June 2012

FRS.1 Sea Harrier
A-4Q Skyhawk
Austin K2 Ambulance

FRS.1 Sea Harrier, 809 Sqn HMS ILLUSTRIOUS 1982 A-4Q Skyhawk Austin K2

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PoppySelected WW2 70th Anniversaries this month:

Between 2009 and 2015, I will be pursuing a general modelling theme that marks selected 70th Anniversaries from WW2.

3 June 1942. Operation Style. HMS EAGLE ferries 28 more Spitfires to Malta but fuel, ammunition and food are now in critically short supply

4 Jun - The Battle of Midway begins. By 7th June, US naval aircraft have inflicted a decisive defeat on the Japanese invasion forces.

12 Jun - Simultaneous Malta Convoys Operation Harpoon and Operation Vigorous commence. Massive Axis air and surface forces attempt to stop the convoys. Only 2 of 6 Harpoon merchantmen to leave Gibraltar make it to Malta. None of the 11 Vigorous merchantmen sailing from Haifa and Port Said succeed. Operation Vigorous is abandoned, with 4 allied warships and 2 merchantmen sunk and many more badly damaged. The situation of Malta is now more perilous than ever and invasion seems imminent.

......on the same day Anne Frank, a young exiled German Jew living in occupied Amsterdam, receives a bound red and white autograph collecting book from her father for her 13th birthday. She begins to use it as a diary of her life in hiding.

17 Jun - Rommel's forces now surround Tobruk. The port falls to the Afrika Korps 4 days later. 35,000 men are captured and the road to Egypt is open.

23 Jun - Mersa Metruh is captured. Rommel is now only 140 miles from Alexandria. Allied forces fall back to defensive positions at El Alamein.

27 Jun - Allied convoy PQ17 sails from Iceland to Russia; only 11 of 37 ships will survive.

28 Jun - German forces begin Fall Blau, an all-out assault on Stalingrad and the Baku oilfields.

BAe Sea Harrier FRS.1

809 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, Falkland Islands, August 1982

Airfix (ex ESCI), 1/72 Falklands 25 Gift Set with Hasegawa decals.

Sea Harrier

Almost as soon as the Sea Harrier aircraft of 800, 801 and 899 squadrons (the latter split between 800- HMS HERMES and 801 - HMS INVINCIBLE) left the UK for the South Atlantic in April 1982, plans were implemented to provide re-inforcements and attrition replacements.

On 7th April 1982, everyone and anyone who could fly the Sea Harrier (including several RAF Harrier pilots) was recalled to RNAS Yeovilton to man up the newly formed 809 squadron.

Every existing Sea Harrier was pressed into service, including trials aircraft, those in reserve storage and several that were not entirely complete.

Harriers onboard HMS HERMES 1982
Sea Harriers and Harrier GR.3s onboard HMS HERMES
© Crown copyright. IWM (FKD 2300)

Sea Harrier

Atlantic Conveyor
Aircraft of 809 Sqn join RAF Chinooks onboard the Atlantic Conveyor
© Crown copyright. IWM (FKD 532)


After a short work-up, on 30 April the aircraft flew to Ascension Island via Banjul in the Gambia and were embarked on the STUFT ship Atlantic Conveyor, a merchant Container vessel that had been quickly converted into a Harrier and helicopter transporter.

On 18 & 19 May, once in range of the Task Force, they were flown off the Atlantic Conveyor and distributed between the Squadrons in HERMES & INVINCIBLE.

The subject of this model, Sea Harrier ZA194, was one of those aircraft, attached to 800 Sqn in HERMES.

On 23 May, during Combat Air Patrol over Pebble Island, ZA194, flown by Lt Hale RN, engaged two Argentine Dagger aircraft, destroying one, C-437, with an AIM9L Sidewinder missile.


 Sea Harrier

Following the Argentine surrender, 809 Sqn reformed and returned to the UK onboard HMS HERMES. ZA194 was quickly serviced at RNAS Yeovilton and returned with the Squadron to the South Atlantic in August 1982 onboard HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, as a relief for INVINCIBLE and providing post conflict air defence of the newly liberated islands.

Subsequently the aircraft served with 899 Sqn and was finally lost in an accident in October 1983. Its pilot, Major O'Hara of the USMC ejected safely.

For me, building a Sea Harrier kit feels just like meeting up with an old friend. This is the Airfix 2007 Falklands 25th Anniversary issue of the old ESCI kit, still available from Italeri. Without any doubt it remains the best 1/72 Sea Harrier kit on the market and perhaps the best in any scale. Its only real shortcomings are the ejector seat, which has been carried forward from ESCI's AV-8A kits and is not appropriate for a UK Harrier, plus the intake blow-in doors, which are fully closed and so can only represent the aircraft in fast flight (Heritage and others do make resin replacements though).

HMS HERMES -Falkland Islands, 1982
© Crown copyright. IWM (FKD 682)


I built my first one of these kits in 1984, as the model that brought me back to the hobby after a long break. It is now quite an old mould, yet it remains head and shoulders in accuracy, detail and buildability above all of the other Sea Harrier offerings available, from Matchbox, Fujimi, Hasegawa and Airfix.

Sea Harrier 809 Sqn 1982

This Airfix issue comes with markings for an 800 Sqn aircraft from the Falklands war, but since I have already built one of these, I have used the spare markings from an Hasegawa kit to do an 809 Sqn example and fill a gap in my SHAR collection.

Sea Harrier

It portrays the aircraft in her post-war colour scheme, with low viz markings and the squadron's phoenix symbol repainted on the tail. Largely built "out the box", I have done some simple surgery on the ejector seat, as well as adding the twin Sidewinder rails and refuelling probe (both stolen from April's Airfix FA.2 kit), plus the ladder (from the Hasegawa kit). As is my normal habit, I have replaced the Pitot tube with a steel pin for robustness.

Sea Harrier FRS.1

Many more Harriers, Falklands era and otherwise on my Harriers Pages

Douglas A-4Q Skyhawk

3 Escadrilla Aeronaval de Caza y Ataque "Tábanos", Rio Grande / Falkland Islands, June 1982

Airfix, 1/72 Falklands 25 Gift Set with scratch add-ons.

A-4Q Skyhawk

The A-4D Skyhawk entered service in 1956 as a replacement for the superb Douglas AD Skyraider. Small enough not to need folding wings, the aircraft has seen active service in Vietnam, the Yom Kippur War and the 1982 Falklands conflict. Many modernised examples remain in front line service today. Its small size and relative lack of complexity made it a popular export, particularly to those nations operating older (ex WW2) Aircraft Carriers.

Argentina operated over 130 A-4s, both with the Argentine Air Force and the Argentine Navy.

During the 1982 Falklands War, the Argentine Navy's A-4Q aircraft operated initially from the carrier 25 de Mayo, but following the sinking of the General Belgrano in May 1982 they were withdrawn to safer shore bases on the Argentine mainland. They participated in the attacks on the San-Carlos landings, including the sinking of HMS ARDENT.

In all, 22 Argentine Skyhawks (10 A-4Ps, nine A-4Cs, and three A-4Qs) were lost during the war, including eight to Sea Harriers, seven to ship-launched missiles, four to ground-launched missiles and other anti-aircraft fire (including one to "friendly-fire") and three to crashes.

Argentine A-4Qs were finally withdrawn from service in 1988.


Third Esc. pilots on board 25 de Mayo ready a Skyhawk
for combat. Photograph by Jose Gonzales

I really wasn't going to do one of these for a number of reasons, but I've never given up on a kit yet, so here it is.!

Each time I do one of these ancient kits I swear it will be the last. This Airfix kit was first issued in 1958 (yes, FIFTY eight, making the mould 54 years old) and represents the very early A model Skyhawk. As such it is theoretically just about an acceptable base for an Argentine A-4Q, albeit that it lacks the very distinctive "unskinned" rudder of the main A-4 marks. The kit itself is very much past its best and I am pleased to see that Airfix will release a new mould version very soon - definitely long overdue! Indeed, as Airfix have recently insisted on regularly foisting this kit on unsuspecting kids in "build and make" tents and events, it may well be responsible for putting more people off this hobby than any other kit ever issued.

A-4Q Skyhawk

This one came in a 2007 Falkland 25 anniversary set with some reasonable decals (more on these later), along with the ESCI/Italeri Sea Harrier above (a very nice kit), MPM Pucara (OK but not an easy build), Airfix GR.3 Harrier (past its best) and a truly dreadful plastic blob PM Mirage IIIEA that makes even this kit look good.

The kit is very simple to build, with a spindly undercarriage and a distinct lack of detail. To make it look even remotely like an A-4Q I added the upper fuselage antenna dome, blade aerials and towel rail antenna on the fin and the nav light. I also scrounged an MER weapons rack and bombs from another Skyhawk kit to place under the central fuselage and made up some deployed slats for the wing. However, the kit is just so badly wrong in so many ways; apart from the rudder and dome antenna it is underscale, you can see right through it (I added a McDonalds straw jet pipe to help out), it sits at the wrong angle (the front undercarriage leg oleo gives the appearance of having collapsed), and the wing tanks are far too small.

As was often the case with Airfix in the past, the decals looked very nice on the sheet, but application was a different matter, in this case because of a strange double film that made application very messy.

A-4Q Skyhawk

If you see one of these coming, run away, even if they are giving it away.

I guess it does look a teeny bit like a Skyhawk though............ in my thumbnail pictures if nowhere else, and it will certainly fill the gap in my collection until the new mould comes along.


More Argentine Falklands War aircraft on my Adversaries Pages

Have a look at the rest of my Falklands War Models (click the thumbnail to see more detail):

Sea King 4HumphreyWaspBlue Lynx

Sea KingGazelleWessex VChinook

FRS.1 Sea Harrier, 809 Sqn HMS ILLUSTRIOUS 1982

A-4Q SkyhawkScorpion


Austin K2 Ambulance, "Katy"

Royal Army Service Corps, Tobruk / Western Desert, June 1942

Airfix, 1/76 Emergency Set with scratch add-ons.

Austin K2 Katy

The Austin K2 Ambulance served across most theatres of WW2, right through to Korea. Over 50 are known to survive to this day from a total of 13,102 built at Austin's Longbridge plant. A K2 starred in the classic WW2 film "Ice Cold In Alex", charting a perilous fictional journey in 1942 across the desert from doomed Tobruk to the sanctuary of Alexandria.

And the Diamond Jubilee link? - During WW2, the young Princess Elizabeth was determined to make a visible contribution to the war effort and so she trained as an Ambulance driver with the Auxiliary Transport Service (ATS), driving the Austin K2.

K2 Ambulances in North Africa, 1942 © Crown copyright.IWM (E 13321)

For the Diamond Jubilee celebration month, as a personal indulgence over the Jubilee bank-holiday weekend I built a representation of the famous "Katy" from one of my favourite films. 70 Years ago last month, Rommel's Gazala offensive resulted in the fall of Tobruk and the Afrika Korps was able to advance into Egypt to threaten the crucial port of Alexandria. Commonwealth forces dug in at the anonymous El-Alamein railway halt and set a trap, sprung the next month, that would finally defeat the Desert Fox and enable the Allies to push the Axis forces from North Africa for good.

Austin K2

The ambulance that starred in the film was in fact several different ambulances - for most close-in shots a genuine K2 is used, but for many of the desert scenes, the vehicle used is actually an Austin K2 body on top of a rather more mobile 4x4 Canadian Army truck, clearly evident by the live front axle differential casing that can be seen in many shots, plus the rather larger wheels.

An Allied Casualty Station in the Desert © Crown copyright.IWM (E 13327)

Austin K2

For the kit I have used the Airfix K2 from the RAF Emergency set. To represent a North African vehicle I have added some simple detail and painted it in British Desert Light Stone, with a burnt sienna and desert sand wash, as well as some dark stone chipping and scuffing. The diorama base and palm tree comes from a Matchbox kit of the Sd Kfz 124 Wespe - which didn't enter service until 1943, so never actually served in the desert - well done Matchbox!

HM The Queen in ATS Uniform stands beside a K2 Ambulance
© Crown copyright. IWM (TR 2832)

Austin K2

Background Picture - Ships of the Royal Navy in close formation

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