Flashing Sabres of the RAF

Flashing Sabres of the RAF

Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.

This latest blog may be the third edition of Workbench we have posted in consecutive weeks, but this will be the final one for the year, as we take a little break over the Christmas and New Year period. If you find yourselves doing a little ‘cold turkey’ over the holidays, every previous edition of our blog (all 140 of them) are still available on the Airfix website and you are sure to find some interesting modelling related features if you pay them a little revisit. The next edition of Workbench will be the first of 2021 and will be published on Friday 8th January, just two days after the launch of the new 2021 Airfix model range and you can be sure we will be focussing on some of the many highlights it includes.

For this final edition of the year, we have no let-up in our schedule of blog exclusives, as we bring you the latest update from a new tooling project which will see another classic early jet aircraft joining our growing range of 1/48th scale kits, the magnificent Canadair Sabre F.4. A new model which we think is destined to take many modellers by surprise, we are pleased to be in a position to not only bring you the exclusive unveiling of the stunning new box artwork produced in support of this model’s first release, but we will also be taking a look at the two scheme options we will be tempting everyone with, when deciding which RAF Canadair Sabre to build. In addition to this, we have a final update from the second release from our 1/48th scale Bristol Blenheim tooling, this time featuring exclusive images of a full test model build which has been finished in the lead ‘Greek Operations’ scheme and as we are fast approaching Christmas, we have a competition to keep you all occupied over the holiday period, where one lucky reader will win one of the most impressive kits in our history (plus a little exclusive extra). We end with a reader supplied feature, where we have been allowed to show pictures of a quite stunning Supermarine Walrus build, one which may just have us all moving away from Spitfire’s for at least one project next year. As we all have much to do in preparation for the impending ‘big day’, let’s dive straight in to this latest edition of Workbench.

The RAF’s classic ‘Stop Gap’ jet

Airfix RAF Canadair Sabre F.4 model kit artwork and scheme review on the Airfix Workbench blog

Yet more box artwork Workbench exclusive delights for your viewing pleasure, this time featuring the image which will grace the box of the early 2021 initial release from our newly tooled 1/48th scale Canadair Sabre F.4. A beautifully graceful aeroplane, this image shows how appealing this aircraft looked when wearing RAF camouflage

With its reputation as one of the world’s finest early generation jet fighters, it really does seem inappropriate to describe the North American Sabre, or to be more precise, the Canadian built derivative of the aircraft, as nothing more than a stop-gap aircraft type for the Royal Air Force, but that is essentially how aviation history has judged it. With the RAF having an obligation in fulfilling their NATO commitment to adequately defend Europe against Warsaw Pact forces, the late service introductions of both the Hawker Hunter and Gloster Javelin placed them in a difficult situation, as the nations they were opposing were all introducing more capable aircraft at that time. Unable to delay taking action any longer, they needed to upgrade their existing Meteor and Vampire first generation jets with a more capable aircraft type, in the full knowledge that this new aircraft would itself be immediately replaced once the new indigenously designed British jets became available.

An acceptable international solution to this pressing aviation problem came with the procurement of hundreds of Canadian built examples of the F-86 Sabre jet fighter and even though these aircraft would only remain in service for around three years, they would go on to equip twelve RAF squadrons (ten of which operated from bases in Germany) and would form the backbone of the RAF’s NATO fighter commitment during a particularly volatile period in world history. Of even more historical importance, during the early 1950s, Canadian built Sabres were the only swept-wing jet fighters available for the defence of Western Europe.

With this uncomfortable situation revealing itself quite early on during the development of new British designs such as the Swift, Hunter and Javelin, movements at the very highest military levels began to take place. Officials were sent to Canada to determine whether the Canadair company had the capacity to fulfil a potential order from the UK, particularly as delivery delays would only exacerbate an already pressing problem. In addition to this, RAF pilots were sent to North America to test fly the Sabre jet and not long after, two evaluation examples were also loaned to Britain, to be operated by the Central Fighter Establishment at West Raynham, in advance of a now increasingly certain acquisition. These aircraft were extensively evaluated against existing Meteor and Vampire fighters, as well as Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers, to see just how effective the Sabre would be in squadron service. When compared with the Meteor it would effectively be replacing, the Sabre was found to be superior in almost every aspect of operation and more significantly, better than any British fighter currently in service.

Airfix RAF Canadair Sabre F.4 model kit artwork and scheme review on the Airfix Workbench blog

A CAD screen shot image supplied by our Product Designer Thomas, showing a relatively early stage in his work to recreate the classic Sabre as a 1/48th scale kit. This image clearly shows the beautifully clean lines of the aircraft

Later, with the Sabre contract signed and aircraft starting to run off the production lines, it was decided that all of the Canadair produced Sabres destined for RAF service would be flown to Britain, as opposed to making the journey by sea. The operation was given the name ‘Becher’s Brook’, after the Grand National fence, which was a significant obstacle facing the runners and riders at this famous race. This ferry operation would see the aircraft flying a familiar delivery route for aircraft manufactured in North America and heading for European skies. The first Canadair Sabre ‘Becher’s Brook’ ferry flight took place on 9th December 1953 and followed a route which passed them through St Hubert, Quebec, Bagotville, Goose Bay, Bluie West 1 (Greenland), Keflavik and Prestwick. These proved to be particularly demanding flights for ferry pilots and depending on prevailing weather conditions, could take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to complete and even then, not all aircraft would manage the trip without developing technical issues. Once in the UK, the aircraft would generally be handed over to the Royal Air Force at Abingdon for processing.

The Canadian built Sabres made their transatlantic flights in standard natural metal finish and were only prepared for RAF service on their arrival in the UK. The application of their RAF camouflage and other squadron markings would take place at the huge Maintenance Units at Kemble and Lyneham, with fighters destined for service with squadrons in Germany being finished in a gloss dark green and dark sea grey upper camouflage, over cerulean (PRU) blue under surfaces.

The majority of the Canadian built Sabres destined for Royal Air Force service were to operate under control of the 2nd Tactical Air Force and from bases in Europe. The first RAF Sabres started to appear at their new squadron homes almost as soon as they had been processed through the MUs and not long after making their ‘Becher’s Brook’ ferry flights. The first RAF unit in Europe to receive Sabres was No.67 Squadron based at Wildenrath, who flew their first sortie with the new aircraft in mid-May 1953. They were closely followed by Nos 3, 4 and 93 Squadrons, as the RAF’s Sabres quickly worked up to full operational status.

This magnificent newly tooled 1/48th scale model kit example of this beautiful early jet will be a hugely popular addition to the Airfix range and will build into a representation of one of the most attractive aircraft ever to take to the air. With regard to the first release from this new tooling, let’s now take a look at the two RAF Germany schemes which will accompany the new model.

Scheme A - Canadair Sabre F.4 XB984, No.3 Squadron, Royal Air Force Germany, Geilenkirchen Air base, 1954

Airfix RAF Canadair Sabre F.4 model kit artwork and scheme review on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix RAF Canadair Sabre F.4 model kit artwork and scheme review on the Airfix Workbench blog

Wildenrath based No.3 Squadron traded their de Havilland Vampire FB.Mk.5 jets for new Canadair Sabres in May 1953, with the first pair of aircraft arriving at the station on 11th of that month. Although No.67 Squadron may have been the first to receive the Sabre, No.3 Squadron had the distinction of flying the RAF’s first Sabre formation sortie, when on 19th May 1953, the Squadron Commander led a flight of 4 Sabres on a flight over the German countryside. At this time, the squadron was still a mixture of Sabre and Vampire jets, but by the 27th May, it had its full compliment of Sabres and the full type conversion could begin in earnest. The unit’s last Vampire sortie took place on 12th June and from that date, these first generation jets would be flown back to the UK and to something of an uncertain future.

Although these aircraft had a vital role to play in European skies, one of their first official duties was to train for the impending Coronation Review, which was due to take place at RAF Odiham. This temporary UK deployment so soon after taking delivery of their new Sabres was something of an inconvenience, but would bring the new jet to the attention of a much wider UK audience as a consequence. On 20th June, famous WWII fighter ace Group Captain Johnnie Johnson led sixteen Sabres across the English Channel to RAF Duxford, where they would spend the next few weeks based whilst practicing for the review flypast, also flying mock dogfights against the Duxford based Meteors above the Cambridgeshire countryside.

On 16th July, the squadron returned to Wildenrath only to be immediately informed that they would be permanently relocating to a new base at Geilenkirchen over the next few days, with the first 16 aircraft arriving at their new home by 20th. The move coincided with the squadron having to play a full role in ‘Exercise Coronet’, which was to be the largest Allied military exercise since the end of the Second World War and a real show of strength for the watching Warsaw Pact nations. Their new base came under simulated attack by other NATO aircraft and a maximum squadron effort was required to meet this challenge - this was the culmination of an extremely busy period for everyone involved with No. 3 Squadron. Thankfully, the beginning of August brought a welcome respite for squadron personnel, as runway resurfacing works at Geilenkirchen brought about a nine day period of no flying for the pilots and hangar tlc for their new aircraft.

By May 1956, No.3 Squadron was preparing to enter another significant period in its history, as they awaited the arrival of their new Hawker Hunter jets. During June, all remaining Sabres were serviced in preparation for ferry flights back to the UK, leaving the squadron to commence its Hunter association. Their time with the Canadair Sabre F.4 may have been short and sweet, however, these attractive aircraft were used extensively during this three year period.

Canadair Sabre F.4 XB984 was delivered to the RAF on 10th November 1953 and later sent to join No.3 Squadron at RAF Geilenkirchen in Germany. During its time with the squadron, the aircraft was fitted with the modified 6-3 wing and became the personal aircraft of Squadron Leader Hutchinson. The markings it displays are the later ‘bar’ markings, which were adopted by all 2nd TAF Sabre squadrons towards the end of their service lives. The squadron’s motto Tertius primus erit roughly translates as ‘The third will be first’.

Scheme B - Canadair Sabre F.4 XB854, No.4 Squadron, Royal Air Force Germany, Jever Air base, 1954

Airfix RAF Canadair Sabre F.4 model kit artwork and scheme review on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix RAF Canadair Sabre F.4 model kit artwork and scheme review on the Airfix Workbench blog

RAF No.4 Squadron had been using the de Havilland Vampire in a strike fighter role for several years prior to receiving notification that they would be converting to the Canadair Sabre in early 1954. This conversion would initially be carried out in a relatively leisurely manner, but by the beginning of March, all squadron pilots were sent to Wildenrath for in cockpit and classroom tuition with the Sabre Conversion Unit based there. Having the ability to spend time with the new fighters and having the opportunity to take instruction from experienced pilots would have been invaluable for the converting pilots, especially as the engine start-up procedure was significantly more challenging than on their Vampires. They were also given the opportunity to practice taxying the aircraft under their own power and to simulate overcoming a potential problem which had been identified when operating the new jets out of Jever.

The runway at Jever was really quite short and flight commanders knew that this could pose problems for their pilots converting to the new jets. Whilst training at Wildenrath, marker flags were placed along to runway to simulate the runway at their home base and it would have been the cause of great concern when some pilots consistently ran past the markers during practice. The situation was made all the more serious when the squadron’s first Sabres were delivered to Jever whilst their pilots were still training at Wildenrath. The Squadron Commander received a phone call to inform him that one of his new Sabres had run off the end of the runway at Jever and whilst not sustaining significant damage, was clearly a rather inglorious start to their Sabre era.

The runway situation proved so serious at Jever that extension and resurfacing works were almost immediately commissioned, which resulted in the entire squadron having to temporarily relocate to Ahlhorn, not the ideal way to mark the conversion to a new aircraft type. Once they were back at their newly refurbished home base, the situation only marginally improved, as the runway was still on the short side for the Sabre, with pilots tending to be a little heavy on the brakes when landing. This resulted in quite a high number of pad burn throughs and ground engineers having to be rather resourceful in appropriating pads from aircraft in for servicing, just so they could keep the rest of the fleet operational.

One particularly interesting incident which occurred during the early months of No.4 Squadron Sabre operations from Jever took place on 22nd June, when a Sabre engaged in a formation flying exercise with three other aircraft lost sight of the other aircraft in poor weather. With the pilot loosing his bearings and unsure of where the other three aircraft were, he made the decision to return to base, following instrument guidance due to the thick cloud he found himself in. Unfortunately, the navigation equipment had locked on to an incorrect signal and was actually taking the aircraft away from its base. Thinking something wasn’t quite right and with his fuel situation becoming critical, he flew low out of the cloud base and spotted an autobahn, which he immediately decided was going to be his temporary runway. Landing safely on the carriageway, he pulled the aircraft into a layby which was a farmers access to one of his fields, who must have been rather surprised to see an RAF jet fighter blocking his way. Explaining this away to the CO would have definitely required a particularly silver tongue to be used by the pilot in question!

In mid-July 1954, the squadron would also be involved in ‘Exercise Dividend’, a significant operation to test UK air defences, where RAF Germany Sabres were sent to perform simulated attacks against several UK RAF stations. The second phase of the exercise was to attempt to completely saturate Britain’s air defence network, in an honest assessment of its capabilities - during this phase, RAF Hawker Hunters intercepted Sabre F.4s for the first time. RAF No.4 Squadron would only spend a short period operating the handsome Sabre jet and by 11th July 1955, they had already taken delivery of their first Hawker Hunters.

RAF Sabres ‘Hunted Down’

Airfix RAF Canadair Sabre F.4 model kit artwork and scheme review on the Airfix Workbench blog

A slightly different version of the main box artwork image, this time with slightly less vibrant colours and giving an impression of two aircraft engaged in a patrol sortie over Germany, as a NATO show of strength to the always watching Warsaw Pact nations

After serving faithfully during their time with the Royal Air Force, the Canadian built Sabres were no longer required, once sufficient numbers of Hawker Hunters became available and detailed plans for the full conversion from Sabre to Hunter were drawn up. Under the plan, the RAF would be solely responsible for the overhaul of aircraft prior to handover, which would prove to be a huge undertaking. Ownership of the aircraft was something of a sensitive issue and the subject of ongoing discussions, particularly as they had originally been procured with US financial assistance, even though they were Canadian manufactured aircraft. In the end though, had these aircraft been sent back to Canada, what would they do with over 300 second hand Sabre jets?

In the Autumn of 1955, the gradual conversion from Sabre to Hunter began and therefore, so did the exercise of overhauling the aircraft prior to the transfer to US ownership. Aircraft which had not been converted to the 6-3 wing configuration received this modification and newly overhauled Sabres emerged from RAF hangars wearing a smart new coat of RAF camouflage - they also had temporary water soluble USAF delivery flight markings applied. This process would take much longer than was originally envisaged and at significant additional expense to the UK tax payer. The overhauled aircraft were given an ‘M’ designation, to identify them as one of the aircraft modified during this transferral process, before they were eventually sent on to their new owners, the air forces of Italy and Yugoslavia.

Rather distressingly for aircraft we would dearly love to discover in museums or perhaps even enjoyed seeing performing display routines at Airshows around the world, not all of the expensively overhauled former RAF Sabres went on to find new homes overseas, with around fifty aircraft left languishing at several locations around the UK. Designated ‘surplus’, they were unceremoniously earmarked for scrapping, with many airframes simply being broken up where they were stored. Others were dismantled for spare parts, despite having only recently had so much time, effort and money lavished on their maintenance, such a sad end to the RAF’s Sabre story. Unfortunately, this final insult marks an unusual episode in RAF history and their short use of one of the most attractive aircraft to ever see service with British squadrons.

Airfix RAF Canadair Sabre F.4 model kit artwork and scheme review on the Airfix Workbench blog

This 3D computer rendered image created from the new 1/48th scale Canadair Sabre F.4 files show just how clean an aircraft the Sabre was and despite its short tenure in RAF service, it still qualifies as one of the RAF’s most attractive jets

For many people who served during the short ‘stop-gap’ service years of RAF Canadair Sabre F.4 operation, they still have extremely fond memories of an aircraft which is regarded as something of an aviation classic. Quickly and efficiently shoring up a potentially embarrassing situation for the Royal Air Force, their Canadair Sabres just got on with every task they were required to perform, with their short tenure marking a particularly hectic period of training, exercises and ceremonial duties for the force. At a time when NATO were desperately trying to highlight the futility of future conflict to their Warsaw Pact opponents, the RAF could not show that they were ‘treading aviation water’ until they could introduce their latest generation of interceptors and their Sabres effectively allowed them to do that. It appears that British Canadair Sabres were much more important that their three years of service actually suggests.

Currently scheduled for an early 2021 release, our new 1/48th scale Canadair Sabre F.4 (A08109) will be a popular addition to the range and one whose stunning good looks are sure to win plenty of modelling admirers. The next update from this project will involve bringing blog readers a first look at fully built samples of the kit, wearing the two scheme options to be supplied with the initial release and we very much look forward to that.

New Blenheim is a Mediterranean sensation

Airfix Royal Air Force Greece WWII Bristol Blenheim Mk.1 kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

In this larger scale, the sheer stature of our new 1/48th scale Bristol Blenheim kit has made it a real hit with modellers and an impressive addition to any built model display. Here, Paramjit has built the second release from this new tooling as one of the Blenheim bombers battling against Axis invaders in Greece, during 1941

Staying with the subject of new 1/48th scale tooling releases a little longer, in the previous full edition of Workbench, we provided the latest update from the impending second release from the still relatively new Bristol Blenheim in this larger scale. You will no doubt recall that the feature included the exclusive unveiling of not one, but two beautiful pieces of box artwork produced in support of this release and how we described how in some cases, the Airfix 'supremo' may request an alternative representation of a particular scene, with the two often looking quite different, but with one ultimately working slightly better from a box presentation perspective. We also asked readers if they would care to let us know by e-mail which of the two representations they preferred and we are humbled to say that hundreds of you kindly took the time to do so. In the end it was a close run thing as to angle preference, but the one which emerged victorious was the top surface view of the Blenheim, with most people saying that it just showed more detail of the aircraft. We would like to thank everyone who took the time to engage with us on this little light hearted exercise.

Despite only bringing you these details two weeks ago, we are in position to include a further update in this latest edition, by way of a little end of year Blenheim treat. Once again with grateful thanks to our Product Designer Paramjit, he has been at his modelling workbench once again, this time turning his considerable skills to the Bristol Blenheim Mk.I tooling in this stunning British Air Forces Greece scheme from 1941, the scheme which inspired the box artwork for this impending release. As it is the season of good will to all men and we didn’t want to be accused of being ‘all Ebenezer’, we let him get away with just producing the A scheme from the kit this time, but we think you will agree, it’s an absolute cracker. We won’t have to wait too long now before we can add this fantastic kit to our winter build schedules.

Scheme A - Bristol Blenheim Mk.I L6670, RAF No.211 Squadron, Menidi airfield, Greece, 1941

Airfix Royal Air Force Greece WWII Bristol Blenheim Mk.1 kit on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix Royal Air Force Greece WWII Bristol Blenheim Mk.1 kit on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix Royal Air Force Greece WWII Bristol Blenheim Mk.1 kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

As part of the huge expansion of the Royal Air Force in the years immediately prior to the start of the Second World War, No.211 Squadron re-formed at Mildenhall during the summer of 1937 as a day bomber unit, initially equipped with the Hawker Audax single engined biplane light bomber, but quickly trading these in for Hawker Hinds. By April of the following year, the squadron had been sent to help settle tensions in the Middle East and it was whilst they were overseas that they re-equipped once more, this time with the much more capable Bristol Blenheim Mk.I. When the Middle East erupted into conflict in June 1940, the squadron was heavily involved operations against Italian forces in both Libya and the Western Desert, where they would enjoy some notable successes. After the Italians also moved against Greece, No.211 Squadron formed part of the British Air Forces Greece contingent sent to support Greek defensive operations against the invaders, with the entire unit relocating to the Greek mainland. When the squadron arrived at their new airfield home at Menidi/ Tatoi, they were greeted like heroes by the local people, who were confident that the British would prove significant in helping defend their country.

The squadron would be heavily involved in flying bombing missions in support of Greek Army operations, targeting Italian troop concentrations, supply ships, ammunition and fuel dumps and if they did come across the Regia Aeronautica, they were more than capable of holding their own. With the combined forces repelling most of the Italian advances during this period, the deteriorating situation for the Axis powers forced the hand of the Germans and by the beginning of April 1941, they invaded Greece through Yugoslavia and Bulgaria in some force, including the arrival of battle hardened Luftwaffe units, who immediately began to take a heavy toll of Allied squadrons. Despite the valiant efforts of an ever diminishing number of Blenheim’s available for operations and with overwhelming odds making their position almost untenable, an inevitable withdrawal of remaining units was soon ordered.

Airfix Royal Air Force Greece WWII Bristol Blenheim Mk.1 kit on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix Royal Air Force Greece WWII Bristol Blenheim Mk.1 kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

With the remnants of the squadron arriving in Egypt via Crete and after suffering horrendous casualties, No.211 Squadron were withdrawn from operations and allowed a six month period of rest and replenishment. The scheme option presented here is a fine example of a Blenheim Mk.I bomber which fought hard to prevent Greece from falling to Axis forces, but eventually had to succumb to the overwhelming strength of the enemy. The subject of several unusually clear wartime photographs taken during the squadron’s Greek deployment, they show the aircraft returning to Menidi airfield following the completion of yet another infantry support sortie and show the aircraft to be in strikingly good condition. This is a fine example of a Mediterranean Theatre Blenheim bomber from this period and these attractive colours only serve to enhance the appearance of this handsome Bristol twin - this scheme is also strikingly different to the other scheme option included with this new kit, not to mention the two fighter schemes included with the initial Blenheim release.

Just one of many modelling highlights which will be taking its place in the soon to be announced 2021 Airfix kit range, this beautiful new Bristol Blenheim Mk.I (A09190) will be available very early in the new year, our latest scale modelling tribute to this extremely important British aircraft.

Christmas competition time

Airfix Grumman Hellcat Christmas Competition on the Airfix Workbench blog

Even though we will all no doubt be looking forward to a little break from work in just a few days’ time, endless relaxation and festive enjoyment can sometimes take its toll on a person and leave us all in need of a little ‘me time’. If you find yourself in this territory between Christmas and the New Year, we might just have the thing for you - a little Airfix Christmas competition. Up for grabs is one of the most impressive kits we have ever produced and a stunning 1/24th scale model representation of one of the Second World War’s most successful fighter aircraft, the ‘King of the Pacific’ the Grumman Hellcat. As an added bonus, we will also be including a unique build booklet, which is lavishly illustrated throughout and features all the various stages of construction and painting.

The booklet was self-published by Ulster Aviation Society member and regular Workbench contributor Michael Scott and features images from a magnificent Hellcat build project he completed earlier this year, one which features RNAS Eglinton based British Hellcat KD127/X of No.892 Naval Air Squadron. It will help provide inspiration whilst tackling this stunning kit and shows all the areas where he deviated from the standard kit build whilst producing this tribute to a Northern Ireland based fighter. Although the Hellcat is undoubtedly regarded as an American aviation classic, just under 1200 aircraft were eventually supplied to the Fleet Air Arm under the lend lease program, also making this a significant aircraft type in British service.

Airfix Grumman Hellcat Christmas Competition on the Airfix Workbench blog

Up for grabs is one of our hugely impressive 1/24th scale Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat kits, complete with a self-published build booklet, produced by a modelling member of the Ulster Aviation Society

Few aircraft in the history of aerial warfare can boast the impact and combat credentials of the Grumman F6F Hellcat, one of the finest fighting machines ever to take to the skies. A product of the already successful Grumman ‘Ironworks’, the company’s design philosophy was to only produce aircraft which were easy to manufacture and maintain, possessing excellent reliability in a combat situation. Importantly, it must be an excellent fighting machine, capable of being mastered by the average wartime pilot following a standard period of type conversion. This no nonsense design approach ensured that the Hellcat was ready to fight and available in significant numbers, when they eventually reached US Navy units in 1943.

Despite its combat introduction taking place relatively late in the war, the Hellcat would prove to be the ‘mount of aces’ and unquestionably ruled the skies of the Pacific Theatre. Posting some quite astonishing combat statistics, it has been reported that almost 75% of all aerial victories claimed by US Navy pilots were attributed to the Hellcat, which earned an impressive combat kill ratio of 19 to 1 in the Pacific Theatre, statistics which could not be bettered by any other combat aircraft in WWII. Able to withstand significant combat damage, perhaps the most impressive combat statistic earned by the magnificent Grumman Hellcat was that it made ‘Aces’ of no fewer than 305 US airmen, each one claiming five aerial victories or more.

As we are now firmly in the festive season and even the Airfix office is starting to look a little Christmassy, we couldn’t publish this final Workbench blog of the year without giving all our readers the chance to win this fantastic 1/24th scale Hellcat kit. To be in with a chance, it is as simple as heading for the Airfix Competitions page and answering the relatively simple Grumman Hellcat related question you will find there. As usual, there will be three answers for you to select from, but make sure you go for the right one! Our lucky winner will be selected at random from the list of correct entries and will contacted by a member of our team to confirm their success and to arrange delivery of their prize soon afterwards.

Good luck to one and all!

A Walrus is not just for Christmas

Airfix Supermarine Walrus Amphibian model kit build review on the Airfix Workbench blog

This stunning Supermarine Walrus build is the work of Czech modeller Jarda Pomajzl and shows just what an interesting aircraft the Walrus actually is

Even though we always have so many Airfix project updates to bring you in every edition of Workbench, there is nothing we like more than also featuring some of the incredible modelling talents of our loyal readership, highlighting not only the current healthy state of our hobby, but also the skill and imagination which we get to see in absolute abundance throughout the year. Another modelling related post we picked up from social media recently, the sight of Czech modeller Jarda Pomajzl’s magnificent Supermarine Walrus build had us reaching out for more information and a request to be able to include a selection of his build images in a forthcoming edition of Workbench. Thankfully, Jarda was more than happy for us to showcase his modelling talent, which we hope fellow readers will enjoy seeing now.

A WWII aircraft type which is often overlooked when modellers are looking for their next build project, the Supermarine Walrus amphibian performed some of the less glamourous aviation roles during the war, but was nevertheless one of the most useful aircraft to see Allied service. A product of the same minds which would bring us the Spitfire just a year after its service introduction, the Walrus was initially intended to be the eyes of the fleet, providing beyond visual range spotting for its home vessel and in the event of an engagement, gunnery range finding support for the ships firing crews. Later, it would find its true forte as an air sea rescue aircraft, coming to the aid of downed airmen who were forced to bale out into the ocean.

The release of our newly tooled 1/48th scale Supermarine Walrus kit in 2017 resulted in this fantastic aircraft receiving some long-overdue modelling attention and in many cases, actually coming to peoples attention for the very first time. Once they saw it and learned that it came from the same stable as the Spitfire which absolutely everyone knows about, it didn’t take long before people began to appreciate the many admirable qualities of this tough little amphibian, coming to see it as one of the more interesting aircraft types of the Second World War. That is certainly what attracted Jarda to the kit when embarking on this build project, even though he already knew that he wanted to take his Walrus build to new heights.

Airfix Supermarine Walrus Amphibian model kit build review on the Airfix Workbench blog

This first selection of build images supplied by Jarda show how he replicated the busy interior of the Walrus, including the placement of maps on the plotting tables and other small details

Airfix Supermarine Walrus Amphibian model kit build review on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix Supermarine Walrus Amphibian model kit build review on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix Supermarine Walrus Amphibian model kit build review on the Airfix Workbench blog

Desperate to get his hands on one of our new Walrus kits, Jarda placed his order and started sourcing all the other additional modelling items he intended to incorporate into the build. This included a new engine manufactured by Russian company Vector, machine guns from Gas Patch models and various detailing sets available from Eduard. The scheme he wanted to finish the model in represented Walrus W3090 which was operated by the Royal Navy in the Pacific Theatre, usually from the deck of HMS Ameer. This ship was actually a US built Escort Carrier, made available to the British via Lend-Lease and re-fitted to Royal Navy standard before commencing operational duties. Operating mainly in Far Eastern waters, the carrier would usually be home to either Wildcat or Hellcat fighters, but her venerable Walrus amphibian would be kept incredibly busy flying a wide variety of missions. Maybe not as fast as the Grumman fighters, she was equally as tough and would be a welcome sight for any pilot forced to ditch in Pacific waters.

As you can see from the stunning images Jarda supplied, he has added impressive internal detail to his Walrus build, down to placing maps and other crew paraphernalia at each of their stations, which really do help to make this look like a miniature operational aircraft. The finish is absolutely astonishing and really does underline why the Walrus makes for such an interesting build project and one which is a welcome divergence from the more common WWII aviation subject matter.

Originally developed as a robust amphibious reconnaissance spotter for the Royal Australian Air Force, the highly capable Supermarine Seagull V quickly captured the interest of Britain’s Royal Navy. Successful trials of the new aircraft at Felixstowe illustrated how effective it was and with a large expansion of British naval forces underway, the Seagull V offered the Admiralty an effective aircraft for reconnaissance spotting and gun targeting for their cruisers and battleships. After using one of the Australian machines in operational trials, they decided to place their own order for this latest Supermarine amphibian, with the British machines being called Walrus, even though they were almost identical to the Seagull Vs of the RAAF.

Airfix Supermarine Walrus Amphibian model kit build review on the Airfix Workbench blog

This next series of images take a more detailed look at the finished build, showing has Jarda has managed to complete his model with a realistic ‘used’ finish. Looking at these pictures closely, it’s not difficult to see why the ‘interesting’ Walrus has become such a popular subject with aviation modellers

Airfix Supermarine Walrus Amphibian model kit build review on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix Supermarine Walrus Amphibian model kit build review on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix Supermarine Walrus Amphibian model kit build review on the Airfix Workbench blog

A particularly interesting fact which demonstrates just how robust the Supermarine Walrus (Seagull V) design actually was, came to light during the 1933 Hendon Air Pageant. Even though the prototype Seagull V had only flown days earlier in the hands of famous Supermarine test pilot Joseph ‘Mutt’ Summers, the aircraft attended and was demonstrated at the huge Hendon Airshow. Belying its rather ungainly appearance, Summers stunned the huge crowds by proceeding to loop his new aircraft, a feat that was only possible due to the inherent strength of the Supermarine design and how it had been stressed for catapult launching from battleships and cruisers. The Supermarine Walrus would go on to become one of the finest amphibious aircraft ever produced and was responsible for saving the lives of a great many downed Allied airmen during the Second World War.

Airfix Supermarine Walrus Amphibian model kit build review on the Airfix Workbench blog

A final look at this impressive Walrus build. We thank Jarda Pomajzl for allowing us to share these images with fellow Workbench readers

We don’t really need much of an excuse to extol the many aviation virtues of the Supermarine Walrus and our scale representation of it, but we are extremely grateful to Jarda Pomajzl for allowing us to show pictures of his recent model build, so we can all admire them. If we have a 1/48th scale Supermarine Walrus in our kit stash, now might be the time to place it at the front of our winter build schedule.

Any more for any more?

Christmas at Airfix on the Airfix Workbench blog

With this being the final Workbench blog of the year, it must coincide with an incredibly busy period for our colleagues working like Santa’s little elves in the dispatch department of our warehouse, as they work hard to try and get all your Christmas orders out before the big day arrives. They have asked us to kindly remind Workbench readers that UK orders must be placed by 11:59pm (GMT) on Thursday 17th December to ensure Christmas delivery and for the rest of the world, that cut-off time moves forward to 11:59pm (GMT) on Monday 14th December. Please don’t leave it until the last minute, as things are certain to get a little hectic as we approach the shipping cut-off and our teams would hate anyone to miss the deadline, from a gift securing perspective.

Finally, we would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you so much for the magnificent support you have given us once again throughout 2020, one of the most challenging years most of us can ever remember. Let’s hope that this New Year’s Eve holds more optimism for a brighter future than most and that many of us modellers will be able to gather once more at the hugely enjoyable model shows which take place the length and breadth of this wonderful country of ours.

Spectacular Christmas model competition on the Airfix Workbench blog

The next edition of Workbench will now be published on Friday 8th January, where we will have the small matter of the new 2021 Airfix range to discuss. Until then, have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and don’t forget to enter our Hellcat competition.

That’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, however, we will be back at the start of the New Year with a further selection of Airfix modelling delights for your enjoyment. If you have any suggestions for subjects you would like to see covered in a future edition, please use this workbench@airfix.com link to contact us.

In between new editions of our blog, the Airfix conversation continues over on our Airfix Forum Worbench thread, with further discussions taking place on both the official Airfix Facebook page and the Airfix Twitter channel please do get involved in the discussions and let us know what you think about Workbench.

Whenever you decide to visit, the Airfix website is always the place to be for all the latest model availability information, previous editions of our blog, a selection of modelling tips and much more.

The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 8th January 2021, when we will be looking at all the new models announced in the 2021 Airfix range.

On behalf of the entire Workbench team, thank you for your continued support our Airfix blog.

The Airfix Workbench Team


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