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.

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.

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.

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.

Friends & Allies Index RAF 1918-45 RAF 1945-80 RAF 1980 on US Aircraft NATO Other Nations French Aircraft Civil Aviation

Friends & Allies

Bombers & Trainers of the Royal Air Force (1918-1945)

Including Commonwealth Air Forces

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.

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Vickers Type 287 Wellesley

14 Sqn Royal Air Force, RAF Amman, Transjordan 1938.

The Vickers Wellesley entered service with the RAF in 1937, with an order for 176 aircraft to equip 7 light bomber squadrons.  Based on the innovative geodetic construction method invented by Sir Barnes Wallis for the R100 airship and intended to be multi role capable (including level and dive bombing, close tactical support and spotting, reconnaissance, torpedo strike and casualty evacuation), it was clearly obsolete before WW2 had even started, with inadequate speed from its single Pegasus engine and a pitifully small bomb load.  

Whilst designing the Wellesley, Barnes Wallis was unsure how the radical structure would perform if a bomb bay was added, so under wing panniers were used to carry the 2,000 lb bomb load and these further reduced performance.  However, the construction method, with its roomy unobstructed interior, proved very successful and would go on to be used in the ubiquitous Wellington Medium Bomber, where its resistance to battle damage proved an invaluable attribute.

The Wellesley achieved a number of long range records in its early days, including a distance record from Ismalia in Egypt to Darwin in Australia, a distance of 7,162 miles, a record that remained unbroken until 1945 and is still (2018) the longest recorded flight by a single piston-engined aircraft.

After the Italian declaration of war in 1940, Wellesleys still equipped 3 squadrons in the Middle East, and these participated in operations over Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia until the end of 19412, with one remaining squadron then switching to maritime patrols over the Red Sea until September 1942.  

Matchbox kits from the late 1970s include some gems such as this unusual aircraft form between WW1 and WW2.

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Lockheed Hudson Mk.III

205 Sqn Royal Air Force Coastal Command

RAF Bircham Newton and RAF Gibraltar, 1941.

The Lockheed Hudson was developed from the late 1930s Lockheed Model 14 high speed airliner.  With minimal modifications, Lockheed provided the British Purchasing Commission with an armed fast light bomber based on a proven airframe.  200 were ordered immediately, the largest ever order that the small Lockheed company had received up to that date.  

Hudsons were mainly employed on maritime patrols with RAF Coastal Command, but also undertook transport and communications roles, including special operations, landing agents and supplies in occupied France.  The Canadian, New Zealand and Australian Air Forces also flew significant numbers of Hudsons in similar roles.  

Nearly 3,000 were built and they continued in front line roles throughout WW2, seeing much success against Axis submarines and surface ships.  

The Airifx Hudson kit was issued in 1963 and is showing its age.  

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