2B - Royal Navy Aircraft - WW2
Seafire, Firefly, Barracuda, Gosling, Gannet / Hellcat and Corsair
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See the separate Seafire Pages for my extensive Seafire model collection
Fairey Barracuda MkII - 831 Sqn, HMS FURIOUS, March 1944.
The Barracuda has long been a favourite of modellers, with it ungainly looks. This is the Frog mould, with a detailed scratch build cockpit and Techmod decals for one of the aircraft involved in attacking the German battleship TIRPITZ. Although there are more modern and detailed kits available, I enjoyed building this one and it certainly looks like a Barracuda!
The Barracuda was introduced as a replacement for the Swordfish & Albacore. Underpowered, and with its layout severely compromised by the need to give the Observer "picture" fuselage windows, it was unpopular and considered by many to be a downright dangerous design. By the time it entered service, targets for its primary torpedo armament were few and far between, nevertheless, Barracudas fought well as dive bombers in all major theatres from 1943 onward, including the devastatingly successful RN and RAF attacks on the German Battleship Tirpitz (Operation Tungsten) and the massed joint UK/US attacks on the Oil Refineries of Sumatra.
Fairey Firefly Mk 1, 1771 Sqn FAA, HMS IMPLACABLE, British Pacific Fleet, Truk Lagoon, 1944.
Frog's Firefly is a pretty old kit, but has usually been easy to obtain from Russian sources. Eastern Express have been the most recent Russian company to issue it; the moulds are holding up relatively well, albeit with some flash evident on the soft grey plastic. Decals are well printed, but very matt.
The Rolls Royce Griffon-powered Firefly Mk 1 continued the FAA policy of large 2-seat Fighter-Reconnaisance aircraft, started with the Hawker Osprey. Built to replace the Fulmar, it was a far better aircraft, particularly well suited to open sea and long range warfare in the Pacific. Fireflies scored a number of air to air successes, but their main contribution came from their surface attack capability, using bombs or rockets; later aircraft also included radar equipped anti surface and night fighter versions.
The aircraft modelled was flown by 1771 Sqn's commanding officer, Lt Cdr R MacWhirter and took part in the fmaous attacks on the massive Japanese Truk Lagoon Naval Base. The Firefly Mk 1 entered service in 1943 and remained until the early stages of the Korean War when it was replaced by the Firefly Mks 4, 5, 6 and 7.
FAA Museum Firefly
Grumman J4F-2 Gosling, Fleet Air Arm, West Indies, 1944.
This is another ancient, but much sought after kit (first issued in 1958), that has been re-released by Airfix in 2010 under its new Hornby ownership. The kit itself is really rather crude, but comes with some superb decals/transfers for a Royal Navy Machine or a US Coast Guard version.
The Gosling (or Widgeon in US service) was developed as a smaller version of the successful Goose. Fifteen were delivered to the Royal Navy under Lend Lease and most served at the Observers' School at Piarco, Trinidad, although some were retained in the USA at the Squantum, Pensacola and Brunswick Naval Air Stations for use by FAA training squadrons as communications aircraft.
Gannet (Hellcat I) 800 Sqn, HMS EMPEROR, British Home Fleet,
Operation Tungsten, Norway April 1944.
Frog's Hellcat was first issued in 19xx and it shows! The kit is acceptable in shape, but with minimal detail. Its undercarriage is a major shortfall; as well as the doors being wildly over-thick, the oleo legs are very obviously too short. As a result I built this one in the "wheels-up" configuration.
Grumman developed the Hellcat largely on their own initiative, after talking with experienced British and US Wildcat pilots. Building on the lessons of real combat, it was a quantum leap forward and possibly the best all-round Naval Fighter of WW2 (its only real competitors are the Seafire and Corsair, both of whom excelled in some areas but not in others). RN Gannets (they were only known as this for a very short time) and Hellcats, mainly supplied under Lend-lease arrangements, fought with distinction in European and Pacific theatres. A great aircraft in every way; sadly, at the end of the war, almost all of the FAA's Hellcats were dumped at sea as a condition of Lease-lend.
Gannets participated in the famous 1944 Tungsten and Goodwood operations, providing fighter cover and flak suppression (strafeing gun positions) for the massed raids by Barracudas and Avengers that managed to keep the Nazi battleship Tirpitz contained within her Norwegian Fjord lair.
Grumman Gannet I (Hellcat I) 800 Sqn, HMS EMPEROR,
British East Indies Fleet, Singapore Sept 1945.
I first built the Airfix Gannet/Hellcat in the 70s; its a reasonable kit, but the kit's wing fold mechanism makes it very difficult to build it unfolded. This one was a Christmas "stocking" pressy from my wife; spot on ! This is the 2003 issue - with reasonable decals. The box artwork alone is worth the cost of the kit - one of my favourite Roy Cross illustrations, even if the aircraft are all firing at the sky.
Hellcats of the East Indies and Pacific Fleets wore a wid erange of markings, all intended to prevent confusion with Japanese red markings. Initially these simply removed the red centre to the normal roundel, but became increasingly complex, including white stripes on nose, tail and wings. To furtehr aid recognition, the BPF also adopted a US style white bar as well.
Grumman Gannet / Hellcat I
Grumman Hellcat II 1844 Sqn HMS INDOMITABLE,
British Pacific Fleet 1945.
The second kit is Hasegawa's. Much more accurate and a joy to build. Decals from my Spares box.
Grumman Hellcat II
Chance Vought F-4U Corsair Mk.1, Roosevelt Field, New York, 1943.
This is essentially the same Hasegawa kit as below, but with a different fuselage to incorporate the "birdcage" canopy.
The summer of 1943 saw a step change in British carrier aviation capability as new ships were matched to a new generation of highly capable US aircraft, developed on the back of bitter war experience and incorporating rapid technological development. Perhaps the most capable of these aircraft was the remarkable Chance Vought Corsair. Based around the immensely powerful P&W Double Wasp rotary engine of 2,000 HP, the Corsair featured distinctive inverse gull wings that allowed the most efficient aerodynamic joine between wing and fuselage whilst also shortening the length of undercarriage needed to keep the aircraft's huge propeller clear of the deck.
At first, the Corsair's bad-mannered flying characteristics were deemed too difficult to fly from carriers, so the aircraft were delivered to US Marine units to operate from shore bases. In this role they were highly successful, but in the meantime, the British Fleet Air Arm, who were desperate for more capable aircraft, had developed effective tactics for operating the Corsair at sea, including a long sweeping approach pattern that allowed the pilot to see the carrier deck over the Corsair's long nose.
Corsairs began to be delived to FAA units in June 1943. Royal Navy Squadrons conducted initial training and work-up in the US at NAS Quonset Point and NAS New Brunswick, before being ferried to the UK by sea. Initial deliveries of Mk.1 Cosairs, wih their "birdcage" canopy were quickly replaced by later marks with a blown bubble canopy and trimmed wing-tips to allow their stowage in the cramped hangars of the Royal Navy's carriers.
The Fleet Air Arm operated more than 2,000 Corsairs of all types during World War 2, including 95 Corsair I (F4U-1), 510 Corsair II (F4U-1A), 430 Corsair III (F3A-1D) and 977 (Corsair IV (FG-1D)
Chance Vought F-4U Corsair Mk.III, 1836 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, HMS VICTORIOUS
Operation Tungsten, Kafjord, Norway, April 1943.
This is the Hobbyboss kit with some very minor modifications and decals from my spares box. In deference to Vought's apparent use of substitute paints instead of normal FAA colours, I have used a lighter grey and olive drab instead of Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey.
The Corsair saw its first combat operations with the Royal Navy on 2 April 1944, when Corsair Mk.III aircraft from 1834 and 1836 Squadons in HMS VICTORIOUS provided fighter cover for Operation Tungsten, a massed air attack by the Fleet Air Arm on the Battleship Tirpitz in Kafjord, Norway.
Vought/Goodyear FG-1D Corsair IV, 1841 Sqn HMS FORMIDABLE, British Pacific Fleet, 1945.
Like the Hellcat, Hasegawa's Corsair is a simple and perfectly executed kit. Decals from the box, although I have substituted Modeldecal roundels as the Hasegawa colours weren't quite right (no roundel blue border).
Mk IV Corsairs were built by Goodyear and supplied directly to Fleet Air Arm units in the Pacific. As such they lacked the normal Temperate Sea Scheme camouflage and were painted in standard US gloss blue.
Vought /Goodyear Corsair IV
Early RN Corsairs had cropped wingtips to allow stowage below decks in the smaller RN carriers.
This aircraft was flown by Lt Robert Hampton "Hammy" Gray VC, of the Royal Canadian Navy, one of 2 FAA recipients of the Victoria Cross during WW2.
Citation for Victoria Cross
"For great bravery in leading an attack to within 50 feet of a Japanese destroyer in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire, thereby sinking the destroyer although he was hit and his own aircraft on fire and finally himself killed. He was one of the gallant company of Naval Airmen who, from December 1944, fought and beat the Japanese from Palembang to Tokyo. The actual incident took place in the Onagawa Wan on the 9th of August 1945. Gray was leader of the attack which he pressed home in the face of fire from shore batteries and at least eight warships. With his aircraft in flames he nevertheless obtained at least one direct hit which sank its objective.
Lieut. R.H. Gray, D.S.C., R.C.N.V.R., of Nelson, B.C., flew off the Aircraft Carrier, HMS Formidable on August 9th 1945, to lead an attack on Japanese shipping in Onagawa Wan (Bay) in the Island of Honshu, Mainland of Japan. At Onagawa Bay the fliers found below a number of Japanese ships and dived into attack. Furious fire was opened on the aircraft from army batteries on the ground and from warships in the Bay. Lieut. Gray selected for his target an enemy destroyer. He swept in oblivious of the concentrated fire and made straight for his target. His aircraft was hit and hit again, but he kept on. As he came close to the destroyer his plane caught fire but he pressed to within 50 feet of the Japanese ship and let go his bombs. He scored at least one direct hit, possibly more. The destroyer sank almost immediately. Lieutenant Gray did not return. He had given his life at the very end of his fearless bombing run."
Vought/Goodyear FG-1D Corsair IV, 1843 Sqn HMS ARBITER, British Pacific Fleet, 1945.
Built in 20 mins (genuinely), painting took another 4 evenings. This is the best of the 3 HobbyBoss kits I have built so far, going together perfectly without the need for any filler at all (even the wing roots). Decals are the left-overs from the Hasegawa kit. A few minor problems; I am not clear whether the RN Corsairs ever actually carried rockets or twin fuel tanks (although the FG-1D was definitely wired/plumbed for them), and the canopy looks too high (at least alongside my Hasegawa one) but apart from that, I think it compares very favourably with the Hasegawa offering, at less than half the price!
The Corsair was supplied to the Fleet Air Arm in 4 distinct batches, the Vought built Corsair I (with "birdcage" canopy) and Corsair II (with raised cockpit and "Malcolm" bubble canopy), the Brewster built Corsair III (which suffered similar quality problems to the Buffalo and was deemed too unreliable to use in combat) and the Goodyear built Corsair IV. A final Corsair V version was cancelled after VJ day.
This particular aircraft of 1843 Sqn was embarked on escort carrier HMS ARBITER, assigned to protect the British Pacific Fleet's essential logistic "Fleet Train". Of particular note is the (partial) reinstatement of proper British red, white & blue roundels, although those on the fuselage still include a white centre to distinguish them from Japanese markings. Just to confuse things, whilst the white X on the 1841 Sqn Corsair above indicates that the Aircraft belongs to the HMS FORMIDABLE Carrier Air Group, the red X on this one is simply an aircraft specific deck code.
Vought /Goodyear Corsair IV
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 2A - More Monoplanes of the Fleet Air Arm (WW2)
Part 3 - Monoplanes of the Fleet Air Arm (Post WW2)
Part 4 - The Supermarine Seafire
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