On VJ-Day, denied the task of helping with the invasion of Malaya, 800 Naval Air Squadron instead found itself being disbanded. Its aircraft, the mighty Grumman Hellcat II, were disembarked at RNAS Trincomalee in Sri Lanka and its crews shipped back to the UK having won a total of 13 Battle Honours during the war.
However, the squadron was doing nothing more than taking a breather. On 5th August 1946 the squadron was re-established at RNAS Lee-on-Solent, the crews then making their way to RNAS Eglington (now Derry Airport) where on October 1st the squadron reformed with the Seafire Mk.XV.
The Mk.XV lasted a very short while in the squadron, being replaced by the Mk.XVII in February 1947 when the squadron was assigned to 13th Carrier Air Group onboard HMS Triumph. Despite this very brief stint of duty, the Mk.XV managed to have two sub-versions known as the ‘frame hook’ and the ‘stinger hook’ varieties.
The frame hook was an ‘A’-frame with a covering panel fitted to the underside of the rear fuselage about half way between the wing trailing edge and the tail wheel. The stinger type extended from a fairing at the base of the rudder and effectively trailed below and behind the aircraft. Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, the greatest naval pilot of all time who tested both types, found that the stinger was easier to position to catch a wire than the frame hook, and so all the subsequent Seafires had stingers. Quite what the crews thought about giving up the huge and rugged Hellcat for the slight, sprightly and twitchy Seafire I have yet to discover, but I can’t imagine they were too happy about the very narrow undercarriage and the terribly restricted front view.
Anyway, the kit came from the rather glorious five-aircraft set by Sword. This has five different Seafires: the Mk.IIc, Mk.III. frame hook Mk.XV, stinger Mk.XV and the Mk.XVII. Each is bagged up as a complete kit in the box. Of course, this is made a bit easier due to the fact that there are only really two fuselage shapes and only one wing design across the marks. Also, if you have ever looked at a Sword Seafire kit, there are a lot of unused parts which actually belong to other marks. In effect, you could probably box up five Sword ‘Seafires’ and just have different decals and different instructions for each. Oh, and the exhausts come as resin parts.
Anyway, the kits are decent enough to do and I have made the stinger Mk.XV and the Mk.XVII previously. What I will do in the future is make the Mk.XVII again but with a proper-looking wing fold.
So, Seafires all done now. I now sit on the edge of the Dark Side – resin kits need to be made…