2009 - Part 1
Blackburn Buccaneer S.1, 801 NAS, HMS ARK ROYAL, 1964
Airfix NA39 with various modifications & Model Alliance decals
To start the month off, I am going to tackle a long postponed project - an early Buccaneer in the anti-flash white scheme.
I will be using an old Airfix NA-39 Buccaneer as the basis; this was an e-bay cheapie buy, missing a few key parts, namely the canopy (I have a spare Matchbox one to use) and the nose (yet more Milliput nose surgery in prospect!). Its the Airfix/Craftmaster issue, which was supplied with some of the most bizarre box artistry ever placed on a kit. Clearly a stock WW2 Pacific War picture of a carrier during a Kamikaze attack has had 3 NA39 prototypes superimposed on it - shades of the film Final Countdown. I love the way that Craftmaster proclaim this to be the "Airfix NA 39 Buccaneer". Well, out the box, its certainly not a Blackburn NA39 Buccaneer!!
There has been much speculation as to whether the more recent Airfix S.2 kit was a re-working of this mould or a new mould - I don't have access to an S.2 kit at the moment, but I have taken a sprue shot for comparison later during the build (when I can find the other kit in the stash!) (p.s - see below)
A quick picture of the real thing at Yeovilton.
So; what needs to be done. Well, quite a lot really. The NA39 underwent quite a few changes to become the S.1, and the Airfix kit has some of these, but not others. I'm not aiming at 100% accuracy here, but will correct, or at least modify, the main differences and shortfalls of the kit:
Arming The Buccaneer: In its original form the Buccaneer was designed as a Naval Nuclear Strike Aircraft, specifically targeted against Soviet Sverdlov Class Cruisers, which, it was deemed, posed a real threat to NATO surface ships. For this role it carried Red Beard, the UK's first tactical nuclear weapon (10-20 Kiloton). Red Beard was a large and unsophisticated fission weapon; it had to be fully armed before launch, clearly not sensible for carrier operations (indeed Buccaneers were forbidden to land on carrying a live weapon), and at an all-up weight of around 1700 Kg, it placed significant limits on the Buccaneer's range. For normal operations the Buccaneer's bombs would be carried in an internal rotating bomb bay, but for Red Beard, a conformal tray was loaded instead, with the single bomb remaining in a position where it protruded into the slipstream, but was relatively protected from the elements and from buffeting.
For the Naval Buccaneer S.2, Red Beard was substituted in the 1970s by the much lighter WE177A weapon, of which it could carry two.
For this build I have taken the 1/72 Red Beard kindly supplied by Airfix for their TSR2 kit, and constructed a new bomb bay.
Shake and Make, this kit is most certainly not! I had intended this to be a fairly simple build, but the base kit has so many deficiencies, that I have added more to this build than any other this year. Intakes, compressors, cockpit etc are now all in place and the 2 fuselage halves are being joined together; no mean task as they do not fit well - one for the putty later I fear. I have also added the basis of the tail plane bullets (from the Airfix S.2's Martel Data Pod, using the S.2 kit as a template).
The new bomb bay and the revised tailhook fairings are also in place, with Tippex applied ready to sand down. I've left the kit's working wing fold intact (who knows, it may still work after the glue has dried!!!!), but as a result I probably will not be able to drop the inner flap sections (will have to have a think about that one).
The seams on this kit really are extremely rough; I remember building one in the 1970s which left a lasting impression, such that I have never trusted kits with horizontally split fuselages since!! The tailplane bullets are now fitted, with putty used to build up the remaining fairing shape, plus the first part of the new putty nose is also in place. Next up, hacking up a ball point pen to provide the missing tail pipes (this kit has the original "see through" fuselage!)
The wings came back off after the fuselage was dry, so I have revisited my attempts to drop the inner flaps (just as well, because I have dropped the outer wing "flaperons" and it would thus look very wrong if the inner didn't match. I had thought that this would be easier once the fuselage was assembled, but I think that for my next Buccaneer, I will do this modification before joining the fuselage (n.b the newer Airfix kit does not have the separate flaperons, so dropping flaps is probably a bigger job all-round).
Ball point pen exhausts are in place, seams and Tippex are sanded back and the first section of the new nose has been sanded to approximate shape, whilst the new intake on the fin has been added from a spare part of sprue (to be sanded to shape in due course). The tailplane bullets are OK, but not wonderful; I will see how they look after a coat of paint before deciding if they need to be re-done.
I have now managed to track down the more recent Airfix kit in the stash and it makes an interesting comparison. So far as I can see, the only parts that are the same are the undercarriage doors. Every other part is significantly different in some way. The only give-away to the mould's origins is the fact that the old kit part numbers (which are different from the new numbers) are engraved on the inside of the 2 nose pieces. The least modified parts are the airbrakes, whose strakes are changed in shape, but the undercarriage parts, which are disappointingly crude on the newer kit and often cited as evidence that Airfix simply modified the older mould) are in fact entirely different! - both are equally as crude, but the older kit's ones are much smaller and thinner.
In all, I would conclude that the newer kit is definitely based on its predecessor, but that Airfix really did a significant amount of work to it, such that it is effectively a new kit.
After sanding and painting, the new tail bullets look much better than I thought. The new nose cone will still be a challenge, although it seems to have got off to a good start. I've also noticed that the kit lacks the bullet fairings behind the jet pipes, which I will try to add. At the same time, it is very noticeable that the tailpipes are far too far aft (about 15mm - more than a scale meter/3ft - further back than the newer kit). So, it's out with the razor saw again.
Around this point, I have begun to understand that the easiest way to build an S.1 is actually to back-convert an S.2, not up-convert an NA39. Too late to stop now though. The new tailpipes, which looked pretty good before I shortened them, are a shambles, but we will see what some putty can do. The dropped inner flaps are OK though.
Putty applied to the jetpipes, wings back on, another layer of the new radome applied and the air brakes in place. I'm delighted to report that at this point, with the main gear attached, the kit is no longer a tail-sitter!
After some heavy duty sanding, the new nose looks almost there - I will put some paint on it tonight and have another look in the morning. With the new tailpipes looking adequate (!), the rear part of the airframe is pretty much done now, so i am steadily trying to build up the white coats until I get reasonable coverage. I'm using Humbrol 130 Satin enamel , which is certainly a very nice brushing paint, but not particularly opaque.
And after a little more paint. I find that in every model build, there is a point where the hacked and glued plastic begins to look like the end product, and my motivation gets a real boost; it appears as though I may have cracked this one!
The nose isn't quite right yet, so a little more work required there, but otherwise, we seem to be making progress.
I have now thinned the nose out quite considerably, and it is certainly better, although I am still not entirely happy with it. I have also added a few extra protruberances (antenna, scoops etc) and the fwd undercarriage door. Main panel lines have been lightly outlined in pencil, then covered with a coat of thinned white. And with that, I guess I am pretty much ready for decalling.
The decals went on without problem, and with a quick satin coat over the top to protect them, I think I will call it a day for this one. I have used a different varnish from usual for this kit - this is Microscale's acrylic "Micro Satin", applied by brush, and I am very pleased with the results:
Omaha Beach, "Easy Red sector" Normandy, 6 June 1944.
Airfix - Out the Box, with minor additions.
'Andrew Higgins.is the man who won the war for us. If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.' - General Eisenhower - Supreme Allied Commander, Operation Overlord
Whilst the Buccaneer's putty is setting, and to commemorate the 65th Anniversary of D-Day, I have built the Airfix Higgins Boat LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle & Personnel). This is a superb little kit at an even better price, and definitely wins the all-time record for box/price versus amount of plastic - the standard sized Airfix box is absoutely full to the gunwhales with parts, including a pletora of beach obstacles! The Higgins boat was a superb yet simple design, that revolutionised amphibious warfare. Over 20,000 were built, and saw service in all theatres during WW2, from the landings in North Africa, through Sicily, Normandy and on to the Pacific. Later on, it would see further service in Korea and even Vietnam.
Detail on the kit is a little soft, and I didn't even attempt to rig the complex ramp cable assembly (although thread is provided!). It is perhaps a pity that Airfix (& Heller - it was a co-production) went for the US boat, rather than the home-grown British LCA (which also carried many US Troops ashore on D-Day) but I guess that in numerical terms (and in kit market terms) this was the dominant design.
In any event, this excellent kit is unreservedly recommended.
Sixty-five years after the event, it is all too easy to believe that successful Allied Liberation of mainland Europe was a foregone conclusion. It was not. Even today, there are still hundreds of single story, brick H-shaped government offices in use across the UK; these ugly functional buildings stand in testament to the sombre expectations of that day ; they were originally built as emergency hospitals, to accomodate the huge numbers of casualties expected. Both Eisenhower and Churchill had prepared resignation speeches, in the event that the landings were a disaster; if these landings failed, there would be no others.
The landings nearly did falter; even though they were taken by surprise, the German defence of the Normandy beaches was fierce and effective. For many US Troops in particular, it was their first real taste of combat, against a battle-hardened and professional army. But thanks to the incredible leadership, bravery and most of all, persistence of the men who landed on those beaches or were dropped by parachute that day, the beachhead was established and the final defeat of Nazi Germany had begun.
Victory came at a high cost, even if not as high as many feared. 160,000 men landed in France on the 6th of June alone. Over a 50 mile beach front, it is estimated that over 19,000 became casualties on that first day, with nearly 4,500 Allied troops and sailors killed. On Omaha beach alone, 2,200 US servicemen were killed.
nearly half a million more (from both sides) were to become casualties over the next months, fighting through the hedgerows, lanes and cities of Normandy.
D-Day 6 June 1944 - Allied Order of Battle
First Army (83,115 Men):
Marines: 41 Cdo, 45 Cdo, 46 Cdo, 47 Cdo, 48 Cdo.
United States Second Army (73,000 Men):
V-Corps, 1st Inf Div, 29 Inf Div, 2 Ranger Btn, 5 Ranger Btn, VII Corps, 4th Inf Div, 325 RCT/90th Inf Div, 101 Airborne Div, 82 Airborne.
Resistance forces across France and the Low Countries also contributed a significant effort to assist the landings.
Invasion Fleet - 6,939 vessels from 8 Navies
Intense screening and sea denial activity also took place across European waters to prevent Kreigsmarine involvement in the Normandy battle.
As well as the transport aircraft used for airborne landings, overall Allied Air Supremacy was a critical element of the landings, with maximum effort applied by the RAF, USAAF and Fleet Air Arm, including Operations Glimmer & Taxable, extensive air diversionary attacks in the Pas de Calais area, to sustain the German's mistaken belief that this would be the site of the main landing.