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RAAF Brewster Buffalo Queries.....


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Hi everyone, and firstly a Happy New Year to you all.

I have a planned build of a 1/32 Special Hobby Brewster Buffalo I, as an aircraft of 453 Squadron RAAF stationed in Singapore in December 1941.

A good trawl of references, magazines and the internet has provided most of the info I need, but a couple of points need confirmation, so I wondered if anyone can help........

 

1. Most, if not all, of the 453 Squadron Buffaloes at this time had the port undersides painted black; did the underwing roundel have a narrow yellow ring surrounding it?

2. Would the aircraft have the original US-style safety harnesses fitted or would the aircraft have Sutton harnesses retrofitted?

3. Most confusing of all, were the lower observation windows left as they were or were they plated over? (I have seen these modelled in both methods)

4. Finally, one of the kit marking options is for "Snifter", W8209 coded TD-F. I read somewhere that it the aircraft was actually coded TD-E, and Snifter the Dog appeared on both sides of the fuselage - can anybody confirm this?

 

Many thanks for your help.

 

BHH

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12 minutes ago, Badhatharry said:

I have a planned build of a 1/32 Special Hobby Brewster Buffalo I, as an aircraft of 453 Squadron RAAF stationed in Singapore in December 1941.

A good trawl of references, magazines and the internet has provided most of the info I need, but a couple of points need confirmation, so I wondered if anyone can help........

@mhaselden and @jimmaas  would be chaps to ask.

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I'll have to do some research on your other questions but can state ( emphatically) that the ventral window was present on RAF/Commonwealth Model 339E's.  The only version of the Buffalo that did not hve the ventral window was the USN F2A-3, and after 1942 the Finnish Model 239's gradually had theirs plated over. 

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4 hours ago, Badhatharry said:

Hi everyone, and firstly a Happy New Year to you all.

I have a planned build of a 1/32 Special Hobby Brewster Buffalo I, as an aircraft of 453 Squadron RAAF stationed in Singapore in December 1941.

A good trawl of references, magazines and the internet has provided most of the info I need, but a couple of points need confirmation, so I wondered if anyone can help........

 

1. Most, if not all, of the 453 Squadron Buffaloes at this time had the port undersides painted black; did the underwing roundel have a narrow yellow ring surrounding it?

2. Would the aircraft have the original US-style safety harnesses fitted or would the aircraft have Sutton harnesses retrofitted?

3. Most confusing of all, were the lower observation windows left as they were or were they plated over? (I have seen these modelled in both methods)

4. Finally, one of the kit marking options is for "Snifter", W8209 coded TD-F. I read somewhere that it the aircraft was actually coded TD-E, and Snifter the Dog appeared on both sides of the fuselage - can anybody confirm this?

 

Many thanks for your help.

 

BHH

 

1.  Most 453 Sqn airframes did have black port undersides but you'd have to identify the specific airframe to be 100% certain.  None of the RAF's Buffalos in Singapore/Malaya had a yellow outer ring to the port underwing roundel.  

2.  I'm pretty certain RAF Buffalos had Sutton harnesses. 

3.  Observation windows were present on all RAF-procured Buffalos.

4.  W8209 was definitely TD-E.  The association of TD-F is long-standing, based on a photograph that shows only part of the individual code letter.  The IWM has a film taken when 453 Sqn was declared operational on 19 Nov 1941.  That film clearly shows W8209 having the codes TD-E.  I cannot confirm that the Snifter cartoon was visible on both sides of the nose.  Some 453 Sqn nose art was painted on both sides, notably the boomerangs applied to TD-H.  However, most airframes appear to have artwork on the port side only.  

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Can't add much to what the esteemed Mark Haselden has stated...oh wait, maybe a couple of bits.

 

For the Pilot's Manual, go HERE and note the interior is most likely an American version of Interior Grey-Green.  

 

On the wing upper surface, the Special Hobby kit has a little bump on a disc near the wingtip.  These are location liught carried by US, Finnish and Dutch aircraft, but not the British.  

 

Speaking of bumps, inboard on the upper wing there is a large bump covering the machine gun.  Inboard that is a smaller bump which is actually a cover for a mechanical round counter dial, with a clear window (so the pilot can see the dial) facing the pilot. This appeared on all Buffaloes except th F2A-3 (evidently they finally figured out how to rund a sircuit into the cockpit!).  A black rectangle of decal may suffice, or if you want to get fancy ashaped peice of clear plastic for each side, masked and painted over.  

 

MONTEX has a 1/32 mask set for the RAF Buffalo, MM 32090.  I mention that because photos show the upper wing roundels faded very rapidly in theater.  You might even see fading on the upper parts of the fuselage roundels.

 

 

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Following this LINK   will provide a pic of the wing round counter (one each side) on Finnish aircraft BW-372, but all the versions were similar.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Badhatharry said:

2. Would the aircraft have the original US-style safety harnesses fitted or would the aircraft have Sutton harnesses retrofitted?

 

 

Given that the 339E was built to British Specs (remember not lend lease)

there was provision for installation of RAF equipment, as well as  equipment

built in/modifications to suit RAF requirements by Brewster.

RAF Sutton Harness was used in the 339E. IMHO it was fitted upon arrival during

assembly at Kallang, along with RAF type Gun Sight, Mk VIII Oxygen regulator, TR9

Transponder/IFF etc.

Photo below shows a 488 Sqn Buffalo (John "Hutch" Hutchison) seated with Sutton Harness fixed

Note also square backed seat and curved seat frame (as opposed to straight for USN), round object to

pilots right is undercart warning siren

67d2473f-0371-4583-b8ae-1132ba6ca12d.jpg

Items to be aware of, that differed from USN F2A2 Buffalo  are as follows, not in the kit

Addition of Gun Camera port Starboard side you can see it outboard of the gun in this

488 Sqn Photo (just above chap next to landing gear door)

HIST1941.t5ea9e403.m800.x5MzEOn-R.jpg

(RNZAF Official - RNZAF Museum - used with Permissions)

The RAF 339E Buffalo also has a Flare chute Starboard side fuselage (rear), you will need to

scribe the hatch, in this life Magazine photo, you can make it out through the access hatch

(Attached as link so you have large resolution)

Buffalo Flare chute

 

The kit provides in Photo etch the top of the Oxygen Bottle cage ( Jim has provided link to Pilots notes which has

a photo), you will need to construct the age sides - photo from my build (note cockpit colour would be closer to

RAF Cockpit green as Jim mentions, built before we had a built knowledge of US manufactured colours)

18ba7588-5c84-4d6f-b218-5e5088012a68.jpg

Can't add anything to what Jim and Mark have given you above 👍

 

Regards

 

Alan

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If you're keen on making "Snifter", note that imagery of 19 Nov 1941 show the front cowling ring with a black letter 'E' on the front starboard face.  Also, the black port underside doesn't extend to the front cowling ring.  It's possible this inconsistency was fixed prior to the outbreak of hostilities...but equally possible that it wasn't.

 

For the record, 'TD-F' was Buffalo W8152.  

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12 minutes ago, mhaselden said:

Also, the black port underside doesn't extend to the front cowling ring.  It's possible this inconsistency was fixed prior to the outbreak of hostilities...but equally possible that it wasn't.

Just to illustrate Marks comments (note these are 488 Sqn Buffaloes)

 

Black not painted to cowling ring

MUS0800153.t5f7e100a.m800.xv-0QEZyV.jpg

(RNZAF Official - RNZAF Museum - used with Permissions)

 

Painted to Cowling ring  - Serial W8191

(caveat to this, is find (if possible) a photo of your plane, this could have just been a 488 Sqn thing)

HIST625.t5ea9e566.m800.xcW8Mncz4.jpg

(RNZAF Official - RNZAF Museum - used with Permissions)

Regards

 

Alan

 

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Most Buffalos that had the black port undersides had that scheme carried forward onto the cowling as shown in Alan's pic of W8191 above.  The 488 Sqn machines had the individual letter in white on the black portion of the front cowl, while 453 Sqn had a black letter on the Sky side of the front cowling.

 

Here's the pic of the front of W8209, TD-E, taken circa 19 Nov 1941.  Yet again, this is incorrectly labelled as being AN180, GA-E, of 21 Squadron, which is patently incorrect because there's well-known photographic evidence showing that AN180 was GA-B.  Also, 21 Sqn did not repeat the airframe individual code letter on the front of the engine cowling.  

 

spacer.png

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17 hours ago, LDSModeller said:

......

 

Painted to Cowling ring  - Serial W8191

(caveat to this, is find (if possible) a photo of your plane, this could have just been a 488 Sqn thing)

HIST625.t5ea9e566.m800.xcW8Mncz4.jpg

(RNZAF Official - RNZAF Museum - used with Permissions)

Regards

 

Alan

 

Sorry for the thread drift but the port wing underside interestingly seems to have been painted over with a light color here ^^

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6 minutes ago, occa said:

Sorry for the thread drift but the port wing underside interestingly seems to have been painted over with a light color here ^^

 

I suspect that the entire wing had been replaced on W8191.  The port fuselage underside, port undercarriage leg and port wheel still show as black, while the port wing underside is light-toned.  

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The fact that the entire wing had to be replaced was one of the drawbacks with the Buffalo, slightly alleviated by the fact that the RAF had far more aircraft than pilots; there were plenty of airframes to cannibalize. 

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3 minutes ago, jimmaas said:

The fact that the entire wing had to be replaced was one of the drawbacks with the Buffalo, slightly alleviated by the fact that the RAF had far more aircraft than pilots; there were plenty of airframes to cannibalize. 

 

It rather depends on the level of damage that required the wing change.  Sqn Ldr Churchill's rather infamous critique of the Buffalo suggested that even a single bullet in the wing's fuel tanks would require a wing change, something that could not be accomplished at the unit level due to lack of adequate lifting gear. 

 

Churchill's somewhat biased opinion is contradicted by operational experience where the Far East Buffalo squadrons clearly had a process for repairing battle damage to the wing tanks.  Peter Bingham-Wallis of 67 Sqn grumpily complained that his favourite airframe was destroyed because the groundcrew failed to adequately evacuate fumes from the wing while repairing some battle damage. 

 

There's also this photo showing the recovery of a crashed 488 Sqn machine at Kallang clearly showing the wing supported on trestles while a crane lifts off the fuselage.  It calls into question Churchill's assertion that units lacked the machinery to lift the fuselage off the wing.

 

spacer.png

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4 hours ago, occa said:

Sorry for the thread drift but the port wing underside interestingly seems to have been painted over with a light color here

I saw that too...

 

Couple of trains of thought

1) The RAF Applied Black paint has peeled off the US applied paint. I have seen this happen on at least one RNZAF

    P40K that had BALM paint applied over the Curtiss applied paint peel off simerly.

    My reason for this, is if you look closely at where the Landing light is, the wing is still black including landing flap.

    Some may think it's shadow (you can see the photographers shadow), but look at the Starboard lower fuselage, the

   Paint has worn/peeled off also.

2) Wing replacement as Mark comments on above - The Airframe looks rather beat up, and Kiwi personnel became very efficient at

    Produce (parts) recovery to keep the Squadron aircraft in action, roaming far and wide to recover parts.

Would make for an interesting model build

 

Regards

 

Alan

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14 minutes ago, LDSModeller said:

I saw that too...

 

Couple of trains of thought

1) The RAF Applied Black paint has peeled off the US applied paint. I have seen this happen on at least one RNZAF

    P40K that had BALM paint applied over the Curtiss applied paint peel off simerly.

    My reason for this, is if you look closely at where the Landing light is, the wing is still black including landing flap.

    Some may think it's shadow (you can see the photographers shadow), but look at the Starboard lower fuselage, the

   Paint has worn/peeled off also.

2) Wing replacement as Mark comments on above - The Airframe looks rather beat up, and Kiwi personnel became very efficient at

    Produce (parts) recovery to keep the Squadron aircraft in action, roaming far and wide to recover parts.

Would make for an interesting model build

 

Regards

 

Alan

 

Alan,

 

I think it's hard to be sure exactly what we're seeing in the photo.  What you describe as worn/peeled paint looks, to me, like dirt/mud that's been blown back onto the lower fuselage. 

 

Few RAF airfields in the region had "all weather" surfaces and, given monsoon season that starts in late November/early December, it would not be surprising if aircraft became rather mud-spattered during operations.

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4 minutes ago, mhaselden said:

I think it's hard to be sure exactly what we're seeing in the photo.  What you describe as worn/peeled paint looks, to me, like dirt/mud that's been blown back onto the lower fuselage. 

Hi Mark,

 

That could be an option too, conversely the Original negative could have been damaged/scratched

or degrading - I have seen a few WWII photos from the RNZAF Museum with this.

We'll really never know

 

Regards

 

Alan

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Slightly off topic but about Buffalo's, I was reading Geoff Fiskens account of various fighters , he had good thing to say about the Buffalo (he scored 6 kills in them!), he was a very experienced pilot having learn't to fly in the 1930's he did a lot of test flying of newly assembled Buffalo's in Singapore, he flew the Buffalo for almost a year, he said the aircraft while  not the greatest was not to blame but the experience level of pilots in Singapore/Malaya and tactics, when 14 Sqn RNZAF formed in NZ late 42/early 43 (P-40) with a core of experianced pilots who had flown in Singapore , the training and tactics used were nothing like used in Singapore , with the Kiwi's being very successful against Japanese aircraft over the Solomon's/Rabaul (Fisken scoring 5 more kills on P-40M's).

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As far as worn and beat-up airframes, they were new (unused) when delivered and they didn't have them long.  My backing is for mud.

 

Fisken wasn't flying Buffalos over the Solomons.   Other texts also confirm the lack of experience of the majority of the Allied pilots, although their higher command  must take much of the blame.  Backwaters don't tend to retain the most competent and dynamic leaders.  The RAF in general suffered throughout 1941 and 1942 from the comparative inexperience of their pilots because of its rapid expansion and heavy losses in 1940.

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31 minutes ago, Graham Boak said:

As far as worn and beat-up airframes, they were new (unused) when delivered and they didn't have them long.  My backing is for mud.

Except when 488 Squadron took over their 20 plus 339E's from 67 Squadron, the airframes were

barely flyable.

Secondly we don't have a date as to when the 488 Squadron Buffalo was taken, so it could be well into

the Air War in which case the airframes would be well used - the fact that ground crews had to scavenge

parts from wrecks etc to keep aircraft flyable, would also contribute to the "Beaten Look"

 

36 minutes ago, Graham Boak said:

Fisken wasn't flying Buffalos over the Solomons.   Other texts also confirm the lack of experience of the majority of the Allied pilots, although their higher command  must take much of the blame.  Backwaters don't tend to retain the most competent and dynamic leaders.  The RAF in general suffered throughout 1941 and 1942 from the comparative inexperience of their pilots because of its rapid expansion and heavy losses in 1940.

No Fisken wasn't flying Buffaloes over the SW Pacific, neither was he or other RNZAF Pilots flying against the all the same Japenese

Aircraft he fought against over Singapore.

 

Certainly many of the RAF/Commonwealth Pilots were not as well trained as they could have, but, for the likes of

488 Squadron, their AOC/Section Commanders were Battle of Britain Veterans, who could pass on/train their men as best as they could,

with their invaluable experience.

It could be argued that Battle of Britain tactics and fighting Japanese AAF aircraft were different, and yes there would

be truth to that. Air Fighting tactics evolve (and they did over Singapore).

Fisken developed a dive/slash method of attacking Japanese Formations, it obviously

worked as he made Ace, along with other pilots.

 

Fisken before he was invalided home from the SW Pacific, along with other RNZAF P40 Pilots, contributed to at least 99 Japanese air kills.

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Here's another grubby-looking Buffalo, this time from Burma but the operational environment wasn't massively dissimilar to what was seen in Malaya/Singapore:

 

spacer.png

 

 

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Sounds like a fairly standard complaint - "we were handed old wrecks".  Just how long had 67 Sq had them?  Faded and grubby was what happens in these climates.

 

Battle of Britain tactics probably were partly to blame: it took a long time before the RAF as a whole, and its training system, adopted decent tactics.  My comments about higher command was actually directed higher than squadron level - though taking out the top level in the squadron still leaves a large number of inexperienced pilots, as indeed described initially.

 

Yes, the Nates seen over Singapore were not as up-to-date as the Oscars seen in the Solomons.  The Zeros were, however.   Not that the P-40 could be described as an ideal combatant.   None of them were "good" opponents to pilots who had the embedded beliefs that their aircraft were more manoeuvrable than their opponents and that the dogfight was the supreme form of combat.  It is noticeable that the one major success of the Buffalos was when they were positioned above the Japanese and took them by surprise.  Fisken was adopting what many other experienced pilots of the time used, and has been proven many times since.  He who controls the height controls the battle.  Keep your speed up,  Hit and run, dive and zoom.  Good for him.

 

The problem for much of the early war in the CBI theatre was that the conditions mitigated against good radar warning, and the enemy entered the battle with the advantage of height.  Only a fast-climbing interceptor could cope against these disadvantages, and the Allies didn't have one in theatre.  Given more warning even a P-40 could reach appropriate altitudes - I suspect this lies behind the greater success in the Solomons and elsewhere.  Coupled with more experienced pilots having rather more respect for their opponents.

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67 Sqn started operating Buffalos in March 1941.  With 488 Sqn arriving in Singapore in November of that year, most of the airframes had been in constant use for 6+ months, mostly by pilots who had little/no experience operating modern fighters.  

 

Pre-hostilities propaganda photos of 243 Sqn Buffalos flying in formation show them in tight vics rather than the battle-pair or finger-four formations that started to emerge during the BoB.  Very few of the Buffalo unit leaders had operational experience.  The following summary is going from memory...but I think it's pretty accurate.

 

On 21 Sqn, neither the CO nor the Flight Commanders had combat experience, although they had lots of flying hours.  No. 453 Sqn's CO did have BoB experience but he was very young and a brand-new unit commander.  His Flt Cdrs had zero operational experience.  No. 243 Sqn's original CO had no combat experience but was replaced by a BoB veteran in late-Nov 1941.  One of the 2 Flt Cdrs was a BoB veteran.  No. 67 Sqn's CO was a combat veteran but, again, the Flt Cdrs had no combat experience.    

 

Oscars, not Nates, were the primary offensive counter-air force used by the IJAAF in operations over Malaya and Burma to gain and maintain air superiority.  The Nates were primarily used for airfield defence and to protect incoming reinforcement/logisitics convoys near the coast.  

Edited by mhaselden
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