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Tribute to "The Other Few": an anti-invasion Bristol Blenheim


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Hi all,

 

I've been super excited about this group build for a while, and even more excited when I saw that the rules were going to allow Bomber Command aircraft on anti-invasion operations!  So, inspired by Larry Donnelly's excellent book "The Other Few", my plan for my first entry in this group build is to build an Airfix Blenheim as one from the many Blenheim squadrons that made nightly raids on the "invasion ports" - the ports on the French coast in which large numbers of barges were building as the Germans prepared for Operation Sealion, the invasion of Britain. 

 

Here's the kit and a few extras I've bought so far:

 

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I've been trawling through Operations Record Books (ORBs) from the National Archives for some time (another hobby of mine) on this subject.  Interestingly one of my findings is that one of the aircraft depicted in the kit's decals (R3816 "OM-J" of 107 Squadron) participated in four successful attacks on the invasion ports (Calais three times and Boulogne once), and went on to fly operationally until mid 1941.  I may go with this for simplicity, or another aircraft - I'll reveal that in a few days - and I'll add in some bits of history about "The Other Few" and excerpts from the ORBs throughout the build to show one of the perhaps lesser known parts of the Battle of Britain as I go.

 

I'm really looking forward to the start of the group build in a few days!

 

Matt

 

 

Edited by MattG
Grammar
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Thanks @GREG DESTEC, @Ozzy and @franky boy for the comments and everyone for the likes!  By popular demand here is some background on the "Battle of the Barges".  And in preparing this short history I learned something new too ! 

 

From late August to early September 1940 large amounts of shipping sailed from Germany to ports on the Channel coast in preparation for the invasion of Britain. A report from the Joint Planning Staff illustrates the threat: "the Germans have virtually unlimited numbers of barges for a short sea crossing, which could transport 150,000 men with their equipment and four days' supplies."

 

So, on the night of 5th-6th September 1940, the RAF made its first major raids against shipping and harbour facilities when 17 Blenheims and 2 Beauforts set out to attack Boulogne, Calais and the gun emplacements at Cap Gris Nez.  

 

Between then and the end of September, RAF and FAA aircraft attacked the ports almost nightly with on average 30 Blenheims and at least 15 other aircraft of various types such as Beauforts, Albacores and Battles. On a number of nights the "heavies" (Hampdens, Whitleys and Wellingtons) were diverted from their raids to Germany to bomb the invasion ports. Several raids comprised over 100 aircraft; a raid on the night of 17th September consisted of 192 aircraft and is reported to have sank 84 barges at Dunquerque. 

 

On 17th September Hitler ordered that the invasion be postponed; at this point German shipping started to disperse and the invasion ports raids petered out as other targets were prioritised. It is estimated that only ten per cent of the invasion barges were destroyed, but the RAF had greatly disrupted the Germans' attempts to gather an invasion fleet.

 

The Royal Navy also planned to attack the invasion ports using old oil tankers loaded with fuel and explosives (Operation Lucid). The plan was for the tankers' crews to set detonation timers and direct the tankers into a French harbour at night, before escaping in a motor boat. Planners hoped that When the explosives detonated, the tide would sweep a slick of burning fuel into the harbour, burning the invasion barges. Four attempts were made from 26 September 1940, but without success due to mechanical problems or adverse weather. 

 

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I'm enjoying reading about it.  If you want to find out more here are the sources I used:

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Having been a student of the Battle since my teens - which is now forty years ago! eek! - it’s pleasing to see Bomber Command begin to get the recognition they deserve.

 

For so long, the Battle has been seen in mythical terms as the Glorious Fighter Boys riding their Spitfires against the Nazi Hordes, when in fact it’s a lot more complicated than that. Factor in the work of the other RAF commands during the Battle, as you must to get a true picture, you realise things were pretty evenly matched - at least as far as numbers and types of plane taking part anyway.

 

Bomber Command also took the fight to German industry, and after Italy entered the fray flew long distances across France and the Alps to bomb northern Italian industry. I recommend a book by Paul Tweddle called The Other Battle of Britain, which recounts the exploits of the bomber crews throughout the period. Sobering reading at times.

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Thanks for that Matt, and Heather 👍

 

It's great to hear of these different overlooked actions that took place during the Battle. I'm looking forward to seeing your Blenheim build up.

 

Cheers Greg 

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Me too, I had no idea this took place and seeing that Blenheim in the documentary last night, what a really beautiful looking aircraft, looking forward to this thread 

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A good portion of the Luftwaffe's attacks on airfields were against Bomber Command fields, not just Fighter command. The Germans didn't make a distinction between them.

 

 

 

Chris

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I'm just about to start building, but before I do I'm going to reveal the theme of my build. I really wanted to build a Blenheim active during the Battle of Britain that not only participated in the Battle of the Barges but also had a link with one of the daring daylight Blenheim raids of 1941. By trawling through Operations Record Books I found one.  

 

One of the crews heavily involved in the Battle of the Barges was Sqn Ldr Laurence "Bok" Hull, Sgt Tom Baker and Sgt Harold Hibbs.  Hull was the cousin of Caesar Hull, the well-known Gladiator and Hurricane pilot, and his crew flew eight successful missions against the invasion ports.

 

This crew had already successfully completed a number of bombing missions, mainly against airfields, by the time the Battle of the Barges started.  By my count, by the end of 1940 Hull's crew had flown on 32 operational flights, claiming successful attacks on 22. Bear in mind that after such horrific losses in the Battle of France, Blenheim crews had been instructed not to proceed with attacks unless there was sufficient cloud cover to escape into should they be intercepted.  

 

Hull's crew transferred to 114 Squadron in 1941. Sadly Hibbs was killed when Blenheim V6236 was hit by enemy anti aircraft fire off Norway on 24 May 1941. Hull and Baker were able to bring the Blenheim back and were not hurt.

 

In mid 1941, Blenheims were used for a number of daring low-level bombing raids. The third of these targets (after Bremen and Rotterdam) were the power stations at Cologne, which 54 Blenheims attacked on 12th August 1941. The lead aircraft was flown by Wing Commander Nicol on his first Blenheim operation.  As formation leader the best navigator was required: Tom Baker, by now a Flying Officer. Baker was awarded the DFC for his "calm courage and resolute determination" during this flight. Another pilot to win the DFC on this flight was England cricketer Bill Edrich. 

 

Hull and Baker, along with Flt Lt Julian ‘Butch’ Morton, were shot down on 17 April 1942 in Blenheim Z7430 "RT-Q" over Holland while on an intruder mission to Schiphol Airfield. All three crew survived, although injured: Hull and Baker both spent some time in hospital before being sent to Stalag Luft III POW camp at Sagan. Hull participated in the Great Escape, but was fortunately low on the list of escapees and was able to return to barracks when the alarm went off. 

 

Hull was killed on a refresher flight in May 1946 flying Mosquito TW108; he was attempting a one-engine forced landing and hit trees 6 miles north of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. Baker retired from the RAF as a Wing Commander in 1958, then worked on the Blue Steel nuclear missile project. He played football for the RAF and maintained a strong interest in sport. He was also the President of the Royal Air Forces Association in Lincolnshire. He died on 9 March 2006 aged 92.

 

The subject of my build then is going to be one of the Hull - Baker - Hibbs crew's aircraft during the Battle of Britain.  During the Battle of the Britain they flew mostly T1928 or N3629 (squadron codes unknown), but they also flew R3816 "OM-J" in August 1940 on an aborted raid to Aalborg - decals of this aircraft are included with the Airfix kit. 

 

R3816 participated in the Battle of the Barges four times.  On each occasion it was flown by another experienced crew, that of Sgt A. B. Smith, Sgt E. Shipley and Sgt V. G. Outen.  (Ref: 107 Sqn Operations Record Book AIR-27-841-26, available from the National Archives).
18/9/1940: target Calais
20/9/1940: target Calais
29/9/1940: target Boulogne
30/9/1940: target Calais

 

Out of interest though, does anyone happen to know squadron codes for T1928 or N3629? I've exhausted my references (the Air Britain RAF Aircraft books, "The Bristol Blenheim" by Graham Warner, a number of Battle of Britain books, and Google) but have had no luck.

 

OK, that research was fun and I hope you enjoyed it ... but now I'm off to the building board!

 

Matt

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Hi all,

 

Here's a progress update from the end of day 1 (although those in the UK will be just starting).  The first thing I did was to go against the advice of the instructions and glue the nose and tail together to make two fuselage halves. I've done Airfix Blenheims a couple of times now and followed the instructions the first time, making a complete nose section and a complete tail section, then gluing them together - but had a difficult time of it, requiring much sanding and filler. 

 

I completed a second Blenheim the way I'm doing this one and achieved a perfect fit easily.  The only problem is it's a small butt joint so is a bit flimsy until the fuselage halves are joined.  To help with alignment I taped the bomb bay doors in place and let it dry.

 

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Since then I've also made a start on painting, more to follow over the weekend.  

 

In the meantime this evening's entertainment is sorted:

 

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My wife and I have just finished the Battle of France section, the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Such a lot of good watching to get through in the next few months - the Battle of Britain, Dark Blue World, Hurricane, 303 Squadron, Angels 15 (any Battle of Britain movies I've missed?).  No doubt I'll be watching musicals to make sure I'm in the good books for a long time after this...

 

Thanks for looking!  

 

Matt

 

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Hi all,

 

It's been a weekend of doing lots of little bits and pieces so things are progressing slowly but steadily. First I installed the wing spars and undercarriage struts.  No issues there, but there were a few seams on the struts to clean up.

 

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I've also progressed a little with the fuselage, with some of the Eduard photo-etch interior in place. There's more PE to install but it's a start. And much of it won't be seen again with the canopy on (I know that from my previous attempt) but "I'll know it's there"!spacer.png

 

Next I'll be adding some more PE to the cockpit and undercarriage, but having stayed up a bit to watch England v West Indies and then got up at 5am to do the RAF Benevolent Fund quiz, I'd prefer to tackle the fiddly bits when I've had a bit more sleep!!!

 

Comments and feedback are most welcome. Thanks for looking!

 

Matt

 

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Watching with interest. I did the same with the Mk1 I did a while back, putting together the front section and glazing all in one half, everything coming together fine. 

 

Davey

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On 7/7/2020 at 8:20 AM, Heather Kay said:

Having been a student of the Battle since my teens - which is now forty years ago! eek! - it’s pleasing to see Bomber Command begin to get the recognition they deserve.

 

For so long, the Battle has been seen in mythical terms as the Glorious Fighter Boys riding their Spitfires against the Nazi Hordes, when in fact it’s a lot more complicated than that. Factor in the work of the other RAF commands during the Battle, as you must to get a true picture, you realise things were pretty evenly matched - at least as far as numbers and types of plane taking part anyway.

 

Bomber Command also took the fight to German industry, and after Italy entered the fray flew long distances across France and the Alps to bomb northern Italian industry. I recommend a book by Paul Tweddle called The Other Battle of Britain, which recounts the exploits of the bomber crews throughout the period. Sobering reading at times.

Very much so. 

The Münster Aquaduct raids, especially the August 12th 1940 one, is a prime example.

http://www.bomberhistory.co.uk/canal_raids/muenster1940

WW2Podcast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HxHs0LysKw

 

Featuring a young P/o named Guy Gibson - who ended up not being rostered for the raid, because it was his birthday.
And of course the first VC to be earned by Bomber Command in WW2.

 

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11 hours ago, alt-92 said:

Very much so. 

The Münster Aquaduct raids, especially the August 12th 1940 one, is a prime example.

http://www.bomberhistory.co.uk/canal_raids/muenster1940

WW2Podcast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HxHs0LysKw

Thanks for this link, I really must make space in my display cabinet for a Hampden after being reminded of this!

 

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Today I've made some further progress on the cockpit, and I moved on to the engines while it was drying.

 

Fuselage
I've added some more PE to the cockpit, namely the seatbelts and a few more details on the starboard side. I then experimented a bit with colour variations. First I did a darker wash along the panel lines, consisting of interior green, thinners and black in a ratio of approximately 5:3:1. I then did a lighter wash of interior green, light grey and thinner in roughly even quantities in between the panel lines. Finally I added a few areas of aluminium using dry brushing to add interest, and a few splotches of Vallejo Mud and Grass. Although I've used the darker wash technique before it's the first time I've tried applying tonal variation like this and I'm really quite happy with it. 

 

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The engines
One my fondest memories of my early childhood in the UK before I moved to Australia aged 7 was going to my grandparents' house for tea and watching episodes of Morecambe and Wise.  And one of my favourites was the one with André Previn (AKA Andrew Preview) were Eric played "all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order". This has clearly affected my modelling - with this kit I seem to be doing "all the right instructions, but not necessarily in the right order". 

 

 

Airfix would have you attach the engines to the rear of the cowling first, then glue the three cowling pieces around it. However from experience I know the engine is too large to fit inside the cowling, and I found it a pain to fit the cowling around the engine last time I built one of these. So, I decided to do it the other way round. Success - it was dead easy to get the cowlings to fit this way with minimal sanding and gaps.

 

For anyone making a Blenheim who wants to give this a go, here's what I'd suggest:

  1. Glue the exhausts (C11) to the lower part of the cowling (C6).
  2. Glue step 1 to the rear of the cowling (C2 or D11).
  3. Add the two remaining parts of the cowling (C23 and C24) to step 2, noting the correct orientation as per the various bulges.
  4. Assemble the engine (C22 and D12). 
  5. Sand the engine to fit (a fair bit is needed) and glue to into the cowling you assembled in step 3.

The pic below clarifies this - Airfix instructions are to the right showing their order, and to the left are my two engines under construction. The cowling on the right is assembled and ready for the engine to be inserted.

 

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Real life (work) will unfortunately hamper progress for the rest of the week (I took a couple of days off at the start of this group build to ensure early progress) but I will hopefully be able to post some more progress later this week or next weekend.

 

Enjoy the pics, and as always feedback or suggestions are most welcome.

 

Matt

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Hi everyone,

 

It's been just about a week into the group build now and I'm loving following everyone's progress.  There's some fabulous modelling going on out there!

 

I have some progress of my own to report:  I've finished the cockpit, glued the fuselage together and added the top wing for good measure. When dry-fitting I found it easier to install the top half of the wing followed by the bottom for some reason rather than both together, so will add the bottom half later. It's starting to look suspiciously like a Blenheim. 

 

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By the way, that image on the table is an actual photo of the docks at Dunquerque on 19th September (an enlargement is also below courtesy of the IWM), so would fit in with the time period R3816 would have raided the invasion ports. 

 

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That's all for now, I expect to progress this some more over the weekend.

 

Matt

 

 

 

 

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Good tip about the engines Matt, I built two of the Airfix Blenheims and got a bit of grief on the engine cowlings; I made it work in the end but your idea is frankly much better.

 

Also nice touch with the target photograph B) 

 

Cheers,

 

Stew

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25 minutes ago, Stew Dapple said:

Good tip about the engines Matt, I built two of the Airfix Blenheims and got a bit of grief on the engine cowlings; I made it work in the end but your idea is frankly much better.

 

Thanks Stew! Yes, I think this kit is easy to come to grief with (I've made a few with the two I previously built), but it's worth persevering with and letting the instructions guide you rather than following them to the letter!

 

Matt

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have made quite a bit of progress since my last update - but every time I've come to the computer to post an update I've quickly become distracted researching my next build (which I've made a small start on - more on this in a new thread soon!).

 

In the meantime the Blenheim is really taking shape.  First I've been adding PE details to the undercarriage bay, because naturally I'll be displaying her upside down so I can look at the undercart :confused:  Another one that falls into the category "I'll know it's there", but it certainly adds detail (and covers up a sink mark nicely).

 

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Next, a bit of sanding and pre-shading using thinned black, and she is just about ready to paint.

 

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This weekend I've also made some great progress with the camouflage scheme (more pics soon). I'll tackle the undercart and engines a bit more in the coming days. 

 

Enjoy the pics!

 

Matt

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