British and Commonwealth Models
by Steve Hedworth

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Avro 504 early

Kit: Airfix (1:72)

This is a conversion of the standard 504K trainer to the earlier types used in more belligerent fashion circa 1914-16. Iíve based it on photos in the Osprey books, RNAS Service Pilot 1914-18, p13 and the Zeppelin Base Raids, in particular the Friedrichshafen chapter pp30-48. The most obvious difference is the shape of the cowling. The kit part is a horseshoe and is about 40 thou in thickness which allowed reshaping to take place. But first the fuselage sides from the rear cockpit to the front have to be filed flat. The 504K was designed to accept a wide range of engines and had a universal engine mounting. This made the section from the front cabane struts forward slightly wider and it is this extra width that has to be filed flat. Prior to the 504K all other marks had streamlined fillets behind the cowling, a bit like the Fokker E111. Once flattened the cowling is fitted and using the upper longeron as the guide I used a file to make a cut into the cowling on both sides. Continue in a straight line and youíll end up with a V cut into the front of the cowling. Apply rod into the cut to represent a strengthening bar. The open front is filled with card filed to shape. The bottom side of the cowling, about 2mm, needs to be filed flat to match the fuselage sides and the section in between now has to be shaped so that the top, bottom and front are rounded and look like a bulge. The photos are essential for guidance and patience is a must but I was pleasantly surprised at the end result. The fillets were made from plastic card. The central ridge was made by pushing a blunt edge along the card while it rested on a pile of paper. Then it was cut to shape and cemented behind the cowling. Now that is the main obvious difference between the kit and the early 504ís. The fuselage dimensions can be altered by adding a quarter inch to the length and 30 or 40 thou to the depth from near the wing cut out. But the revised cowling is the main thing and early bombers, anti-Zeppelin fighters and observation aircraft are now an option. The early use of the 504 is not easy to find. I trawled through numerous web sites and finally came up with this. First, if the 504 was withdrawn from front line duties at the end of 1914 someone forgot to tell the navy. Naval use appears to have been more belligerent than the RFC and 3 x 504ís bombed the Friedrichshafen Zeppelin works on 21 Nov 1914. During March 1915, 5 x 504ís bombed the U Boat installation at Hobeken and destroyed two submarines. In the bomber role it was flown solo from the back seat. It was flown in similar fashion as an anti-Zeppelin fighter armed with an up ward firing Lewis gun or four twenty pounders. Such sorties often doubled up as anti-submarine missions and photos suggest a 65lb bomb was carried. My conversion is based on a photo of a two seat observation aircraft based in the Dunkirk area. Other 504ís were sent to the Dardenelles in August 1915 and one reported that the Turks were shelling the Allies empty trenches after the successful evacuation of Suvla Bay in December 1915. The extreme heat and dust played havoc with the engines of the RNAS aircraft and the 504ís were no exception. Presumably the 504ís were put to grass after the Dardenelles withdrawal. In home waters they continued in the anti Zeppelin/submarine role well into 1916. No 75 RFC were flying Avroís as late as Dec 1916 according to a thread on the Aerodrome. The roundels are early RNAS. In June 1915 it was decreed that British roundels would be red/white and blue. The RFC had the blue outer ring but the RNAS simply added the blue to the centre on existing aircraft. As late as March 1916 there were ď FrenchĒ markings on RNAS aircraft. The Lewis gun on the Strange mounting is from the Airfix BE2c and the camera too. Most of the early versions sported the 80hp Gnome 7 cylinder rotary although a few had 9 cylinder 80hp Le Rhones. I used a 7 cylinder which was spare from the AZ Pfalz E1 kit. A relatively simple conversion that opens up several possibilities from the original kit.

Avro 504K

Kit: Airfix (1:72)

Standard kit with a few modifications suggested in articles from many years ago by Ray Rimmel and Chris Ellis. The fuselage is a scale two feet short. The easiest fix is to chop half and inch off the tail and add three quarter inch from another kit. Just behind the cut out for the lower wing I filed a slot to take 30thou card and increased the depth of the fuselage which also eliminates the step produced by adding the longer tail section. That was enough for me and the rest was OOB. The build represents a standard 504K, circa 1918, operating from Gosport training establishment. The silver wing is post war, mid 20ís, flying from training stations in Egypt. Main reason for the continued use of a rotary engine trainer was the retention of the rotary Sopwith Snipe as the RAF standard fighter after the war. Around 8500 aircraft were built during the war. The majority were Jís or Kís and were used as trainers. While the J used the 100hp Monosoupape rotary engine the K was developed so that it could accept a wide variety of different powerplants. To achieve this the forward fuselage was slightly wider which eliminated the fillets seen on earlier aircraft. In 1918 the K was adapted to perform as a single seat anti Zeppelin fighter and six Home Defence units used the type.


Kit: Airfix (1:72)

A much easier build than most offerings from around the world but one must still remember it is a stringbag and the necessity of dry fitting remains a must. Get the cabanes right and the rest will line up no problem. The box art illustrates a night fighter but the parts to build a two seat recce version, namely the camera and rear facing Lewis gun, are supplied. I built the latter which served on the Western Front throughout 1915 until late 1916 by which time the slightly better BE2e was replacing it. It is OOB except for the candlestick gun mountings on both sides of the front cockpit. At least a dozen RFC squadrons used the BE2c in France as well as No 1 Wing RNAS. It served well into 1917 on Home Defence duties where it shot down several Zeppelins and abroad in the Middle East and India. It served to EOW in a training capacity in the UK. The only other user of the type was the Belgian air force.


Kit: Pegasus (1:72)

Until the appearance of the Airfix BE2c this was the only injection kit of a BE2 though it was usually only available on the second hand market. The kit is typical short run but builds into a decent model. The main issue was the rear fuselage which was bent but the plastic was malleable and was coaxed into shape. The build sequence is more comparable to the old Airfix Bristol Fighter and RE8 so the new BE2c is a great improvement. But this kit is ok. It represents a later variant and is within the skill level of most WW1 builders. The real BE2e was the result of attempts to improve the performance of the 2c. The twin bay wings of the 2c were replaced with unequal span wings similar to those later used on the RE8 Harry Tate. The 90hp RAF 1a engine that had been used in some of the later 2cís was standardized, the tail planes were redesigned and an enlarged fin was fitted. Otherwise the aircraft was little changed and the observer gunner remained in the front cockpit. However, the changes allowed an increase in speed of about 10mph and the new wing layout improved performance at altitude. The 2e began to arrive at the front during the summer of 1916 and by the end of October an order was issued that only BE2e types were to be sent to the RFC in France. It served with the army co-operation and reconnaissance squadrons until the summer of 1917. It was confronted by the new German Jastas who claimed many victims from these units. The Harry Tate and Armstrong Whitworth FK8 eventually replaced the BE2e on the Western Front but on the less active fronts such as in the Middle East and Macedonia it served until the end of the war.

RAF BE2c night fighter

Kit: Airfix (1:72)

A standard kit converted into a modified single seat anti Zeppelin fighter. I enlarged the fuel tank in the forward cockpit with thick sprue and covered over the hole. A photo in WSDF 42 showed the front cockpit with a more squarish shape, no surround coaming and studs just below the rim which I assumed was to locate a cover which would be clipped into place. A couple of minutes with a file reshaped the cockpit. I used paper to make the cover and when it was glued into place it was coated with liquid CA which makes it behave like plastic as far as paint and filler are concerned. The rest of the build was OOB. I gave it an earlier version of PC10 with a more greenish tinge and the camouflage and markings are generic to represent a Home Defence night fighter circa mid 1916 to late 1917.

Airco DH1a kit bash

Kit: Airfix kit bash (1:72)

This conversion required major surgery to the forward fuselage section of the Airfix DH4. The front cockpit upper decking was cut out and reversed, the floor was removed and replaced with card to lessen the depth and a new nose was made from laminated card. The wings are from the kit and were reshaped at the tips. The engine was an Aeroclub Beardmore which are probably like henís teeth today while the boom and undercarriage are Contrail plastic rod. The kit and spares box provided most of the rest. According to Munson, early aircraft were powered by the same Renault engines as the BE2c with the Beardmore becoming the norm as production increased. About 73 aircraft were delivered to the RFC with the majority employed on Home Defence and training duties. Small numbers were used by 14 Sqd in the Middle East from summer 1916 until late in 1917.

Airco DH4

Kit: Airfix (1:72)

This is an original yellow plastic baggy that was bought circa 1968 or 69. It has survived several house moves and periods of rough storage in garages which have resulted in several rebuilds. When first built it wasnít even painted but a few years ago I gave it a refurbishment for old times sake. The Airfix kit represents the early production aircraft and has the shorter undercarriage legs and the shorter prop. The radiator has no shutters which means the engine is either the Eagle 111 or IV which both gave 250hp. The DH4 became operational in France in April 1917 with 55 RFC and 2 RNAS and eventually served with 6 squadrons of the RFC and another 5 squadrons of the RNAS. In addition the type served in Russia, Macedonia, Mesopotamia, the Aegean and Adriatic and at home on coastal patrol and training duties. The destruction of the Zeppelin L70 in August 1918 was was brought about by a DH4. It was intended to replace the DH4 with the DH9 but engine difficulties meant that the DH4 remained in use until the end of the war. In contrast to the DH9 better versions of the Eagle were fitted as they became available. Large scale production began in the USA. The 400hp Liberty engine was fitted and over 4000 aircraft were built. Less than a third reached France but they equipped 13 AEF squadrons and 4 US Navy squadrons from August 1918. Bomb load was 460lbs and could be 2 x 230, or 4 x 112lbs or an equivalent mixture.

Airco DH9

Kit: Airfix kit bash (1:72)

The DH9 was intended as an improved version of the DH4. The crew positions were repositioned to be back to back to aid communication thus eliminating the large gap in the DH4. The main fuel tank was in this area and was relocated in the front of the pilot in the DH9. This improved the aircrafts fighting abilities but the Siddeley Puma engines failed to deliver the performance required. Intended to produce 300hp actual output was 230hp and there were frequent breakdowns. Compared to the DH4 the normal bomb load was only 2 x 112lbs. Such had been the expectations of this engine that mass production of the DH9 had been authorized and over 3000 aircraft had been built by the end of the war. It became operational in March 1918 with 6 RFC and eventually served with 12 squadrons in France and in the Middle East and Mediterranean as well as fighting with the White Russians in the Russian Civil War. The basic design was modified to take the 400hp Liberty engine and was redesignated the DH9a. Close to 900 aircraft were built before the EOW. First unit was 110 RAF which began operations in September 1918. 99 RAF was also re-equipped with the DH9a while 18 RAF and 216 RAF were in the process of replacing DH4ís with the 9a when the war ended. The other user in France were the US Marine Corps who used 53 aircraft from Sept 18. Post war the DH9a was used in Russia against the Bolsheviks. Around 2500 were built in the UK and served until 1931. An unlicensed copy, the Polikarpov R1, was built in Soviet Russia up to 1931 when production ended after building 2800 aircraft. This is a conversion of the Airfix DH4. The rear upper decking was raised and the kit moulded Scarff ring removed and card was used to reduce the size of the rear cockpit. The section of upper decking containing the front cockpit was cut out and reversed before refitting which eliminated the DH4 gap. The upper part of the Eagle engine was removed. Bulkheads were installed in the forward fuselage and card was used to recreate the upper decking. A gap was left for the engine which was an Aeroclub white metal Puma. The rest of the build came from the kit although the legs of the undercarriage were lengthened.

Airco DH9A

Kit: Maquette (1:72)

Maquette have released the kit twice, once as the Airco DH9A and more recently as the Polikarpov R1. As the R1 is a reverse engineered copy intended to use Russian materials it is no surprise to find that the kit sprues are identical. There is a link on Scalemates to an inbox review. The only change I made was to replace the Russian designed rear machine gun ring set up with an Aeroclub Scarff ring/Lewis set up. With the second build the crew member in the rear cockpit proved to be a bit more broad in the shoulders than the first and the replacement gun ring wouldnít lie properly. I had to modify the kit gun frame and replace the gun with a spare Lewis from the spares. There is no ordnance supplied so I used bombs from the Airfix DH4 and smaller bombs from the Eastern Express Strutter. The kit has two issues that was common to both builds. The forward starboard cabane strut location slot is short moulded. I ran a drill bit into the area and cut a slot to the correct size. It took a minute to do. The cabanes also have a pin at right angles to aid positioning but the slots do not have a corresponding hole. Again it took a minute to drill fresh holes. The alternative was to remove the pins as the slots are moulded to give the correct angle to the struts. Both methods work. The undersurfaces of the wings have very faint ribs. On the silver wing I scored the ribs with a sharp knife but on the WW1 bird I highlighted the ribs with a dark pencil before painting. As yet I havenít made my mind up as to which method looks best. The upper surfaces have well defined ribs which have never bothered me but others may want to tone down. With the first post war build there were no further issues. However with the second build I fitted the top wing having installed the cabanes first. The interplane struts were too short. After a lot of too-ing and fro-ing it looked like the upper wing had too much dihedral. The fix was simple, namely I cut far enough across the chord on either side of the centre section to allow the wing to be bent to fit. The gap was filled with liquid CA and painted over. And that was that. The rest of the parts fitted well enough. I added a windscreen and an Aldis sight and a underchin tropical radiator was added to the silverwing. The Maquette red star transfers broke up when I tried them elsewhere first time round so I would recommend a decal solution if youíre going with a Soviet aircraft. My builds both originated from the Polikarpov issue so the post war RAF roundels are Almark plus spares and I used spare roundels from the Airfix BE2c on the WW1 bird. All things taken together I have enjoyed building these kits. Comparable to the Airfix DH4 to my eyes.

Vickers FB 19

Kit: Revell kit bash (1:72)

This is a combination of the mid and rear section of a Boeing Kaydett fuselage married to cut down SE5a wings. Forward upper decking was a spare from an Eastern Express Strutter and the cowling came from the Eduard Nieuport 23. Spares box for the rest. The FB19 was sent for operational assessment on the Western Front at the end of 1916 when six aircraft were despatch overseas. It was rejected but small numbers were sent to Palestine and Macedonia. Others were sent to Russia where they served with Imperial forces and eventually the Bolshevik air force. Munson states that 65 aircraft were built. Early aircraft had unstaggered wings and were designated Mk1 while the rest had forward stagger and were built as the Mk11.


Kit: Formaplane (1:72)

This is regarded as one of the better Formaplane offerings and the mouldings were done by Joe Chubbock. It has nice surface details and strut and rod material were supplied but this kit was released before the inclusion of white metal parts so you have to source items such as the Lewis guns yourself. This model represents a standard FE2b circa 1916 to Spring 1917. Iíve equipped it with a camera as I read in the Osprey Pusher Aces book that photo reconnaissance was the Feeís foremost occupation. Iím not aware of any injection releases of this kit in 1/72 so Iím happy to recommend it with the proviso it is a vac-form and youíll need a decent stock of spares. As for the real thing it served with 16 squadrons on the Western Front. Entering service in May 1915 it was used in small numbers throughout the rest of the year. The first fully equipped FE2b squadron was 20 RFC which arrived in France at the end of January 1916. It played an active role in combatting the Fokker Scourge but by the end of the year the Fee had met itís match in the Albatros and Halberstadt fighters although it remained on daylight operations beyond the middle of 1917. Manfred v Richofen was wounded during a fight with Fees in June 1917. Most Fees were replaced by Bristol Fighters as these aircraft became available. The Fee was also proving itself to be a capable night bomber. Eight squadrons used the type in this role and some remained in use until EOW. Others served with six Home Defence units but with less success although some were converted to single seat status in an attempt to improve performance.

Martinsyde Elephant

Kit: Pegasus (1:72)

The Elephant was a contemporary of the BE12 and had been designed as a high speed, in the region of 100mph, long range reconnaissance type, in early RFC parlance a scout. It had an endurance of 5 hours with provision for a camera alongside the cockpit. It entered service in early 1916 and was issued in small quantities to recce squadrons where they were often used as escorts. RFC squadrons 18,20,21 and 23 received small numbers of Elephants but only No.27 was fully equipped. By the time of the Battle of the Somme in July 27 sqd was using the type as a single engine bomber. In this role they continued until November 1917 when the Elephants were replaced by DH4ís. In the bomber role the aircraft could carry two 112ib bombs or the equivalent. As an escort fighter the Elephant appears to have held itís own until the appearance of the Jastas and by the advent he Albatros D types it was outclassed in this role. Originally powered by the 120hp Beardmore this version was designated the G100. At the beginning of 1917 the G102, powered with the 160hp Beardmore, began to enter service. Some earlier aircraft were up-graded and the types were pretty much indistinguishable although late production G102ís had revised exhausts of three separate pipes. In the Middle East the Elephant served until EOW and beyond. Over 60 aircraft were deployed and served with 14, 67 and 142 in Palestine, and 30, 63 and 72 in Mesopotamia and used predominately as bombers. The kit had some flash but nothing too serious and white metal parts which comprised the engine, exhausts, Lewis gun and support frame work, undercarriage, wheels, tail skid and prop. I found the lower wings a bit tricky as I felt the kit method would have left the structure far too delicate when further handling was required. I removed the locating struts and replaced them with metal pins by drilling a hole into the wing butt. The locating holes in the fuselage were drilled deeper and this made a much firmer joint. Otherwise the build was fairly straight forward. The transfers were fine and I used an old Profile and Munson for research. Not for the faint hearted but it turns into a nice looking Elephant.


Kit: Airfix (1:72)

First built this golden oldie over forty years ago but this build incorporates a few modifications that have been highlighted in several excellent builds of recent years. As a loyal member of the looks like school of modelling Iíve left the fuselage alone. The wingspan is too long which I remedied by reshaping the wing tips to a squarer format similar to the BE2e thereby reducing the span by a scale foot. Observation cut outs were made in the lower wing roots by drilling the outline and then using a square file to get a neat finish. In the engine area covers over the carburetor intakes and the oil pump alter the nose profiles for the better and I added short exhaust pipes to which the kit exhaust stacks are attached. Shutters made from thin card were added inside the air scoop too. Internally, I put in a floor of card after removing the bench seats, added a thin bulkhead representing canvas between the cockpits, the observer got a map table, a black box to be the radio and two racks of Lewis magazines. The pilot got a generic instrument panel, a seat and control column curtesy of the spares box and an EE Strutter. I left the Airfix copyright symbol on the inner fuselage side and painted it silver to represent the aerial spindle, lazy but it was in the right place. The kit Scarff ring set up was replaced by a ring of copper formed around a dowel to be 0.45ins diameter and the frame and gun were again from the single seat Strutter. Rigging is invisible thread and the king posts have to be constructed on the top wing from plastic rod. The prop was also exchanged for a spare I had from a Vimy kit although the blades had to be shortened. I like this kit and OOB it looks like a Harry Tate but a few simple modifications can make a big difference.

Sopwith Strutter Comic night fighter

Kit: Eastern Express (1:72)

The Comic was a single seat conversion of the two seat Strutter which began to reach the Home Defence squadrons in 1917 probably after the Gotha raids in May. Until then HD fighters were comprised of a mixed bag of aircraft, predominately the BE2c and variants, with the Avro 504 and obsolete types such as the DH2 and FE2 making up most of the numbers. These aircraft had managed to gain the upper hand against the Zeppelin airships but were found wanting performance wise when the Gothas appeared. Apart from the temporary secondment of a Pup squadron and an SE5 squadron from the Western Front the response at the time from RFC Command was to issue Strutters, a few Pups and later Camels to the Home Defence establishment. The Strutters served with 37, 44 and 78 RFC. Initially issued as two seaters many were converted to single seat configuration. The first variant was similar to the single seat bomber with the pilot in the front seat armed with a Vickers mg. The muzzle flash impaired the pliots night vision so the cockpit was moved behind the wings. Some aircraft had the Vickers retained in the forward position where it was inaccessible to the pilot. Whether or not it reduced the effect of flash on night vision is debateable but most aircraft sported a single Lewis on a Foster mounting on the top wing. At least one aircraft had twin Lewis fixed to fire forwards and upwards at 70 degrees and was flown by 78 RFC. It was the conversions that became known as the Comics. The Strutter Comics served from August 1917 through to February 1918 when Comic Camels began to appear in Numbers. 78 RFC was still flying Strutters when the RAF was formed in April. The kit is the Eastern Express re-issue of the Toko original. Not much flash and two decal options are offered. Armament wise the twin Lewis machine can be built or the version with the Vickers well forward with the pilot in the rear. I decided to use a spare Lewis/Foster mounting set up from the Revell SE5a and made a more conventional type. Landing flares were added using plastic rod and pieces of sprue ends but otherwise the build is OOB. I did use a little artistic licence with the markings by painting a red/blue rudder and omitting the white stripe and repositioned the fives behind the fuselage roundel instead of to the front. Just to make life easier and after all it was a period of much experimentation. Itís a lovely kit but take your time with the cabane struts.

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