Loch Ness leviathan and Bovington show report

Loch Ness leviathan and Bovington show report

Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. In another feature packed offering, we think we have something for everyone in this 68th edition of our blog, with news regarding a new model tooling project, iconic aircraft from the world of fixed wing and rotary aviation, as well as a decent selection of full size and scale military vehicles. We will be taking a look at one of the fascinating scheme options included with a new tooling release scheduled to arrive this coming May and discuss why these markings help to commemorate such a significant aircraft in the history of Bomber Command. For rotary aviation enthusiasts, we will also be featuring an impending release in our successful Westland Sea King series of kits, which presents an aircraft which plied its trade in the skies above the cold waters of the South Atlantic and was the recipient of some rather attractive RAF Squadron anniversary markings. Courtesy of our talented Lead Researcher, we are also please to bring you a review of the recent South West Model Show held at the Bovington Tank Museum, where he came across military vehicles, some friendly faces and a fine selection of model displays. There is clearly no time to waste, so let's get on with the latest update from our highly anticipated new 1/72nd scale Vickers Wellington Mk.IA tooling.

The Lady in the Lake

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Profile artwork showing Vickers Wellington Mk.IA N2980 'R for Robert' of RAF No.20 Operational Training Unit, New Year's Eve 1940

As we head into this Centenary year of the Royal Air Force, there will undoubtedly be much talk about the best, the most influential and the most famous aircraft to wear the roundel of the RAF over the past one hundred years and whilst there will clearly be numerous types suggested by enthusiasts, surely the most popular will have served during the Second World War. As this six year conflict saw British aviation develop from the classic biplanes of the 1930s to the cutting edge fighters of the early jet age, many of these aircraft not only proved to be successful designs, but also proved themselves in the flames of war. Unquestionably, the superlative Spitfire will appear high on any such list, but if this can claim to be Britain's most influential fighter at the start of WWII, then the direct bomber equivalent at this time was certainly the Vickers Wellington, Britain's most effective means of striking back. With that being the case, the impending release of our newly tooled 1/72nd scale version of the Wellington (A08019) has attracted plenty of modeller attention and renewed interest in this often overlooked bomber and we thought it would be a good idea to bring you full details of the first of two iconic decal options which will be included with this stunning new kit.

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Production of early Wellington bombers at the Weybridge (Brooklands) factory

Vickers Wellington Mk.IA N2980 was one of the many aircraft built at Brooklands (Weybridge) during WWII, making its first flight on 16th November 1939 in the hands of famous Vickers Chief Test Pilot Joseph 'Mutt' Summers (who also undertook the first flight of the Spitfire - Supermarine Type 300). With Britain now at war with Germany and attempting to discourage their forces from advancing further into Europe, the aircraft was immediately flown to RAF Mildenhall, where it joined the other Wellingtons of No.149 Squadron and was allocated the code letters OJ-'R for Robert' and it would not be long before it was deployed on its first operational sortie. Seeing plenty of service during the early months of the war, N2980 was one of the fortunate aircraft to survive the disastrous 'Battle of the Heligoland Bight', where a force of 22 unescorted Wellingtons attacked German shipping in broad daylight, with Luftwaffe fighters destroying half of the British bombers, instantly bringing to an end unescorted daylight bombing raids of this scale.

Wellington N2980 would go on to be a veteran of around 20 operational sorties with No.149 and No.37 Squadrons, amassing some 330 flying hours which, bearing in mind the terrible attrition rates being suffered by Bomber Command at this stage of the war, must have led crews to believe that 'R for Robert' was something of a lucky aircraft. After a posting away from front line operations, she went on to serve with No.20 Operational Training Unit at RAF Lossiemouth, where she was engaged in the vital task of training the many navigators needed to replace continuing Bomber Command losses as well as the force's growing strength in numbers. The sheer number of qualified navigators required by the RAF dictated that these training flights were almost as demanding as operational flying, with sorties undertaken in all but the most extreme of weather conditions, in an attempt to keep up the ever increasing requirement for trained airmen. This certainly proved to be the case on New Year's Eve 1940, when the Scottish weather proved to be more effective an enemy to Wellington N2980 'R for Robert' than either the Luftwaffe or German flak had proved to be.

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A Wellington crew in the moments prior to undertaking their latest sortie

In the late afternoon of 31st December 1940, Vickers Wellington Mk.IA N2980 took off from RAF Lossiemouth on its latest navigational training exercise, with six trainee navigators joining the aircraft's flight crew of three. During the course of the flight, the weather conditions worsened significantly and whilst flying along the Great Glen at an altitude of approximately 8,000ft, the aircraft was caught in a severe snowstorm, with the crew having no visibility of the terrain below. If this situation were not challenging enough for the crew, the starboard engine began to run erratically and soon cut out completely, causing the Wellington to begin losing height at an alarming rate and leaving pilot Squadron Leader Marwood-Elton with no other option than to attempt an emergency landing. Ordering the trainee navigators and his wireless operator/air gunner to bail out from the stricken machine, he and his co-pilot wrestled the Wellington through the snowstorm, searching for a place to bring the aircraft down, in the full knowledge that they were flying over a heavily forested, mountainous region. Not wanting to simply abandon the aircraft and risk the possibility of civilian casualties on the ground, the pair frantically searched for a suitable landing site through the blizzard, eventually spotting a large, dark shape below they assumed to be water. Thankfully, they now had their landing area, however they would only have one chance at effecting a successful ditching of their mighty Wellington.

The aircraft came to rest on the icy dark waters of Loch Ness and as the two airmen clambered onto the wing of the stricken Wellington, taking to their inflatable dinghy and rowing for the shore, they could not have known that they were only metres away from a nearby major road. Once ashore, they were quickly picked up by a passing lorry and driven to Inverness, where they were in time to join in with the town's New Year's celebrations. Although the trainee navigators all parachuted safely, the incident was to have a tragic ending when the crew learned that their gunner had lost his life, seemingly as his parachute had been caught on the wing or tail of the aircraft and failed to open correctly. Having safely brought her two pilots back to earth, Vickers Wellington N2980 'R for Robert' sank quietly beneath the waters of Loch Ness, becoming another secret of this famous stretch of water.

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Computer rendered 3d image of the impressive new 1/72nd scale Airfix Wellington Mk.IA tooling

In 1976, a team of American scientists were searching Loch Ness for evidence of the fabled Loch Ness monster, when the cutting edge sonar equipment they were using picked up a large object in the depths of the Loch.  Obviously excited by their discovery and potential evidence of their prehistoric prey, they immediately launched further investigations, which brought the disappointing (for them) confirmation that they had actually found a different leviathan of the deep, the wreck of a large aeroplane. Initially, the team thought they were looking at a Catalina flying boat and they passed their discovery on to the relevant authorities. Some months later, a naval diving team were sent to survey the wreck and correctly identified it as a Wellington Bomber and with this information to hand, a quick search of official RAF records soon revealed the aircraft to be N2980 'R for Robert'. Once news of the discovery began to circulate and pictures of the submerged wreck were shown in newspapers and aviation magazines, ambitious plans for a salvage operation to raise the Wellington from its watery resting place began to take shape. It would take almost ten years for a serious salvage attempt to be made not least due to the fact that this huge aircraft was submerged under 70 metres of Scottish Loch and the geodetic construction of the Wellington employed the use of many wood and fabric components, which potentially could have suffered severe deterioration whilst submerged, if not during the ditching itself. This could have a significant impact on raising the aircraft without it simply disintegrating during the lifting process.

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Full scheme details for Wellington Mk.IA N2980 'R for Robert', which include options to finish your model as the 1940 Loch Ness ditching aircraft, or the markings used on the restored aircraft at Brooklands

In an extremely high profile and well publicised salvage operation, this magnificent 'Lady of the Loch' was gently raised from the bottom of Loch Ness in September 1985 and despite having survived a ditched landing spending almost 45 years submerged under water, she appeared to be in remarkably good condition. Amazingly, when the salvage team connected a battery to the electrical system, the Wellington's tail lights still worked and it was discovered that many of the crew's personal effects were still in the fuselage, just where they had left them on that fateful New Year's Eve flight in 1940. The aircraft was transported by road to the Brooklands Museum just a few days later, where assessments were made regarding the viability of effecting a preservation and restoration programme for this now famous Wellington, which had returned to the site of her original construction in 1939. N2980 is a significant aeroplane in her own right, being one of only TWO complete Wellington airframes surviving in the world and the only example to have seen operational service as a bomber during the Second World War. Since arriving at Brooklands, the aircraft has benefited from some significant restorative and preservation work with sections of the intricate geodetic construction of the Wellington intentionally left exposed - also, as a mark of respect to the airman who sadly lost his life during the ditching incident in 1940, the propellers have been left exactly as they were when the aircraft settled on the bed of Loch Ness.

Vickers Wellington Mk.IA N2980 'R for Robert' is such a significant historic aircraft, possessing genuine combat provenance and a fascinating story, that this scheme option will prove extremely difficult for modellers to resist once our magnificent new 1/72nd scale Wellington kit is released later in the year. The fact that the aircraft can also be viewed at the Brooklands Museum only adds to the appeal of this option and we are looking forward to featuring plenty of built examples of this magnificent loch Ness Wellington in our Customer Images section.

South Atlantic Sea King special

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The magnificent box artwork supporting this new Sea King release really shows off this impressive anniversary scheme

As we currently find ourselves in the Centenary year of the Royal Air Force, many aviation enthusiasts will be hoping that the coming Airshow season will feature several current RAF aircraft wearing specially applied anniversary markings, as this significant occasion deserves to be commemorated in some style. Over the years, various individual squadrons have marked their own specific anniversaries by presenting one of their aircraft in special liveries, with these aircraft going on to be a source of pride for current squadron members, as well as being extremely popular with enthusiasts, particularly as we currently find ourselves in a period of rather plain air superiority grey aircraft schemes. A recent rotary addition to the Airfix kit range includes decal options to finish one of Britain's best loved post war aircraft in an unusually flamboyant scheme and it is worth taking a closer look at what is destined to be an extremely popular release.

The Westland Sea King has been something of an airborne workhorse since it first entered British service with the Royal Navy in 1970 and was regarded as one of the most versatile aircraft available to UK military forces, helping to cement the reputation of helicopters as indispensable assets in a constantly changing political world. As both RAF and Royal Navy Sea Kings also fulfilled the vital role of Air Sea Rescue from locations around the UK, these went on to become some of the highest profile aircraft in British military service and were usually the aircraft which the general public came into contact with most regularly. Bringing the professionalism of military flying to potentially life-threatening public rescue situations, these helicopters were viewed as angels on our shoulders, coming to our rescue when we needed them most. The vital Search and Rescue role was not only performed by the Sea King over the UK, but also during naval deployments across the globe and on the Falkland Islands, following the successful operation to recapture the Islands from Argentinian occupation in 1982.

Westland Sea King HAR.3, XZ586, No.78 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Mount Pleasant Airfield, Falkland Islands, January 1991.

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Although the Royal Navy deployed Sea King Helicopters in some numbers during the Falklands War, only one RAF HAR.3 Search & Rescue aircraft, XZ593 could claim to have been involved. Finished in its usual all-over yellow scheme and wearing the markings of No.202 Squadron, this aircraft was sent to Ascension Island, where it was charged with performing its usual SAR role, but in the very different surroundings of this remote, yet extremely vibrant Island base. Following the successful liberation of the Falkland Islands, it was clear that a defensive force would be required to remain in the Falklands moving forwards, including a significant air defence capability, which would also require the need for permanent Air Sea Rescue cover.

Westland Sea King XZ586 was constructed at Westland's Yeovil factory in September 1977 and was delivered to the RAF in February 1978. Although it would go on to enjoy a long and successful military career, perhaps the most interesting period of its service was during its deployment to the South Atlantic. RAF Sea Kings of No.202 'C Flight' had been providing Air Sea Rescue cover from Navy Point, Port Stanley since July 1982, but they were to have a change of station four years later when the flight amalgamated with the Chinooks of No.1310 Flight, to form No.78 Squadron at RAF Mount Pleasant, as soon as the new airfield became fully operational in 1986. With at least two Sea Kings serving in this role at any one time, No.78 Squadron has the distinction of being the only RAF Squadron to be permanently based in the Falkland Islands between 1988 and 2007, with their hard working Sea Kings performing this vital role in often hazardous conditions. This unusually flamboyant scheme was applied to Sea King XZ586 during January 1991, to mark the 75th Anniversary of No.78 Squadron, whilst the aircraft was still stationed at RAF Mount Pleasant. The usual over-all grey scheme received a yellow and black flash which ran the length of the fuselage, with the Squadron's heraldic 'Tiger Rampant' crest and additional commemorative markings carried on either side of the fuselage. This must surely be classed as one of the most attractive schemes applied to an RAF Sea King and without doubt the most distinctive to operate over the Falkland Islands.

Westland Sea King Mk.43, No.330 Squadron, Royal Norwegian Air Force, 1996.

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This extremely attractive aircraft is the second scheme option available with this latest Westland Sea King release and marks one of the Westland built machines which served in the Air Sea Rescue role with the Royal Norwegian Air Force. With these distinctive white and dayglow-orange aircraft performing the same duties as the famous British helicopters, these are clearly high profile aircraft in Norwegian skies and provide reassurance along the vast and often hostile coastline of the country. With the first aircraft delivered in 1972, No.330 Squadron is headquartered at Sola Air Station, with detachments at Rygge, Floro, Orland, Bode and Banak. Operating twelve Sea Kings, two aircraft are located at each station, other than Floro, which only has one helicopter - within this number, there are usually two aircraft undergoing long-term maintenance at any one time. From a Search and Rescue perspective, there will be at least one Sea King on 24-hour standby at each location, with their pilots putting their faith in the proven reliability of these venerable sentinels of the sky.

The latest 1/72nd scale Westland Sea King HAR.3 (A04063) is scheduled to be released in March and provides modellers with two fabulous new schemes to grace any collection of helicopters.

Unique venue for early season model show

There is nothing quite like putting some distance between modellers and the latest festive period, which is why the early season schedule of model shows can usually rely on strong support from both exhibitors and visitors desperate to get back to some serious modelling action. The recent South West Model Show held over the weekend of the 10th/11th February took place at the Tank Museum, Bovington, with the unique backdrop of the world's finest collection of tanks making this a particularly memorable event. Airfix Lead Researcher, Simon Owen was planning to attend the show and kindly offered to review the event for Workbench readers to enjoy - we are pleased to bring you his report now.

The weekend of the 10th/11th of February saw the now annual model show take place at the Tank Museum, Bovington. Now usually I only have the opportunity to speak to the modelling public about our products at the whirlwind of a weekend that is the IPMS National show at Telford, so when it transpired I was free this weekend, it seemed a natural opportunity to travel down to Bovington, visit a great museum I hadn't been too for some time and check out what some of you guys and girls have been up to with our products recently and what you thought of them.

A typically cold and wet February journey down to Dorset saw me arrive as the show opened and there was quite the queue to get in. Holding the event at the beginning of the half term week was a great move by the museum and there was an obvious mixture of serious modellers and families waiting to enter the halls. Upon entering the first part of the museum, telling the story of the tank from 'Little Willie' to the modern day, I was immediately greeted by a special interest group I hadn't seen before.

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The Gulf War group had a fantastic table of models, with a striking rendition of our 1/48th scale Westland Lynx parked next to an equally lovely Blackburn Buccaneer, also in 1/48th scale. While these two models are not currently in our line up, it is always nice to see what people can create from some of our older bits of tooling. The Westland Lynx may well make a comeback in the coming years, the tooling for the Buccaneer however, means that it probably won't. One to hang onto in the stash!

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The Gulf schemes certainly looked different on those machines, as did the Filipino colours on this lovely little North American F51D Mustang I spied on the Asian air forces table. This is actually a favourite of mine and a scheme I have painted one of our Mustangs in myself! However, mine is certainly not to this standard. These three models go to show that even a more standard or mainstream release can be made interesting through some aftermarket decals and a change of paint. This is further shown by the superb Egyptian Lancaster on the Airfix SIG stand. Everyone who builds models has built a Lancaster, but how many have been in colours other than bomber command?

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And these Jet Provosts also demonstrate some alternatives to the usual hues, although some are still UK based.

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Though a nice model, finished in the usual scheme, this can still be a head turner as this lovely little Hurricane Mk I by Terry Howlet of the Poole Vikings model club demonstrates, along with the Spitfire II next to it - this Battle of Britain pair looked excellent on the club stand.

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Walking round the hall it was hard not see armour kits. Being a tank museum and ostensibly an armour show they were everywhere! Now it won't have escaped anyone who reads this blog regularly, or views our Facebook site, that we do not do a huge amount of armour. However, it was nice to see some fantastic models from our kits on some of the display stands.

The only two previous visits I have made to the Tank Museum were to photograph and measure the Cromwell and Tiger II and seeing the Cromwell again brought back memories of my early days at Airfix. As did seeing some made up by some very talented modellers. I also saw the Tiger II again after some time, which brought back rather more painful memories….. more on this later!

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One area of armour Airfix did invest in was a series of 1/48th scale modern machines used in the conflict in Afghanistan. It was great to see a few of these used as part of larger dioramas, which was incidentally the thinking behind doing the vehicles and aircraft all in 1/48th scale, so that they could complement each other on display.

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Walking round the halls it was nice to see some of our more recent models built up, such as these fantastic Supermarine Walruses (Walri?) one in Royal Navy colours and the other in Irish markings, somewhat jumping the gun on our release later this year! But they were two fantastic models and it was great to chat to the builders and hear both praise and constructive criticism.

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All in all, it was great to have a wander round the museum, view some fantastic models and look at some exhibits I hadn't seen in years. I love armour, tanks have always been a fascination for me and can only hope that sometime soon I am able to research one again!

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Oh and the King Tiger? Often at museums I am given a health and safety briefing before I can 'climb' over any exhibits. They often ask if I have ever fallen off anything. And the answer is only once. That armour on the front of a King Tiger provides no grip whatsoever and the floor is extremely hard at Bovington - ouch!

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We would like to thank Simon for a great review of the Bovington show and look forward to many more of his guest appearances in future editions of Workbench.

Unfortunately, that's all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, but as usual, we will be back in two weeks' time with another selection of Airfix news, features and modelling updates. As you know, we are always keen to gauge the thoughts of our readers and there are several ways in which you can contact us, which include our dedicated e-mail address at workbench@airfix.com and of course the Workbench thread over on the Airfix Forum. If social media is more your style, you could access either the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench where you will find plenty of modelling news, views and discussion. Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch, as it is always interesting to hear from fellow modelling enthusiasts and the projects you have on the go at the moment.

As always, the Airfix website is the place to go for all the latest model release information, with our New Arrivals, Coming Soon and Last Chance to Buy sections all accessed by clicking on the above links. As updating the website is a constant process, a quick search through each section of the Airfix web pages will reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections and this is always an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend a few minutes.

The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 16th March, when we look forward to bringing you all the latest news, updates and exclusives from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.

The Airfix Workbench Team

 

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