Special Hobby 1/72 Beaufort I/II
KIT #: ?
PRICE: $
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Short run with resin and photo etch parts.

HISTORY

In April 1936, the type 152 proposal was submitted to meet the Air Ministry specification M15/35 for a torpedo bomber and Specification 24/35 for a general reconnaissance aircraft. Design work initiated in March 1937 and the prototype (L4441) first flew on the 15th Oct 1938. To meet the first requirement Bristol began by combining an adaptation of the Blenheim, identifying its design as the Type 150. The proposal concerned primarily with a change in fuselage design to accommodate a torpedo and the installation of more powerful engines. Bristol then came to the conclusion that it would be possible to meet both specifications with a single aircraft evolved from the Blenheim as a new design, the Type 152. This was slightly longer than the Blenheim for the carriage of a torpedo in a semi retracted position. This involved also a redesign to accommodate a crew of four. This resulted into a high roofline, which became the distinguishing feature of a new aircraft, subsequently named as the Beaufort.

Initially there were teething troubles with the new engine that caused delays to entry into service. At first the Beaufort was equipped with one .303 machine gun in the port wing and two in the dorsal turret. Later a rear-firing gun was added in an offset blister beneath the nose. Some aircraft also carried twin guns in the nose and two others in beam position. 965 Beauforts were built by Bristol with No22 Coastal Command Squadron receiving the first delivery. It was a Beaufort from this unit that came close to sinking the battle cruiser Gneisenau in Brest Harbour on the 6th April 1941. Beaufort from No86 Sq played an important part to prevent the Gneisenau, Scharnhorst, and Prinz Eugen from dashing through the Channel early in 1942. Beaufort squadrons in UK and Mediterranean included 22,39,42, 47,203,217,415 & 489. They remained in service until replaced by torpedo carrying Beaufighters in 1943.

  In November 1940 one aircraft was flown with a 1200hp Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp engines. Following that 415 similar powered Beaufort IIs were built for the RAF. Some were later converted, as operational trainers, with a dorsal turret faired over. Australia also flew a similar type and between 1941 and up to August 1944, 520 were built there. The enlarged fin introduced in the Mk VII later became standard on all Australian Beauforts serving in the Solomons, Timor, New Guiana and battle area in the Pacific.

Beauforts in Malta

Beauforts were diverted from areas in North Africa to Malta to assist offensive operations from the island in spite that Malta was at the time under siege. Those from No 22 and 217 Sq that staged through Luqa airfield were required to participate in offensive operations before continuing their journey to their original intended destination. As this involved a quick change in decision there was a situation where their ground crews went by sea to their intended destination in the Far East with no aircraft to attend to. The 217 Sq arrivals in Malta was of tremendous utility as they strengthened the depleted remains of No 39 Sq detachment and so made up for the losses both on ground and in the air. The Order of Battle on the island on 30.6.42 included Beaufort in both 217 and 39Sq based at Luqa airfield. The local population gained a lot of morale when the additional Beauforts alongside other aircraft as the Beaufighters that found their base in Malta in same manner as the other aircraft. In fact these proved useful to prevent shipping reaching the axis Africa Korps.

No 39 and 217 Squadrons remain known for taking part in attacks on the Italian Fleet which put to sea to intercept two Allied convoys that had set out from different ports in the Mediterranean aiming for the much needed relief of the island. Beauforts were known to have attacked enemy shipping en route as well as in harbour near Reggio Calabria and in Sicily.

Like the Malta Spitfire there will be a long discussion which will open to speculations when it comes to the upper camouflage colours worn by the locally based Beauforts Mk1a and Mk II that formed a full squadron until their departure on 20.8.42. During that period these aircraft were subjected to the intense high temperatures of the Malta summer. Even if these aircraft retained the original paint colours they arrived with, from their point of origin at Leuchars, Scotland, these colours are prone to fade effectively in view of erosion during operations over the Mediterranean sea as well as the effect of beating sun as they stood at their dispersals (This was certainly the case with Canberra PR9s of 13 and 39 that were based at Luqa long time after). The question about their true colours will remain a mystery and unsolved moreover since the temperate land and sea schemes of dark sea grey and dark slate grey was highly contrasting paint that often showed in black and white photos. This makes it difficult to discern from tropical camouflage of stone and earth. I have seen colour photo of Beaufort Mk1 of 217 Sq serial No L9878. ( see SAM 14/11) which is definitely a temperate scheme but in the same issue there is a side view of Beaufort 1 serial No L9965/T which is indicated as being finished in dark and light Mediterranean blue. Also came across a photo of a 217 Sq Beaufort DD984 suggesting it was in a special Malta scheme of dark green and light stone. Was the light stone the same pigment that produced the same field walls stone effect so commonly painted on AA guns and army vehicles on the island during the war years and some time after? On the other hand there is also the possibility that the dust erosion plus intense heat could have had a fading effect on the slate grey pigment to make it appear to a lighter shade besides absorbing more light in the bright daylight of August. After contemplating on all these possibilities one can therefore arrive to the conclusion that the camouflage colours on the Beaufort based at Luqa offered a wide range of options for an authentic paint scheme to choose from. One thing I can stand for sure was that the underside colour was azure blue.

THE KIT

The Beaufort Mk 1 kit has already been issued earlier by Special Hobby.

The kit comes in 94 medium grey plastic parts attached to five sprues. There are also 13 clear parts on a single sprue and 28 light cream parts encased in a sealed bag. Another sealed bag contains a single fret with 12 parts. There are decals for three aircraft mentioned earlier and an instruction booklet of A5 size with history; sprues and parts plan layout and three pages of markings drawings. There is no doubt that with so many parts the kit will build into a highly detailed model. There are sufficient parts for either of two versions of Beaufort, Mk1a or a MkII. There is also an extra-extended fin part in case the Australian AF version will be built but no markings are supplied for this type. So it is assumed that in near future there will be a kit released in this livery as well. The kit contains highly detailed resin engines complete for either of the two types and with individual cowlings, separate nacelle parts and wheel well doors to go with either the Bristol, or the Pratt and Whitney engine version that powered the MkII. Cockpit interior in resin is appreciably detailed though not the same can be said for the dorsal turret and side gun positions in case one opts to open these ports as the instruction rightly suggests.

Both the Beaufort Mk1a and Mk II carry the detailed wing and nose mounted radar array. The Mk1a has the original Bristol Taurus engines. It appears that the choice and place of the variety of shapes of machine guns (in resin) is left to the modellers taste. One may fit a single or a twin mounted Browning in the dorsal turret or may opt to fit a twin turret in the nose. Waist guns may also be fitted and is indicated to follow the instruction sheet. For the not so familiar modeller there are slots that need to be cut in the turret Perspex. This is a careful job not to break the small clear half turret part during cutting. The Beaufort offset bomb bay is wisely represented with an extra elongated part of concave construction to form the interior of the bay. Bomb doors are also provided separate pieces. Detail inside the bay is somewhat lacking if one decides to leave the torpedo off the model. The torpedo on the other hand is well detailed with brass etch rear parts, fins and holding brackets. I could find little criticism for the decals since mine were correctly registered and the colours seems to be close enough and which would dull down upon receiving the semi matt varnish in the end. Perhaps one can say that they are a bit on the thin side and the only reason to say so is so that one is made aware that each decal item is transported on its backing until close to the area to be placed and carefully pushed in place with a brush. Failing to do so there will be a tendency to curl in water and would be difficult to retrieve without damage.

CONSTRUCTION

The following were observations that I made during the assembly. The dorsal turret base needs to be cut from centre and have some 2mm removed from its circumference in order to fit inside the 2-part clear dome blister assembly.  Also the rectangular gun access opening in the clear gun blister is best done by drilling several small holes on a premarked square followed by shaping with a rectangular smooth file. The nose perspex also needs either two or a single hole to be carefully drilled to allow guns position.

The resin engines need a central hole to be drilled to take the propeller shaft. This is best done before the part is fitted inside the cowling. The kit contains three types of gun blisters. These are injection moulded and very clear and only one type is used, the rest are for possible release in future of variations of the Beaufort. While examining photos of the aircraft port leading edge I noticed that there were a twin light fitted in an opening on the leading edge of the port wing. I would have expected Special Hobby to save me building this from scrap clear plastic as shown in photos if only a perspex piece was provided for these lights. The operation consisted of filing an opening on the leading edge and fit inside a solid perspex piece which had two blind holes drilled from the inside. These two holes will represent the twin light inside which will show up quite effectively when polished.

I also noted that when the two fuselage halves are joined together there is a tendency that the upper edge of the fuselage when  put together tended to curve inwards so that the clear plastic nose piece will leave a stagger due to overlap. To correct this I inserted a 12mm x 3mm dia. sprue piece across to keep the upper nose sides to conform to cockpit width. The fuel drainpipes E10 fitted under the wing were drilled at the ends. Their position under the wing is correct but is faintly marked and should not be overlooked. Part No18 is again a surplus item for the types provided. Careful study of alternative Beaufort types brought me to the conclusion that this item is in fact a retractable antenna fitted on earlier Beauforts. This is normally fitted on the starboard side of the roof and when extended it forms a rhombus shaped antenna and is fitted in place of the bullet shaped antenna. One may draw the attention to the manufacturer that the bullet shaped antenna should have been made out of clear plastic and not solid grey component.

There are two tiny fairings to be added over the wing nacelle. These were made from rectangular 1x2x2mm plastic pieces, one on each of the nacelles. One final observation is that the inclined antenna that was fitted to the starboard side of the bomb bay (part No6) is not indicated on the instruction assembly sheet although it is shown on the box art as well as on the 4-view plans. These plans also show a round camera port fitted under the fuselage and the position has its centre 55mm from the forward edge of the bomb bay and 23 mm from the rear end of the bomb bay. The opening has a diameter of 3mmand I used Kristal Kleer to it as I did with all the fuselage portholes.

COLORS & MARKINGS

Special Hobby tends to go by Gunze Sangyo colours reference. I have the feeling that modellers prefer to go for a more practical reference as Humbrol (Testors Model Master if you live in the US. Ed) and for this benefit a quick equivalent are as follows: H8=Humbrol 11 or silver; H12=Humbrol 33 or black; H17=Humbrol 10 or dark brown, H77= Humbrol 33 or black, H312 = Humbrol 120 or light cockpit green and H28 =Humbrol 201 or metallic black.

This issue came in markings of RAF Sq No22 and 217 both based at St Eval airfield circa 1941. So once again we have a Beaufort and this time it is released in slightly different markings for a MkII AW347, BX-S of 86 Sq based at Kitten Airbase, Scotland circa Spring 1942; a Beaufort MkII DD896, G of 39 Sq based at Luqa airfield, Malta during late 1942 and a Beaufort Mk1a DD595 of 217 Sq again based at Luqa in 1942. With the exception of the 86th Sq one which has a black underside the aircraft are in the 2 tone camouflage of dark slate grey and extra dark sea grey upper and azure lower.

CONCLUSIONS

 I enjoyed building this model maybe because it has connections with the island of Malta but I am certainly pleased with the end result and my final comment is that the kit will be much appreciated if built by an experienced modeller.

Carmel J. Attard

June 2009

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