Tuesday, January 22, 2013

America's First WW2 Ace

Spitfire IIa, P7308/XR-D, 71 "Eagle" Squadron, 27 August 1941

There were a lot of firsts with this kit.  It was my first Airfix new tooling Spitfire Mk I, my first attempt at Spitfire IFF aerials and my first 3D-Kits upgrade.  Well, I guess all that is not really very special, but I approached this build with all this specifically in mind.

Plus, I wanted to make it for the 70th anniversary of Bill Dunn's achieving a first, as the first American Ace of World War Two.  Granted, he achieved this as a member of the Eagle Squadron flying for the RAF in late August 1941.

I built this model in the Summer of 2011, completing it mid-August.

The Subject

Pilot Officer Bill Dunn joined the RAF in late 1940, after just over a year with the Canadian Army.  After completing training in April 1941, he joined 71 "Eagle" Squadron, made up of mainly American expats prior to the entry of the US in the war.  Between May and August 1941 Bill Dunn shot down 5 German aircraft to become the first American ace.  

On 27 August, while flying P7308/XR-D, Bill Dunn returned to North Weald at the end of a mission and crash landed.  His injuries were severe and after 3 months hospitalization and 3 months leave he served as an instructor pilot in Canada and then transferred to the USAAF in June 1943.  While with the 53rd Fighter Group he flew P-47's.

Ultimately Bill Dunn completed the war with 6 official kills, served with the USAAF and USAF until 1973 when he retired.  He had some very interesting assignments post-war, including flying and fighting with the Nationalist Chinese in 1947-1949.

P7308 is a Spitfire F Mk IIa, the notable difference to the Mk I is the addition of the Coffman starter, which resulted in a visible bulge on the lower right of the engine cowling.

P7308 was delivered in the Temperate Land Scheme, Dark Green/Dark Earth over Sky undersides.  It sported the standard markings of the time, Sky fuselage band and Sky spinner with Medium Sea Grey codes.  In early August 1941 it received a repaint in the new Day Fighter Scheme of Dark Green/Ocean Grey over Medium Sea Grey undersides.  The Sky band and spinner were retained and the codes are Sky.  Of note, the timing of this subject is before the yellow identification bands on the leading edge of the wings and before the National Markings were altered.

The Model

As mentioned above, this is the new Airfix tooling of the Mk Ia from 2009.  It was initially difficult to obtain here in the US and in late 2010 I finally got my first copy.  In the meantime 3D-Kits had released a Mk I/IIa update with an improved seat, stick, Rotol propellor/spinner and bulge for the IIa as well as appropriate decals.

I built the kit per the 3D-Kit modifications and decided to plan appropriately for installing the IFF aerials.  That is the only really unique aspect of this build.  I measured the distance back from the panel line representing the station aft of the radio access hatch and drilled two small holes opposite each other on the fuselage sides.  

I built the model to include paint and decals, and planned to put the canopy on very last.  For the aerials I first superglued one end in a deepened groove that is the gap between the horn balance and horizontal stabilizer.  After that had set I then threaded the wires (actually just invisible thread) through the fuselage and fished them with tweezers out through the cockpit.  After pulling them tight I applied a small drop of superglue and set it.  After fully cured I snipped the excess and then glued the canopy on.

For painting I used Humbrol enamels: The Sky (90) band on the tail went first, was masked with tape, then Ocean Grey (106) went on.  I masked using Miskit liquid frisket and then painted on the Dark Green (116).  After removing the masks to confirm no bleed-through, I remasked and sprayed the underside Medium Sea Grey (165).  I prefer Humbrol's Ocean Grey as it has that blue tinge to it, but is not an overpowering blue-gray like Tamiya XF-82 or Model Master RAF Ocean Grey.  Both of those latter colors really seem more like grayish blues, not a gray with a blue tinge.

Weather was attempted and this is yet another failure at it.  I shall persist and someday get it right.

The 3d-Kits decals went on perfectly using Micro-Sol and Set.

Thanks for reading...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hobby Boss Spitfire Vb

EP312/D-K, Wing Commander Dereck Kain, Edku, Egypt, 1944

This is a model I completed back in April 2011.  I purchased the Hobby Boss kit not knowing the goods or others regarding accuracy, fit, detail, et cetera.  As with most Hobby Boss kits, this one had some things not quite right.  

I approached the build from the perspective of a learning experience.  My objective was to correct where possible (er, within my skills), and expand my weathering abilities just a bit.

The Subject

W/C Kain served with the RAF beginning in 1935; flying missions over France, Dunkirk and during the Battle of Britain.  He was commander of 229 Squadron over Malta and 127 Squadron in the Western Desert.  Ultimately he transferred to the RNZAF in 1944 and was Station Chief at RAF Edku, Egypt.

During his assignment in Egypt, Ju-86P high altitude reconnaissance aircraft overflew the Nile Delta region.  The RAF was routinely attempting to intercept these aircraft and heavily modified Spitfire Vb and IX were used.  Ultimately through weight reduction, drag reduction and engine performance increases one of the modified Spitfires was able to intercept and engage a Ju-86P.  This ended their reconnaissance flights as the danger was now too great.

Spitfire Vb EP312 is one of those modified aircraft.  The modifications known to have been done are:

  • Aboukir tropical filter
  • Engine improvements, to include separate exhaust ejector stubs
  • Very smooth paint, near gloss
This particular aircraft was probably used mainly to escort the more modified Spitfire, which usually also had the radio and IFF removed, only 2x .50 caliber guns with limited ammunition, and no paint.  It was one of these, Spitfire IX MA504, that W/C Kain flew to 47,000 feet (the subject of a future build!).

The Model

As mentioned above, this kit has issues like most Hobby Boss kits in the Easy Build range.  In this case, they are:
  • Poor cockpit detail (not an issue for me)
  • Cockpit canopy too high in profile
  • No main landing gear doors (!?)
  • Prop is inaccurate for any Spitfire
I corrected the prop via the Quickboost Rotol prop and the main landing gear doors came from a donor Revell Vb kit.  I also replaced the landing gear and wheels with resin ones from my spares box (CMR Seafire III kit).  The Aboukir filter came from the Italeri Mk Vb kit, and the exhausts came from the Italeri Mk IX kit (a good source of spares).

I chose not to replace the canopy.  It turns out most of my spares didn't fit very well and looked worse than just using the kit canopy.  I even attempted a vac canopy, but that would have revealed the inadequate cockpit so I stuck with the kit.

The scheme is standard Western Desert for 1944: Temperate Land Scheme above with Azure Blue undersides.  For the pain I used Humbrol 29 for the Dark Earth, followed by Humbrol 116 for the Dark Green.   There is no real good match for Azure Blue, so I used Model Master Azure Blue but with about 10 drops of deep red added; it seems to put just the right amount of red into the Azure to give it that purple caste most out-of-the -bottle paints lack.

I used Ad Astra Masks for the D-K lettering.  I had to paint these instead of using decals because 1) no decals are available; and 2) they are non-standard.  They worked wonderfully and I'm continually looking for projects that can take advantage of these masks.

At the time of building I was not aware the subject should be so glossy.  So I attempted some weathering (which it should NOT have) and while it was okay, I knew I had to improve.

It was still an easy build, fairly quick and very enjoyable.  Will I build another Hobby Boss Spitfire?  Probably not, given I spent the equivalent of the kit in upgrades to get it acceptable, albeit not accurate.

Thanks for reading...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Frog Blackburn Shark ASR Mk I

I originally picked up this kit at a swap meet, not because of the subject but because of the floats and torpedo. At the time my thinking was I could probably put the floats on an ancient Airfix Swordfish in my stash; and the torpedo could be used on one of the torpedo bombers I have that don't have torpedoes.

After translating the instructions from Cyrillic I realized it was the old Frog Shark kit. Lots of flash and a few struts were short shot.

Then late in 2010 our club decided they wanted to have a theme "Damn the Torpedoes". After looking closely at the kit, I decided I wanted to take on the challenge and see what my skills could accomplish.

I was rewarded well. This model was completed back in April 2011.

The Subject 

The Blackburn Shark was an interim torpedo-spotter-reconnaisance aircraft, introduced in 1935 to replace the Fairey Seal and it was replaced beginning in 1937 by the Fairey Swordfish.

Only operated by a few squadrons, on a few battleships and on board HMS Courageous in the Mediterranean. I wanted a typical silver wings FAA torpedo bomber and the broad blue stripe called to me.

The Model 

A real sow's ear. I've subsequently seen an original Frog release, and the plastic is much more crisp and the detail more clean. The plastic is actually harder as well. This kit, probably released by Novo (that word never translated) is '80's vintage; I bought it in the late '90's.

As mentioned above, lots of flash and many of the parts were either short shot or missing. There is no cockpit and instead of buy an aftermarket one (a Swordfish cockpit would be ok) I queried the net and was rewarded with photos of the cockpit. I chose to scratch the major components.

I drilled out and rigged the control lines as well as the flying wires (there aren't many of those, interestingly). The markings were a challenge as no decal manufacturer made anything, at the time. To the rescue was Ad Astra Masks. I created the basic artwork by scanning photos for the serial numbers and the "657" side number. Both the side and underwing marking.

A few exchanges of emails with Ian, and I had quality artwork that Ian could use to create masks. Only $10 (at the time) and I had my markings. As a bonus, I added some Spitfire letters that were also unique in shape for another subject.

The masks were not hard to use and the results were superb! The national markings were from my spares box and the "flag" on the top wing was a combination of paint and decal strip.

This represents the best of my skills, so far. It's the standard I try to achieve with each new build. 

Thanks for looking...

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Frog Spitfire XIVe & V-1

This was purchased as the Novo kit, but as we all know it's really the old Frog molding.  The theme is "Unmanned" -- Any subject representing an unmanned vehicle, drone, remotely piloted, missile -- you get the picture.  Since I wanted this to be a Spitfire topic I decided to build this venerable kit.

The Subjects

Spitfire F Mk XIVe
Rooted in the prototype Griffon engined mark, F Mk IV, and an interim type at that, it was the most produced variant of the Griffon series of Spitfires.  Essentially, while the F Mk IV was being developed, ultimately into the F Mk XX & 22/24 series, Supermarine mated the Griffon to the F Mk VIII airframe.  Unlike the F Mk XII, the F Mk XIV had a slightly (4 inches) longer nose to house the two-stage supercharger, 5 bladed prop to harness the added power, and a broad chord fin and rudder.

Additionally, like the two-stage Merlins, the F Mk XIV required larger radiator baths to house the intercooler as well as the oil cooler and radiators.  The retractible tail wheel was standard.

Initially built with the "c" wing of 2x 20mm cannon and 4x .303 guns, the F Mk XIVe had the strengthened wing supporting 2x 20mm cannon and 2x .50 guns.

The Frog F Mk XIVe represents serial RM619/AP*D; 130 Squadron RAF flying anti "Diver" missions against the V-1 buzz bombs in October, 1944.  My references indicate 130 Squadron may have flown an anti-Diver mission or two, but by October Divers were rare and 130 was mainly focused on ground-attack missions as part of 2 TAF.

The V-1 Buzz Bomb is essentially the world's first cruise missile.  While designed by Germany as a vengeance weapon against Great Britain, more specifically London, its use began in June 1944 and lasted until the launch sites and launch aircraft were overrun by Allied forces in October.  Over 9,500 V-1's were launched against London during this time.  Another 2,500 were launched against Antwerp between October 1944 and March 1945, when the last launch site was captured.

There are a few V-1's in museums and I've looked over them, from a distance of course.  These are very basic, but they worked.  The good news is the Allies were able to counter the threat through effective anti-aircraft, fighter interceptions and even mis-information.

The Models

Spitfire F Mk XIVe
What can I say?  Frog 1960's detail in Novo quality.  It "looks like" a Spitfire, but there are details that are not right.  And the Novo molding is not crisp and has lots of sink holes and flash.  The clear parts were neither clear, nor parts (they were just opaque blobs).

I did NOT correct this kit.  So what's wrong?
  • Fuselage too narrow.  Only by about 1-1.5 millimeters, but it's obvious.
  • No gull wing at trailing edge fuselage merger.  
  • The wing fairing trails too far aft of the trailing edge of the wing; it has a noticeable "shelf".
  • Rocker fairings are too small, and too square.
  • Cockpit is just a ledge for a pilot's seat, and the bulkheads are solid.
  • The wings appear too thin.
  • The radiator baths are too shallow.
  • Decals off register and printed too dark; they are both oversized and undersized for the model.

Additionally, the whole model "looks" too small, it may be 1/75 scale.  I compared it in plan form and yes, it's short in both span (~6 inches) and length (4 inches).  

Having ignored all that, I just built this OOB and enjoyed it.  I wanted to put it on the included stand as well, so I used the molded wheel/covers which hid the lack of detail in the wells.

Because the clear parts were not usable, I scrounged my Spitfire spares box and found an Academy canopy.  It was much too wide, and too tall, but with some careful sanding I was able to get it to fit.  It doesn't look unacceptable, given the other noticeable flaws with the kit.

Paint was Tamiya acrylics all the way, applied over a primer coat of ValSpar primer from my local hardware store.  XF-3 Yellow and XF-21 Sky were applied first, then masked.  I then sprayed XF-82 Ocean Gray [sic] overall.  Using maskol fluid I masked the Ocean Grey and sprayed XF-81 Dark Green.  Finally, I masked and sprayed XF-83 Medium Sea Gray [sic].  Overall it looks okay, however I feel the XF-82 is too blue for Ocean Grey, but I wanted to stick with the Tamiya combination for this build.

The V-1 looks great!  It looks exactly like those I've seen in museums and while I didn't measure it and don't have any plans, it looks like a V-1 and will probably be the only one I ever make.

Only 4 parts so it went together very quickly.  I used Testors Acryl RLM 71/RLM 65, which is what all the museum examples seem to be painted.  I have no idea if that's right or wrong as all the period photos I could find are dark over light.


I'll never make these kits again.  I have too many very nice F Mk XIV kits to want to attempt the Frog one and I have no real reason to make another V-1.  I may create a new stand for the V-1 so it will complement my V-2...and dispose of the Frog/Novo F Mk XIVe.

Thanks for reading...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Battle of the Atlantic - Small Stuff Part 1

Ship models are slow going! Lots of parts and attempting to mask for airbrushing is just, well, frustrating. For space reasons I long ago settled on 1/700 scale if/when I build ship models. Over the last few weeks I'm starting to wonder if that was a mistake!

With the exception of HMS Prince of Wales and the Halifax GR II, my Battle of the Atlantic effort has been mostly about the small stuff -- Destroyers, U-Boats, and supporting aircraft. Okay, none of these are small in our real world, but in 1/700 scale they range from 1/2 inch (Spitfire PR IV) to 6 inches (O Class Destroyer). I signed myself up for no less than 3 destroyers, 2 U-boats and 10 aircraft (11 if you count the Walrus on the Prince of Wales).

This update will be about the U-Boats.

The Subjects

If, as a modeler, you have not heard about German U-Boats in World War II, then you must be one of those modelers that refuses to look at anything military in the catalog, and you failed history in middle/high school. Okay, that latter may be a bit harsh, but even people who know nothing about our hobby seem to know about the U-Boat peripherally. They DO know they are submarines, and they were German and either think of them regarding World War I, or II or possibly from the movie Das Boot!.

At any rate, Germany began the war in 1939 with about 65 submarines of various types. Only 21 of them were operational and this generally remained the case for the first year of the war. Admiral Donitz was clear to Hitler that he could not start a war with Great Britain until he had 300 submarines, with about 200 operational. Hitler agreed with his Admiral and started the war anyway...

Most of those initial submarines were Type VII U-boats. 703 were made/used before and during the war and it was considered a workhorse of the German Submarine Fleet right up until the end. It, and it's larger sister the Type IX, were based on the Type I. The Type I was built before the war and only 2 were made, mainly to get the German submarine capability restarted after the World War I ban. Some of the other 65 boats at war's beginning were Type IX long range boats, Type II coastal boats and Type III minelayers.

Gunther Prien was the most successful Type VII commander in U-48, with 55 ships sunk. The most famous is U-96, the boat used in the movie Das Boot.

A number survived the war and were used by other navies post-war.

The Type IX was a larger boat to allow longer range. It's maneuverability suffered as a result of its size so not as many were made. 195 total were made before/during the war.

U-505 is a Type IX, and is probably the most famous, whereas U-123 was the most successful boat under Reinhard Hardegen.

The Models

These are not supposed to represent any specific boat, just one each Type VII and IX. The Type VII is the venerable Tamiya kit; the Type IX the relatively new Hobby Boss kit.

The Tamiya Type VII holds up well. The plastic was still crisp and no flash. The kit comes with a half sunken merchant as well. I am going to finish that and include it with the vignette.

The Hobby Boss Type IX can be built either as a IXb or IXc. I chose IXb, frankly by accident. I simply put the IXb conning tower on the hull, not considering there was enough difference in the two. Sacrilege, I know!

The Hobby Boss kit can also be built either as a full hull or waterline, and even comes with a display stand if you choose to make it full hull.

There are lots of info out there regarding how to finish a U-Boat. I found this site to be the most comprehensive. In 1/700 scale you can almost choose any grays so long as you DON'T paint it overall gray. I'm simplifying of course but a nice U-Boat results by simply using the paints you have and not trying to find that perfect match. www.uboat.net is great resource, I found everything I needed just by searching their site/forums.

For the Type VII, I used an overall light gray. The bulges are a dark gray (Tamiya XF-54) and the decks are Gunze Tire Black. The effect seems a bit too much contrast, but according to uboat.net this was effective in the North Atlantic, as a lighter scheme from the sides made the boats less visible in the foggy early mornings, when they liked to attack. Because it came out so dark, I decided for the Type IX I'd use a lighter gray for the decking. The overall light gray is USN Gull Gray.

For the Type IX I used a scheme popular during the latter part of the war, 1943-1945. This consisted of a neutral gray hull, blue-gray conning tower and the same dark staining for the wood decking. I simply used the primer as my overall gray, and painted the conning tower and deck guns FAA Extra Dark Sea Grey. The deck is Floquil Grimy Black, which is a lighter color that Tire Black and has a slight brown tinge to it. Much better to my eye, but then again I'm no U-Boat color expert!

Overall I enjoyed these, not too many parts and they went together quickly. The basic schemes made them a quick build.

Thanks for reading...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Prince of Wales

Tamiya HMS Prince of Wales, 1/700 scale, as configured during the Battle of the Denmark Straight, May 1941.


This model is for the Patuxent River Museum's Battle of the Atlantic display and will be part of the vignette representing the early phase of the campaign that involved Germany's strategy of surface raiders against the UK merchant fleet. Germany wanted to avoid direct engagement with the Royal Navy unless a sinking could be made at little risk; their primary targets being Britain's merchants. Generally speaking this period began with the war on September 1st, 1939 and lasted until just after the loss of the Bismarck in May 1941. From that point forward Germany's surface fleet engaged less and less, threatening but never again venturing out for direct contact with the British Fleet because Hitler feared another capital ship loss; to him that meant a loss to his personal prestige.

Thankfully for the Allies his Naval Commanders followed this strategy, because a combination of sustained surface raiding and u-boat warfare in 1942-1944 could have had a far greater impact at sea. Instead it just tied up men and steel on ships that were sunk anyway, but in home waters and as little threat to allied shipping.

The Subject

The story of the Bismarck is generally well known, so I won't repeat it. Prince of Wales was commissioned in April 1941, and while still undergoing builders trials, getting the kinks out so to speak, the Admiralty decided they needed her firepower in the hunt for Bismarck. She was teamed with HMS Hood, cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk, and a screen of 6 destroyers.  This fleet awaited near the Denmark Strait for Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. 

On 24 May Hood and Prince of Wales engaged, Hood was lost and Prince of Wales was damaged, but they had damaged Bismarck forward which ultimately led to her demise. This model is my attempt to portray Prince of Wales at that time, during the Battle of the Denmark Strait. A better summary is on Wikipedia, here.

Prince of Wales was completed nearly identical to her older sister, King George V. Her paint scheme represented RN thinking at the time, with all steel areas in a dark gray and wooden decks in a natural stain. Horizontal surfaces were a slightly darker shade of gray. These colors were referred to as 507A (horizontal) and 507B (vertical). 507B was a very dark gray with a slight greenish tinge to it. 507A was just a bit lighter, and with an ever so slightly bluish tinge.  All to my eye of course, your mileage may vary as they say. 

The main deck was covered in wood. The RN did not use teak, it was too expensive. So they used pine. Unlike teak, which weathers to an almost ash gray color, pine weathers to a golden yellow color. 

Some steel deck areas were possibly covered in Semtex, but my references are not clear and the web was no help. Semtex is a synthetic coating, similar to an asphalt tile (my assessment). It was glued to the steel deck but maintenance was a bit time consuming and it tended to break up quickly, so the decks were painted anyway. I chose not to represent it. Semtex was not painted and was typically a very light color, sort of an off white. 

Prince of Wales had a complement of at least two Walrus I amphibians, possibly three. 

The Model

This was a long build, but quick in terms of my shipbuilding. I also have a half finished HMS King George V on the shelf of doom, waiting for my weathering skills to improve. 

Same kit really, but the Prince of Wales kit has an additional sprue with a Walrus, Betty and Nell bombers on them, so one can display her as she was on December 11th, under attack by the Japanese.  The instructions are of course different, because Prince of Wales and King George V were configured slightly different, mainly in AA fit, but as the war progressed the RN removed aircraft (Walrus amphibian) from ships that were not aircraft carriers. Their paint schemes were different at differing times as well. The King George V kit represents the class late in the war, the Prince of Wales kit represents mid-war when camouflage was used. Any of the Tamiya kits can basically make any KGV class battleship at any point in their careers with just a small bit of effort.

I did not follow the kit instructions, but instead built the model in sub assemblies, according to David Griffith in his “Ship Models from Kits”. He advocates this method because it affords an opportunity to paint each assembly before gluing it, and it makes it easier to weather. Having started the King George V a few years ago per the Tamiya instructions, I can tell you he is absolutely right!  This build was much easier. 

The only two changes to the kit needed to backdate it to the May 1941 configuration is 1) the paint scheme, and 2) add the aft UP mounting and tub. In May 1941 she still had her original UP mount in that location. It was not considered useful so was replaced in July 1941. I don't have one of those so elected to just leave the tub off; I'll put one on if I ever find a suitable one. 

During this period, Prince of Wales was most probably painted in an overall medium grey, 507B.  She may have actually been overall dark grey, 507A, but references differ.  At any rate, her gun tops were definitely 507A and photos seem to show a contrast between the two, so I decided on 507B overall with 507A gun tops.  Her wooden main deck was pine, which would have already been weathered (lightened) a bit.

For a scale effect I searched my paint shelves for a dark gray to represent 507A but one that was just a bit lighter than the color sample in my reference. Humbrol 125 was it, although Tamiya XF-53 is also close and I interchanged them for variation. I chose Humbrol 106 to represent 507B a dark grey, specifically because it was just a bit lighter than the paint sample, I also used Tamiay XF-54 for variation as it was close. 

The wooden main deck is Tamiya XF-60. I applied the paints with both an airbrush and hairy sticks, always via thinned layers to ensure mistakes could easily be corrected. 

Most parts were glued using Gator’s Grip, an acrylic glue that can be thinned with water and dries clear. Where strength was critical I used Tenax liquid glue, but it was rare. Gator Grip is great, just use a small dab/drop, let it get tacky (a few seconds) put the parts together then use a small brush dipped in water to clean the edges. I would let it cure overnight after a gluing session and only one secondary gun barrel came loose. I dipped a wet brush in Gator Grip and let it wick in while I held the barrel in place. 

We agreed not to weather or super detail our ship kits for the display, simply because we had inconsistent skills building the ship models.  Good thing as I think it would have doubled my build time!  I will mist a bit of Acryl flat clear mixed 1-5 with Future to put a matte finish to the whole thing. 

  1. King George V Class Battleships, Roger Chesneau
  2. Warship Perspectives Camouflage Volume One: Royal Navy 1939-1941, Alan Raven
  3. Ship Models from Kits, David Griffith

Thanks for reading...