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Gladiator Debut (Gladiator Crew Underway)


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I've an abiding interest in the Gloster Gladiator, and in China's pre-Communist history. These overlap, since the first time Gladiators were flown in combat was on the south coast of China early in 1938. They had been more or less smuggled in crated from Hong Kong, surreptitiously assembled in the environs of Canton, and dispersed into the provincial hinterland. In February, the 28th Squadron and 29th Squadron of the CNAF had between them about a dozen operational Gladiators at Nangxiong, deep in the interior of Guangdong Province. Japanese naval aviation off the coast at this time comprised the aircraft carried on two seaplane tenders, the Notoro and the Kagu Maru. On February 24, these sent a dozen Nakajima E8N Type 95 floatplanes to bomb the Nangxiong airfield. Their long flight in gave adequate warning, and all operational Gladiators were off the ground and high enough to engage when the Japanese arrived.

 

I've had an Airfix Gladiator earmarked a while for a Chinese example, and when I found there was a kit of the E8N, I liked the idea of doing a sort of 'dogfight double' build. It's proved possible to identify a plane from each side which took part in the initial clash: the Gladiator flown by the deputy commander of the 29th Squadron, and the E8N Type 95 flown by the leader of the Notoro's contingent.

 

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I've started the project with the Type 95 floatplane, and not just the kit but the base. I don't like the 'dollied' look for floatplanes, and there's not much stand alone space on a tender. If it's on a sea base, it has to have a crew, they didn't lower these overside empty. And the crew shouldn't just sit there like lumps, either.

 

So the first thing I did was see if I actually could make a decent sea base. With some help from gentlemen who frequent the diorama forums here, I learned of a cheap and cheerful way to do it. This is layers of facial tissue, six or seven deep, soaked in diluted white glue. It becomes a sort of gel which can be pushed about to take and hold a shape. It's backed by a disk of styrofoam, but anything would do. A cavity for the float was cut out of the backing, and then 'surface' over it was cut away. The surface was colored with thinned coats of dark green, light brown, and dark blue. With the float pressed in place, a bit more 'surface' was added, and the whole thing given a final few glossy blue glaze coats, with some shading and highlights picked out.

 

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The kit has a nice interior, and fit together well. Locator pits for struts need enhancement, I think. I've done the interior in the dark blue I understand to have been used pre-war by Nakajima, and have left out a few items figures will render extraneous.

 

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With the kit at the 'starts to look like an aeroplane' stage, I've made a run at perching it atop the float set in the base. The kit's forward float struts seemed a bit long, fiddling with one I dropped it, and since I had to replace one, I did them all so they'd match. Their attachment to the float is permanent, the fuselage is held atop them at present only by white glue. The colors are home-brew, brush-painter's pre/post shading done with a school pencil. Color coats are artist's tube acylics cut thin with Future and water and a touch of dish detergent, each of several coats is gone over a while with a 5000 grit sponge-pad when dry.

 

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I'm getting started now on the Gladiator. I'll be making use of the ExtraDecal Gladiator sheet markings in part. Having committed to a vignette arrangement for the Type 95, I'll be doing some more elaborate groundwork, and will finish the Gladiator with the hood and port panel open for a boarding pilot.

 

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Edited by Old Man
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Good progress so far.  I like the back story.  It's a subject I know very little about and I was intrigued by the role of the Gladiators.

 

Will follow with interest if you don't mind.

 

Rob

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15 hours ago, Zephyr91 said:

Good progress so far.  I like the back story.  It's a subject I know very little about and I was intrigued by the role of the Gladiators.

 

Will follow with interest if you don't mind.

 

Rob

 

Thanks, Rob.

 

A lot about matters Chinese in those days make for a ripping yarn. I'm glad the tale caught your interest.

 

James

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Nice to see another OM build here. I had no idea China had Gladiators so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how this works out.

 

Ian

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13 hours ago, Brandy said:

Nice to see another OM build here. I had no idea China had Gladiators so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how this works out.

 

Ian

 

Thanks, Ian.

 

China had a bit of just about everything going: Curtiss Hawks, Fiats, Boeings, Bredas, German and Martin bombers, Dewoitine 510,  Polikarpovs of all sorts, even some Nakajima Type 91 Army Fighters, and that's hardly the whole list.

 

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Got the Gladiator into a shape resembling an aeroplane.

 

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The kit practically falls together if you give mating surfaces a few swipes in advance with a sanding stick. The upper decking forward does not quite fir so easily, but wasn't a problem.

 

I'm about halfway through the painting. This is what it looks like after three thin coats, there will be at least two more. Between each coat, the pencil lines are renewed and the paint gone over with a 5000 grit pad.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Painting is pretty much done on the Gladiator:

 

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There will be one more glaze coat and some touchings up, then after decals it will get its matte coat. Then it will be on to motor and undercarriage. Upper wing is just resting on the cabanes, not attached.

 

I've started work on crew figures, the first being the passenger in the E8N. The original figure had to shortened, its pose altered a bit, and kitted out as an IJN aviator....

 

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He will be standing in the rear cockpit, which has surprisingly little freeboard:

 

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Here's the two together at the current state of play:

 

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I enjoy your projects OM. They are always different, highly informative with excellent old fashioned skills on show. That sea base looks wonderful. Ever fancied a Schneider Trophy project? I saw the Supermarine S6B in the Science Museum last week and was bowled over by it. 

 

Richie

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4 hours ago, RichieW said:

I enjoy your projects OM. They are always different, highly informative with excellent old fashioned skills on show. That sea base looks wonderful. Ever fancied a Schneider Trophy project? I saw the Supermarine S6B in the Science Museum last week and was bowled over by it. 

 

Richie

 

Thanks, Ritchie!

 

I do have a taste for the odd duck and the out of the way. This one hits on both counts.

 

I haven't had a civil type interest me enough, though the old Monomail teases at times. The Schneider is a curious thing, one wouldn't expect a float-plane race to produce such advances. This has got me interested in a couple more float-plane projects. I've got a Rufe kit, and a very good article in an old Air Enthusiast on the type: there's not much odder than a float-plane fighter in the Second World War. A good while ago I stalled out on scratch-building a pair of Flycatchers, one of which was to be a machine on floats operating against pirates off HMS Hermes on China Station at Hong Kong in the twenties. I still have the motors....

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5 minutes ago, Old Man said:

there's not much odder than a float-plane fighter in the Second World War.

Very curious indeed, I sense a research session coming on!

 

A shame the Flycatcher project stalled but I totally understand. Scratchbuilding can cause serious mojo deflation at times. I have seen some lovely scratchbuilds from you before. Perhaps the motors will find a use yet.

 

I also find civil types far less appealing for some unknown reason. Despite this I have developed a bit of an obsession with the Levasseur PL.8 Oiseau Blanc in which Nungesser and Coli perished. I doubt I will scratch build one as I can only find archive photographs and little else. 

 

Apologies for the thread drift, jut one of the effect of insomnia!

 

Richie

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52 minutes ago, RichieW said:

Very curious indeed, I sense a research session coming on!

 

A shame the Flycatcher project stalled but I totally understand. Scratchbuilding can cause serious mojo deflation at times. I have seen some lovely scratchbuilds from you before. Perhaps the motors will find a use yet.

 

I also find civil types far less appealing for some unknown reason. Despite this I have developed a bit of an obsession with the Levasseur PL.8 Oiseau Blanc in which Nungesser and Coli perished. I doubt I will scratch build one as I can only find archive photographs and little else. 

 

Apologies for the thread drift, jut one of the effect of insomnia!

 

Richie

 

 

Don't mimd drift at all, Ritchie. Still early here. I hunted up some pictures of the motors. scratch-built Jaguars. The coin, a US penny, is about 18mm diameter:

 

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I dropped the Flycatcher project because I botched the turtle-back stringers badly. Don't think I'd make the same mistake on a second pass. The wings were pretty good, and I've still got them, too. Something of a pack-rat, where modeling is concerned, anyway. If I did revive the Hermes Flycatcher, the other motor might serve for a Wapiti Mk.VIII. A few were sold to a provincial air force in south China, it had the 'missing' fuselage bay restored and so has the same fuselage as a Wallace, and I do have a couple old Frog kits of the high altitude Wallace. They operated against the Long March in its early stages. Their motor was a Panther, but I doubt the difference would catch the eye in 1/72, and I doubt I could do another naked 14 cylinder radial....

 

James

 

 

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Wow James, those engines are just incredible. I only knew they were 1/72 because that is your chosen scale. I like the idea of a Wapiti  Mk. VIII. That would be another unusual one for your collection. I for one would never notice the difference between Panther and Jaguar radials in the one true scale.

 

Richie

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  • 3 weeks later...

More progress on the Gladiator, and the floatplane crew.

 

Here is the Gladiator as it stands now, with its likely pilot figure more or less in place.

 

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I made rather a bad mistake on the motor and cowling. I've built this kit a couple of times. Both times, I thought the assembly instructions for this promised no good result, and did something else:

 

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This time I figured, what the hell, and followed the instructions. It was hell,  and the cowling and motor on this are pirated from another kit:

 

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Do not attach the fuel manifold to the face-plate straight off. You will regret it. Things don't fit that well, and are very hard to clean up when you've got the whole model to handle. Besides which the fit of the fuel manifold to the face plate is the one thing that's really wretched on this kit. Things got to a pitch where I was thinking, all right, I'll just replace all the blisters, at which point  I was able to get a grip and go watch some old Superman re-runs on the teevee till the madness passed. I recommend adding the manifold to the motor, then the cowling bottom, air intake tubes, upper cowling parts, then the exhaust collector ring, and putting it on the face-plate assembled, after suitable dressing of the poor fit there.. I haven't added the crankcase and braces yet, The detail is not just good, it shows, but lining up all those little dual exhausts is tricky.

 

On the Type 95, I have concocted the pilot figure:

 

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He hasn't got his kapok jacket yet, but will.

 

Here's the 'taff-rail view' from the Notoro:

 

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A closer look at the figure:

 

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With the upper wing painted, things are ready for decals....

 

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Edited by Old Man
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Here is the Gladiator at present, with final finish and its number on. The interior is just OOB Airfix...

 

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The XtraDecal Gladiator sheet I have has the usual 2909, which owes its ubiquity to this photograph:

 

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This is one of very few photographs of Chinese Gladiators, and the only clear one, it seems, of one early in its career. It could as easily be during its assembly in the countryside as while being serviced or repaired by squadron crew. 2909, however, was not part of the 24 February fight, it was grounded with a fuel leak. The 2901 marking has a '1' made from 1mm strips. 2901 was taken aloft by the vice-commander of the 29th Squadron, Lt. Xieh Chuanwo.

 

I won't be able to put off deciding on the national markings much longer; it's too small a niche to speak of controversy among the several ways these are depicted in decal sheets and profiles for 2909, but there does not seem a clean answer with a decent photograph behind it, as to how these were displayed on the wings.

 

On the E8N, a good deal more assembly has been done, most decals are on and the figures have some color.

 

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The wingtip floats barely touch the surface, and while I may flatten them a tad at the rear, I expect just a bit of fresh tissue will be good enough. Here's a real one, at some speed in a heavier sea then this:

 

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Here's the 'deckhand's view from the rail of the Notoro:

 

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Cowling, motor, et al aren't at all bad, save for the exhaust pipes. The cowling traps the motor in place, and fits well enough. The engine fits nicely to the front of the fuselage. The face-plate fits neatly over the engine, so neatly it leaves no room for even photo-etch (which the kit supplies, for push-rods and wiring). I made the push rods, lengths of quarter millimeter rod, attached to face-plate and the fronts of the 'horns', then trimmed down and dressed a bit. The port and starboard exhausts I gave up trying to attach to the cylinders, and just attached them to the cowling itself behind the motor.

 

Here's a bit closer look at the figures:

 

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Color is washes of burnt sienna, darkened and lightened over a black-washed white. Faces are not done, the observer needs a lick 'o paint at the helmet's edge, and both need a bit more pink, I think.

 

 

 

 

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Since the Type 95 is part of a group build, with a deadline at the end of the month, I worked mostly on the floatplane.

 

Getting the upper wing on took several tries. Nice as the kit has been till now, the experience suggests this kit is only for those wise in the wiles of the short-run biplane. Locator holes for strut to wing joints were misplaced or undetectable after a bit of paint.

 

I wound up making my own struts, starting with the cabanes:

 

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For this, I tried something I've thought of a while but not yet attempted.

 

I measure the gap, and on the centerline put two measured lengths of rod. I topped each with a cross piece just as long as the width apart which the ends of the cabanes should be, and connected these. Contact with the frame matches the height off the fuselage the wing to strut joint ought to be. The pieces for the cabanes were cut to fit, affixed to the fuselage but not to the frame. Once they were firm and dressed, the original posts were easily snapped off. Minor damage to finish was repaired, and everything forward of the cockpit tended to, gunsight, center-section rigging, windscreen. The kit provides a windscreen but it is too big by half. I made this one from 15 thou clear sheet, in three pieces.

 

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With all struts on I optimistically tried lowering things to the upper wing undersurface:

 

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Things didn't quite fit, and new slightly shorter struts attached to the upper wing didn't help.

 

I would up doing what I thought would work at the start. I attached the upper wing to the cabanes, have measured substantial locating holes for interplane struts in its undersurface. I cut lengths of rod (1mm round, flattened a bit on two sides), and popped them into the locator holes, lower first. At this point I called it a night, and will put in the slanted bar makes it an 'N' next round.

 

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Tactical number is from an old Sierrs Scale sheet for the Hawk III which some Dutch thing or other too, that had useable numbers. The 3 began as an angular 5, and was adjusted a bit. There's been some improvement in the crew's complexion, and a couple little details added. Wingtip floats were incompatible with the work, and removed. They'll go back on once rigging is complete.

 

Here's a picture of the aeroplane being hoisted out of the water on its shot-up return from the 24 February raid:

 

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Edited by Old Man
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  • Old Man changed the title to Gladiator Debut (progress on Type 95 target)

That's a really clever way of attaching the cabanes. I have made a note of that for future use. It's really looking the part with the top wing attached. Anybody who has built a biplane model knows exactly how awkward this stage can be! 

 

Richie

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Thanks, Ritchie.

 

Got the idea from remembering something I read long since on a WWI modeling forum: a fellow measured on clear sheet where upper wing strut to wing joints should be, to literally keep an eagle-eye on fit and alignment.

 

This seems promising, and I am sure I will use it again, and possibly the whole see-through trick. There's an FAA group build will be open a while, and I'm really liking the thought of slapping one of those motors on a scratch-built Hong Kong Flycatcher on floats.

 

James

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6 hours ago, Old Man said:

I'm really liking the thought of slapping one of those motors on a scratch-built Hong Kong Flycatcher on floats.

I'm really liking the thought of you doing that too. I am sure I had 3 view plans of the Flycatcher in a magazine a couple of years ago. Will see if I can dig them out for you if needed.

 

Richie

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13 hours ago, RichieW said:

I'm really liking the thought of you doing that too. I am sure I had 3 view plans of the Flycatcher in a magazine a couple of years ago. Will see if I can dig them out for you if needed.

 

Richie

 

Thanks for the offer, Ritchie.

 

I have the Mushroom number on the type, and a set of drawings I think are from Aviation News. There's pictures of Flycatchers off Hermes in the monograph, and I think Kora models does a resin with decals for it. I don't know resin, I know small-scale scratch-building, and its a good deal cheaper, even if on occasion not so cheerful....

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  • Old Man changed the title to Gladiator Debut (bit more on the Gladiator)

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This will look about the same as before, and thereon hangs a tale....

 

After getting in the crossbars and dressing the seams, I managed to drop the thing. Upper wing, float, and port horizontal came off. The last proved the worst, it took off for parts unknown, and came to light eventually in another corner of the room. The float came off intact, just snapped free at the strut to fuselage joints. Extra bracing paid off. With breaks like that, one end usually matches the other, like halves of a torn bill. In exploratory fitting, I felt and heard the click of things fitting, and got some glue on quick. Alignment seems right enough. The cabanes held to the fuselage, but I replaced them anyway. I made serious locating holes where needed, deep enough new struts needed to be a little long to allow for their depth. I couldn't use my gap trick above because the gunsight was in place, and did the cabanes by the old eyeball and test-fit till happy method, and once the wing was anchored to them, popped interplane struts in place,verticals and crosspieces. So by three in the morning I was triumphantly back about where I was when I set down early in the evening.

 

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I've got the motor finished on the Gladiator, and a bit more color here and there.

 

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I'm going to have to figure out what to do about the national markings before I settle the upper wing on.

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5 hours ago, Old Man said:

So by three in the morning I was triumphantly back about where I was when I set down early in the evening.

Good recovery there.  Well done.  These things happen.  I have a particular penchant for demolishing undercarriages and losing tailwheels. So I sympathise.

 

Thoroughly enjoying this build.

 

Rob

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Great save, a lot of models end up in the spares box after a catastrophe like that. That must have taken great patience and skill to have recovered the situation. Please do no more flight testing, I'm enjoying this build too much for that!

 

Richie 

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11 hours ago, AdrianMF said:

Well recovered!

 

And what super engines too.

 

Regards,

Adrian

 

Thanks, Adrian.

 

The Gladiator motor is straight OOB Airfix. It's a seriously good kit.

 

I do like the detail of the RS kit, just wish the wing arrangements had been better.

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7 hours ago, Zephyr91 said:

Good recovery there.  Well done.  These things happen.  I have a particular penchant for demolishing undercarriages and losing tailwheels. So I sympathise.

 

Thoroughly enjoying this build.

 

Rob

 

Thanks, Rob. I have the same propensity, and really ought to just clip off radio antennae, save time and trouble all around. The float's been worrying me the whole build, and that was a real bright spot in the episode, that it held together solid.

 

James

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