Royal Navy Aircraft - WW2 Monoplanes Part 1

Skua, Roc, Fulmar Buffalo and Kingfisher


Blackburn Skua II, 803 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, HMS ARK ROYAL, Mediterranean, 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 II - 803 Sqn RNAS Hatston/HMS ARK ROYAL/GLORIOUS, Norway, May 1940

This is the old Frog Kit (also available from Revell, Novo and Eastern Express etc.) with some spare decals from the Octopus kit above. It's not a very accurate representation, particularly beneath the wings, where the storage for the single dive bomb is completely missing. Its wing chord is also woefully too narrow (compare with the Octopus kit above).

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 faster German fighter and bomber 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.

Pavla 1/72

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, (Mdshipman A G Day RN).

For more information on the Roc, please have a look at this excellent website:

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

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.

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.

Fleet Air Arm Props - Index The RNAS - 1914-1918 Biplanes 1918-1946 WW2 Monoplanes Post WW2

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Skuas began WW2 in bright aluminium finishes which were gradually toned down, losing the colourful fuselage carrier codes and eventually gaining camouflage on their upper surfaces.  

This Skua, using the FROG kit and Special Hobby decals, represents an aircraft from HMS ARK Royal at the outbreak of the war, shortly before 803 sqn scored the first confirmed British air to air victory of WW2

Blackburn Skua Mk II, 803 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, HMS ARK ROYAL, July 1939

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