Pacific Coast Models 1/32 Hurricane I (early)

KIT #: 48020
PRICE: $69.95 MSRP
DECALS: Six options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES:  

HISTORY

            The Hawker Hurricane was the first modern monoplane fighter to equip the RAF, and was one of only three RAF aircraft to operate in first-line service from the first day of the Second World War to the last.

             Though the Spitfire gained the glory in the Battle of Britain, it was the tough Hurricane that won the fight.  Three-fifths of the squadrons of RAF's Fighter Command were mounted on Sidney Camm's fighter that summer of 1940.  Though  outperformed by the Bf-109E, the Hurricane had the benefit of being “primitive” enough in its construction that shot-down Hurricanes could be quickly repaired and returned to service, which was the RAF “secret” that really won the Battle of Britain; fully 60 percent of the Hurricanes shot down over England that summer were repaired and returned to operational use during the battle - a fact that Goering's Luftwaffe missed as they confidently predicted that on September 15, 1940, there would be no RAF fighters over London.  It was a scandal when reports came out that production Hurricane I's could barely make 305 mph at 10,000 feet - the height at which most combat occurred - and that the airplane could not be flown over 20,000 feet, the altitude from which the Messerschmitts dove out of the sun on their targets.  Outclassed or not, the Hurricane I was there when it was needed, in numbers sufficient to change the outcome of a battle nearly everyone expected Britain to lose.  As such, it is a model deserving of a place of distinction in any collection.

 1 Squadron in the “Phoney War” and the Battle of France:

             Immediately following the declaration of war by Britain and France, the British government decided to send an aerial force alongside the troops and armor of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).  The French government demanded the British supply ten squadrons, but Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, commander of Fighter Command, would not allow the Spitfire to be send out of the country. Initially, two fighter squadrons ‑ 1 Squadron and 73 Squadron - which had been among the first RAF units to equip with the Hurricane on its entry into service in 1937-38 - were sent to protect the Fairey Battles and Bristol Blenheims that comprised the bombing units of the Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF), while 85 and 87 Squadrons provided fighter cover for the BEF closer to the Channel.  1 Squadron moved to Le Havre on September 8, and to Cherbourg on September 10, flying on to their base at Vassincourt on September 15, while 73 Squadron flew to Caen on September 10 and then on to Rouvres on the 12th. By October 1, the AASF had deployed both its fighters and bombers around Reims in support of the French Army in the Maginot Line.  The pilots of 1 Squadron were billeted in Neuville, a village with only modest amusements; thus the pilots of 1 Squadron frequently visited their colleagues in 73 Squadron at Rouvres, or sought out the nightlife of Metz, Nancy or Bar‑le‑Duc.

             Among the pilots of 1 Squadron was Pilot Officer Peter W.O. “Boy” Mould, who had joined the RAF as a Boy Entrant in 1933. A great athlete, he was selected for a cadetship at the RAF College, Cranwell, where he became a Triple Blue at rugby, cricket and athletics.  While on patrol over the lines on October 30, 1939, Mould spotted a Dornier Do-17 of 2 Staffel/ Fernaufklärungsgruppe 123, which he surprised so completely that in his after-action report he stated that the Dornier “appeared to have been taken by surprise as no evasive tactics were employed and no fire was encountered.” Mould’s victory was the first RAF victory against a German aircraft over the Continent in the Second World War. In the tradition of the Royal Flying Corps, the squadron took souvenirs from the crash site near Toul, and celebrated the victory in style. Mould, sobered on seeing the wreckage, confessed to Paul Richey (later the author of the classic, “Fighter Pilot”) that he was “...bloody sorry I went and looked at the wreck. What gets me down is the thought that I did it.” 

             On November 1, 1939, 73 Squadron scored their first victory, when Flying Officer E.J. “Cobber” Kain shot down another Dornier.  By the end of the year, the two squadrons had shot down a total of 20 German aircraft.

            Enemy activity increased along the Western Front in the latter part of November 1939, with 1 and 73 Squadrons claiming 5 Do-17s, and one He-111. In January, 1940, 1 Squadron began receiving metal-wing Hurricanes with the Merlin III, which used the new deHavilland variable-pitch propeller, and the early Hurricanes were completely replaced by March.         

             The winter of 1939‑40 was one of the worst winters in the previous 100 years, with heavy snow covering the airstrips of northern France and preventing flying for weeks at a time.  No one on the Allied side knew that this heavy winter had prolonged what came to be known as “the Phoney War,” since the Wehrmacht was unable to mount the winter offensive they had planned to launch in late November, following the defeat of Poland. Spring arrived slowly; by March 1940, the weather had improved sufficiently to allow the RAF squadrons to return to an intensive schedule of defensive patrols.

             On March 29, 1940, “Johnny” Walker, Bill Stratton, and “Taffy” Clowes of 1 Squadron downed the first Bf-110 lost by the Luftwaffe over the Western Front when they  encountered a section of three Bf-110s. In the ensuing fight, all three were shot down without loss.  Later that day, Paul Richey shot down the squadron’s first Bf-109E. By April 20th, 1 squadron had claimed 23 German aircraft shot down for the loss of five Hurricanes, and one pilot killed.

            The “Phoney War” came to an abrupt end on May 10, 1940, when the great German offensive in the west, the blitzkrieg, began.  German paratroopers landed in Holland and Belgium as German tank columns and infantry surged across the frontiers of these neutral countries to go around the Maginot line in a reprise of the Schlieffen Plan of World War I.  The French northern armies and the British Expeditionary Force moved forward into Belgium to block these moves.

             At dawn that day, 300 German bombers launched coordinated attacks on 22 Allied airfields in Holland, Belgium, and northeast France. The German offensive prompted the French government to appeal to Winston Churchill - who had assumed the position of Prime Minister only that morning - for reinforcements.  Given a direct order by the Prime Minister, the reluctant Dowding was forced to send 3 and 79 Squadrons to France.                 

             On May 12, eight Hurricanes of 1 Squadron escorted five Battles of 12 squadron in an attack on the two bridges spanning the Albert Canal.  The Hurricanes ran into a swarm of Bf-109s; in the ensuing dogfight they claimed four Bf-109s and two Henschel Hs-126 spotters.  However, all five Battles were lost to fighters or flak, without achieving their objective. Posthumous Victoria Crosses were awarded to Flying Officer Garland and Sergeant Gray for pushing home their attack, which did destroy a bridge span.  By May 13th, 1 Squadron had claimed 40 victories for the loss of nine Hurricanes. That same day the squadron’s top-scorer Leslie Clisby and his wingman Lawrie Lorimer were both killed in a fight with Bf-110s. Clisby died not knowing he had just been awarded a DFC for destroying nine German aircraft.

             On May 14, the Allies realized the Germans had added something unexpected to the Schlieffen Plan when an armored force led by General Erwin Rommel broke out of the supposedly impassable Ardennes Forest, heading towards Sedan and threatening to flank the troops in the Maginot Line.

             French General Gaston‑Henri Billotte ordered an air attack on the bridges over the Meuse in a desperate effort to stem the German tide. The AASF, under the command of Air Vice‑Marshal P.H.L. Playfair, sent its bombers to the attack with the understanding that the Battles and Blenheims would receive fighter escort from L’Armeé de L’Air. The attack was a disaster, with the Luftwaffe and German flak shooting down 21 French fighters and 48 RAF bombers ‑ nearly half the AASF’s strength.

             Holland surrendered on May 15.  French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud telephoned Churchill to inform him “we have been defeated. We are beaten.  We have lost the battle.” Churchill flew to Paris the next day, to find French government officials were burning records.  When he asked General Gamelin where the strategic reserve that might be deployed to save Paris was stationed, the General replied: “there is none.” Churchill later described this as the single most shocking moment of his life.

             1 Squadron continued flying against the Luftwaffe until May 19th when the pilots left France for England.  The unit had  claimed 86 victories between May 10-19, with the loss of 17 Hurricanes and two pilots killed, and two seriously wounded.

             On May 25, British General Lord Gort ordered the withdrawal of the BEF from Arras towards Dunkirk.  The legendary evacuation began two days later. Between May 27th and June 4th, the Royal Navy evacuated 338,226 British, French, Belgian, and Dutch troops to south‑east England.

             Spitfires finally joined the Hurricanes in defending the evacuation.  The RAF’s role was little appreciated by the soldiers waiting on the exposed beaches of Dunkirk. Cloud obscured sight of RAF fighters, but not the scream of the diving Stukas; the strategy of trying to intercept the Luftwaffe away from the beaches, while largely successful, left many survivors of the BEF believing the RAF had abandoned them to the mercy of German air attack.

             The re-formed 1 Squadron returned to France in the first week of June, moving frequently from field to field before arriving at Boos, on the Seine, on June 14th to cover further British evacuations.  On June 17th, the squadron flew into Brittany to cover the evacuation of Cherbourg before returning to Britain, with the ground crews embarking at La Rochelle for return to England.  During the five weeks of the Battle of France, 1 Squadron claimed 125 victories for the loss of 22 aircraft, three pilots killed, and two severely wounded. By the end of June, ten Distinguished Flying Crosses had been awarded to officers of the squadron, and three Distinguished Flying Medals to NCO pilots.

             The Wehrmacht entered Paris on June 14th, and the French government capitulated on June 25th.  During the Battle of France, the Armeé de L’Air lost 1,274 aircraft to the Luftwaffe, which lost 1,428 aircraft in the campaign. Out of 452 fighters the RAF sent to France, only 66 returned to Britain, with 208 lost in combat, while 178 were abandoned by ground crews as unserviceable.

                        Among the notable pilots of 1 Squadron during the Battle of France were Pilot Officer Billy Drake, who would end the war as the most successful of all this group, being promoted to Wing Commander and claiming 28 aircraft shot down, plus 15 more destroyed on the ground, and awarded the DSO, DFC and Bar, and a US DFC; he remained in the RAF postwar, to become a Group Captain.  The squadron’s top-scorer during the Battle of France was Flying Officer L.R. Clisby, an Australian who had claimed at least ten aircraft shot down, and possibly more, by the time he was shot down and killed on May 14.  Flying Officer Paul H.M. Richey, who claimed 10 victories during the Battle of France before being wounded on May 19, became the author of “Fighter Pilot,” one of the classic books of the war; he returned to operations in 1941, and ended the war as a Wing Commander.  Canadian Flying Officer M.H. “Hilly” Brown claimed 17 victories by the time the squadron left France in June; he was promoted to command the squadron soon after their return to England, and led the unit during the Battle of Britain, after which he was promoted to Wing Commander in 1941 and posted to Malta, where he was shot down and killed over Sicily on November 12, 1941.  The outstanding NCO pilot was Flight Sergeant F.J. Soper, who claimed 13 victories over France and was later commissioned; as a Squadron Leader in 1941, he failed to return from a sortie to intercept an intruding German bomber off the Suffolk coast on October 5, 1941.

             Having claimed the squadron’s first aerial victory, Peter Mould scored six more victories during the Battle of France in May and June 1940, and two more during the Battle of Britain.  Promoted to Squadron Leader, he was killed in action over Malta on October 1, 1941.

THE KIT

            This early Hurricane Mk. I by Pacific Coast Hobbies (molded by Sword, photo-etch from Eduard and decals by Cartograf, designed by Richard Caruana) is the second “rag-wing” Hurricane released in injection plastic, the other being the 1/48 Hurricane by Classic Airframes that is now long out of production.  The only other 1/32 Hurricane I in injection plastic is the ancient Revell offering from circa the early 1970s.  In the initial release, it was offered as an 8-gun metal-wing Mark I, though the kit was later changed with a wing for the 4 20mm cannon of a Mk. IIc, without further modification of the fuselage to Mk.II standard.  The kit has been recently re-released by Revell of Germany.  The only advantage this kit has is that it is a Battle of Britain metal wing airplane, but in fact Pacific Coast Models will be releasing a metal wing airplane at some point on the not-too-distant future.

             The kit features some of the best surface detail for a fabric-covered airplane I have yet seen; other manufacturers should look at this when designing their own releases of fabric airplanes, particularly for World War I models.  Both the early “kidney” and later ejector exhausts are provided, as well as the two-blade Watts prop, and the deHavilland and Rotol 3-blade controllable-pitch props, along with two different styles of main wheels with 4 and 5-spoke hubs.  You should be careful in deciding which of these items to use with which airplane you are doing, because things changed rapidly during the period covered.  For instance, the boxart option is shown with a 3-blade prop - which is correct per photos of this airplane - though the instructions would have you do it with the 2-blade prop. The cockpit gives about as much detail as one finds in the 1/48 Hasegawa kit, which is more than enough since the Hurricane had a very simple cockpit.  The instrument panel is a photo-etch “sandwich,” and the Sutton harness is also provided in photo-etch. 

            The excellent Cartograf decals include markings for no fewer than six different airplanes, including one each from the Belgian and Finnish Air Forces and an ex-Yugoslav Hurricane that was test-flown by the Regia Aeronautica.  All three RAF aircraft are from the period from the Munich Crisis in September 1938 to just before the end of the Battle of France in May 1940.

            The parts option for the armored windscreen has a serious molding flaw in it that I have not been able to correct in two different attempts.  Fortunately the Finnish, Belgian, and one of the RAF options are for Hurricanes without the armored windscreen.  I think one could fake this using the unarmored windscreen and attaching a piece of clear plastic sheet cut to shape.  Ken Lawrence of Pacific Coast Models has already stated that this problem will be solved in their future release, which will have the armored windscreen as its only option.

            Looking at the parts breakdown, there is only going to be a metal-wing Mark I, since the fuselage parts do not have a separate cowling.  Since the lower rear fuselage is molded separately, one might expect the possibility of a Sea Hurricane.

CONSTRUCTION

 

            Overall, this model is not difficult if one has some experience of limited-run kits.  However, there is a “big secret” to overall assembly which can have a major effect on the way your model turns out.

             The kit instructions and a modeler’s experience would have one build the kit as two major sub-assemblies - the fuselage and the wing - and then mate them once otherwise assembled.  DO NOT DO THIS!  From my experience of now having built two of these kits, if you follow the “common knowledge,” you will end up with a huge gap on the upper wing joints, with the wing upper surface not conforming to the curvature of the fuselage joint, which will require a lot of filling and sanding, with the result that you will lose a whole lot of very nice surface detail in that area that you do not want to replace since you can’t do it as well as it was done originally.

             Here’s the trick to doing this kit with a minimum of hassle and a maximum of good looks when finished: You have to approach the model as a collective whole.  There are not two major sub-assemblies to this project, but rather one overall process. 

             The first thing to do is to assemble the fuselage, including the lower rear part.  While that is setting up, assemble and paint the cockpit and install the seat belts. I strongly urge that you attach the rear cockpit headrest bulkhead and the instrument panel into the fuselage separately.  Once you have the rest of the cockpit assembled, slip it inside and glue it in position.  At this point, you need to test fit the canopy if you plan to pose it open, and to sand down the area of the fuselage immediately aft of the cockpit so the canopy can sit down properly.

             Once the fuselage is done, you want to attach the upper wing parts.  You will immediately notice that the curvature of the upper wing differs from that of the fuselage joint.  You’re going to need to engage in a bit of industrial-strength bending and curling to get the upper wing to fit - don’t be afraid to stress the plastic, it is soft enough it won’t crack or break. Once everything fits nice and tight, work the joint from inside, to lessen the amount of glue that is used on the exterior.  If you trim and get it just right, you should need only a very little bit of Mr. Surfacer along the upper wing joint to get it smooth, which means you won’t be losing any of that wonderful surface detail.

             When you cut the molding block off the main gear well, be sure to dremel down the roof of the well to where you can see light through the outer areas on each end, and then round down the piece fore and aft on the top.  Assemble the interior parts for the gear well and attach it to the lower wing.

             You then need to test fit the lower wing to the rest of the model. Trim as necessary to get a nice smooth fit to the fuselage fore and aft.  Then take the leading edge gun port for one wing, test fit it to the upper wing, trimming the cutout in the wing as necessary to get good fit, then glue it in position.  Test fit the lower wing, and trim that cutout as necessary to get good fit.  Do the same on the other wing.  Then fit the lower wing and be sure the cutouts for the landing lights are aligned.  Glue the landing light parts into the upper wing, then glue the lower wing in position.  If you have done this right, you will only need a little Mr. Surfacer along the joints to the fuselage, and a little sanding down of the wingtips so they match up.

             All that might sound like a lot of work, but it is really very minor fiddling, and the end result of not having harmed all the wonderful surface detail is well worth all the effort taken.

             The joint of the horizontal stabilizers to the fuselage will need a little filling with cyanoacrylate glue and then some Mr. Surfacer.  The lower fuselage strake will need a little filling with cyanoacrylate when you attach it.

            Past that, all you need to do is sand down the joints and do some light rescribing.

             As regards the landing gear, assemble the three-part gear doors before attaching them to the gear legs, to insure proper fit.  For all the Hurricanes presented here, you will want to use the 4-spoke wheels.

COLORS AND MARKINGS

 Painting:

             While I was doing my research, I found a profile of the Hurricane flown by Peter Mould on October 30, 1939, done by Caruana in the Modeler’s Datafile for the Hawker Hurricane.  I did some digging in the decal dungeon and found the numbers for the serial, and with two Hurricane kits I had the correct number of Type A roundels to do that airplane.

             First, I painted the gear wells, landing gear and gear door interiors with Tamiya “Flat Aluminum.  Then I painted the lower right side of the model and the rudder with Tamiya “Flat White.”  I then masked off the lower surface, and the center stripe of the rudder.  I mixed some Gunze-Sangyo “Red 23" and “Red Madder” to get a color that matched the brick red of the decals and painted the forward stripe. I then mixed some Tamiya “Semi-Gloss Black” with Tamiya “Flat Blue” to match the blue color of the decals, and shot the rear stripe.  I then masked off the rudder.  I painted the lower left half of the underside with Tamiya “Semi-Gloss Black” and then masked that.

            The upper surfaces were done in an “A” scheme camouflage (at that time, Hurricanes with even-numbered serials were in the A scheme, with odd-number serials in the B scheme that mirrored the A scheme), using Xtracrylix “RAF Dark Earth” and “RAF Dark Green,” which are the most accurate paints of these colors.  Since Xtracrylix will dry the same shade whether applied with a brush or an airbrush, I thinned some “RAF Dark Green” after I had applied the “RAF Dark Earth” and painted the outlines of the disruptive green pattern.  I then airbrushed the pattern and had “hard” edges that didn’t require masking - now you have another good reason to use Xtracrylix.

             When everything was dry, I unmasked the model and gave it two coats of Xtracrylix Gloss Varnish.

 Decals:

             Other than using some letters and numbers from the decal dungeon for the serials, I used kit decals for everything else.  This airplane had the small 9 inch serials, so using the standard 1/48 letters and numbers for 12-in serials gave me what I needed.  The two squadrons in the Advanced Air Striking Force were different from all others in that they had roundels on the lower wing surfaces.  I used the Type A roundels from the second Hurricane kit for these.  I also had to modify the identity letter “G” with a longer upper stroke, taking that from the “L” decal on the sheet.  The decals went down without a problem.

             I do want to emphasize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the markings options that are provided in the kit.  On a personal level, I am surprised that Mould’s airplane wasn’t provided, inasmuch as Richard Caruana had already done a profile for it in the Modeler’s Datafile, and it certainly is a historically-important early Hurricane.  Had I not had the numbers to do the serial, I would certainly have done one of the options provided. 

FINAL BITS

             When you are doing one of these airplanes, you definitely need photographs of the one you are doing, because while all the early Hurricanes began life with the “kidney” exhausts, many were updated with the later ejector exhaust, even while using the Watts propeller.  While I didn’t have a photo of Mould’s airplane, all the other photos I could find of 1 Squadron Hurricanes with Watts propellers showed they used the later ejector exhausts, which I did here.  They also used the underwing pitot tube rather than the early venturi tube.  I also replaced the radio antenna mast with one made from Evergreen strip.  The kit mast is not right for the early Hurricane, since that early mast was un-tapered.  I also used Evergreen rod for the rudder mast.

            Assembling the landing gear presents no problems, though you need to drill out the wheels a little deeper to take the entire axle.  With the gear doors assembled previously, there was no problem presented in attaching them.  I then attached the navigation lights to the wing tips and the rudder.

            I applied exhaust stains with Tamiya “Smoke.”  The canopy was posed in the open position and I attached the propeller.

CONCLUSIONS

             This is an excellent kit of the Hurricane.  While it is a limited-run kit and therefore requires some extra attention in assembly, there is no problem presented that cannot be solved with a bit of “some modeling skill required.”  If you assemble the model the way I did here, you will have few if any problems during assembly, and the result will be a very good-looking model.  I have always thought the early “rag wing” Hurricane was interesting, and am glad that PCM has started their line of Hurricanes with this version.  The model looks very good sitting next to my Hasegawa Spitfire I, and is highly recommended.

 Review kit courtesy of Pacific Coast Models.  Get yours at www.pacmodels.com

Tom Cleaver

February 2010

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