1/72 Sopwith Type 806 Gunbus
|NOTES:||Conversion using two kits|
This aeroplane, which looked almost like a fossil bird, was a result of the request for a two-seat anti-submarine patrol aircraft from the Greek Admiralty, and was originally to have been a floatplane. It was one of the first of T. Sopwith's aircraft to be designed specifically for military use: an order for three with dual controls was placed by the Greek government in 1913, with a second order for six being placed in February 1914. These were delivered as land planes with a four-wheel undercarriage between July and October 1914, but most were commandeered by the British Admiralty for use by the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS). These were numbered 801 - 806 and were named the Admiralty Type 806. In fact the British Admiralty had ordered two machines in October 1913 and these were delivered to the Isle of Grain in March 1914.
The term "gunbus" is frequently associated with the Vickers FB5 and FB9 fighting biplanes, but it was a generic term used at the time to describe any armed scout or reconnaissance aircraft. The pusher design was adopted because there was a lack of a reliable interrupter gear which would stop the pilot from shooting off his own propeller. Instead the observer/gunner had a wide field of fire and in the case of the Sopwith Gunbus a 0.303 inch Lewis machine gun was sometimes mounted on a telescopic pillar.
Like many other little-known early aircraft types there is no model of this aircraft produced in 1/72 scale, although card models in 1/48 and 1/50 scales are available. The only reference to a conversion that I know of was by G. Scarborough published in Airfix Magazine Annual No 5 in 1975 and I used this as the basis for my model. G. Scarborough did not build a full aircraft as his was part of a small diorama with the aeroplane partly dismantled and being towed on a trailer, as illustrated in a series of photographs of Robey built machines being taken from the factory in Lincoln to a nearby testing field. In this diorama the wings and horizontal tail unit were carried in the towing lorry. I have chosen to represent the entire aircraft without any vehicles. There are two (possibly more) kits that could be used as starting points: the Airfix Avro 504 (as in my model), or the Airfix DH 4, both of which could provide wings, wheels, struts, etc, but in either case you will need two kits unless you are prepared to make part of the wings from card. I used G. Scarborough's method of increasing the chord of the Avro 504 wings and kept the fuselages for later use to correct the errors in that kit when I make different variants of that famous type. The engines and propellors also proved useful for the conversions of Vickers Gunbuses from D H 4's: it is surprising how much of a kit can be used in different conversions.
Start by making the fuselage nacelle. This was built from 20 thou card sides and floor with three bulkheads, one at the point where the top decking starts to curve at the nose end, one between the cockpits and one at the rear. Construct a three sided box with the sides, floor and bulkheads and add any cockpit detail including seats, and a control column, rudder bar, etc in the front cockpit. The top decking was from 20 thou card bent over the curved tops of the bulkheads and glued into place with liquid cement. Cut a slot 20 thou wide in the top decking, 2mm behind the rear cockpit to take the radiator which was made from card 11mm x 12mm with the surfaces scored to represent the radiator grill. The nose of the nacelle was built up with scrap plastic and then covered with filler and sanded to shape. The coamings around the cockpits were made from thin rod or stretched sprue. The engine bearers were 15mm lengths of rod inserted into holes drilled into the rear of the nacelle. The rear support for the engine was cut from 20 thou card and cemented to the rear ends of the engine bearer rods. Thin rod or sprue made the additional arms of the bearers, and card was used for the brackets at the front end. The nacelle and engine bearers were painted before the engine was cemented into place. Drill two holes under the nacelle to take the undercarriage legs.
The engine was difficult to make as I could not find any good quality photos or drawings: the drawings provided in the AM Annual were poor and not very accurate but were among the better ones that I could find, so they provided the basis for my efforts. Make the cylinder blocks from two pieces of 60 thou laminated card with the ends rounded off. The engine block/sump was also made from two pieces of 60 thou card, with a 20 thou piece sandwiched between them. When this was dry I sanded to shape the bottom and rear end, making sure that it fitted snugly into the space between the engine bearers. The top of the engine block should slope inwards to take the cylinder blocks. Drill a hole in the rear of the engine block for the propellor. Assemble the cylinders to the engine block and then add the exhaust pipes from short pieces of rod bent to a curve. I put some very thin rod on the sides of the block to represent pipes, and other tiny details as my imagination allowed. The assembly was painted light grey with a little silver mixed in to give a metallic finish. When the engine is finished cement the radiator to the nacelle and the engine to the bearers, and then add the water pipes from the cylinders to the radiator. I painted the water pipes copper with some brown mixed in to take off the sheen. The exhaust pipes were rust. The propellor blades were wide and had to be made from card and glued to the boss of an old Camel(?) propellor which I found in the bottom of my spares box which had had the original blades removed. (Why I had kept this item I cannot remember: such are my hoarding tendencies). The propellor was painted dark wood with a grey boss.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Now for the fun part; rigging. There are about 140 individual wires to be put on to this model (more than any other that I have made, and compared with just over 50 on the DH 4), so expect it to take some time to complete. Start by rigging the front to rear wires between the wing struts, working from the centre outwards. Then rig the rear of the wings followed by the front. The sides of the booms are next and when the rear bays of the booms have been rigged the horizontal tail surfaces can be glued into place. Rig the horizontal wires between the booms but before you complete the forward bays put on the propellor. The undercarriage is next and then the control wires on the wings and tail, the control wires from the horns on the nacelle to the struts, and the tail bracing. Finally add the elevator and rudder wires, the anti drag wires, and the balance wire along the leading edge of the top wing. The tail skid and wing skids (the latter made from 5 amp fuse wire) complete the model.
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