British Aircraft Models
by Karen Rychlewski

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Air Dept Scout

This bizarre airplane was designed in 1915 by Harris Booth of the British Admiralty's Air Department. One assumes that Mr. Booth didn't have the greatest command of aeroplane design.  The engine was a 100hp Gnome and a Lewis gun was to be mounted on the forward floor of the nacelle: the pilot would have to have been a contortionist to change ammunition drums since this plane used a steering wheel. It was intended as a single-seat airship fighter; four prototypes were built, none of which flew very well and the whole idea was abandoned.

This was built from a 1/72 Expomodels kit (Expomodels was a offshoot of Libramodels about 1986) which was advertised as a "basic vacform kit with strut & instructions only" and indeed, it was! The vacformed parts were quite nicely done, but all struts and fittings had to be scratch-built. The engine, propellor, and wheels are Aeroclub items; the rigging is 'invisible' nylon thread. The early British roundels and the Union Jacks are decals, but I don't remember whose; the serial number was hand-painted, as were all of the other surfaces. My primary reference (and, I think, the ONLY reference available) was Windsock, Vol 2, No 3, Autumn 1986; this issue had both a kit review and a two page article about the actual plane. One puzzling thing involves the tail booms: with a wheel track of only 2.5 feet, apparently the designer relied on the booms to aid stability when taxiing (how he thought it would be landed is unknown...). This would imply that the booms would be very rigidly braced to keep them at their 11 foot distance; however, the 3-view plans in Windsock show NO bracing wires between the booms, and the photos are too fuzzy to see any wires. I slavishly followed the plans and put no wires between the booms: needless to say, they are not parallel to each other.


The BE2 series (a-e) served on all fronts throughout the war. The BE2c, the best known of the lot, was developed as a sturdy and stable platform for reconnaissance and spotting operations. This was the role that strategists had decreed for the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps, and the BE2c met this goal admirably, flying slowly and steadily over the front lines while the observer in the front cockpit noted the action below. The pilot became a photographer as well, juggling glass plates into and out of an externally mounted camera. At first, the BE2c was unarmed; after several were shot down by Fokker E.IIIs, attempts were made to mount one or more Lewis machine guns on the craft. The most common mounting was atop a post between the cockpits--the observer was expected to man this gun by turning around and firing to the sides and rear of the airplane. Although totally incapable of air combat, the BE2c had a second career in Home Defense squadrons; by December, 1916, at least six Zeppelins had been destroyed by BE2cs

This model was built from the 1/48 Falcon vacuform kit, with the addition of Aeroclub metal and Fotocut PE parts. It represents No. 1710 of the No. 2 Squadron of the RFC as it might have appeared in August, 1915, upon its arrival in France. Construction was fairly straight forward for a vacuform kit, with the entire interior, gun mount, tail skid, and camera scratch-built. All struts were cut from plastic strut stock and the rigging is 'invisible' sewing thread. All painting was done by hand, including the roundels, squadron markings, and serial numbers--this was my first and last attempt at painting the fuselage lacing...

Sopwith Camel 'Comic' Nightfighter

A variant of the famous Sopwith Camel, the 'Comic' Nightfighter served with several Home Defense squadrons, engaging zeppelins and German nightbombers. For its night-flying duties, the airplane's cockpit was moved rearwards to help prevent the pilots being blinded by flashes from the above-wing guns.The model represents Sopwith 'Comic' (B2402) of No. 44 (HD) Squadron, Hainault Farm, Essex, 1918.

The model began as a Smer 1/48 injection-molded kit, and necessary corrections were made in the shape of several parts of the aircraft. The conversion to the 'Comic' version requires the replacement of the upper decking from the cowling to the rudder: for this I used the Lone Star resin conversion kit. As I recall, the fit was very good and little filler was needed. Scratchbuilt detailing included the entire cockpit, the over-wing gun mount, the undercarriage, landing flares, lights, and the diamond-patterned rudder pennant. The engine, Lewis machine guns, and the wheels are Aeroclub cast metal part. All painting was done by brush with enamel paints; the non-standard dark green color simulates the specially-mixed paint used on many No. 44 HDS Camels--seems as though a Lt. W. E. Nicholson of that squadron was a member of the family which owned part of Jenson & Nicholson Ltd, a paint manufacturer. The finish was quite high gloss, though the model has dulled over the years. The metal cowl and front panels, and the light areas of the rudder insignia and fuselage roundel were loosely smeared with the dark green paint. All rigging is 'invisible' nylon sewing thread (noticably still taut!) This model was built in 1989 or 90.
The primary reference was Windsock, Vol. 4, No. 2, Summer 1988.


This aeroplane is historically significant, in that it was the first successful design by Frederick Handley Page (1885-1962) whose company later became known for multi-engine bombers in WWI and later. In 1908, Handley Page became chairman of the Aeronautical Society and the next year he formed his own manufacturing company. With Jose Weiss, he designed crescent-winged single-seat monoplanes (Types A, B, and C) which were underpowered and unsuccessful. The Type D appeared at the March 1911 Aero Show but was wrecked before the July 1911 Circuit of Britain race. The Type E was an improved and enlarged version of the D: a two-seater powered by a 50 hp Gnome. The wing and tail surfaces were given a protective coating of cellulose whose bilious yellow-green color earned the aeroplane the nickname 'Antiseptic' or 'Yellow Peril'. It flew successfully for about a year until it was severely damaged in a crash; when it was rebuilt, it had so many different features that it was basically a different airplane.

The kit is the 1/72 Scaleplane vacuform: a very basic kit with only wings, fuselage halves, and a cowling. The engine, propellor, and seat are Aeroclub cast metal; the wire wheels are from Fotocut as are many other bits and pieces. All struts, braces, and the undercarriage are scratch built from rod stock; and the rigging is nylon monofilament. All painting is with oil-base enamels, brush-applied; the HP logo on the rudder was also hand painted. The brief kit blurb claims the fuselage was fabric-covered, but Munson repeatedly refers to the lovely finish of the varnished mahogany fuselage--I chose to follow Munson's reference as I thought it looked nicer. Not a difficult kit to build, considering the need to manufacture most of the parts with no plans

Primary reference: Pioneer Aircraft, 1903-1914, Kenneth Munson, Macmillan, NY, 1969


Both of these tiny aircraft were designed and test flown in 1917. The intent was to have single-seat zeppelin fighters which could be flown from very short flight decks mounted on gun turrets of small Navy torpedo boats, destroyers, and similar craft. Each used the 35 hp 2 cylinder A.B.C. Gnat engine to power an airplane of diminuitive, but standard, wood frame/fabric construction. Approximately 16 feet long with a wingspan of about 18 feet they must have been, in retrospect, rather fun to fly; however, their performance with the undersize engine was disappointing, particularly their flight ceiling of only 12,000 feet--too low to engage zeppelins. Neither design was put into production.

Both models were 1/72 Scaleplane vacuform kits, with cast metal prop, wheels, and Lewis gun. No special efforts were taken in building the kits beyond minimal detailing of the cockpit and rigging with 'invisible' thread. The roundels are Americal/Gryphon decals and all other color and markings were brush painted with oil-base enamels. The rather crude mechanic figure is included for a sense of scale since these are such small aircraft. Not especially significant airplanes in the whole scheme of world war, the kits were fun to build and add a somewhat quirky note to the collection. Oh yes, the 'Eastchurch Kitten' is the one with the single wide wing strut.

Sopwith Bat Boat 1a

The Sopwith Bat Boat was the first successful all-British flying boat; after being fitted out with a set of retractable wheels, it won the Mortimer Singer Prize for Amphibians in 1913. The Bat Boat was one of the earliest true amphibian types, being able to land and take off from both land and sea. At least four Bat Boats were built, with various modifications in the tail assembly, but all had beautifully crafted cedar hulls. This model represents the third Bat Boat built, which was purchased by the Royal Naval Air Service in February, 1914, and given Admiralty Number 118. Stationed at Calshot, the plane was used for experimental purposes: it made a successful night flight after a headlight was installed, and was later fitted with bomb-dropping gear. No. 118 was dismantled in March, 1915; no Bat Boats saw active service in World War I.

This model is the 1/72 Joystick vacuform kit. Assembly was relatively straightforward for a vacuform kit: tail booms, wing struts, and all other braces and struts were scratchbuilt from rod and strut stock. The kit's engine is cast metal and was detailed with additional scratchbuilt parts; the prop and wheels are also kit-supplied cast metal. Rigging is 'invisible' nylon sewing thread, touched with silver metallic paint. The entire model is hand painted by brush to retain the slight streakiness of clear doped fabric and wood grained hull.

Britain's First Warplanes , J. M. Bruce, Arms and Armour Press, 1987
Sopwith Aircraft, 1912-1920 , H. F. King, Putnam, 1981

Sopwith Dolphin

Designed in 1917, the Sopwith Dolphin started its career in January 1918 with RFC Squadron No. 19 in France. Only three other squadrons were equipped with the Dolphin before the Armistice. Although it had good flying characteristics, the negative stagger of the wings and the exposed position of the pilot's head caused distrust. The Dolphin served as a fighter and ground-attack plane, sometimes being fitted with under-fuselage racks for four bombs. By mid-1919, Dolphins were not to be found on the roster of British forces, though a few went to Poland and are believed to have been operational during the Polish-Soviet war, 1919-1920. Only three of the British WWI aircraft have had their names perpetuated by heraldic representation in the badges of RAF squadrons: the Dolphin is one of these, living on in the badge of No. 19 Squadron. This model represents F7085 of No. 1 Squadron, Canadian Air Force; the war ended before this unit could become operational.

The model is a 1/72 Pegasus kit with Aeroclub metal and Fotocut PE parts. I don't remember what all I did to this kit, but probably it wasn't much. Rigging is 'invisible' sewing thread knotted at the strut ends and secured with CA. Kit decals were used for the roundels and 'lift here' instructions; the serial number and squadron insignia were hand painted. All the other colors were oil-base enamel applied with a brush. Looking back at it, I'm uncertain whether the squadron marking is correct since I can't find my reference for it; also, the undercarriage struts are the wrong color.

The Sopwith Dolphin , Profile Publications No. 169
British Military Aircraft of World War One, Volume 4 , Arms and Armour Press, 1976

Sopwith Pup

A simple straightforward design with superb flying characteristics, the Pup was used extensively by the RFC in France and the RNAS in Home Defense and Naval squadrons. The Pup was used as an Zeppelin intercepter primarily because of its 18,000 foot service ceiling, and it flew bravely in dogfights over the trenches in 1916/17. But in a historical and technical sense, it is remembered for its participation in the development of 'ship-flying'. As early as 1911, strategists were thinking about using airplanes from Naval vessels. The following was, in fact, written pseudonymously in 1911: "...The deck space will always be too limited to permit a return to it, and so the return will always be made to the water. On his return the aviator will be picked up and his machine hoisted in. If it is not boating weather, well, probably the machine won't be flying..." Early in 1917, the Pup was recommended to replace Sopwith Babies aboard aircraft carriers, cruisers, and other fast vessels. Flotation gear and special 'Naval armament' was fitted to Beardmore-built Pups; at this time, taking off from a platform on a moving ship had become, if not common, at least possible. But pilots were expected to ditch the plane at sea since landing on a moving ship was considered too hazardous.
Stiffening their upper lip, the Navy in June, 1917, decided to experiment and perfect landing on a ship at sea. Five Beardmore-built Pups were assigned to the HMS Furious which had been modified in March, 1917, into an aircraft carrier by removing the forward 18-inch gun and building a 228 foot (69.4m) deck onto and ahead of the ship's superstructure. On August 2, 1917, Sqn. Cdr. E. H. Dunning became the first man in history to land an airplane on a ship under way. On August 7, he gave a repeat performance. These two landings are the subjects of the famous photographs of a Pup being chased and grabbed by personnel aboard the Furious; in these photos, the Pup clearly shows a repair to the lower starboard aileron in the form of an unpainted outer tip. Dunning was not using any type of arrester gear; rather, he depended on low speed, high manuverability, and the strength and agility of the deck party when grabbing rope toggles attached to the lower wing and fuselage. After a third successful landing, the engine of the Pup choked, the Pup went over the starboard bow and Dunning drowned; in this tragic attempt, Dunning was known to be flying Pup N6452, not the same plane as in the earlier landings. This plane is the subject of the model.
On a side note, the HMS Furious has the unique distinction of having flown Sopwith Pups and Camels in WWI and Hawker Sea Hurricanes in WWII. In 1924 she was given a full-length flight deck and flew Hawker Nimrods and Ospreys and Gloster Sea Gladiators until the Hurricanes. In 1948, she was sold and broken up for scrap.

The model is a 1/48 Aeroclub vacuform kit, which undoubtedly came with a few of Aeroclub's cast metal parts. No special effort was needed or taken with this kit, as it is a very well-made one. The only alteration to the kit parts was on the upper wing, where a center cutout was made to allow the mounting of a Lewis gun pointing upwards (this was the 'Naval Armament' initiated in 1917, as the plane was to be used against Zeppelins). The usual cockpit detailing, struts, and other small parts, including rope toggles made from white thread, were scratchbuilt; the rigging is 'invisible' sewing thread knotted at each strut end and secured with CA. All painting, including the serial number, tailplane stripes, and roundels, is by brush with oil-base enamels. Although oi-base paints dry more slowly than acrylic and thus eliminate brushmarks, the slight streakiness left by a brush is, I feel, appropriate to the finish of WWI aircraft. The roundels were very lightly scribed into their respective surfaces with a compass--the very slight edges left by the compass point help prevent the paint from running into adjacent areas. This model was built about 1989.

Primary references were:
Datafile No. 2: Sopwith Pup
Cross & Cockade, No. 1, 1988
Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920, H.F.King, Putnam & Co. Ltd, 1981

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