Matchbox 1/72 Wellesley I
KIT #: PK-123
PRICE: Not currently in production
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Alun Beard


 Although a relatively little known machine in the annals of WW II, the Wellesley was, in fact, the only RAF aircraft to operate during an 18 month campaign in East Africa against the Italian forces, making many unescorted raids deep into enemy territory. The Wellesley had briefly gained fame in 1938 because of an epic long distance flight of 7,158.5 miles, a record unchallenged until November 1945, when a Boeing B-29, (at the third attempt) surpassed it. Wellesleys introduced into the RAF the Barnes Wallis geodetic construction which was later used on the Wellington bomber. The Wellesley was developed from a private venture monoplane version of the Vickers tender to the air ministry specifications G4/31 for a general purpose land plane, the original machine being flown on 19th June 1935. The first production aircraft flew on 4th March, 1937. The Wellesley was a significant milestone in RAF history, being capable of lifting over 1.5 times its own weight, and introducing underwing hardpoints for carrying its bomb load as is common on modern aircraft.


This is a fairly old kit (the box is dated 1979), but looks rather nice on the sprues. Those of you familiar with Matchbox kits will know roughly what to expect – some fine raised ribbing and framing details on the fuselage and wings, rather heavily engraved panel lines and control surfaces, and little in the way of interior detail. The pilot gets a very simple seat, a control column, and a small instrument panel. The rear gunner gets only a “shelf” to sit on, and a machine gun. Scratchbuilders will have plenty to do here. The kit can be built as one of two aircraft – a standard Mk.I bomber, or a machine from the RAF’s Long Range Development Unit, who set the record flight of 7, 158.5 miles in 1938. The differences are in the nose – the standard bomber nose has a tapered shape with the engine (a Bristol Pegasus) mounted in a Townend ring at the end, whereas the LRDU machine has a wider nose with a fully cowled engine. Separate parts for both variants are provided. The Mk.I also carries underwing bomb panniers, not fitted to the LRDU aircraft. Landing gear can be built raised or lowered, but the wells contain no detail, so you may wish to do some work in this area. Parts are moulded on three sprues, all different colours (black, green and brown). Transparencies consist of canopies for the pilot and rear gunner, and two small windows in the fuselage sides above the wing. They are quite thick, but clear and flash-free. There is little flash on any other parts either.

 Instructions are typical of Matchbox, consisting of a single large sheet of newspaper-grade paper. Assembly is detailed in 8 steps, with alternative variants shown clearly so confusion should be easily avoided. There are also two further images showing decal placements, and Humbrol colours are called out in a table. The paint schemes for the two machines are fairly similar, and are shown on the back of the box.

 The kit decals are rather yellowed, but this is hardly surprising given their age. Replacements should be easy to find if required as they are pretty run-of-the-mill for the pre-war RAF. The sheet is split into three sections, with one for 14 Squadron, one for the LRDU, and one for common markings (roundels, wing walkways, etc).  


 This is an old kit, by a maker well known for their shortcomings and issues. That said, the subject is a rare one, and I very much doubt if anyone else will release a Wellesley any time soon. The expert modeller will be able to go to town on this kit, and turn out a stunning model, while the less experienced will still end up with a nice-looking model of an unusual aircraft. Recommended (if you can find one!).


Kit instructions

Alun Beard

October 2009

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