September 2014

Grumman Hellcat

BAe Sea Harrier FRS.1

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Selected WW2 70th Anniversaries this month:

Between 2009 and 2015, I have set myself a general modelling theme based on selected 70th Anniversaries from WW2.

In Europe, the end seems near.  Much of France and Belgium are liberated, and the Germans are falling back toward the Ardennes.

In the east, the Red Army’s advance through Poland seems unstoppable.

2 Sept 1944 - Diarist Anne Frank and her family are placed on the last transport rain to Auschwitz concentration camp, arriving 3 days later.

8 Sep – London sees its first ballistic missile attack as a V-2 rocket strikes

12 Sep - Allied forces landed in Op Overlord (Normandy) join up with those advancing from the landings in the south in Op Dragoon (Cannes)

13 Sep - Operation Olive - The battle of Rimini. By 21 Sep when the 2nd Greek Battalion reach the city centre, over 1.5 million rounds have been fired against the city in one of the 8th Army’s most difficult battles.  

15 Sep – US Forces land on the Island of Pelelieu.

17 Sep – Operation Market Garden – Allied paratroops attempt to storm the Rhine in a surprise air assault and capture several bridges including Arnhem and Nijmigen.  However although the landings are a success, a lack of follow up support means that the advance cannot be sustained and by 26th Sept Allied forces are withdrawn. 30 Sep - Calais falls to Canadian troops

Grumman Gannet (Hellcat I)

800 Sqn, HMS EMPEROR, Task Force 88,

Operation Dragoon, Southern France,

15 August 1944.

Hasegawa 1/72

August 2014 saw the 70th Anniversary of the Allied landings in Southern France, Operation Dragoon.  The forces landed during this operation were almost entirely US and French, however the immediate air cover came from Allied Task Force 88, the air component of which was almost entirely provided by the RN's Escort Carrier force.

Dragoon was immensely successful, building on the experience of previous landings in Normandy and the Pacific to conduct a textbook partly opposed amphibious landing.  Within a month the all southern French ports were in Allied hands and receiving much needed supplies directly from the US (making up for the problems capturing the port of Cherbourg in the North).

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Background Image: ILLUSTRIOUS at sunset in Lisbon, shortly after the incident in December 1984 when XZ458 was lost


Hasegawa’s 1/72 Hellcat is excellent; whilst there are more modern kits available nowadays with possibly more detail, this one remains perfectly acceptable for the vast majority of modellers.  It has no real foibles, although there are a number of parts that need to be chosen or modified to ensure the right combination of engine exhausts, radio masts and cockpit windows for the variant you wish to build.  

Hasegawa often re-release their older kits with new decals and this is an example from the early 2000s.  The second option provided in the kit is a rather plain aircraft with no squadron markings, however, like I suspect most modellers who have bought this kit, I chose the well known JV105 from 800 Sqn, resplendent in Invasion Stripes and with a red cowling Mediterranean theatre marking.

The markings are a bit of an oddity - by the date of Op Dragoon, the stripes really should have gone and some pictures suggest a mix amongst 800’s aircraft. Even more strangely, the well known picture on which the kit markings were undoubtedly based, shows the aircraft a month or so later than Dragoon in what seems to be a Greek port, still with her stripes albeit partially overpainted due to what looks like a fuselage repair.

Have a look at my "RN Props" pages for details of my other WW2 Naval aircraft models

BAe Sea Harrier FRS.1


JMC, West Coast of Scotland, Autumn 1984.


ESCI’s  Harrier kits first appeared in the early 1980s and were widely hailed as setting a new standard of finesse and accuracy for 1/72 kits.  Now, over 30 years later they have been re-issued by ERTL, Revell, Airfix, Tamiya and finally Italeri and in my opinion, they still represent the very best Harrier kits available in this scale.  

They are not without fault though and I have undertaken some simple corrections to this kit, using scratch built parts, bits from other kits and aftermarket accessories to correct the very poor ejector seat (using a Pavla resin replacement), underwing tanks (replacements from the Sword T.4N kit), boarding ladder (from the Hasegawa kit), as well as a scratch built plug for the after canopy and paper RBF tags.  Unfortunately my resin replacement intakes with open doors suffered an accident and had to be abandoned.

Same squadron, different aircraft and different ship, 40 years later!  

August 2014 has seen the final decommissioning of HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, the last of the Royal Navy’s hugely successful Invincible Class aircraft carriers (formerly known as “Through Deck Cruisers” for domestic political reasons).  Spookily enough it was exactly 30 years ago, in August 1984, that I joined “LUSTY” as a young trainee officer, following completion of my Engineering Degree.  

Just before joining, I built my very first ESCI Sea Harrier kit, as a return to the model making hobby after about a 6 year break where girls, cars, boats and educational studies assumed rather higher priority.  As I built the kit, I was amazed by the improvement in fit and detail compared with those kits I had known before.  Now 30 year later, to mark ILLUSTRIOUS retirement, I have built another, this time in the markings of an aircraft that was onboard the ship at the same time as I was.

This particular aircraft came to a premature end on 1st December 1984 after a bird strike caused an in-flight engine fire and led the Pilot, Lt Collier to eject. I was on the bridge of ILLUSTRIOUS at the time acting as a trainee Officer of The Watch as the incident unfolded, firstly with a pan call, the ship going to emergency stations ready for an emergency landing, then a mayday and report from another aircraft that he had ejected, all in the space of a few minutes.  Fortunately Lt Collier was OK, although he suffered some injuries to an eye during the ejection, but the aircraft returned to the ground via a number of remote farm buildings  near Fort William that burned most spectacularly, despite the rapid despatch of a number of Sea King Mk4s loaded up with as many fire extinguishers as could be found.

Prior to its demise, XZ458 had seen a busy career with no less than 45 combat sorties during the Falklands war with 809 and 801 Squadrons in INVINCIBLE, then back to the Falklands post war with ILLUSTRIOUS and 809 Sqn.

The kit generally goes together without problems and certainly needs no filler.  However, in every example of this kit I have built, the port intakes have been a poor fit, and this one was no exception.  The two parts of the canopy will only fit together if you position the first part very accurately and getting all the wheels to touch the ground at once is almost impossible.  I also replaced the vulnerable nose pitot probe with a steel pin for strength. This 1990s ERTL issue is also moulded in a strangely soft and bendy plastic, which made cutting and tidying up some of the smaller parts much easier than usual.

Decals are not the ones supplied in the box (those have been used on one of my other SHAR builds), but a combination of a Modeldecal set and some other spares  in order to represent this particular aircraft.

Approaching the stern of ILLUSTRIOUS with one of 800’s SHARs on deck.

About to launch.

Have a look at my "Harriers " pages for details of my other Sea Harrier and land-based Harrier models