Contrail 1/72 Saro Lerwick

KIT #:
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Vacuform kit



 In the summer of 1939, four Lerwicks that were built by Saunders Roe were allocated to 240 squadron. By October, the squadron had stopped flying them as the type was giving signs that it is an unstable aircraft during flight and reverted to its older and slower Saro London flying boats. The Lerwick programme was cancelled on the 24 October but restarted on 1 November. In December 1939, Air Vice-Marshal Sholto Douglas recommended that the Lerwicks be scrapped and Saunders-Roe put to building Short Sunderlands but the production change would have taken months and with the start of the Second World War aircraft were urgently required.

Production continued and the type entered service with 209 Squadron based at Oban in 1940, replacing Short Singapores; the squadron soon began losing aircraft to accidents. During the service with 209 Squadron, all the Lerwicks were grounded twice for urgent safety modifications; on only two occasions were U-boats attacked by a Lerwick and neither submarine was damaged.

In April 1941, 209 Squadron began receiving the US Consolidated Catalina. The last of a total of 21 Lerwicks was delivered in May but the type was withdrawn from front-line service in the same month. Most of the remaining Lerwicks were transferred to Number 4 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit at Invergordon; three were sent to 240 Squadron for service trials at the highly-secret Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Helensburg.

Lerwick armament consisted of one .303 inch Vickers K gun in bow turret; two .303 inch Browning machine guns in dorsal turret and four or two in tail turret. It also carried a 2,000 lb bomb load or depth charges.

In the Summer of 1942, the Lerwicks were briefly returned to service, for the purpose of operational training with 422 Squadron and 423 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force based at Lough Erne. By the end of 1942 the type had been declared obsolete; by early 1943 the survivors had been scrapped.

11 of the 21 Lerwicks built were lost or written off during the three year operational service.


Graceful design, yet an unstable aircraft and was prone to stall in flight giving rise to in-flight accidents yet in spite of all Contrail did justice with the Lerwick and released a good model of it. The kit comes in a sturdy cardboard box having a yellow front and a side view of the Lerwick. The Sutcliffe Productions produced this flying boat to continue filling gaps this time with one unlikely to be mass produced in the injected form.

The kit consists of two nicely molded sheets of styrene with all the parts for it and a clear perspex sheet for transparencies. In my example no decals were present although I know that Contrail always issues decals with the kit and it must have been displaced by the source that provided the kit. The surface of the moldings looks plain and contain little detail in way of panel lines, though there are some, and the windows on fuselage side are all accurately marked., the panel lines needed refreshing with a scribing tool.

There is a two sheet instructions containing 1/72 scale plans and on the opposite side there are hints and tips on how to go about building a vac form kit and there is an exploded view of the parts that form the kit. A brief service history is also provided. The white styrene is on the thick side and this proved to be much to a greater advantage as in the end it produced a sturdier model. This also reduces the need for more bulkheads to strengthen the inside of fuselage. Because of the thick section the trailing edges of wings could be easily scraped to the desired thin taper edges.


Molded components are first cut and snapped from carrier sheet. This is followed by sanding on medium size sanding paper and then wet and dry smooth sanding and there the edge lip is removed. The main fuselage halves are set aside and the same procedure is repeated on the wing and tail plane parts. The upper wing is molded in full span and the port and starboard lower sections are separate. I did not use the engine cowlings provided in the kit as they were oversize and not convincing in shape. I used instead and with little modification a surplus pair coming from an Airfix Sunderland that were left over when I modified the latter to a later version not so long ago. Tailplanes were prepared and the same halves joined together. These were later fixed by being inserted at their section in a rod that passes through the fuselage ensuring they are fixed horizontally.

The fuselage side round port windows were first drilled open with a 1mm drill at their centre and then with a larger twist drill having same diameter as the round windows openings themselves. The gun turret positions were also cut and trimmed so that the clear parts conform to their correct shape. The wing float halves were sanded, joined together and a measured length of contrail strut produced the struts that were to hold them to the wings. These also had a tiny metal pin that was drilled and fixed in the middle of each strut to go on the exact position in their locating hole under the wings and for the time were left aside to a later stage when the wings are first fixed to the fuselage.

All details as penel lines, control surfaces, entrance doors were refreshed using a scribing tool. Fuselage insides was airbrushed in interior green and so was the crew office floor and bulkheads that were cut and checked earlier. The cockpit interior was constructed on its own complete with central console, instrument panel, two crew front seats and another seat and desk for the engineer fixed looking sideways. Turret areas were also fixed with seats for the crew and a set of six crew figures were prepared to man all the action stations. The cockpit assembly was then glued to one side of fuselage, tabs added at intermittent edges that will join together. I also added a compartment forward of cockpit and between bulkheads so that a small lead weight is secured inside to help balance fuselage more towards the nose even though this is not a tricycle undercarriage type but I assumed it will hold the huge fuselage steady on the beaching trolley or beaching gear that was provided. Bulkheads added and fuselage was then closed.

The main wing which is by now in one piece is inserted into the saddle part at rear of top centre section and a little adjustment made to ensure that the wing top is perfectly level. The wing to fuselage was then glued and allowed to dry for some hours. I then fitted the engine cowlings along with the required modification concerning extent of length of exhaust pipes and the air intake on underside of each to form two complete Bristol Hercules II radial engines. I replaced the kit props with a pair of new ones from my spares box. The nacelle tilted high attitude was attained earlier when the wing to fuselage joint was trimmed little by little with a sharp pointed blade until the wing position viewed from the side appeared to conform to scale plans. The propeller was fitted with spinners as shown in photos of the same aircraft I made. I then allowed a few days for the whole assembly to set. Floats were added to their place under the wings. A loop antenna was made from wire bent to shape.

The clear perspex parts are now trimmed to final fit, cockpit interior other detail as brown seats, black and white instruments, control wheels and crew figures all in place. Turret clear parts also fixed in their respective place and complete with guns. All filler areas such as the wing roots were given a coat of black and any blemishes were attended to until a smooth continuous surface was ensured. Leading edge landing light added to port wing and a clear perspex fitted. All clear parts were masked and the kit was ready for airbrush paint work.


My pick of markings went to Lerwick P7257 of No.4 OTU coded TA-S as it appeared in September 1941 while operating from Invergordon. L7257 was delivered on 21.12.39 to Calshot, 209 Sqn 17.1.40 coded WQ-F; Calshot 23.4.40; Saro 8.5.40; 209 Sqn 22.5.40; SF Pembroke Dock 11.12.40; 209Sqn 10.4.41; 4 OTU29.4.41, coded TA-S and TA-q, Scottish Avn 23.7.41; 4 OUT 13.9.41, Sank at mooring s in gale, Invergordon 11.11.41; Scottish Avn 26.10.42; Struck off charge 13.12.42.

The Lerwick was finished in Standard dark earth and dark green on upper surfaces samouflage and Sky type S on all undersurfaces. Contrail color pattern appeared to have colors in reverse order i.e. the area in green should be brown and vice versa. This was noted after studying photos that appeared on an issue of Air Britain Aeromilitaria where the dark shade is green instead of brown. I airbrushed the dark earth, allowed it to dry and then masked the dark earth areas in preparation to spray the green. Engine collector rings originally bronze were noticed to be also camouflaged by this time. During the process the round port windows were temporily covered with white glue, this was then removed and kristal klear applied instead. Decals came from my spares box from various sources. Turrets frames painted black. Middle dump pipes painted metal colour and forward mounted pitot was mostly camouflaged. An aerial added from fin to the post fitted at rear of cockpit.


Making use of the Contrail kit for a Lerwick and the adjestment of a few items has enabled to make a model of a not so common seaplane which hopefully helped to bring back to life its short time in service. Not a difficult model to make but certainly some experience with vac form models would be of benefit.


 : Aeromilitaria Vol 31 issue 122 Summer 2005

Carmel J. Attard

December 2015


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