SAirfix 1/72 Grumman Martlet IV

For my next project I've gone for the New Tool 1/72 Martlet. As I've already built the Wildcat boxing, which is practically identical apart from the nose I'm not anticipating any problems with this build.


The first job for me is always carrying out research on the subject I'm about to model, which is always one of the most enjoyable parts of the exercise for me as I'm finding out stuff I may not of been aware of.

I use paper research as well as the internet. The six different marks of RN Martlets/ Wildcats are quite complicated as several were unique to British service. Here is a brief rundown incase you are interested;

Mk I. 91 aircraft ordered by the French Navy. when France fell the order was switched to Britain. 10 aircraft were lost at sea, the others were all delivered in 1940. The Mk I was based on the American fixed wing F4F-3 but with a single row Wright Cyclone GR-1820-G205A replacing the Pratt & Whitney R-1830, and a new propeller. Because the engine was shorter the fuselage was slightly lengthened ahead of the wing to preserve the centre of gravily. 


Mk II. 109 aircraft delivered in 1941 and 42. The first 10 were fixed wing the rest folded wing. These aircraft had the two row Pratt & Whitney engine, but with a simplified supercharger which reduced performance at height. Again the prop was different, as was the pitot tube which was located above the wing similar to an Avenger. The American designation for these aircraft (folding wing) was F4F-4A.


Mk III. 30 aircraft delivered in '41. Originally ordered by Greece, they were at Gibraltar when Greece fell and were used instead by the RN shore based in the Western Desert. These aircraft were the same as the US Navy F4F-3A, including prop, with the simplified supercharger. 


Mk IV. Subject of the Airfix kit. 220 aircraft delivered in '42. Folding wings, extended fuselage and single row Wright engine. Known to the Americans as the F4F-4B.


Mk V. 322 aircraft delivered between 1942 and '44. Same as the US Navy FM-1, which was similar to the F4F-4 but with only 4 guns instead of 6 and built by General Motors.


Mk VI. 340 aircraft delivered in '44 and '45, the only aircraft to be delivered as Wildcats after the name change from Martlet on 1st January 1944. Same as the FM-2, with lghtweight airframe, extended fin, single row engine and no oil coolers under the wings.4 wing guns.


Anyway, now that's over with back to the kit. Two new sprues are included with the fuselage extension, two new cowlings (?), the new prop and a half relief Wright Cyclone. There is also a choice of two Operation Torch aircraft on the decals, both from 888 Sqn on HMS Formidable, or so they say.

The new parts


All of the plastic


The decals, both are Royal Navy, even though one looks like US Navy.


Painting and decalling guide.



Following the instruction sequence I started with the cockpit. This is well detailed for the scale and includes four decals for instrument and side panels. Construction was straightforward, using a fuselage side for alinement, for painting I used a brush and followed Airfix's call outs. Next came the undercarriage, which needs to be fitted before the fuselage halves are joined if the gear is down. This is a very fiddly assembly, and much use of a magnifier was made.

All assemblies painted and weathered, ready for the fuselage to go together, seat beals are from painted Tamiya tape.


The detail on the rear bulkhead of the undercarriage bay, including depiction of the bicycle type chains used to raise and lower the wheels. These were brought out using dry brushing.


Next up will be main airframe assembly.

The completed undercarriage assembly went onto the front of the cockpit, then the whole thing slotted into the starboard fuselage half. Best to make sure that any paint is removed from the matting edges or else you won't get a good join. I'm going for the spread wings this time, as when I built the F4F-4 version I made the folded option.


1076 posts

It's looking good PMM. Am interesting little kit, I've got the Wildcat in my stash and your making me think I should add the Martlet to the pile awaiting to be built? 

Colin M

104 posts

Looks nice. I'll look forward to seeing this one develop.

Everything went together pretty quickly. Fit was very good with just a small gap infront of the cockpit, and some more small gaps around the forward fuselage extension, wings went on with no gaps to fill, and the one piece tailplane was also good, but be careful to get it level. The ailerons and rudder are separate and were slightly offset for a little animation to the model.

In this image the two almost identical engine cowls are seen together.


The seems were soon filled where needed and smoothed with wet and dry, then the model wshed in warm water with an old toothbush to remove dust and grease, left to dry and it was ready for painting.

The grey painted areas around the nose are where I've checked filled seems.

The prop is only push fitted an the moment and won't be glued until the end of the build.

The underside Sky Type -S was painted first (Humbrol 90), followed by the Extra Dark Sea Grey (Hu 164 Dark Sea Grey, not Hu 123 which is a bit to dark), and finally the Dark Slate Grey (Hu 224). All were hand painted and no masking used as there were not hard edges between the top and bottom colours.

it's difficult to tell between the two topside colours, as the tone is very similar.

The Airfix painting guide was followed. The cartridge slots were picked out with a little black paint.


Next a couple of coats of Klear, then decals.

As usual with the new Airfix offerings the Cartograf decals went on well with minimum carrier film and no silvering. However I think there may be some confusion with the two options given with this kit. Both are said to be from 888 NAS at the time of Operation Torch, aboard HMS Formidable. But if the aircraft are from the same Squadron at the same time for the same operation why do they have different Squadron codes in different font styles, and one has the 'Torch' US stars and the other roundles? Some research needed I think!

After trawling the internet for a while I think I have soime answers. first parent carrier, the 'Ø' at the start of the code represents the ship. This is the Greek letter for 'F' for Formidable, so the carrier is correct. (At the time of the Second World War most naval Officers were public school educated and liked to show off their Greek and Latin skills!).

Next the squadron identifier, which is the second figure in the code, either a '7' or '9'. From my research I found that at the time of 'torch' Formidable had two Martlet squadrons, 888 NAS, who had the code number '7' and the short lived 893 NAS with '9', so I'm guessing option 1 on the paint guide is actually from 893. There is always the chance however that 888 borrowed the aircraft without changing codes however.

Finally the different national markings. As all aircraft involved in the 'Torch' landings had US stars it is probable that the photo that the scheme is based on was taken during preperations for 'Torch' during early November, and not during the operation itself in later November1942. Again however there is always the exception that proves the rule!


Here is the model with decals applied. One of the small underside windows was missing from my kit, but this was replaced with clear glue and a cocktail stick as seen here.


After the decals a couple of coats of flat varnish went on, followed by the last detail painting and a little weathering and the kit was done. Another thing I found from my research was that there should be a small individual letter at the bottom of the nose cowling in black. I added one from an old Modeldecal sheet.


This was a lovely little kit to build, and I would recommend it to anyone with a little modelling experience. It may not be an ideal first kit as the undercarriage is a little complex. There is some talk on other forums of the rear fuselage being not quite right, but it looks okay to me, and that's what matters after all!


As a postscript I have also found out what happened to the actual aircraft after 'Torch'. After active service it was issued to a training unit, 759 NAS at Yeovilton. While on a training flight on the 19/12/43 at 1005 it entered into a 45 degree dive at high speed. It didn't pull out and the wings failed, the aircarft came down near Frome, Somerset and the pilot,  Midshipman (A) Basil John Charlton, R.N.V.R. Age 19. was Killed.

Well done PMM on two counts. Well done on the build, and well done on the research. 

Your research agrees with the information I have with one exception. The Air Britain book The Squadrons & Units of the FAA has a picture of ‘Wildcat IVs’ in standard British markings [C type roundels, etc] with the caption ‘..... launching from HMS Formidable during Operation Torch..... November 1942’. The reason I mention it is that the photo is credited to the FAAM.

Perhaps this is another example of markings at or around a change point. As they say, Don’t they know there’s a war on?

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