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Mike

AVRO Lancaster B Mk.1 (01E010) 1:32

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AVRO Lancaster B Mk.1 (01E010)

1:32 HK Models

 

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The Lancaster was a development from the two-engined Manchester, which was always an unsatisfactory aircraft.  The Manchester was a response to the air force's obsession with twin-engined bombers in the 30s, which would have required engines of greater power than were available at the time, and led to a change in mindset due to the comparative success of our allies with four-engined bombers.  Rather than start from scratch, AVRO simply re-designed the Manchester by adding an extra wing section between the inner engine and the outer, thereby extending the wing and improving both lift and power output substantially – of course it wasn't that simple.  AVRO's chief designer, the incredible Roy Chadwick submitted this design to the specification that also drew the designs for the Halifax and the Stirling, in a sort-of prequel to the post-war V-bombers, where the Government gave the go-ahead for all three due to the untried technology.  The use of the then-new Merlin engine with its previously unheard of power output put the Lancaster's various capabilities into alignment and created a rather impressive "heavy".

 

After renaming the initial prototype Manchester III to Lancaster perhaps to distance it from its less-than-stellar twin-engined sibling, the design first flew in 1941, partially due to the fact that AVRO had already been working on improving the performance of the Manchester, and partly because of the urgent need for a heavy bomber capable of taking the fight (and a lot of bombs) to Berlin.  A large contract for over 1,000 Lancasters was soon forthcoming, and further production was begun at AVRO Canada after an airframe was flown to them as a pattern for production.  The quality of the eventual design was such that very few noticeable differences were made between the initial and later variants, with cosmetic changes such as side windows and the enlarged bomb-aimer's window being some of the few that were readily seen if we ignore the specials.  The main wartime alternative to the B.I was the B.III, which differed mainly by having license built engines that were manufactured in the US by Packard, with over 3,000 built.  The installation was so close to the original, that a B.I could easily be retrofitted with a Packard built Merlin with very little problem.  There were of course the "Specials" such as the Dambusters and Grandslam versions, but other than 300 or so of the Hercules radial engine Lancs, most of the in-service machines looked very similar.

 

At the end of WWII the Lancaster carried on in service in some shape or form for long after hostilities ceased, with a name change to Lincoln when the design became mostly unrecognisable, and later the spirit of the original design lingering on in the Shackleton, which retired in the mid 1980s, 40 years after the end of WWII.

 

 

The Kit

We have been waiting a long time for this model from HK Models, and there has been much written about it over the years since its original announcement.  After a long hiatus where little was heard of the kit, they came back with a much improved design that they were working toward releasing, when another manufacturer sprang a surprise announcement that took some of the wind out of their sails.  They have progressed quickly however and have now brought their product to market well in advance of the competition, which should result in good sales as many modellers will be keen as mustard to acquire a 1:32 Lancaster.  A 1:32 Lancaster, by golly!!!!!  As mentioned in my review of the recent Hobby Boss B-24J review, the 1:32 modeller is pretty well spoiled by comparison to his or her former selves only a few years previously.  Never mind golden, we're in a platinum age of modelling!  As you can imagine, the model arrives in a large box, and it's well-stocked with plastic.  You may have heard that the initial issue will be doubly-blessed by including an additional clear fuselage and nose section for a transparent model should you wish – this is the edition that we will be reviewing, although at some point these will run out and the unbadged boxes will be all that are left with no clear fuselages inside.  My review copy came directly from HK in its own box, so rather than benefiting from the "herd" protection offered to models stacked together in a container, it had to suffer the slings and arrows of careless handlers on its journey from the Far East, which resulted in a few parts being damaged.  Always check your models when they arrive anyway, as you never can tell what's happened to it in transit.

 

The box contains forty-two sprues of grey styrene, plus two fuselage halves, two nose halves and two wings, two clear sprues and if you're getting the special edition clear fuselage edition, the same fuselage and nose parts in clear.  When I say "same" I mean the same shape.  The external detail that would reduce transparency have been omitted from the clear parts, so have clearly been moulded in separate moulds.  There is also a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass parts, two decal sheets plus a tiny addendum sheet, and finally a veritable tome of an instruction booklet.  First impressions?  We'll ignore the sheer size of it, and note that the external detail is neat, crisp and of varying thicknesses and depth to improve the detail, with many rivets to entertain the eye.  In addition, clever moulding techniques have been used to improve detail and reduce work for the modeller.  The wings of the model are both moulded as single parts, with the trailing edges open to receive the flying surface detail, a set of hollow wingtips, hollow barrels and other slide-moulding tricks to improve your experience.  The clear parts are incredibly bright and smooth, extending from the smallest parts to the special edition fuselage parts that you can see in the accompanying pictures.  A full interior, detailed cockpit and turrets, bomb bay with contents and a full set of engines also bring yet more detail to the party, plus dropped flaps and poseable flying surfaces.  The instructions seem to be a little prone to flitting from area to area at times, but for the most part this makes sense later when they are brought together.

 

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Construction begins of course with the interior, and starts at the front with the pilot's seat, which is made up of a substantial number of parts including PE seatbelts as it is large and has a prominent location within the cockpit aperture.  The cockpit floor is on two levels, and is fitted out with various equipment, including the radio-operator's station, the pilot's seat and control column on the upper level, and the instrument panel, which has controls, rudder pedals and other parts added along the way, being added to the assembly along with the side walls that have instruments moulded in, and a small extension to the front bulkhead beneath the instrument panel.  More instrumentation is added to both sides of the nose interior of choice, and if you are using the grey styrene parts, you'll need to add the clear side windows.   A scrap diagram shows which areas are painted black and interior green, with separate call-outs for the various areas of the assembly as construction proceeds, but the halves are not yet joined.  Attention turns toward the nose turret, with the detailed interior made up before it is cocooned inside the front and rear halves of the glazing, and as is standard with HK models, the gun barrels are separate parts that can be added later after painting, which is always good to see.  The big glazed canopy appears almost complete as it comes off the sprues, but there are two openable panels that are separate, and the additional vision blisters need adding to the large side frames, which is probably best done with a non-solvent adhesive to avoid fogging.  I'll be using either GS-Hypo, or even Klear when the time comes, although be wary when you pull off the masking so you don't also pull off the blister!

 

 

 

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Now for the rudders at the opposite end of the airframe.  These are made traditionally from two halves each, but with a bull-nosed section glued to the front to mimic the aerodynamics of the real thing, plus horn balances and trim-actuators.  The elevators get the same treatment minus the leading edge section, and their fins are fitted out with hinge-points before being closed up and added to the elevators.  The rudder and elevator panels are joined together with a large tab, and they too are set aside while the mid-upper and tail turrets are built up along the same lines as the nose turret, complete with separate barrels, and in the case of the rear turret, the prominent c-shaped chutes under the gun barrel slots, which are PE.  Bombs!  They're also done at this stage, with eighteen plus a single Cookie for the centre of the bomb bay.  The smaller bombs have two halves and a separate fin ring, while the Cookie is just a two-part cylinder with pegs poking out from the inside that affix it to the bay.  About that bomb bay.  The cockpit floor doubles as the forward part of the bay, while the next assembly is built upon the aft section, which is joined later on.  Equipment, storage and ammo boxes are added along with a funny-looking chaise-longue affair, then a short bulkhead is glued to the rear so that a curved floor section can be installed and joined up.  When the full interior is together, the long ammo feeds are added to the aft, and the bomb bay sides are fitted to the now complete bomb bay.  The interior is pretty much done, save for the details that are mounted to the fuselage, of which there are plenty.  The long rows of clear windows are first, with the aft hatch, the "Window" dispenser chute, fake tail spar and the plinth for the tail turret all fitted and painted along with the interior, which has lots of nice ribbing detail moulded into it, as you can see from the pictures.  The nose section is mated to each fuselage half and then glued together around the interior, and if you're planning on using the clear fuselage, your choice of glue will be most important here so that you don't end up with a horrible hazy fuselage.  You'll have noted by now that all the external detail moulded into the grey styrene isn't present on the clear parts to better preserve its clarity so that you can see all your hard work more clearly.

 

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With the fuselage closed and two inserts added to the underside at the front, you are directed to fill up the bomb bay with those bombs you made up earlier.  Adding the bombs will also save you from having to clean up the ejector pin marks that are hidden between the ribs, which is never a pleasant task from experience.  The bay doors are split into two parts, and can be posed open or closed, simply by removing the tabs along the hinge-line.  For the open option, leave the tabs on, and add the two end bulkheads that have the actuators moulded in and set the doors to the correct angle.  The fixed tail wheel, three identification lights and a towel-rail aerial are installed at the rear, then the fuselage is flipped over and the top is detailed with circular window inserts (including the dingy hatch), DF loop inside the rear of the cockpit, plus a gaggle of other aerials.  A couple of last detail parts are added to the starboard interior of the cockpit, a bulkhead inserted behind the nose turret, that distinctive bomb-aimer's window at the nose, some small parts on the bomb bay doors, and moving aft the fairing around the mid-upper turret, then the rear turret is dropped into place.  Keeping the turret theme, the mid-upper and nose turrets are dropped in, and the main canopy is fitted.  Moving swiftly on, the nose turret is then pinned in place by adding in the fairing with the pivot fairing, which is a delicate part and will need protecting from handling.  My part didn't survive shipping, but it's easy enough to put it back together again, as I found with my broken nose section (did you spot the damage to that?).  Those tail fins (remember them?) are inserted into the depression, securing tightly with two pegs at the bottom of the well.  Another few small parts are added around the bay including some PE parts, and then the fuselage is set to one side while the engines and wings are constructed.

 

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The Lanc has four Merlins, and each of those is identical, but their mounting into the nacelles is another matter.  There are two types of mount, and these are then mirrored, giving four individual designs in total.  The engines are each made up from a healthy number of parts, with individual exhaust stacks with hollow tips thanks to slide-moulding.  Take care assembling the four engine mounts, as they are all quite similar, but a slip here will cause you trouble later on.  The engines and their accessories behind are encased in the mounts and set aside while the main landing gear is built up.  The wheels are both made up from two halves, having no tread as was common during the war and a flat, weighted patch to add a little realism.  The wheels are fitted into the right-hand side of the leg, joined by the cross-braces, and trapped in place by the left side and a couple of small braces.  Times two, of course.  After this interlude, the aft sections of the outer nacelles are assembled, beginning with a large tank sat on a trestle between the tubular frame.  A firewall fits to the front of this, and the engine mounts slide into the front, with the aft section of the cowling enclosing this.  The front cowling is optional, and can be omitted if you want to show off your work on the engines, or glue them in after putting the two-part flame dampers on each of the side panels.  The lower cowling with the intake for the radiator is separate from the rest of the chin, and should show the radiator panel slung under the engine earlier once complete.  These nacelles are finished off with a spinner backplate, an outlet and intake underneath, and then they get set to one side while the inner nacelles are built up.

 

The inner nacelles house the gear bays, which fit against the underside of the top skin of the wing, and it is this section that is made first.  The inner skin has stringers moulded-in, and two large ribs are added along with a rear bulkhead and smaller front bulkhead.  Again, the engine is attached to its firewall, but this time it is enclosed in its cowling and spinner backplate and given its intake/outlets before it is attached to the aft section.  The two rear fairings are prepared by adding some tankage in the front, next to the moulded-in detail of the zig-zag structure at the sides of each bay.  The bay roof is fitted to the port side, and hemmed in by the starboard.  If you are modelling your Lanc in-flight, cut off the tabs of the bay doors and fit them in place and you're done.  If you are going for the wheels-down option, the gear assembly is installed into the bay before the starboard fairing is glued in-place, then a small set of notches are made in the edges of the bay sides to accept the bay doors.  The engine assembly joins the aft section to complete the inner engine nacelles, which must then wait until the wings have been prepared with flying surfaces and other such details.

 

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The wings are each moulded as a single part, with the top and bottom surfaces as a single part, which is a little disturbing initially, as it looks like you're missing some parts!  They are effectively an almost closed clamshell that is open at the rear where the flaps and ailerons will go later.  Each wing also has a separate tip, which is slide-moulded as one hollow part, and has a cut-out for a clear formation light, and a stepped contact patch to make for a stronger bond.  With these joined, the aileron "bay" is closed at the rear by adding a long narrow part that spaces the wings correctly.  Two single-piece flap bays are then slid into the remaining trailing edge space, and a wing root insert is added at the open wing root.  There are three aerodynamic fairings spaced between the nacelles that aren't yet present, and before these are dropped into place, a rectangular part is fitted to the circular hole in the outer nacelle slot.  Then it should be a matter of inserting the two nacelles into their recesses and applying plenty of glue to hold them in place.  The flaps are in two sections like their bays, and the outer section is a single part, while the inner section has the tapered rear of the nacelle added before it is fixed in place, which is where you have options.  To add them stowed, you just glue them in place across the flap bays, and to show them deployed there are slender actuators that glue into gaps in the ribs, then fix into the inside of the flaps to hold them at the correct angle.  The Ailerons are each a single hollow part with a separate front section plus an actuator, which attach to the wing via two hinge-points that are glued into slots in the trailing edge of the wing.  To finish off each wing, the two top cowlings are fixed to the nacelles, and a couple of small parts are attached to the leading edge.  That's the wing done, and as you may remember there are two of them, so you'll need to do that twice, with one being a mirror image of the other.

 

Four engines means four props unless your Lanc is broken, and here you have a choice of paddle or needle-bladed props, three of which fit onto each of four central bosses, and are covered with the spinner.  They fit onto the nacelles via the four pins protruding from the nacelles.  The final act is to fit the wings to your creation, which should be a doddle, and won't even require any glue, unless you never want to remove them again.  The root inserts you innocently inserted earlier have a set of slots moulded-in, and these match the lugs that are moulded into the fuselage at the wing roots.  You simply align them with each other, and pull the wing backwards to lock them.  It's that simple, and if you're one of us mere mortals that doesn't have infinite storage space, you can take off the wings any time and stow them in a smaller space.  I wish that Hobby Boss had the same thought when they were doing their B-24J that I reviewed recently.

 

 

Markings

The Lancaster B.Mk.Is usually wore a fairly standard finish of Night (a matt blackish shade) with the topsides in a green/dark earth camouflage that had a high demarcation along the fuselage sides.  The aircraft were more often than not differentiated by their codes, and by the personalisation and nose art that their crews applied to them, some of which have become quite famous, and for good reason.  There are three decal options supplied in the box, and you can build one of the following:

 

  • B.Mk.I R5868/OL-Q, No.83 Sq. RAF, Wyton, UK, June 1943
  • B.Mk.I R5868/PO-S, No.467 Sq. (RAAF), Waddington, UK, May 1944
  • B.Mk.I W4783/AR-G, No.460 Sq. (RAAF), Binbrook, UK, May 1944

 

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There are two decal sheets, which are necessarily large, and a separate page at the rear shows you where to place all the stencils, which are also included.  There are a surprisingly large number of them, which should keep you busy for a little while.  Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.  There is a tiny third sheet with the heading "erratum" with a single decal for the dinghy release stencil on the spine of the aircraft.

 

 

Conclusion

It's the first 1:32 Lancaster in injection moulded styrene.  It's been a long time coming, and there are bound to be more variants to come, such as the aforementioned Dambusters and Grand Slam versions, plus I'd imagine a B.Mk.III, but if you're after a vanilla Lanc, you can now buy one!  There's tons of detail, and by now you've seen a few builds and will know what to watch out for.  Careful test fitting and a methodical approach should serve you well though, so don't rush it.

 

Very highly recommended.

 

 

Review samples courtesy of

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The photographic display is excellent against the blue background.

I love the text out-lining the details and as you state, there are numerous builds with helpful tips to guide one through the process and I am looking forward to the day when I can start mine  . . . . ( after my current on-the -workbench builds)

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2 hours ago, Mancunian airman said:

I am looking forward to the day when I can start mine

Don't forget to post up a WIP when you do ;)

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Excellent review, Mike! This is a dream kit for me, but I suppose I should finish at least one of my 1/72nd scale Lancs before attempting this beast (and scraping together the quid for it).

 

Regards,

 

Jason

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2 minutes ago, Learstang said:

Excellent review, Mike!

Thanks Jason, nice of you to say so ^_^

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Thank's for this review Mike,I'll never build one but can alway's drool over the sprue shot's! I do wish Airfix would consider a clear option on their new tool 

Multi engine kit's shame all that interior work is hidden.

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13 hours ago, stevej60 said:

I do wish Airfix would consider a clear option on their new tool Multi engine kit's shame all that interior work is hidden.

There's no harm in asking them, and if enough people want it, they may consider it :)

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