Welcome to the Workbench.
It is said that R J Mitchell didn't like the name "Spitfire" given to his beautiful fighter, and the same legend says that he suggested, and preferred, the name "Shrew"; it is if course one of the obligations bestowed on What If? modellers to correct the errors of the past however trivial, so when a kit of the Supermarine 327 appeared it was too good an opportunity to pass up! The chance comes in resin thanks to Freightdog Models, and I was able to bring a pair back from ScaleModelWorld. Having had a little notice of its arrival I had time to consult Tony Buttler's British Projects, '35-'50, and found a picture of what I thought was a Twin-Merlin pusher, probably with a nose full of cannon but in fact the engines were tractor and the six cannon mounted in the wing roots.
There are passing resemblences to its illustrious ancestor, notably its rather broad chord elliptical wing. Its fuselage looks a little slight, and the rather large space needed for the nosewheel explaines the wing-mounted guns. The fitting of the nacelles to their cutouts in the wings ensures the correct port and starboard fit, but it was not till I found Ralph Pegram's excellent "Beyond the Spitfire" on an unexpected shelf when I'd just started my Shrew LF.IIb that I found that the Merlins were handed, though I didn't discover which rotation was which; fortunately the propellors need to be fitted to the spinners, so there is a chance to show a slightly differing appearance if perhaps at the cost of having to fight the carpet monster for a couple of blades dropped on the floor (I told you I was losing my grip). As well as the novel tricycle undercarriage that on the 327 is inward-retrqcting and comparitively wide-track; it's also a bit stalky, which may be why the black u/c legs seem to be of a slightly harder material than the grey resin otherwise used. The fit is generally good, but I found that having found space forjust enough liquid-grafity infused plasticene forward of the mainwheel axis I had to fix the cockpit end together and leave it overnight. The vertical tail fits on a slant just in front of the tailplane, and on the second aircraft I found I'd sanded off rather too much of the leading edge of the tailcone, which resulted in a too obvious step at the join.
Having brought back the pair my plan was to make them in series. The first you will see is an F.Ib carrying the special markings for Exercise Starkey in the late summer of 1943, and you may recognise the initials of the Wing Leader as those of Denis Crowley-Milling; the underwing stores are a pair of Bullseye wave-skinning bombs, a sort of small horizontal Highballs. They weren't used, perhaps over practical directional uncertainties but have been reproduced by Freightdog and this seemed a good fit; alternatively try a Hurricane IV. As I was coming to the end of the F.Ib I thought of clipping the wingtips for an LF.II; my very early instinct was to have given it to 601, whch being ex-Airacobra had had some tricycle experience, and had then moved on to the Desert Air Force and by mid-'44 was in Italy. An option in the kit is a pair of "Vokes" filters for later Merlins which fit over the lower nacelles and need a little more fairing in than I gave them but together with the three bombs (Pavla) and the sand/scheme gave me the necessary corroborative detail. Finally just above the fin flash there was enough space for 601's winged sword, from Modeldecal set 101 of course.
There will be more I hope across my workbench, possibly at least five to match my Winchester "Giant Bombers" ; if you, like me, look for possible variations in users, colours and markings a passing perusal of your Favourite Book of Spitfires will give you much more inspiration and anyone could need! On present plans my first two for 2018 will be pink and hooked (not both at once). With luck they'll take me through to Peterborough.
Well, one of them at least - the Sea Shrew will make its appearance later, maybe at ModelKraft. This scheme is stolen shamelessly from 16 Squadron, who had a "pink" FR Spitfire in Belgium in early 1945, the colour I think being devised for comparent invisibilty at dawn. I had the pleasure a few years ago at one of the Milton Keynes Aviation Society's seminars of talking to a pilot who'd flown this unusually coloured mare and remembered them as being "clapped-out" when they reached the squadron and not popular. Many years ago - again! - Xtracolor reproduced this pink in enamel, but a recent build article reported that the original shade had been much paler that generally thought, not far off white; I'm normally nervous about mixing a required shade for fear of producing a streaky surface but for this aircraft - which had been on my to-do list as soon as Freightdog revealed the kit - I found a partly used jar of acrylic "Super White" to serve as a base and arrived at this result even though I suspect it's not pale enough. The markings, national and code, were taken from a Barracuda sheet of Spitfire IXs. The positions for three camera lenses are marked on the fuselage - the other two are underneath - and these were simply drilled and KristalKleered, though there are three little "thimbles" provided with the kit which are I think intended to represent the lens housings. There are manifold "Spitfire finish" possibilities for the 327/Shrew, and it doesn't take up much room on a crowded shelf; when I've satisfied the requirement for Their Lordships' Far East fleet there may be another one of two hovering hopefully on the fringe of my workbench - and I shall continue to nudge Captain Freighdog for the pusher-engined variant!
One facet of my continuing concentration on What If? models has become an increasing interest in what are generally remembered as "unsuccsessful" aircraft, especially when some thoughtful soul has produced the necessary parts in resin. At some IPMS meeting last year Glenn Ashley mentioned that he had the Saro Lerwick in mind and I expressed a definite interest; when the kit appeared at Telford last year on his Blackbird Models stand kit and money therefore swiftly exchanged hands. It wasn't until January that I started to put it together, which gave me time to consult Putmam's Saro book and the publication in the Aeroplane pictorial series bases on their 1930s/40s archive; by this time I'd decided that this one should follow the British colonial practice of moving a failure at home to the far east, where requirements and tasks might be simpler. I've "posted" 209 Squadron to Ceylon therefore and after consulting Sunderland references retained the "European" camouflage but substituted SEA roundels from the Freightdog decal set.The quality of the castings was excellent and the fit very good, but I had problems with the set of transparencies which had to be cut from their sheet; after spoiling the results I turned to a Squadron set for the Sunderland, which is one reason why the turrets don't look quite right (the other is my somewhat cack-handed treatment). If you're not familiar with the Lerwick the wheels are those of the beaching gear, and are there to spare the blushes of those of us who don't do dioramas, especially with waves. With the exception of my mis-handling of the transparencies I really enjoyed the kit, both in choice of subject and in execution; it just about meets my self-imposed limits of being no bigger than a Canberra, and for the first time for a while I've been able to make a direct comparison!
It occurred to me as I was putting the markings on this fourth in what's become a series of Freightdog Supermarine 327s thaI can avoid building Spitfires - everybody builds Spitfires - while enabling me to use a great many of their manifold colour schemes. I think it must have been at Telford when talking to Colin Strachan that I suggested that one of the strengths of this project as a subject was that the variations in colours and markings available for Spitfires with decals is almost endless, and the parallels are obvious. A shipboard version was always on my agenda with the intent of applying Eastern Fleet markings, and after consulting the Aviation Workshop Profile 5 and selecting the 880 Squadron aircraft of Lt.Cdr. Mike Crossley because it had a distinctively marked rudder I found that it was available on Xtradecal 72-135. At one stage I had considered building it with folded wings - there's a very obvious panel line on which to fold them - but decided that it would take too much time and too much modelling; I did however add a pair of four-bladed Spitfire IX propellors from Quickboost, and the arrestor hook thanks to John Adams which I left, perhaps wrongly, in its natural metal.
While searching for Seafire decals I found a whole range of differently themed Spitfires by DK Decals, which I hadn't come across before and which have offered me some likely companions for my first four; I plan to add some pointed wing tips for high-flying fighters and PR aircraft, for at least one of which for which I have another pair of four-bladers. There are more possibilities on a set of RAAF aircraft, particularly some of those based at Darwin, which I fancy even if I have to find a source of acrylic Foliage Green. Maybe at a later stage there could be variations from Freightdog, so perhaps I'll pause at around half a dozen, and I want to try some different Spitfire wheels, particularly for the nose wheel which doesn't look right. The one on the Seafire came from the spares box, unlikely as it seems from a Tomcat sprue; I think that the wheels in the kit were modelled fronm a photo of the 327 mock-up, for which the factory may not have worried about absolute accuracy in 1938. The canopy also came from the spares box to give a better "bubble" effect; if you want to look it up it's an Aeroclub C 066. You may have noticed that I've developed a distinct liking for this litte aircraft and its possibilities; I think jets would be going too far, but could I please have a pair of Griffons with contra-props for the F.47? For the RNVR, of course. 19.03.18...
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