With the choice of a jet, a biplane or two Skuas, I decided to go with the Skuas. Both are from Special Hobby and differ only in the decal set and suggested paint schemes.
One is very special. L2940 was flown by Captain Richard ‘Birdy’ Partidge, RM with Lieutennant Commander Geoffrey Hare, RN as the telegraphist air gunner (TAG) in the back. This aircraft was ‘Yellow One’ from 800NAS that, with other aircraft from 800 and 803 NAS, attacked and sank the German cruiser ‘Königsberg’ on 10 April 1940. This was the first major ship to be sent down by allied air attack in the war. On 27th April, with Lieutenant Robert Bostock, RN as his TAG, Birdy was credited with shooting down an enemy Heinkel 111 bomber.
On 13 June 1940, 800 and 803 NAS were tasked with bombing the German battleship Scharnhorst in what can only be described as almost suicidal conditions. Eight Skuas were shot down. ‘Birdy’ Partridge and Lt. Bostock, this time flying in L2995, were set upon by two Messerschmidt Bf-109 fighters. Bostock was killed during the chase, ‘Birdy’ (by then acting Major Partridge, RM) managed to bail out from low level. Suffering burns to his face, he was captured by the Germans and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner.
For many historians, especially in the USA, the passage of time between the outbreak of the war and the start of The Blitz is often referred to as the ‘phoney war’. For the crews of 800 and 803 NAS, they were nothing of the sort. They carried the fight to German forces in Norway with extreme courage. A typical mission would take them beyond Bergen, a two hour flight each way when their endurance was 4 1/2 hours at the very best. The camouflaged Skua here is intended as a tribute to them all, and is painted to look as if it has seen some hard North Sea service.
On to the builds.
The Skua kit is very much like the Blackburn Roc of recent memory – not surprising as they are from the same source. Three sprues of plastic, one for the canopy, some polyurethane resin bits for the engine, wheels, exhaust etc., some photo etch and clear plastic and the decals. This one is for the plane is finished in pre-war silver dope, the other kit is intended to be the northern temperate camouflage colours adopted once we realised how much more beastly the Bosche were going to be second time round.
The main difference is, of course, in the cockpit area as there is no rear turret. Plenty of detailing in the photo etch, including some rudder pedals (about 1.5mm wide!) and a film backing for the instrument panel to give some detail to the artificial horizon, etc.
The wings have inserts for the wheel wells, but these protrude a bit too much so need some judicious filing to allow the two wing halves to fit. I am using the bomb rack on the camouflaged one, with a 500lb SAP bomb from a Pavla set as the kind of thing they dropped on the Königsberg. The photo etch includes the extra cross-bracing bars you can see here.
As I say, it all went together reasonably well and we could get on to paint. The pre-war scheme is all over silver dope with some red highlighting. I used aluminium paint with a few drops of white, followed by satin varnish, to try to get the ‘dope’ look. I always feel, by the way, that a model only really starts to come alive when the decals start going on!
Finish for the pre-war plane was very straightforward and, I have to say, looks quite smart. You will notice that I have cut the rear cupola window and put it in the retracted position so I can show off the rear gun to better effect. In normal flight, the cupola would be closed and the gun sat in the channel just being the canopy.
The 1940 aircraft needed more love and attention.
For a start, it had the bomb fitted, painted with semi armour-piercing (SAP) colours as used in 1940. The trapeze was used to throw the bomb clear of the propeller arc when dive bombing, one of the first aircraft in the world to do this.
Then it needed some roughing up. This was a mix of aluminium paint for bare patches, dark brown powder for the panel lines, bits of rust and some oil staining. The whole thing is supposed to look battered.
I hope the result looks right enough to stand as a testament to the bravery and sacrifice of the Fleet Air Arm in the early days of the Second World War.