Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fleet Air Arm Pilots in the Battle of Britain

Seventy-five years after the Battle of Britain, a small subset of pilots who fought in the crowded skies above England have almost been forgotten.  They are the Fleet Air Arm pilots, who took to the air, along with their Royal Air Force counterparts, to defend the British Isles.

Some of the Fleet Air Arm pilots while training with 7 Operational Training Unit at
RAF Hawarden  in June 1940.  Jimmy Gardner, Admiral Blake, Dickie Cork,
and Francis Dawson-Paul can be seen in this photo.  

During the Battle, the Fleet Air Arm had one resource that the RAF desperately needed:  pilots.  While aircraft could be built rather quickly in factories, it took time to train men. In the dark days of 1940, the FAA loaned a small group of pilots to the RAF for attachment to their expanding complement of fighter squadrons.  Two of these pilots, Sub Lieutenant Francis Dawson-Paul, who flew Spitfires with 64 Squadron, and Sub Lieutenant Arthur “Admiral” Blake, who flew Spitfires with 19 Squadron, quickly became aces.

As always, Canadian-born pilots were included in the mix.  Two Canadian Fleet Air Arm pilots were to earn their Battle of Britain clasp with Fighter Command.

Jack Conway Carpenter was born in Toronto, but as a young boy returned to his ancestral Wales.  He joined the Fleet Air Arm in 1939, but was attached to the RAF in June 1940.  He joined 229 Squadron flying Hurricanes, but was quickly transferred to 46 Squadron, which also flew Hurricanes.  While flying with 46 Squadron, he downed a Bf-110 on September 3, 1940, then shot down a Bf-109 on September 5, 1940.  Sadly, his short life ended just a few days later when he was shot down while flying Hurricane P3201.  He attempted to bail out of his stricken aircraft, but his parachute failed to open.

Roy Baker-Falkner, was born in England, but grew up in British Columbia.  He is better known for leading attacks against the Tirpitz during Operation Tungsten in 1944, but  was also involved in the Battle of Britain.  Sadly, his contribution to the Battle with Fighter Command is unknown, but he was awarded the Battle of Britain clasp for having flown at least one operational sortie with RAF Fighter Command during the period of July 10, 1940 to October 31, 1940.  (There is no question that Baker-Falkner was flying operations with 812 Squadron during the Battle of Britain.  This Fleet Air Arm unit, flying Fairey Swordfish, was attached to RAF Coastal Command for laying mines in German-held harbors as well as bombing sorties against German invasion barges.  However, only pilots attached to Fighter Command during the Battle are eligible for the Battle of Britain clasp.  While one can debate the merit of the decision to leave out bomber and Coast Command aircrew who served during the Battle, it appears possible that Baker-Falkner was not actually eligible to receive the clasp.)

Dickie Cork of 242 Squadron and Admiral Blake during the Battle of

A further Canadian connection to the Battle are the three Fleet Air Arm pilots attached to 242 (Canadian) Squadron.  Ostensibly, a Canadian squadron, 242 Squadron always had a complement of non-Canadian pilots attached to the unit.  After suffering heavy losses in France, Midshipman Peter Patterson, Sub Lieutenant Richard “Dickie” Cork, and Sub/Lt. Jimmy Gardner joined the Squadron in the summer of 1940.  While Patterson was killed in September 1940, both Dickie Cork and Jimmy Gardner made ace while flying with the Canadians of 242 Squadron.  Dickie Cork flew as the wingman for 242 Squadron’s famous CO Douglas Bader, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his “exemplary courage and coolness in successful action against enemy bombers.”  He later commanded 880 Squadron flying Sea Hurricanes, but was killed in a Corsair crash in 1944.  Jimmy Gardner survived the Battle and returned to fly with the Fleet Air Arm for the rest of the war.  To retain their nautical flavor during their time with the RAF, Cork and Garner wore naval uniforms and Gardner painted Nelson’s Trafalgar "England Expects" signal on the side of his Hurricane.  (Photos courtesy of the Fleet Air Arm Museum.)

The left side of Jimmy Gardner’s 242 Squadron Hurricane was painted
with Nelson’s "England Expects" signal from the Battle of Trafalger.
It is believed that the Hurricane which carried this art was P2884 LE-V.  Gardner
flew LE-V most often with 242 Squadron.

Modeler's Note:  Xtradecal has recently issued a decal sheet in both 1/72 and 1/48 scale which includes aircraft flown by Gardner and Cork.  Sadly, there are some issues with the depiction of Gardner’s aircraft as they have included no serial number, the aircraft is incorrectly marked as LE-T, and they’ve included a spurious flag signal for the right side of the Hurricane.  (LE-T was Hurricane V7203 in which Canadian Pilot Office Joseph Latta went missing on January 1941.)  Dickie Cork’s P2831 LE-K is much more accurate and carries a RN style crown painted under the cockpit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Aircraft Modelling

Title: Airframe Workbench Guide - Aircraft Modelling
Author: Libor Jekl
Publisher: Valiant Wings Publishing

There are a few modelers out there on the internet whose work always catches my attention...Paul Boyer, Mike Grant, Tony O'Toole, Joe Youngerman and the author of this new book, Libor Jekl.  If the work weren't enough, the book is one of the few modeling manuals that is dedicated to 1/72 scale modeling. (The only other one that comes to mind is the previously mentioned Mr. Boyer's "Building and Displaying Scale Model Aircraft.") It appears to me that many how-to books often avoid 1/72 subjects in favor of focusing on larger 1/32 and 1/48 models. Maybe it is easier to illustrate the author's techniques?

The other unique thing about this small ring-bound book is that it is not an introduction to modeling or even a complete modeling manual. Jekl focused on more advanced skills, often related to finishing, and skipped all the basics. For example, the first chapter (on rigging) opens with the Gloster Gladiator in primer. Besides rigging, the book includes chapters on scribing, rivets, weathering, natural metal, and resin kits. The final chapter is interesting in that it gives the author's tips on how to finish models quickly...oddly named Kwik-building. All are worth considering, but the last one is possibly the most unique suggestion I've ever seen in a modeling go out, take a walk, and get some exercise!

Each chapter is profusely illustrated with in-progress photos and each chapter has a gallery of the finished project. I do wish more words were included to guide the modeler in each step; the book looks like a gallery of Libor's work. (Which isn't a bad thing.  Looking at his models is fun.) The only real complaint with the book is that there is no consistent layout. Sometimes a set of steps are numbered 1-2-3, sometimes it is A-B-C, and sometimes there are no labels for the steps at all.

I enjoyed the book and it is a quick and easy read. I picked up a few tips I want to try out; especially the decal-like rivets that were used on the Hellcat. (Obviously, I spent too much of my youth building old Airfix kits, since I am excited to try to add raised rivets to a model!)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

D-Day to VE Day

Title: D-Day to VE Day
Publisher: Valiant Wings Publishing

This magazine is the first in a new series from Valiant Wings Publishing entitled, Airframe Extra. The concept is to combine history, modeling, and profiles into a periodical that will cover a conflict or a campaign.

As can be expected from the title, Airframe Extra #1 covers D-Day to VE Day. It starts off with a listing of important events from June 1, 1944 to May 8, 1945. This section is illustrated with photos of everything from Dakotas, to a crashed Typhoon, to an aerial view of Mulberry harbor. (While it is an aviation publication, I do think it odd that, given the topic, a photo of a Higgins boat wasn't included.)

Next up are six pages of side views of RAF types by Richard Caruana. The modeling content starts with a step by step build of Airfix's new C-47 by Libor Jekl. This and the following article on the Airfix 1/72 Spitfire XIX with aftermarket added are excellent and well worth the cost of the publication. Five pages of USAAF profiles follow, then a Colour Reference chart is included. This strikes me as an odd way to waste a page, but might be useful for modelers who don't have access to the internet?

A Bf-109G, a photo reconnaissance P-38, and a two seat ME 262 are the 1/48 modeling content. Again, all the models are well done and step by step coverage is included.  The Luftwaffe profiles are next and then the 1/32 scale coverage begins. First up is an excellent P-47D done by Daniel Zamarbide and then a short Spitfire XIX conversion. The Spitfire conversion is my only real complaint with this publication, as no step by step coverage is provided, which is even more glaring after Mr. Zamarbide's excellent article on his Thunderbolt. The book ends with a page of side views of Russian types.

This is a really neat idea for a series of publications and I look forward to future issues that will cover the Korean War and the Battle of Britain.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

1 (F) Squadron RCAF In Action

A nice little video of 1 (F) Squadron RCAF in action in order to celebrate Canada's Battle of Britain Day.

Note:  Hurricane YO-G is an example of a rare re-winged Hurricane. L1973 was built with a fabric wing, but it is clear by the time of this video that it had been refitted with a metal wing.

Modeler's Note: While we have an excellent fabric wing Hurricane Mk. I by Airfix, the two best options for a metal wing Hurricane Mk. I are either the old 70s Airfix kit or the newer and much more expensive Hasegawa kit. Sadly, the latter's quality does not live up to its high price tag. Come on, Airfix... issue a new tooled metal wing Hurri in 1/72!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Battle of Britain Remembered

Seventy-five years ago this summer, Canadian pilots, along with their Commonwealth brethren, were valiantly defending England from Luftwaffe attacks during the Battle of Britain. September 15 has since been labeled Battle of Britain Day in the UK to commemorate the two large attacks against London and a few smaller attacks against other English cities.

To commemorate those brave Canadian pilots, and especially those of 1 (F) Squadron RCAF, the RCAF painted up their 2015 demo Hornet in this attractive scheme. Coded YO-H, it has been painted up to memoralize Hurricane P3873 in which F/L Gordon D. McGregor was credited with the Squadron's first victory on August 26, 1940, when he shot down a Dornier Do.17 bomber. (Oddly,  there are many references to the aircraft being P3863, which is a typo first introduced in Kostenuk and Griffin's RCAF Squadrons and Aircraft. Hurricane P3868 was on strength with 73 Squadron during the Battle until it was severely damaged on September 7, 1940.) YO-H was operated by 1 Squadron until it was shot down on October 5, 1940, with Senator Hartland Molson bailing out of the aircraft.

Featured on the right tail of 188761 is F/L Gordon D. McGregor. McGregor made ace during the Battle of Britain and was awarded the DFC on October 25, 1940. Later rising to the rank of Group Commander, McGregor commanded X Wing in Alaska, was base commander at Patricia Bay in B.C., and finally, lead 126 (RCAF) Wing in Europe. It has been stated that he was even flying sorties with 126 Wing as late as 1945 when he was 44 years old. After the war, McGregor was president of Trans-Canada Airlines, aka Air Canada.

The right tail of the Hornet features British Primer Minister Winston Churchill.

CF-188 Hornet 188761 was again chosen to the "colour bird" for the 2015 display season. It had previously served as the demo bird in 2014 when it carried the "True North Strong and Free" scheme and for a while carried a 409 Squadron "Nightmare 01" scheme with tails painted up with the Squadron mascot. Hornet 188761 also has the odd distinction of having two different pilots ejecting from the aircraft, once on October 20, 1987, at RAF Alconbury and then again on June 19, 2004, at Yellowknife Airport. After both incidents, the aircraft was repaired and returned to service.

The Hornet prepares for its first Twilight airshow of 2015.

While I have not been a fan of the last few (dozen) CF-18 special schemes, I especially like this one. (I'm sure its historical connection and Hurricane content has something to do with it!) I wish the Squadron could have painted the whole jet in the Temperate Land Scheme, but there is some nice attention to detail included...especially the Hurricane wing gun patches that are painted on the leading edge slats.

All of the Hornet photos in this post were taken at the Chino Airshow in
May 2015.

Modeler's Note: Really the only CF-18 to consider in 1/72 is the Academy kit.  Canuck Models has recently reissued the kit with markings for YO-H. It appears that Hasegawa is going to be reissuing their old kit with YO-H markings in the near future, but I'd trust Canuck's research and decal art over that of Hasegawa anytime. Not to mention, the Hasegawa kit is a tough build and lacks detail.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Maroon 18 and the USAAC and USAAF

Some have asked why I included Maroon on the propeller blade of my recent P-40 (see previous two posts).

Well, a U.S. Army Air Corps paint specification issued in May 1934 called for "propeller blade - flat surface when required" to be painted Maroon 18. For most of the 30s, glare from the propeller blades in flight was not much of an issue, as the blades were unpainted wood with a small metal fitting on the leading edge to prevent damage to the blade. However, with the introduction of metal blades, glare off the blades became a concern for the pilot. It is unknown why the USAAC chose Maroon as the colour, but specs stated as follows:

To prevent glare, the face side of the propeller blades may be coated with antiglare. This coating extends from the 18-inch, or 24-inch station, as necessary, to the tip. Maroon lacquer is preferred, but if not available, maroon enamel is used. (Technical Manual - Aircraft Propellers dated January 5, 1941.)
So, for any Army aircraft with a silver blade, the rear would be Maroon 18.  Sometime after December 1941, a directive was issued to paint the whole blade black. Oddly, aviation writer Dana Bell has stated it was done "to camouflage the spinning prop in flight, which is why it covered the entire prop blade." With this new directive, Maroon 18 ceased to exist for use in the U.S. Army Air Force. A colour chip of Maroon 18 can be seen below:

So if your USAAC or USAAF aircraft has a silver blade it should have a Maroon 18 rear face. If your aircraft has a black prop, it is the usual black overall with yellow tips.

For my P-40, I used Vallejo Burnt Cadmium Red 814 as it was the only Maroon I had on hand. It appears to match the chip better than the photos. I made two mistakes on my P-40.  The first is that I extended the Maroon to the hub of the spinner...oops.  It should start from a scale 18 or 24 inches from the hub. Secondly, I did not have a chance to flat coat the Maroon before installing it on the kit. I think a nice coat of flat varnish would bring the colour closer to the look you see in the B-18 photos included here.

Life photos are © Time Inc. used for personal non-commercial use only. The photographer was Dmitri Kessel.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Airfix Tomahawk and Gear Legs

As I stated in the P-40 gallery, something didn't look right to me when I compared the photos of my model with the photos of the subject. There was too much space between the wheel and the landing gear door. I never actually noticed this on the model, but it jumped out to me in the photos. Fellow modeler Scott Hemsley and I discussed the issue and Scott pointed out the problem. It appears that Airfix got the gear legs a little long. Notice the collar in the red circle on my model?

Notice its location on the real line with the bottom of the gear doors.

 (Photo courtesy of the Carl Vincent Collection.)

Of course, my first thought is that I did something wrong, but looking around the web, it seems like this issue is featured on almost every model. So next time I'll shorten the upper part of the leg, confirm that the collar is in the right location, and see if it solves the problem.