Classic Airframes 1/48 Blenheim V

KIT #

0437

PRICE:

100 Swiss Francs (about $66 USD!)

DECALS:

Three aircraft

REVIEWER:

Pierre-André Boillat

NOTES:

A very challenging kit

HISTORY

During the 30’s, the quick development of aircraft technology gave birth to new, revolutionary concepts – and a  breed of aeroplanes that were supposed to change the rules of warfare. One of these concepts was the light bomber fast enough to escape  enemy interceptors, and that could fly its missions completely unescorted.  Britain’s effort, the Bristol Blenheim, was one of the most promising of the lot.

First flown in 1935, in a time when most nation’s standard fighters still were slow biplanes, the new British bomber was indeed state-of-the-art.  Powered by two 840 hp Bristol Mercury radials, this sleek all-metal monoplane with a retracting landing gear could have ruled the skies over Europe – had WWII started 3 years earlier… In 1939, it was a completely different story, as fighter development had caught up in between, and the speedy light bomber had become an obsolete death trap for its crews – not speaking of the fighter version that proved completely unsuitable for the task.  Later attempts to improve the Blenheim Mk I’s speed, protection or cockpit vision brought little – if any - good. The Mk IV and Mk V (a bomber version of the Bisley attack plane) were not different enough to change the situation.

 After suffering gruelling losses to the Luftwaffe’s Me 109s and the dreaded German Flak in low-level  missions over France, Norway and  the English Channel,  the Blenheims were withdrawn to secondary fronts like Greece, Somalia or Lybia where they could be put to good use against the Italians – until the Germans joined the battle - , or to less exposed missions like maritime patrol or night interception.

 The Blenheim squadrons sent to South-East Asia had to face the same cruel disillusion as their European counterparts – they were no match for the Zero and Oscar -, and were quickly destroyed in the 1941 Japanese onslaught.

 However, the unfortunate light bomber soldiered on gallantly with the Free French in North Africa and the Finnish Air Force against the Soviets, the Finns keeping theirs well after WWII.

Neutral Turkey and Portugal also used  Blenheims, but little is known about their history.

 Eventually, the dream of the “bomber-too-fast-to-get-caught” was fulfilled by the DeHavilland Mosquito, but this is another story….

 

THE KIT

As soon as I saw the strange Mk V was being released, I wanted to build one (I have a strong taste for unusual aircraft). True, the Swiss price tag was a horrible sight, but I had two weeks of summer vacations, no plans to travel abroad, and some time to spend on a more challenging project… OK, I bought the Mk V.

 At first sight, the contains of the pretty Classic Airframes box seems to be the stuff dreams are made of : fine recessed panel lines, clean and precise resin parts, good transparencies, excellent decals for three interesting versions, an understandable plan… at least, you get something for the money. The difficulties appear later.

CONSTRUCTION

Right, it’s Out of the Box… but I tell you : superdetailing a Tamigawa kit would be much easier. In the heat of summer 01, my Blenheim maybe was the most insulted kit in Europe. At once, two BIG ordeals await the fearless modeller : fitting the resin walls inside the nose (you sometimes ask yourself if they really were made for this kit), and sawing off pounds of excess resin from the landing gear bays  (awkwardly molded as bulky blocks) so you can close the wing halves. Once this is done – my Swiss sense of economy prevented me from dumping such an expensive kit – the Blenheim builds easily enough into a decent  representation of the Mk V. Of course, some fitting, filling, sanding and rescribing will be needed, but this is what modelling is made of, isn’t it? A good point is the completely transparent nose, which avoids  complicated canopy fitting. The Blenheim having a frame element on the center-line of the windshield, hiding the seam won’t be a problem. But more challenges await you underway… 

The final details

The next terrible thing you have to do is super-gluing a whole lot of small resin exhaust pipes between the (fine) resin motors and the collector ring (don’t do it before the engines are in their cowlings, the darn pipes WILL break away – and they won’t fit anyway). A pair of curved pliers is absolutely necessary.

 Curiously, CA forgot to represent the large landing light in the left wing’s leading edge. This is something you’ll have to make from scratch. The shape of the Frazer Nash turret is quite wrong, but there’s little to be done. On the other hand, small detail parts like the machine-gun barrels and the exhaust pipes are exquisite. The wheels are decent and in “weighted” condition.

CAMOUFLAGE & MARKINGS

Three versions are included : Free French (North Africa), RAF (SEA) and the one I chose, a machine of the Royal Hellenic Air Force flying coastal patrol from Aden in 1943, as I found the coastal command camo was something very special on this plane. As usual, Tamiya acrylics were self mixed and airbrushed, then followed by a slight  oil wash of terracotta. As the panel lines are a little too fine for the scale, the wash didn’t work very well and I underlined them with a soft pencil. The decals went on perfectly. A little weathering with pastels gave the final touch.

CONCLUSIONS

 

Here’s a kit I wouldn’t build every month. Once the beast is tamed, however, the result is quite rewarding (“Whaoooow, man, you did the Blenheim !”), and you have the satisfaction of having a very original and handsome plane entering your modeling cabinet. Due to its rather tragical history, the Blenheim is one of the least popular allied planes of WWII (like the Fairey Battle or the Brewster Buffalo, there’s something like a taste of defeat sticking to it), but after all, you can’t build Mosquitoes or P-51’s all the time. There’s a lot of work ahead of you, but nothing that can’t be done. Give it a try if you really, really want a Blenheim in 1/48 scale.  Maybe the Mk I or IV are easier – at least from that nose’s point of view…  And careful with that superglue !

 PS: A few months after finishing my Mk V, I bought MPM’s 1/72 kit. I hate to say that after all this work, but it’s better –even in the details. You lucky “smallscalers” !

August 2003

REFERENCES

Squadron Signal: “Bristol Blenheim in Action”, Nr. 88.

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