioned by Lt/Cdr Davenport.

This would make a grand total of three Swordfish floatplanes landing on Ark Royal, two from Valiant and one from Resolution, which might sound a bit excessive. Yet, Lt/Cdr. Davenport is describing what he himself had done, so I'd be inclined to trust him (Swordfish P4197, according to the serials you provide?). The landing of Ben Breese is confirmed by Tolley, who seemingly was there.

So...?!?

Best regards

Claudio

Thanks Claudio,.....you`ve added to my limited knowledge of this event and I did wonder whether any other catapult aircraft were airborne,.....back then it was uncommon for a ships aircraft to work with other ships so I`m not surprised that others were airborne,......there were probably more than these to be honest!

Hi Tony,
I do not agree at all, but this is not the place to discuss this.

I forgot to tell that your Espadon with floats looks great, and well documented.
After all, this is what I like in modelling, close proximity between History and kits building.

Also, this colour scheme stand out of what I've seen so far on a floatplane Swordfish.

It would be a dull world if we all agreed with everything Antoine and for national reasons I understand your feelings,.....I was just trying to put forward some reasons for this sad event being justified with a heavy heart by the British government of the day. It did happen and it was sad.

All the best everybody,

Tony

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Tony, thanks for your response it all makes sense and I'll keep practicing. How do you like Model Masters enamels? And there acrylics?

So days to recoat enamels? Does that mean it takes two to three weeks to achieve desired look if brushing 3 light coats?

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Tony, thanks for your response it all makes sense and I'll keep practicing. How do you like Model Masters enamels? And there acrylics?

So days to recoat enamels? Does that mean it takes two to three weeks to achieve desired look if brushing 3 light coats?

No worries,......I`ve not really used Model Master enamels or acrylics so I cannot really comment on them. If they are anything like Tamiya then some flow enhancer may help,.....I was reccommended `Vallejo 73.524 Thinner Medium' by my local model shop and it has tamed Tamiya acrylics for me,.....which were once a no go area for brush painting.

Drying times vary between different paints,..but yes it can take weeks. I generally aim for 3 coats of paint per colour but some require more. That is why I prefer acrylics where possible as the drying times are far less. I prefer to leave a finished colour overnight before applying the next colour over the top.

Rather than just brushing coats on,.....practice dappling and even scrubbing some of the later coats into place,.....it enables you to hide some of the earlier brush marks while also reducing the next later of paint and it also helps to polish the previous coat and reduce any ridges.

Cheers

Tony

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A beautiful Stringbag Tony, and interesting background info too!

I didn't realise that the new Airfix kit had a floatplane option, the only one I was familiar with was the old Frog kit, which I built as a kid.

Ian

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Heya Tony !!

Thank you for your elaborate explanation !!

I've certainly not fallen asleep, much to the contrary.

You always thoroughly research and investigate into your build subjects, I appreciate such to no end. .

Cheers !!

occa / Martin

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Tony, thanks for all your advice. I've hung up my airbrush and been learning to brush paint. I only have access to Testors enamel and Testors acrylics. Here are a couple I did with a brush using Testors acrylics. The only thing with Testors acrylics is I have to use primer or else the paint lifts easily. With enamel I don't have to use primers. Also Testors acrylics white and yellows don't brush very well.

DSC_0134%201024x681_zpsaci4wqwl.jpg

DSC_0187%201280x851_zpscnssjztm.jpg

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Tony, thanks for all your advice. I've hung up my airbrush and been learning to brush paint. I only have access to Testors enamel and Testors acrylics. Here are a couple I did with a brush using Testors acrylics. The only thing with Testors acrylics is I have to use primer or else the paint lifts easily. With enamel I don't have to use primers. Also Testors acrylics white and yellows don't brush very well.

DSC_0134%201024x681_zpsaci4wqwl.jpg

DSC_0187%201280x851_zpscnssjztm.jpg

Very nice indeed,.....for the camo demarcation lines why don`t you try a smaller brush which you can control better,....... you can get some nice curves in that way, and then blend in the line when you infill with a larger brush,.....by dappling which does help to flatten the line and merge it into the main camouflage. .

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Thanks for advice will do. Do you use primer under enamels?

No,.....I use the first coat of the camo as a primer,....it cuts down on paint layers then.

I bet people are getting sick of seeing this post now,.....sorry!

Tony

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Very nice indeed. What a charismatic and busy-looking aircraft and model. Lovely colour scheme too.

Cheers

GrahamB

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