Well, I’m still waiting for the missing half funnel for my HMS Triumph build, so it is time to do one of the planes that flew from it. This time in 1/72nd scale, it is the Supermarine Seafire FR.47.
And it’s another kit from Special Hobby. This means a plethora of bits and pieces. What I didn’t realise is that the kit is essentially two marks of Spitfire plus two marks of Seafire all bundled together. All they have to do is change the box and presto! It now magically becomes a Spitfire Mk.22…
I mean, there are two sets of five-bladed props, plus a set of six-bladed (well, thing three-bladed), two sets of tailplane (horizontal stabilisers), THREE different rudders, two different canopies, two sets of exhaust stubs (I’ll be hanged if I can tell the difference), two interior rear bulkheads, it is endless. But, a common fuselage and wings. Loads of decals and some nice pre-painted photo-etch.
Like all the Special hobby models I’ve made, the two fuselage halves were a pig to get aligned correctly with the cockpit parts and with each other. All the bits needed varying degrees of trimming or filing, there was a bit of filler needed here and there and it was all a bit of a faff. However., I can forgive them for one very good reason (see below).
At least the paint job is relatively easy. An all-over coat of Sky Type B, then a bit of masking to allow for the upper works in Extra Dark Sea Grey. No invasion stripes on this one, as it is from the journey toward Korea. Application of the very flimsy but well coloured decals and voila! A Seafire FR.47 that my father remembers.
And the reason why all is forgiven? Because they have included the RATOG kit – the Rocket-Assisted Take-Off Gear that sat just above the wing stubs and allowed the Seafire to get off the deck with a full load. In an ideal world, the carrier would steam at full speed into the wind to launch aircraft. If there was a 20 knot wind, plus the ship could steam at 25 knots, then there would be a 45 knot headwind for the planes to take off into. They only needed to gain another 45 or so knots and they were airborne. The rockets helped when the single catapult wasn’t working or when they needed to launch a lot of planes in a short time. This was especially true when HMS Triumph had to cruise on only one propeller due to a problem with a bearing. At full whack, with everything shaking, she could only make 18 knots and in the absence of a helpful breeze a Seafire with a full war load would have a fair chance of not getting to flying speed before running out of deck.
Incidentally, Dad remembers this one. It was one of four that suffered from buckling in the rear of the fuselage due to stresses from arrested deck landings. More than one had its tail torn off – the front end careening into the crash barrier or, if unlucky, off the side of the ship or into the gun emplacements. Dad lost a friend in one such incident, when a Seafire ran into the 40mm gun under which he was taking shelter and the whole lot went up in flames. Even without being shot at by the enemy, carrier operations in those days were perilous enough for the crews.
So, this is why the tribute to 800 NAS and to the ships’ companies that hosted them.