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Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Matchbox Walrus Mk-1

An early 1970's Matchbox 1/72 scale three colour kit (PK-105) of a Supermarine Walrus Mk 1.

The aircraft depicted on the box lid was carried on board the Royal Navy ship HMS Sheffield in 1938. The kit also includes decals for an RAF aircraft from 283 Squadron stationed in Italy during 1944.

The Walrus (originally called the Seagull V) was developed in response to a request from the Royal Australian Navy for an aircraft which could be carried aboard their cruisers and launched by catapult with a full payload.

The aircraft, designed by R J Mitchell (who also designed the Spitfire), was first flown in June 1933.

When flying from a warship, the Walrus would be recovered by touching-down alongside, then being lifted from the sea by a ship's crane. The aircraft's lifting-gear was kept in a compartment in the section of wing directly above the engine - one of the Walrus crew would climb onto the top wing and attach this to the crane hook.

The aircraft was usually armed with two .303 Vickers machine guns - one in the nose and one at the rear. It could also carry up to 760 lbs (340 kilos) of bombs or depth charges.

Twenty four aircraft were delivered for service on Australian cruisers including the Canberra, Sydney and Perth between 1935 and 1937.

Further orders followed from the RAF and other overseas Air Forces and Navies (see below) and eventually 740 aircraft in total were constructed.

The Walrus' main intended use was a gunnery spotting aircraft during naval engagements but this only happened on handful of occasions. It's main use was as a patrol aircraft, helping to locate enemy submarines and surface raiders. It was also used by the RAF as an air sea rescue aircraft around the British Coast, in the Mediterranean and India.

By 1943, catapult-launched aircraft on cruisers and battleships were being phased out, having been superseded by advances in radar technology.

Apart from the RAAF, Fleet Air Arm and RAF, Walruses saw military service with various forces around the world including the Irish Air Corps, RCAF, RNZAF and Soviet Naval Aviation.

Post war, aircraft saw service with the Argentinian Navy, the French Navy (Aviation Navale) as well as with the Egyptians and Turks. A few aircraft found civilian use aboard whaling ships operating in the Antarctic which had been fitted with ex Navy catapult equipment. Some others were used for carrying passengers in places such as Canada, Norway and Australia.

This kit is currently for sale on Ebay here.

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Monday, 22 March 2010

Airfix RAF Rescue Launch

An Airfix 1/72 scale model kit of an RAF Rescue Launch. This is another example of the "map top box" style artwork introduced by Airfix in the mid 1980's.

The launch depicted on the box, HSL 156, is one of a series of sixty nine so called Type 2 "Whalebacks" built by the British Power Boat Company in Hythe and Poole for the RAF between 1940 and 1942.

It was 63' long with a displacement of 21.5 tons and a maximum speed of 35 knots. The hull was made from African mahogany.

The launches were used by RAF Air Sea Rescue units stationed around the British Coast as well as in the Mediterranean and India later in the war.

They were fitted with two aircraft style gun turrets which each housed a single .303 machine gun. Additional Lewis or Browning machines guns were usually fitted and some launches were armed with a 20 mm Oerlikon cannon.

HSL 156 was commanded by Flying Officer Geoffrey Lockwood, D.S.C. and operated from Newhaven, Sussex as part of the 28th Air Sea Rescue Unit during 1943-44.

Notable amongst the rescues accomplished by HSL 156 was the successful retrieval of two American B-17 crews, a total of nineteen men, from the middle of a minefield in October 1944

An example of this kit is currently for sale on Ebay here.

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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Airfix Short Sunderland III

An Airfix 1/72 scale kit of a Short Sunderland III flying boat dating from the mid 1980's. This is a good example of the distinctive so called "map top box" design which Airfix introduced around this time.

The aircraft depicted on the box belonged to 423 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force and operated from Castle Archdale, Northern Ireland in 1943 - 1944.

The first S.25 (Sunderland Mark I) flying boat built in Short's factory at Rochester, Kent, flew from the River Medway on 16th October 1937. The Air Ministry was very enthusiastic about the new aircraft and had even ordered 21 production examples in March 1936, well before the first test flight.

The first production Sunderland Mark I's entered service with 230 Squadron RAF based in Singapore in June 1938 and by the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, forty aircraft were operational with RAF Coastal Command.

The Sunderland could carry up to 2000 lbs of bombs, mines or depth charges. The aircraft was also well protected with up to eighteen machine guns and could hold it's own against German fighter aircraft.

The aircraft was used for a number of roles including air sea rescue, as a troop carrier, as a transport and in convoy protection (anti submarine).

Apart from at Rochester, Sunderlands were also built at Short's factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland and by the Blackburn Aircraft company in Dumbarton, Scotland.

In August 1941 the Sunderland Mark II was introduced with Pegasus XVIII engines, a modified tail turret and a dorsal turret with twin .303 machine guns.

Later in 1941 production switched to the Sunderland Mark III which became the most common variant with 461 built mainly by Short Brothers in Rochester and Belfast. 35 aircraft were produced at a temporary Shorts plant at White Cross Bay on Lake Windermere.

The Sunderland Mark III was very effective in the fight against German U boats during the battle of the Atlantic. The aircraft flew on long patrols of up to fourteen hours meticulously hunting down the U boats which were attacked with depth charges and strafed with machine gun fire.

A Sunderland Mark IV was developed (later designated S.45 Seaford) for use in the Pacific theatre. Thirty production models were ordered but only eight production were completed and never got beyond operational trials with the RAF.

The Sunderland Mark V was powered by American Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90B Twin Wasp engines which were also used on the Catalina and Dakota. These engines provided greater performance and enabled the aircraft to be flown in an emergency with only two of the four engines operational.

The first Mark V reached operational units in February 1945. The last Sunderland was delivered in June 1946 after a total production run of 749 aircraft.

Apart from the RCAF and RAF, Sunderlands saw service with the RAAF, RNZAF, French Navy, the Norwegian Air Force, the Portuguese Navy and the South African Air Force.

Post war converted military Sunderlands were used by many airlines around the world including BOAC, Ansett, Qantas and Aerolineas Argentinas. Short's civilian conversion of the Sunderland was called the Short Sandringham.

An example of the Airfix kit is currently for sale on Ebay here

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