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This Month's significant WW2 70th Anniversaries:
4 July 1940. "For you, British sergeant the war is over, there is plenty of work for you to do in Germany". "I'm not going to Germany, I belong to Glasgow and Glasgow's that way" - Sgt Allan G. COWAN, 4th Battalion Cameron Highlanders, on being recaptured after one of many attempts to escape the column of 51st Highland Division PoWs being marched to Germany.
On the 4th July, Sgt Cowan, Pte Greig, Cpl Bently and Pte Slavin eventually manage to evade their captors, with assistance from the local Belgian Police and sympathetic civilians in the village of Parike, Belgium.
Operation Catapult. On 3-4 July 1940, a Royal Navy Task Force disables much of the remaining French Mediterranean Fleet, berthed at Mers-el-Kebir and Oran, to prevent it falling into German hands. Vichy France is outraged and severs all relations with Britain; 1,297 French sailors are killed and about 350 wounded.
His Majesty's Government have instructed me to demand that the French Fleet now at Mers el Kebir and Oran shall act in accordance with one of the following alternatives; (a) Sail with us and continue the fight until victory against the Germans. (b) Sail with reduced crews under our control to a British port. The reduced crews would be repatriated at the earliest moment. If either of these courses is adopted by you we will restore your ships to France at the conclusion of the war or pay full compensation if they are damaged meanwhile. (c) Alternatively if you feel bound to stipulate that your ships should not be used against the Germans unless they break the Armistice, then sail them with us with reduced crews to some French port in the West Indies Martinique for instance where they can be demilitarised to our satisfaction, or perhaps be entrusted to the United States and remain safe until the end of the war, the crews being repatriated.
If you refuse these fair offers, I must with profound regret, require you to sink your ships within 6 hours.
Finally, failing the above, I have the orders from His Majesty's Government to use whatever force may be necessary to prevent your ships from falling into German hands.
Public opinion in the US admires Churchill's resolve and begins to believe that Britain really will fight on against Nazi Germany.
With the loss of the French as an ally, Britain must establish an effective naval force in the Western Mediterranean (Force H). The RN is over-stretched and with direct access to the Atlantic from their new French bases, Hitler's U-Boats begin what will be known as "the Happy Time". The Battle of the Atlantic begins its most critical period.
11 July - Grand Admiral Raeder, Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine, informs Hitler that an invasion of Britain can only be contemplated with full air superiority. The Kriegsmarine has suffered badly during the Norwegian Campaign, with many of its ships sunk or damaged, whilst the Royal Navy still has over 50 destroyers, 21 cruisers and eight battleships in the British Home Fleet; there is little the Kriegsmarine can do to stop the Royal Navy from destroying any invasion force. The only alternative is to use the Luftwaffe's dive bombers and torpedo bombers, which will require comprehensive air superiority to operate effectively.
Operation Sealion, the invasion of mainland Britain, is programmed for September 1940, but first the Luftwaffe must destroy the RAF. The Battle of Britain begins.
Blackburn Skua Mk II, 803 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, HMS ARK ROYAL, Operation Catapult, July 1940
The Skua was the Fleet Air Arm's primary fighter/bomber at the start of WW2 and was closely involved in all the key events of 1939-41, including the Norwegian campaign, the seige of Calais/Boulogne, Dunkirk/Operation Ariel, plus many clashes with the French, Germans and Italians in the Mediterranean.
The subject of this particular model participated in the controversial Royal Navy attacks on the French Mediterranean fleet in July 1940, aimed at preventing the French Fleet's use by the Axis forces. Flown by Lt J M Christain RN, with Observer Sub Lt Gore-Langton, it was involved in combat with French Curtis H-74 fighters over North Africa.
The Skua was a mediocre aircraft at best, although it does hold a number of "firsts", including the first British aerial victory of WW2, the first sinking of a battleship by air, plus being the Royal Navy's first monoplane. Another, less glorious "first", was the first aerial attack on a U-Boat; the two aircraft involved both missed their target, but the ensuing bomb explosions downed both of them into the sea.
Over the last 10 years, Pavla have established a reputation for high quality after market items, as well as producing an excellent range of limited run kits. Like many Eastern European companies, their initial catalogue bore a strong resemblance to Frog's output in the 1970s, and few would dispute that this has been a good thing.
Pavla's Skua then, is a worthy replacement for the only other mainstream 1/72 Skua kit I know of, Frog's ancient and rather limited offering (more recently released by Revell and Eastern Express). This one is marketed under the rather confusing "Octopus" brand, in cartoon-like boxes, clearly aimed at the younger modeller. This is a shame, as this is not a straightforward build. Rather like last month's Roc, detail is excellent but parts fit is variable and their are numerous ejector stubs that need to be carefully removed before assembly.
Whereas the Roc came with a photo-etch brass sprue, this one comes with a bag of finely formed resin parts instead, plus a single vac-formed canopy. Decals are superbly printed, as we have come to expect from Czech manufacturers, with no less than 4 separate options including an 803 Sqn aircraft from the Norwegian Campaign, an ex-800 Sqn Target Tug with 20 MU at Worthy Down, an 803 Sqn Aircraft from ARK ROYAL at Mers el Kebir, and finally another 803 Sqn machine, pre-war this time in a colourful silver/aluminium scheme.
This being July 2010, and the 70th anniversary of the unfortnate Mers el Kebir and Oran attacks, I have opted for the 803 Mediterranean Fleet aircraft from 1940. As with the Roc colour scheme, there is a conundrum here - the marvellous box-art profile shows an aircraft with Sky lower surfaces, whereas the instructions call for Sky grey. Either is possible, although I have gone for Sky as much in hope as certainty (Skuas were locally repainted in Sky at about this time, then received a proper paint job later on when they were refurbished at the factory).
Although it bears a strong resemblance to last month's Roc kit, the two have clearly been developed separately. Once again I found the plastic rather brittle, making it difficult to detach some of the smaller parts from the sprue. Again, as with the Roc, the engine cowl was difficult to assemble, attempting a degree of complexity that is slightly beyond the quality of moulding. Much Tippex later, it looks OK. The cockpit, on the other hand, is much better, with a lovely resin instrument panel, plus resin seats. My kit suffered from rather more flash than I would have wanted, including some significant areas where the mould seems to have separated (the engine cowling, for example) forcing some heavy duty hacking on my part.
The fuselage halves fitted together reasonably well, with just a thin smatter of Tippex to tidy the joints. My only concern was the cockpit assembly; despite following the kit drawings to establish its correct position, I believe that it has ended up too low in the fuselage, which may become an issue when the cockpit canopy gets fitted.
The wings, on the other hand, were a much more difficult task. After removing the ejector towers from their inner surfaces, the edges still wouldn't join together evenly. After several attempts, I resorted to a "best fit, filler then sand back" approach.
Not the easiest or cheapest of builds, but the end result is definitely much better than my Frog version.
of the few remaining Skua relics exists in the Yeovilton Fleet Air
Demaged beyond repair, it now sits within a rather cheesy diorama depicting it
being raised from a Norwegian lake in the mid 1970s
Link to more WW2 RN Aircraft on my RN Props Pages
Dassault Rafale M, 14 Flotille, Marine Nationale, FS Charles de Gaulle, 2010
The Rafale (Squall) is effectively the French equivalent of the Eurofighter Typhoon, and indeed grew from the same original requirement. One significant difference from the Typhoon is the existence of a carrier borne variant, the Rafale M, which serves aboard the French Navy aircraft carrier, FS Charles de Gaulle, entering service in 2004.
July 1940 was a pretty miserable time to be French. But across occupied and Vichy France, DeGaulle's flame of French resistance was beginnning to stir.
Brothers Marcel and Darius Bloch were both strongly opposed to the Nazi and Vichy regime. Darius, a former French Army General, became a leading member of the Resistance, operating under the secret codename Char d'Assault (Tank), later shortened to "dasso".
Marcel Bloch, along with his business partner Henry Potez, had been one of the top French aircraft designers. In October 1940, the Nazis realised that he was systematically sabotaging any attempt to use his designs. He fled to Vichy France, but was immediately imprisoned by the puppet Vichy regime. In 1944 he was sent to the Nazi Buchenwald concentration camp.
Both brothers survived the war and in 1945 they changed their family name to match Darius' secret wartime codename. Under this new name:; "Dassault", Marcel re-established his pre-war aviation business, growing it into a leading European hi-tech industry and one of the world's greatest aviation companies.
As is often the case, Italeri's kit is based on the prototype Rafale. However, the required changes for a present day aircraft seem to be minimal, and this is really a very nicely moulded and detailed kit, albeit one with very few parts!
I have built this one effectively "out the box", although I have added some different decals to represent an aircraft in service and I have fitted an AM39 Exocet anti-ship missile on the centre pylon.
Not much more I can say really; a nice kit of a very elegant modern aircraft!
Link to more French Aircraft on my Friends and Allies Pages
A French Navy Rafale visting Yeovilton in 2009
A French Air Force Rafale B (2-seater) at Yeovilton in 2009
HMS TIRELESS, Trafalgar Class SSN, AUTEC, 1987.
The Royal Navy's Trafalgar Class nuclear hunter/killer submarines remain one of the most advanced, quiet and effective submarines ever built. Designed to hunt down enemy submarines and shipping, their principle armament is the Spearfish torpedo, although in the past they have also carried Harpoon anti-ship missiles and now carry the TLAM Tomahawk Land Attack cruise missile, capable of reaching most points on the planet from a secure and stealthy underwater launching position.
HMS TIRELESS was the third of the class. Capable of deploying anywhere around the world within a week, without the need for any external support, and with minimal risk of detection, the SSN is still the capital ship of modern naval warfare and the T-boats are expected to remain in service until 2022.
"New" Airfix continue to go from strength to strength, and their new range of 1/350th scale Royal Navy models is no exception.
Complimenting the large kit of HMS ILLUSTRIOUS and the anticipated Type 23 Frigate, is this nicely detailed T-Class submarine, with options to build any one of the class. There are comparatively few parts, so this is a quick build, but very satisfying nevertheless.
..... and the real thing:
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