2A - Royal Navy Aircraft - WW2
Skua, Roc, Fulmar, Martlet, Wildcat, Buffalo, Hurricane and Sea Hurricane
on the thumbnail below to go directly to the aircraft model, or
simply scroll down
Blackburn Skua Mk II, 803 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, HMS ARK ROYAL, July 1940
This is the Octopus 1/72 limited run kit from Czech company Pavla. Far exceeding the Frog version below, it is nevertheless not an easy build.
The Skua holds a number of "firsts" - the first operational Fleet Air Arm monoplane, the first aircraft to destroy an enemy ship by dive bombing (800 Sqn - the German Cruiser Konigsberg) and first FAA kill of WW2 (803 Sqn - a Do18 Flying Boat). Apart from that, its career was not particularly successful. 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.
A typical product of the Air Ministry's obsession with multi-role naval aircraft, it was truly "jack of all trades, master of none"
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 Christian RN, with Observer Sub Lt Gore-Langton, it was involved in combat with French Curtis H-74 fighters over North Africa.
Blackburn Skua - 800 Sqn RNAS Hatston, Orkney, 1940
This is the old Frog Kit (also available from Revell, Novo and Eastern Express etc.), marked up with some basic decals from my spares box. It's not a very accurate representation, particularly beneath the wings, where the storage for the single dive bomb is completely missing.
The Skua is mainly remembered for its performance during the Norwegian campaign, where despite being flown with outstanding skill and bravery, it was clearly outclassed by German fighter aircraft from the start. Nevertheless, Skuas also made a significant contribution in other theatres, particularly during the desperate fighting at the beaches of Dunkirk and around Calais, where a handful of Skuas from 801 Sqn provided exceptional and intense air support to the trapped British & French troops.
Blackburn Roc, L3154, 805/806 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, RNAS Donibristle/Eastleigh/RAF Detling, 1940.
This limited run kit is not the easiest, cheapest, or indeed most accurate kit around. But let's be honest; Roc kits are pretty thin on the ground!
After the decision to withdraw RAF Fighter aircraft from France and retain them for home defence, a hotch-potch of Royal Navy aircraft were committed to assist by operating over the beaches of Dunkirk and Calais in May and June 1940. For the most part, this meant the poorly regarded Skua and Roc, already discredited by their woeful performance in Norway.
Like its contemporary, the Bolton Paul Defiant, the Blackburn Roc followed the unsuccessful concept of the turret-armed fighter. Developed from the multi-role Skua, Rocs saw very little front-line service, and almost all of that was based ashore, before it became painfully obvious that they were no match for the Luftwaffe and they were withdrawn to training and support roles.
Nevertheless, the Roc did participate in some of the crucial events of the early war, including the defence of the Home Fleet's base at Scapa Flow, the Norwegian Campaign (when several Rocs saw their only sea-based service onboard HMS ARK ROYAL), Dunkirk, Cherbourg & St Malo evacuations in June 1940, plus it played a small part in the Battle of Britain (in defence of the Dockyard at Portsmouth). RAF-manned ROCs were even used as static ground based anti-aircraft mounts at RAF Gosport.
Only one confirmed victory is credited to the Roc, a Ju88 shot down during the Dunkirk evacuations by an 806 Sqn Roc, flown by Midshipman A G Day RN.
For more information on the Roc, please have a look at this excellent website: http://freespace.virgin.net/john.dell/blackburn_roc.htm
Fairey Fulmar Mk1, 803 Sqn FAA, HMS FORMIDABLE, Mediterranean, April 1941.
The excellent Vista Fulmar kit has also appeared in Revell, SMER and Airfix boxes. Not perfect, but recommended! (link to build page)
Although it was certainly no star performer, by an accident of history, the Fairey Fulmar was in the right place when it was needed, and is actually the Fleet Air Arm's highest scoring fighter. Developed as a replacement for the Skua in the Fighter/Reconnaissance role, it saw most success in the Mediterranean, defending convoys against Italian and German bombers, but also played pivotal roles in the hunt for the Bismark, the Arctic convoys, the Indian Ocean and North Africa. It also provided night fighter cover for the famous Taranto attack, destroying seven Italian fighters.
Derived from the unsuccessful Fairey Battle fast bomber, the Fulmar was developed in great secrecy and saw front line service from June 1940 until 1944, including development as a night fighter. When it first appeared it was a big disappointment to FAA pilots, since it was already outclassed by the opposing Axis aircraft due to its size and the requirement to carry an Observer, but compared with its predecessors, its heavier armament, excellent range/endurance and improved speed were certainly welcome.
Fulmars scored 112 kills between Sept 1940 and Aug 1942, more than a third of the total FAA victories during the entire war. The aircraft modelled here was flown by Lt Donald Gibson RN, Senior Pilot of 803 Sqn, in HMS FORMIDABLE. It was lost on 18 Apr 1941 after Gibson was wounded during an attack by Italian aircraft. Although he was able to land back onboard, his arrestor hook parted and the aircraft went overboard. Gibson was quickly rescued, but sadly his Observer was killed.
Fairey Fulmar Mk.II, 809 Sqn FAA, HMS VICTORIOUS, Operation Torch, November 1942.
This is the SMER issue, with the Airwaves brass etch wing fold added:
During Operation Torch, the Allied Invasion of North Africa, participating Fleet Air Arm aircraft were temporarily re-marked in US markings, as it was felt that the French defenders would be more sympathetic to the US and therefore less likely to attack them.
Link to Folded Fulmar Build page and Operation Torch history
The Grumman Martlet & Wildcat:
Having (just) survived the debacles of France and Norway, the FAA was in desperate need of modern fighter aircraft to replace the obsolete and compromised designs it had inherited from the RAF's brief period in control of Naval Aviation; fortunately, US company Grumman were willing and able to step quickly in to the gap with their doughty and pugnacious Wildcat, renamed Martlet for RN service.
The start of a long and successful trend for the RN to use US aircraft, the Martlet was a modern design, simple, robust and far ahead of anything the RN possessed at that time; best of all, with the fall of France, Belgium and Greece, large numbers on order for those countries were immediately available. Although they still lagged behind the capabilities of other European land based aircraft like the Spitfire and Bf109, Martlets (and later Wildcats) fought with great success, especially on escort carriers, in the Atlantic and Mediterranean campaigns, as well as ashore in North Africa and the Western Desert, fulfilling a crucial role at a pivotal point in the war.
Grumman Martlet I - RNAS Donibristle, Fife 1941 / FAA Museum Yeovilton 2013
This is the Hobbyboss F-4F3 with some simple modifications to represent the newly restored Mk.1 Martlet at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, painted in its original French Aeronavale two-tone green colours.
The real thing in 2013, stripped back to its unusual original colours
Grumman Martlet II - 802 Sqn RNAS Donibristle, Fife / HMS AUDACITY 1941
Academy's Wildcat makes a good, low cost base for an early FAA Martlet, although its panel lines are very deep. Decals from my spares box. Wildcats and Martlets of different marks vary in engine fit/propeller, folding or fixed wings, armament (4 or 6 guns) and tail height, none of which are immediately obvious from most photographs; good research is needed to get it right and in this case I am not altogether on the correct path !
Martlet Is were ex-French & Belgian machines with fixed wings. The Martlet II was the first variant to feature folding wings, and thus the first to go to sea with the RN. Martlet IIIs were ex-Greek aircraft (themselves diverted from a USN order) also without wing folds, and spent most of their time in the Western Desert. Wildcat IVs and Vs were renamed to match US nomenclature and based on the Grumman F4F-4 and General Motors FM1 respectively, whilst the Wildcat VI was equivalent to the General Motors FM2.
Grumman Martlet Mk III, 805 Sqn FAA, Western Desert, 1941.
Hasegawa's Martlets/Wildcats are 'state of the art' kits, worthy of the 'shake and make' description, although you pay a premium for the pleasure. As the most accurate Wildcat here, it does highlight issues with the Airfix & Frog kits, but also reveals how nice the much cheaper Hobby Boss kit is.
In the aftermath of the Battle for Crete, 805 Squadron reformed on the Martlet III as part of the Western Desert RN Fighter squadron. Their fixed wing aircraft were part of a Greek order taken over after the fall of Greece and proved well suited to desert operations and convoy protection along the North African coast. Originally light USN grey (the Greek order had been drawn directly from US Navy stocks), the Martlets were quickly camouflaged in desert stone and azure blue.
Grumman Martlet Mk III, 805 Sqn FAA, Suez Canal Zone, 1942.
And this is the afore-mentioned HobbyBoss kit, built using the spare Hasegawa decals for another 805 Sqn aircraft from the Western Desert, this time in the original Greek Navy grey scheme.
Grumman Wildcat MkIV - 881/896 Sqn FAA, HMS PURSUER, Operation TUNGSTEN, February 1944.
This Frog kit was first issued in 1972. It was originally intended to have an electric prop spinning motor inside the fuselage, which might explain its rather portly dimensions. Having built both, I am now convinced that the Academy kit (above) is based on this one; even though Academy have given their version engraved detail versus the Frog raised lines, the parts breakdown is identical and they are both rather fat in the fuselage.
The Mark IV was Grumman's last Wildcat variant (and the first FAA Aircraft to be known by that name, rather than Martlet). 896 Sqn operated Wildcats from HMS VICTORIOUS as part of the British Pacific Fleet until 1943, when they embarked on the Escort Carrier HMS PURSUER, operating in the Mediterranean and North Sea.
The aircraft modelled took part in Operation Tungsten, the massed FAA and RAF attacks on the Battleship TIRPITZ in Kaa Fjord, Norway. Its pilot was South African born Lt Cdr James Sleigh, who played a key role in the planning of Operation TUNGSTEN, for which he was awarded the DSO.
n.b. Several of my references conflict on the ownership of this aircraft; some show 896 Sqn, others 881. Both were embarked in HMS PURSUER for Operation TUNGSTEN and 896 was disbanded shortly after. Some of those references also suggest that this is actually a WIldcat V.
General Motors FM1 Wildcat V - 1832/846 Sqn HMS TRACKER, Normandy June 5-10 1945
This Hobby Boss "easy build" kit follows their now-familiar formula; solid one piece fuselage, solid one piece wings and extra bits to add on. The cockpit is entirely adequate and there are 2 very clear canopies (2 piece and 1 piece). Accuracy wise, it looks really good; engraved detail is perhaps a bit light, and the fuselage is skinnier than my Academy Martlet, but of the 2 I think I prefer this one ! Kit markings are for 2 grey aircraft from the USN, but, as is my want, I chose to do a lively looking Fleet Air Arm Martlet with D-Day invasion stripes.
n.b. For this model I used 2 references: Scale Aircraft Modelling and the Fleet Air Arm Archive website. Both feature the same photograph, and ascribe the aircraft to 1832 Sqn B Flight, absorbed into a composite 846 Squadron in TRACKER. However Thetford's British Naval Aircraft Since 1912 shows the same photograph as an 896 Sqn aircraft in PURSUER. Its possible that both are correct; both TRACKER and PURSUER provided cover for the D-Day landings.
By 1943, Grumman were converting their factories for priority production of the Hellcat, but the smaller and less complex Wildcat still had a role. Continuing production was therefore passed to General Motors' new Eastern Aircraft Division, whose FM1 and improved FM2 Wildcats remained in production until the end of WW2. Fleet Air Arm Wildcats (from the Mk IV, its name was changed from Martlet to align with US nomenclature) mainly saw service in the European, Atlantic and Arctic theatres, flying from shore as well as Escort Carriers and Merchant Aircraft Carriers although one squadron (890) was deployed to the Pacific onboard Escort Carrier HMS ATHELING.
Royal Navy Wildcats of 1832 Sqn (absorbed into 846 Sqn), operating from the Escort Carrier HMS TRACKER provided air cover for the Normandy Landings during and after D-Day.
General Motors FM2 Wildcat VI - 882 Sqn HMS SEARCHER, British East Indies Fleet, August 1945
Airfix make one of the very few available FM2 Wildcat kits, with the tall fin/rudder, high exhaust outlets and long skinny double-supercharged Wright Cyclone engine. This is the 2009 Airfix Club Limited Edition issue, which comes with superb Cartograf decals; it's a fairly basic kit, but looks OK when built.
The final Wildcat variant was the FM2, with a more powerful Wright Cyclone engine and optimised for anti submarine work from Escort Carriers. Although the USN used them extensively, relatively few RN Wildcats served in the Far Eastern Theatres.
882 Sqn, the subject of this model, flew Martlets and Wildcats from 1941 until after VJ Day, taking part in the invasion of Vichy French Madagascar, the North African Landings, operations with the USN in the Coral Sea and Solomon Islands, North Atlantic Convoys, Arctic Convoys, Norwegian Sea (attacks on the Tirpitz), the Mediterranean, Western Desert, US Landings in Southern France, the Aegean Sea and finally in the Indian Ocean. Pretty much everywhere really and a classic example of the global reach of Naval Air Power.
Brewster Buffalo - 778 NAS RNAS Yeovilton, RN Fighter Pool 1941
Matchbox's Buffalo is a reasonable kit, although its undercarriage is very fragile and the canopy framing is overly heavy. This is a Chinese Matchbox issue, built out the box, with minor additions inside the cockpit. Decals are a mix from the kit and my spares box.
The Buffalo was an unmitigated disaster in UK service; chosen by the USN over its direct competitor, the Grumman Wildcat, it was a reasonable design, but let down by Brewster's lack of volume manufacturing expertise and dodgy cost cutting tactics on behalf of both manufacturer and customer, such as the use of worn out second hand ex-civil engines. The USN realised what was happening and bailed out, leaving Brewster to dump its dodgy aircraft on desperate European nations.
RN Buffaloes were part of French & Belgian orders taken over by the British Purchasing Commission in Washington - not their biggest success! Most UK Buffalos went to Commonwealth and RAF Squadrons in Singapore, where they were quickly lost to the Japanese. Three were used by the RN in Crete, where they were found to be poorly built (e.g. guns failing due to over-tight wiring that snapped when fired) and worse than useless. Some fought successfully with RN Squadrons in the Western Desert; the remainder ended life in Yeovilton as fighter trainers and local defence aircraft.
It wasn't a bad aircraft; the Finns used the Buffalo with great success against both Germans and Russians; but only after they had rebuilt them to their own satisfaction. A case of poor build standards and sloppy procurement, British disappointment was repeated 2 years later with the Brewster built Corsair III, leading to a US Senate Investigation of Brewster, amidst (unproven) accusations of sabotage, Nazi sympathisers and enemy agents within their workforce.
Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.1A "Hurricat", Fleet Air Arm Merchant Ship Fighter Unit, RAF Speke, 1941.
This simple conversion is based on the Heller issue of the Airfix 1/72 Hurricane Mk.1, with Aeromaster transfers & scratch catapult trolley.
With the growing losses of merchant ships to Focke-Wulf Fw200 Condor attacks and a desperate shortage of aircraft carriers, in late 1940 the Admiralty decided to fit selected merchant vessels known as Catapult Armed Merchantment (or CAM ships) with a rocket powered catapult, enabling them to launch their own Hurricane fighter as a last ditch defence should a convoy come under air attack.
The drawback to this otherwise sensible concept was the lack of any landing or recovery facilities; after they had destroyed or driven off the attacking Condor, pilots were expected to make for the nearest land, or to ditch alongside their ship and hope that they would be rescued! The aircraft were drawn from ex-RAF stocks (mostly Battle of Britain veterans), given a simple conversion to become a Sea Hurricane Mk 1A. It was a pretty desperate measure, carrying a lot of personal risk; the aircraft were flown by special Fleet Air Arm and RAF volunteers.
The Hurricat concept was a modest success, helping to sustain th evital North Atlantic and Arctic convoys through the darkest days of 1941. The first victory fell to Lt Everett of the RNVR, who was awarded the DSO for the destruction of an Fw 200 on 3 August 1941. After ditching his aircraft alongside an escorting destroyer, it sank rapidly, but he was able to escape from the cockpit at a depth of about 30 feet and was quickly rescued.
Hawker Sea Hurricane 1b - 880 NAS, HMS CONDOR, RNAS Arbroath 1941.
Chinese company Hobby Boss have recently produced a range of simple "beginners" low cost assembly kits. This is their Hurricane 2b Trop, converted back to a 1b Sea Hurricane. A nice little kit, albeit a but skinny with fuselage sides that are too slab-like.
The Sea Hurricane was hurriedly introduced post Dunkirk/Norway to counter the damage being wrought on convoys by the long range FW200 Condor. Early Sea Hurricanes were all basic conversions of RAF Battle of Britain veteran aircraft. Serving at first on Catapult equipped Merchant Ships (as a one way disposable weapon - there were no landing facilities, so the pilot had to ditch alongside), it rapidly developed into a key carrier borne fighter, forming the backbone, (alongside the longer range Fulmar) of the RN's forces in the Mediterranean for Operation Pedestal and equipping Escort Carriers in the Atlantic and Arctic Convoys.
This particular aircraft was flown by Battle of Britain ace, Sub Lt Dicky Cork, one of the FAA's highest scoring pilots.
Hawker Hurricane 1b (Trop), 806 Sqn FAA / RN Fighter Squadron, 269 Wing, Western Desert Air Force, December 1941.
Airfix have two 1/72 Hurricane kits in their catalogue, a simple Mk I (also issued by Heller) and a Mk I/IIb. Bizzarrely, the more expensive Series 2 Mk I/IIb version, as built here, is much the poorer of the two, although it does include a plethora of extra parts (rocket rails, anti-tank cannon, fuel tanks and bombs) that are quite useful. (link to build page)
In May 1941, HMS FORMIDABLE, which had replaced the bomb damaged HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, also received serious bomb damage whilst escorting convoys to Malta. As a result, she was forced to leave the Mediterranean and proceed to the United States for 6 months of repairs. In the meantime, three of her squadrons, 803 & 806 (both Fulmars & Sea Gladiators) and 826 (Albacores & Swordfish), remained in theatre, disembarking to Egypt, where they were quickly incorporated into the 269 Wing of the Western Desert Air Force (later known as 1 Allied Tactical Air Force -1ATAF).
The WDAF had been established in April 1941 by renowned WW1 Royal Naval Air Service hero, Air Vice Marshal Raymond Collishaw. Well aware of the FAA's particular skills, Collishaw was very keen to use the naval Squadrons in his composite RN, RAF, SAAF and RAAF force, operating from ashore in North Africa to provide close support and fighter protection across the desert and protect Allied shipping convoys along the North African coast.
until February 1942 when they returned to sea, RN Pilots flew a mix
of Martlets and
RAF Hurricanes, as well
as Albacores & Swordfish. This Hurricane
(Trop), was the mount of Fleet
Air Arm pilot,
Sub Lt Mike Fell (later Admiral Fell),
at Maddelena in Libya.
Sea Hurricane 1B
800 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, HMS INDOMITABLE, Operation Pedestal, August 1942
This is the very nice Revell Mk.IIb Hurricane kit converted into one of 800 Sqn's Pedestal Sea Hurricanes using some Aeromaster decals.
INDOMITABLE's squadrons played a major part in the Operation Pedestal actions, repelling massed attacks on the convoy by German and Italian aircraft.
Toward the end of the battle, the ship suffered a bomb hit that temporarily put her flight deck out of action; her squadrons simply landed on HMS VICTORIOUS instead, refuelled, rearmed and continued the battle.
Link to build page
Hawker Sea Hurricane IIc, 760 NAS Fleet Air Arm, RNAS Inskip & HMS RAVAGER 1944
Revell's 1/72 Hurricanes are excellent, especially their IIc Sea Hurricane. Detailed, accurate, well fitting and with interesting decal options.
The later cannon equipped Sea Hurricanes served almost until the war's end, flying mainly from Escort and Merchant Aircraft Carriers.
Vought Sikorsky OS2U Kingfisher, 765 NAS Fleet Air Arm, RNAS Sandbanks 1943
The old Airfix Kingfisher is still a nice kit, seen here with Aeromaster decals for a FAA training machine. (Link to build page)
The Kingfisher entered USN service as an observation scout aircraft in 1940,but also saw widespread service as a search and rescue aircraft. Over 100 were supplied to the Royal Navy from the summer of 1942 under lend-lease arrangements.
Able to fly from either land (with a conventional fixed undercarriage) or from catapult equipped ships at sea (when fitted with floats), Fleet Air Arm Kingfishers were operated from British Merchant Cruisers in the South Atlantic and Eastern Fleet, as well as being used as trainers in the West Indies and at home.
Return to Flight Deck Props Index
Part 1A - Biplanes of the Fleet Air Arm (WW1)
Part 1B - Biplanes of the Fleet Air Arm (post WW1)
Part 2B - More Monoplanes of the Fleet Air Arm (WW2)
Part 3 - Monoplanes of the Fleet Air Arm (Post WW2)
Part 4 - The Supermarine Seafire
Return to Fred's Models main index