Friends & Allies - Part 1A




Fixed wing aircraft of the Royal Air Force (1918-1945)

(including Commonwealth Air Forces and all with some sort of naval connection!)

Supermarine Spitfire Vb, 249 Sqn RAF, HMS EAGLE / RAF Takali, Malta 1942

This is the old Airfix Mk Vb Spitfire kit, which can definitely still hold its own with more modern kits. I have made some very small modifications; the distinctive Volkes tropical air filter under the nose, using the parts from an Airfix Mk Vc kit, a shorter blunter propeller boss and a seat harness. Link to build page


7 March 1942 saw the first deliveries of 15 Spitfire Vb aircraft to the the besieged island of Malta. Transported through the Mediterranean by sea and launched from the flight deck of the carrier HMS EAGLE, at a distant position some 650 miles from the island, the Spitfires were escorted across the Med by Blenheims and shepherded in to land by Malta's Hurricanes.


Their timely arrival at the height of the siege gave the defending air forces an aircraft that could out-match the German and Italian fighters.


The aircraft depicted by this model was flown by Flying Officer Robert McNair RAF, who claimed one damaged enemy aircraft (a Bf109) on the 18th March 1942.



A Spitfire flies from the deck of HMS EAGLE on its way to Malta

© IWM (A7839)



Click to see a larger image


© Image Copyright Bruce McNair.

Used with kind permission



Post Building Note: Robert "Buck" McNair's son has been kind enough to get in touch with me and forwarded a copy of his father's logbook covering the events of 1st to 29th March 1942, including record of the damaged Bf109 on the 18th March (one of 4 sorties McNair flew that day).


To see the logbook page in full, please click on the thumbnail image at the left


As built, the Spitfire was equipped with simple 2 position flaps (either fully open or fully closed), intended for landing only. To enable them to take off safely from EAGLE's short 660 ft deck, wooden wedges were jammed into the flaps to prevent them closing fully. After take-off, the pilots lowered the flaps fully so that the wedges fell out, then retracted them as normal.

This was the first ever deployment of the Spitfire outside the European theatre; a second delivery of 9 Spitfires from HMS EAGLE arrived on 21 March. The fact that they could be spared from the defence of the UK was a clear a reflection of the growing strength and confidence of the British forces. The crews adopted the same tactics that had served so well during the Battle of Britain 2 years earlier; Spitfires stayed high and engaged the escorting fighters, whilst the Hurricanes attacked the bombers flying below.

Handley Page Hampden, 49 Sqn, RAF Bomber Command, Scampton 1940.

Another re-issued Airfix gem, the Hampden kit is surprisingly good for its age and gains a new set of finely printed decals in its latest guise, including the ones that I have used. The aircraft depicted was flown by Flt Lt Roderick Learoyd RAF when he led an attack the heavily defended Dortmund-Ems canal in August 1940, for which he was awarded the VC. Building the kit was straight forward with a good fit in most places, although the undercarriage proved fiddly and fitting the fragile guns to the clear parts without damaging either was difficult. I added quite a lot of scratch detail to the cockpit, but of course, nothing of this can be seen (typical!). Link to Build Page

The HP52 Hampden medium bomber was designed to the same specification as the Whitley and Wellington, but adopted a rather different design approach, placing the crew in a very narrow forward pod and adopting a long slender boom to hold the tail assembly, not unlike Dornier's "Flying Pencil" Do-18 bomber. Of roughly similar performance to its RAF stablemates, the Hampden first flew in 1936, but like so many other aircraft of that fast moving era, by the time war came it was being left behind and quickly proved to be no match for the Luftwaffe's fighters. Nearly half of the 1430 Hampdens built were lost in combat, typifying the dreadful casualties suffered by Bomber Command Crews during WW2.

Hampdens quickly assumed the less risky night bombing role, including mine laying of German ports. Along with the Wellington, they bore the brunt of the RAF medium bombing effort during the early years of the war and participated in many of the early bombing raids on Germany, including raids on Berlin 70 years ago this month.

Later on, Hampdens were fitted with torpedoes and used very successfully by Coastal Command and the Soviet Navy in anti-shipping roles.

Boulton Paul Defiant NF.1, 256 Sqn, RAF Catterick/RAF Prestwick 1940.

This is the Airfix kit in its current (2008) issue. The kit is infamous for its glaring inaccuracies, most noticeably the incredibly skinny nose. Nevertheless, with a little putty and plastic card, it can at least be converted into something that looks like a Defiant! Link to Build Page

The Defiant represented an evolutionary cul-de-sac in the development of the fighter. It was conceived as an agile fighter, capable of darting through lumbering formations of unescorted heavy bombers, whilst wreaking havoc all around with its heavy turret mounted guns, much as the Bristol Fighter had done during WW1. Sadly, the performance penalty arising from the heavy and bulky turret was significant, and in any event, by 1939 the Luftwaffe were playing a different game, concentrating on light, agile and fast tactical bombers with high performance Bf109 fighters in close attendance.

Thanks to the element of surprise, the Defiants' first daytime encounters were successful, with no less than 38 kills on one day. However, the Luftwaffe quickly changed tactics, attacking from ahead or underneath (Defiants had no forward firing guns), with depressingly predictable results. The RAF's losses were unsustainable ("its not aircraft we need, its pilots"), so it was rapidly transferred to night operations where it was not vulnerable to escorting fighters. It was remarkably successful in this role; indeed, most German aircraft shot down during the London Blitz were the victims of Defiant night fighters. However, the Defiant's glory was short lived and it soon passed to support roles, as target towing aircraft with the RAF and Fleet Air Arm.

Defiants from 125 Sqn, based at Rerne played a significant but largely ineffective role in the Bath Blitz, during the infamous April 1942 Baedeker raids, named after the famous German Tourist handbook. In retaliation for the RAF's destruction of cultural sites in Lubeck and Rostock, the Luftwaffe vowed to destroy every British city with more than 3 stars in the guidebook. Despite the city hosting 2 key operational night fighter bases and 10 Group's Sector Control HQ at RAF Box, the attackers circled unmolested above the city of Bath on 2 consecutive nights, destroying much of the city centre and killing over 400 inhabitants. At least part of the reason for this ineffectiveness was that 125 Sqn were half way through converting from the Defiant to the Beaufighter and not fully worked up in their new tactics. 87 Sqn's Hurricane night fighters, from RAF Charmy Down just outside the city, found it equally difficult to attack because the Nazi aAF Colircraft were flying in tight circles and unusually low (the bombers, having dropped their bomb loads, were now strafing civilians on the streets). As the next night's second raid unfolded (that night, the German aircraft, astonished by the lack of any defence, had returned to France, refuelled and flown back for a second go), out of sheer desperation, several RAF aircrew abandoned their Beaufighters and reverted to their familiar, but recently decommissioned Defiants, sadly to little effect; one aircraft managed to hit a Ju88, causing minimal damage before crash landing back at Colerne, another attacked the raiders only to find that his gun firing mechanism had been dismantled, whilst a third failed to join the fray at all, due to an intercom failure.

Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk VII, 612 Sqn RAF Coastal Command,

RAF Wick, Scotland, March 1943.

The old FROG Whitley is long past its best, but still conveys the brutalist lines of this important ant-submarine aircraft.

First flying in 1936, the Whitley along with the Hampden and Wellington carried the brunt of RAF heavy bomber activity during the early parts of WW2, including the first RAF bombing raids on German territory. An awkward looking aircraft with a strange nose-down attitude in flight, the main variants were powered by two Rolls Royce Merlin engines.

Whitleys were allocated to the night bombing role from the start and thus never experienced the dreadful casualties seen by their peers. This, combined with docile and reliable handing, resulted in the aircraft gaining a very popular reputation with RAF crews; in addition it meant that there were always plenty of Whitleys around, allowing it to be converted for many other tasks. By 1942, fitted with anti ship radar in its comparatively roomy fuselage, additional fuel tanks in the bomb bay and carrying an extra crew member for extended patrols, long range Whitley Mk VIIs were in wide service with Coastal Command, achieving their first U-boat kill (U-751) in July 1942.

Although production of the Whitley ceased in June 1943, a great many Whitleys remained in service with special operations and airborne forces squadrons right up to the end of the war, conducting covert and clandestine insertions of troops and agents by parachute into occupied Europe. The Fleet Air Arm also operated a number of Whitleys as a multi-engine training aircraft from 1944-1946

612 Sqn RAF operated the Whitley on Anti-Submarine duties from November 1940 until replaced by Wellingtons in mid-1943, with the last Whitley mission from its main base at RAF Wick in Scotland taking place in April 1943.

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina Mk III, 131 OTU RAF Coastal Command,

RAF Killidas, N. Ireland 1943.

The Airfix Catalina amphibian is a fairly old kit, which doesn't really match up to today's standards. Its a fun build though, especially with all those working features!

The Catalina is perhaps the most successful seaplane ever built and played a key role in the Battle of the Atlantic, attacking surfaced U-Boats in the North Atlantic and Bay of Biscay. It was a Catalina of 209 Sqn (originally RNAS Naval 9 Sqn) that located the Bismark in May 1941, enabling her final destruction by the ships and aircraft of the Home Fleet and Force H from Gibraltar.

Scottish RAF Catalina pilot, Flying Officer John Cruickshank of 210 Sqn RAF, was awarded the Victoria Cross, one of four VCs awarded to Coastal Command during WW2:

On 17 July/18 July 1944 Flying Officer Cruickshank, on anti-submarine patrol in the North Atlantic, was attacking a U-boat in a hail of flak shells when one burst inside the aircraft, causing a great deal of damage. One member of the crew was killed and two wounded, and although he too had been hit - it was later found that he had 12 wounds, two serious wounds to his lungs and ten penetrating wounds to his lower limbs - Flying Officer Cruickshank went in again, releasing his depth charges, which straddled the U-boat perfectly, and it sank. On the hazardous 5 1/2-hour return journey the flying officer several times lost consciousness, but insisted on helping to land the Catalina. Criuickshank spent 6 months recuperating, but never flew again.

In 2013 John Cruickshank was guest of honour at the RAF Benevolent Funds celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic. He is the last surviving recipient of the VC for air action in World War II.

On 7 May 1945, a Catalina of No.210 squadron RAF (formed as Naval 10 Sqn, RNAS) sank the 196th and last U-boat claimed by Coastal Command.


Curtis P-40E Kittyhawk Mk.1A

112 Squadron RAF, 239 Wing, Western Desert Air Force,

Amriya South LG.91, Egypt, August 1942

Hasegawa's P40E kit is one of their very first engraved moulds and is a joy to build. Fit is near perfect, detail is restrained but adequate.

Early in 2012, an abandoned P-40 was discovered in remarkable condition in the Egyptian desert. It had crashed, possibly due to combat, whilst being ferried to a rear area for repairs. Although it was clear that the pilot, Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping RAF had survived the crash, as yet his final resting place has not been found. Link to Daily Mail pictures of Flt Sgt Copping's crashed P-40

The P-40 Warhawk first flew in 1938. Essentially an in-line Allison V-1710 powered development of the radial P-36 Hawk, initial versions were known as the Tomahawk, with the name Kittyhawk adopted for the RAF P-40D and later variants. The high altitude performance of the P-40 was inadequate for the European Theatre, but the P-40 found its niche with the Commonwealth Desert Air Force (DAF) in North Africa, not least as a ground attack aircraft.

Nearly 14,000 P-40s were built during the war.

P-40s replaced Western Desert Air Force Hurricanes in early 1941; 112 Sqn RAF was the first unit to use the P-40 in combat and introduced the distinctive shark's mouth marking under the nose, subsequently emulated by many other P-40 units in different theatres. 112 Sqn's aircraft participated in the fighting around El-Alamein and Alam el Halfa in August 1942.

The first ever USAAF combat victory against a Luftwaffe aircraft was claimed in August 1942 by a P-40 based out of Reyjavik in Iceland.


Martin A-30A Baltimore Mk.IIIA, 223 Sqn RAF, 232 Bomber Wing,

Western Desert Air Force, November 1942.

Frog 1/72: first issued in 1963, the kit is very basic, representing (I think) the later Mk IV variant. Parts fit is variable; the wings and fuselage fitted very well, but the wing and tailplane to fuselage joints were very bad. Panel lines are lightly raised, but the transparencies are thick and not particularly clear, even after dipping in Klear. My kit had no transfers with it, so these are some generic ones from my spares box. Link to Build Page

The Baltmore was a highly successful development of Martin's earlier Maryland light bomber, with a larger fuselage and other improvements produced at the request of the French and the RAF.

The aircraft served in significant numbers with RAF and Commonwealth squadrons (Australian & SAAF) in North Africa and the Mediterranean, as the light bomber backbone of the Desert Air Force. Its narrow and deep fuselage, reminiscent of the Hampden, was not an ideal layout, severely limiting the ability of the crew to move around the aircraft, but its high speed, agility and reasonable bomb load were a welcome addition to the Allied air forces.

The Mark IIIa was the first Baltimore variant supplied as Lend-Lease, replacing the earlier variants' open gun position or powered Boulton Paul turret with a twin 50 cal armed Martin version. Baltimores saw wide action in the close air support role, from Alam-el-Halfa and El-Alamein, through the Tunisian Campaign, the invasion of Sicily and on to the Italian mainland.

After WW2, the robust and lightweight Baltimore saw further service as a high speed research aircraft with the US Navy, capable of Mach 0.74 in a dive.

Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter TF. X, 236 Sqn RAF Coastal Command,

RAF North Coates 1944.

Another ancient Airfix kit, this mould was first issued in 1958! There are many more modern Beaufighter kits around, but this one is still fun!

The Bristol Beaufighter was developed from the Blenheim and the Beaufort torpedo bomber. By using the main assemblies from the Beaufort, its development was exceptionally fast; confidence was so high that a 300 aircraft production contract was placed with Bristol before the prototype had first flown.

Originally employed as a night fighter, later on it made its mark as a torpedo and rocket armed anti-shipping aircraft, where its speed, range and maneuverability were significant assets. Over 5,500 Beaufighters were built in the UK, by Bristol, Fairey Aviation and the Rootes car factories. Another 365 were built under licence in Australia.

The North Coates Strike Wing of RAF Coastal Command was the largest and most successful dedicated anti-shipping formation of WW2.

Bristol Type 142 Blenheim Mk. IV F, 254 Sqn RAF Coastal Command,

RAF Stradishall, September 1940.

Yet another vintage Airfix kit, this mould was first issued in 1968.

The Bristol Blenheim formed the mainstay of Bomber Command during the early years of WW2. When it first entered service, it was faster than most contemporary fighters, but by 1940 it had been outclassed, and suffered badly during the Battle of France. number of RAF squadrons used the Blenheim as a fighter, both within Fighter Command and Coastal Command, where Blenheims often flew top-cover for rescue launches recovering RAF pilots shot down during the Battle of Britain.

Miles Master Mk.III, RAF Training Command, August 1941.

The ancient Frog kit of the Master remains available from various Eastern European sources. Although lacking in details (for example in its entirely bare cockpit), in its original Frog issue it is a nicely engineered kit and a worthy representation of this key WW2 Trainer.

The Miles Master was one of the most important British fighter trainers of WW2. Over 3,000 were built by Phillips & Powis Aircraft Ltd at Woodley in Berkshire. Originally powered by an in-line Rolls Royce Kestrel engine, later variants were powered by the Bristol Mercury and P&W Twin Wasp Junior engines.

Brewster B-339E Buffalo 1, 453 Sqn Royal Australian Air Force

Sembawang, Singapore & Ipoh/Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, December 1941

A slightly newer Airfix mould; as one of the last Airfix kits to be issued in poly bags, I beieve it hails from the early 1970s (although strangely, the Arthur Ward Airfix book does not mention its release date). Its nicer than the Matchbox equivalent and an easy build, although you need to get rid of  those rivets!

Brewster's stubby Buffalo fighter was a reasonable design, let down by extremely poor build quality arising largely from Brewster's lack of volume manufacturing experience.

In Finnish hands, after a local re-build, it performed very well, but for UK and Commonwealth Air Forces operating it "as delivered", it was a big disappointment, verging on a liability. After a disastrous start during the battle for Crete, the Fleet Air Arm's achieved some success with the Buffalo in the Western Desert, using aircaft diverted from Belgian and French orders.

The original batch of Buffaloes procured for the RAF by the British Purchasing Commission in Washington were quickly diverted to the Far East and issued to Commonwealth squadrons, including 453 Sqn RAAF. Following the Japanese invasion of Malaysia on 8th Dec, 453 moved north to Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh airfields, to provide close support to the defending Commonwealth troops.

After 3 weeks of intense fighting, 453 was withdrawn to Singapore on 24th December with only 6 aircraft remaining serviceable. The squadron continued to fight in Malaysia and over Singapore until February 1942, managing to achieve a creditable kill ratio of 2:1 despite the limitations of the Buffalo and the desperate operational situation.

453 Squadrons was assigned to support Force Z, led by battleships HM Ships PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE, on their ill-fated foray north to intercept the Japanese invasion fleet. Despite having agreed a sound plan of action with the ships' operations team that would achieve constant fighter cover for the ships, a combination of confusion (PoW believed that fighter cover was not available so did not ask for it), poor intelligence (PoW believed that no Japanese aircraft were in flying range), what seems to have been shear arrogance (PoW believed that Battleships were not seriously threatened by air power), and utter desperation (whatever the risk, the RN could not stand idly by as Commonwealth land forces desperately fought to repel the invasion), led to the loss of both ships (the first ever capital ships to be lost to air power on the open sea) and the unnecessary death of nearly 400 sailors.

At the last minute, the Captain of REPULSE, defying his Flag Officer's orders, broke wireless silence to radio for help; Buffaloes from 453 Sqn were quickly on the scene, but it was too late.

Avro Lancaster B Mk. III Special (Type 464 Provisioning)

617 Sqn Royal Air Force "The Dambusters" RAF Scampton, 16/17 May 1943

This is the ancient Revell GB Dambusters kit from the 1960s. Not really up to modern standards, but still great fun to build. Link to Build Page

Entering service in 1942, the Avro Lancaster quickly became the mainstay of the RAF heavy bomber force. Powered by 4 Rolls Royce Merlin engines, it was reliable, handled well and could carry a significant bomb load in its long unobstructed bomb bay.

On the evening of 16th May 1943, specially modified Lancasters of 617 Sqn RAF undertook a daring and skillful raid on the Ruhr dams, using a novel bouncing bomb designed by Barnes Wallis and known as UPKEEP. The raid was judged successful, with the Mohne and Edersee dams breached and the Sorpe Dam damaged. However, 8 of the 19 Lancasters that took part in the raid did not return, with 53 aircrew killed and 3 taken prisoner.

The Dambusters raids proved a major boost to Allied morale, but due to a lack of effective follow up action, their military effect was limited. Unfortunately, over 3,000 people died as a result of the flooding, nearly half of whom were Prisoners of War or forced slave labourers from Nazi occupied countries.

Disruption to the industrial Ruhr valley was significant but short lived; critical hydro-electric power and water supplies were restored by the end of June.

CAC13 Boomerang, 4 Sqn Royal Australian Air Force

Shaggy Ridge, Ramu Valley, Finnisterre, New Guinea, January 1944

The Airfix boomerang is an old kit, simple and rather crude, but still entirely buildable. My list suggests it was first issued in 1965, but mine is a 1990s issue, with typically poor Heller-era decals and "censored" box-art. Link to Build Page

During the early years of WW2, Australia began to be alarmed by the prospect of British-supplied aircraft becoming unavailable, and with the Japanese threat growing they commenced several programmes to build aircraft locally and develop their own indigenous designs.

The Boomerang was one of the latter, evolved from the DOuglas Harvard and CAC Wirraway, it wa sintended as a fighter, but found its niche in the close ground support role over the jungles of New Guinea and Bougainville, where it operated in a close team arrangement with Corsair aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

De Havilland Mosquito FB Mk.VI, 143 Sqn RAF Coastal Command

RAF Banff, Aberdeenshire, October 1944.

Tamiya have a well earned reputation for prodicing superbly engineered kits.  1/72 is not their normal scale (most Tamiya 1/72 kits seem  to be Italeri-based) but their Mosquito is home-grown and a prime example of Tamiya quality.

Almost perfect fit, very well judged surface detail and a reputation for accuracy make this a desirable and very pleasing kit to build.

143 Sqn was a Coastal Command Fighter Squadron, based out of North Coates and various RAF bases in the South West.  In September 1944 the Squadron transitioned to the Mosquito from  its Beaufighters and moved to RAF Banff in Scotland.  

As part of the Banff Strike Wing it conducted anti-shipping operations along the Norwegian coast right up until E day.

This kit came to me courtesy of Mrs T, who found it in a charity shop for the grand sum of £2, fully built but unpainted. Fortunately I already have the same kit in the stash for a future project, allowing me to use the spare decals to refurbish this one.

Hawker Tempest Mk.V, 3 Sqn RAF - 2nd Tactical Air Force,

Volkel AFB, Netherlands, May 1945.

The Tempest was a development of the Typhoon, overcoming many of the technical and operational issues that plagued its predecessor, and introducing a new laminar flow wing similar to that fitted on the P-51D Mustang.  In this new form the aircraft was transformed into perhaps the ulltimate British prop-drivenfighter development of WW2.  Unlike the Typhoon, it was effective at high altitude, thus able to perform its intended role as a fighter, but remained stable at low altitudes allowing it to undertake the same ground attack missions as the Typhoon.

Tempests participated in D-Day, then as part of 2nd Tactical Air Force, began the well known tasks of attacking ground targets across occupied Europe as the Allies pushed North and East into Germany.  One particular role, along with Typhoons was to loiter around German airfields awaiting their returning fighters, who were short on fuel and ammunition, and thus easy prey for the aircraft of the 2TAF.

This model represents the mount of top scoring French Ace, Pierre Closterman, who flew with the RAF from 1942 until the end of the war.  Officially credited with 33 air to air victories, he was also able to claim 225 motor vehicles , 72 locomotives and 5 tanks destroyed, plus two E-boats sunk.



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Republic P-47 Thunderbolt Mk.1, 135 Sqn RAF India Command

Chittagong, Eastern India, June 1945.

In may ways, the P-47 was the US Army’s equivalent of the Navy Hellcat - rugged and heavily armed, it could carry nearly half the bomb load of the B-17 Flying Fortress (albeit over a shorter range).  

Intended as a high altitude fighter, it was equally capable as a low level ground attack aircraft, a role in which the RAF successfully used over 700 Thunderbolts of several variants., mainly in Burma and India.  By mid 1945 it was being widely replaced in US service by P-51D Mustangs  and the RAF also decided to retire its Thunderbolt squadrons as the war in Burma began to draw to a close.  

Another old FROG kit, this one is basic in the extreme, with no interior cockpit detail and a rather suspect overall shape. It dates originally from 1959, although mine is a 1974 issue with rescribed and rather more delicate panel lines than the first version of this kit.

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An old FROG kit with rather basic detail.  It is an easy buiild, but really one for the enthusiast these days.  

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