May 2013
Avro Lancaster B.III

Dmabusters Lancaster

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PoppySelected WW2 70th Anniversaries this month:

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

The Mohne Dam displays the devastating
results of the UPKEEP bouncing bomb

Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-637-4192-20 / Schalber / CC-BY-SA

6 May 1943 - Six U-boats are sunk after sinking 12 ships from Convoy ONS 5, in the last major North Atlantic U-boat "wolfpack" attack of the war.

7 May - Tunis falls to the British 1st Army. On 13th May, the Afrika Korps 164th Infantry Division becomes the last Axis formation in North Africa to surrender. General Alexander signals Winston Churchill: "It is my duty to report that the Tunisian campaign is over. All enemy resistance has ceased." During the following week, 150,000 Germans and Italians become PoWs.

16 May - Operation Chastise - RAF Lancaster bombers attack the Ruhr and Eder dams, causing widespread flooding and disruption. Earlier that same day, the month long operation by the SS to destroy the Warsaw Ghetto completes. 56,065 Jewish inhabitants have been killed.

17 May - The crew of the B-17 bomber Memphis Belle becomes the first in the 8th Air Force to complete a 25-mission tour.

23 May - The RAF drop 2,000 tons of bombs on Dortmund overnight, in the heaviest bombing raid of the war so far.

24 May - In the first 2 weeks of May, Allied forces have sunk 22 of the 60 German U-boats operating in the North Atlantic. Grand Admiral Dönitz orders remaining submarines to halt their attacks on Allied convoys and to make "a temporary shift of operation to areas less endangered by aircraft".

30 May - Dr Josef Mengele arrives as "medical officer" at the Auschwitz extermination camp.

31 May By the end of the month, "Black May" has seen the sinking of 41 U-Boats in a single month. The Battle of the Atlantic will continue for another 2 years, but it has reached its climax and the Allies are now in the ascendant.

Avro Lancaster B Mark III Special
(Type 464 Provisioning)

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

Revell GB 1/72

Entering service in 1942, the Avro Lancaster quickly became the mainstay of the RAF heavy bomber force and is almost certainly the best known RAF bomber of WW2. 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.


The Original Revell GB kit box

The 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.

Article 56 of the Protocol I amendment to the Geneva Conventions was introduced in 1977 and outlaws similar attacks on dams today, "if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces from the works or installations and consequent severe losses among the civilian population".


I have no doubt that a great many modellers will be building Dambusters models this month or this year, to mark the 70th anniversary of Operation Chastise. No doubt too that they will be using the excellent new Airfix kit, or the slightly older but equally feted Revell AG version, or even if they are very rich, the Hasegawa "shake and make" kit.

Me: I'm going to build the ancient Revell GB kit, made in the UK in the 1960s, festooned with overscale rivets and in the case of my example, clearly from a rather tired and overused mould!

In fact, the kit is quite simple, is well engineered and builds surprisingly, although the poorly defined part edges (mould wear I believe) mean that some major seams need a lot of tidying up, with consequent loss of the detail (including those massive rivets that I was planning to remove anyway!). Apart from the rivets, panel line detail is a well judged mix of raised and engraved, unusual given its age. The kit also has many working features, including moveable elevators, moveable ailerons, lowerable outer flaps (but not the inner ones?) and a retracting undercarriage (but not gear doors?). And of course, the turrets turn and propellers move (I omitted the ventral turret as it was removed from most aircraft for the actual raids) . I glued most of these moving parts in fixed positions for added strength.


The cockpit is entirely bare and the large canopy reasonably clear, so I added a plastic card cockpit coaming and drilled out the hole in the after deck for access to the astrodome (a strange omission). Most of the crew figures come from the kit (they are very small, almost Hobbit sized!) although I added a rather better defined bomb aimer in the nose. Canopies were dipped in Klear for added clarity. The wings are a snug and tight fit to the fuselage, so I hope to leave them loose to enable the kit to be dismantled for storage and transport.


As was to be expected given its age, the kit has some significant accuracy issues although its cut away bouncing bomb bay is apparently better shaped and more accurate than that from new Revell or Hasegawa. Oh and its wings have the correct dihedral too! Nevertheless, the rear turret is not a good shape, the main canopy sits rather squint and looks to be too high, the engine nacelles are too curved along their upper edge and the propeller bosses should be more pointed. I am sure that there are more issues, but those are enough to be going on with. Decals are provided for Wing Cdr Gibson's aircraft AJ@G; these were pretty much shot., particularly the roundels, so I used some older FROG decals for these to add some additional details such as wing walkways.

An UPKEEP bouncing bomb beneath AJ-G © IWM (HU 69915)

In fact, this is my second build of this kit. The first was back in the early 1970s, when I saved up sufficient vouchers (and cards) from Brooke-Bond tea packets (pre tea-bag days!) to send off for a Dambusters kit. Sadly it was missing (or I lost) a critical part of the bomb mechanism, so was never quite right, although it flew many missions over the fields and tracks behind my parents house, together with my next door neighbour's old Airfix example, to strike a blow at the strategically important puddles at the bottom of the field.


Building it again some 40 years later has been a most enjoyable flashback to a simpler age and I'm certainly pleased with the results.

Link to more RAF Aircraft on my Friends and Allies Pages

Operation Chastise Lancaster © IWM (ATP 11384B)


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Background Picture - an Avro Lancaster practices dropping the UPKEEP weapon © IWM (FLM 2332)