Wingnut Wings 1/32 Sopwith Snipe (late)
KIT #: 32054
PRICE: $69.00 SRP
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Chris Peachment
NOTES: Includes photo etch


A single seat biplane of two bay construction, the Snipe hardly saw action in WWI, coming into squadron service only a few months before the armistice in 1918.

While it was not especially fast, it did have a high rate of climb and very good manoeuvrability, so the RAF used it as their postwar fighter until 1926.

Designed to replace the Camel, it was at first a single bay biplane,  smaller than the Camel, and powered by a similar engine. The pilot sat higher than in the Camel and the centre of the upper wing was uncovered, giving a better view. The second prototype had a more powerful Bentley engine of 230hp.

It was then rebuilt with longer span two bay wings which allowed it to compete as a high altitude single-seat fighter. This specification required a speed of at least 135mph at 15,000 ft, a ceiling of at least 25,000 ft while carrying an armament of two fixed and one swivelling machine gun. An oxygen supply and heated clothing were provided for the pilot.

The Snipe was tested against three other fighter prototypes, also powered by the Bentley engine: the Austin Osprey, the Boulton Paul Bobolink and the Nieuport BN 1. There was little difference in performance between the aircraft, but the Sopwith was selected because it was cheaper, and orders for 1,700 Snipes placed in March 1918.

The Snipe was heavier but stronger than earlier Sopwiths.  Although not a fast aircraft for 1918, it was very manoeuverable, and easier to handle than the Camel, with a better view, forwards and upwards. Its fixed armament was two 0.303 machine guns, and it was also able to carry up to four 25lb bombs for ground attack. The design allowed for a single Lewis gun on the centre section, similar to the Dolphin, though this was never fitted. Production ended in 1919, with 500 built, the rest being cancelled. An armoured version for trench fighting was the Sopwith Salamander.

In 1919, the Snipe took part on the side of the White Russians during the  Civil War against the Bolsheviks, with 12 of them used by the RAF mission in north Russia. At least one of was captured and used by the Bolsheviks.

The last Snipes were retired from service in 1926.


 As is well known by now, Wingnut Wings models set a new bench mark for engineering and fit of parts, as well as excellent detailing, and this one is no different. The instructions come as a copiously illustrated booklet complete with original photos, modelling hints and tips, and a good colour guide. For example the decal sheet includes the chequerboard markings for the top wing, even though the instructions suggest that it might not have been worn on that model. I put them on anyway, as they look so colourful  and it seemed a shame not to use them.


 The cockpit and interior are the most detailed and time consuming  part of the kit, and well worth getting right as much can be seen in this scale. I drew the line at internal rigging however, as that is invisible, and I didn't plan to cut away any panels.  That would be a good possibility however if you would like to show off the excellent interior.  The side walls are full of detail, the seat has a convincing wicker back, and the Vickers guns  come with an etched cocking handle and empty link chute. Once the interior walls have been painted in varying shades of brown,  depending on whether the walls are wooden, or red oxide primer bleeding through linen then the whole cockpit assembly can be snapped in place. The engineering on this kit is so precise that it doesn't need glue. And when the two sides of the fuselage are put together, there are no gaps.


 At this point I painted the whole thing including the separate wings and ailerons silver, Humbrol number 11 from a rattle can. It is a good paint because although initially very shiny, it dampens down a little with handling, and comes closer to what silver doped linen looks like.

 And then, just because I was feeling that this model was falling together too easily, and life wasn't hard enough, I spent a couple of days and the best part of a roll of masking tape, masking each wing rib. I then brush painted them with Hannants Xtracrylix RLM 01 Silber, which is a shade darker than the Humbrol. It isn't too obtrusive a contrast, but shows up nicely when it catches the light.

 After that the wing decals were put in place. Along with the fuselage chequer board pattern. And this was the only time the kit let me down. The decals are on the thick side. They don't settle easily over raised detail. And the compound curve of the engine cowling produced nasty wrinkles which weren't disappearing with time. So I made the mistake of using some Microsol, and this dissolved the decals. Hence there is no white bar on the cowl, when in fact there should be. I don't know why this happened, and there is no warning in the instruction book about it. So be warned, although I don't know what you might do to avoid it. Perhaps some careful slicing with a sharp blade and plenty of water might make them fit. I will mask it off and spray it soon.

 The Bentley engine has separate rocker arms and intake pipes for front and back. The whole thing got painted black with a gunmetal wash and various bits of oily weathering, which I didn't overdo.


Then the lower wing is fixed to the fuselage, and the struts addressed. They are all painted grey, which certainly saves time by not having to give them a wood effect. They also fit well into their locating holes at exactly the right angle. I started with the cabanes, mounted the top wing on those, then snap fitted the rest of the struts into place, after placing some glue in each mounting hole with a toothpick. It now looks like an aircraft.

 I wondered whether to use turnbuckles for the rigging, as they look good in this scale, and they also make life easier, but on the Snipe they were all fitted in the interior. And each strut has a nice little rigging hole at the base, which is very handy. A drop of superglue on each of these helped secure the elastic thread I always use, coloured silver with a gel felt tip pen. Sticklers for accuracy will note that the RAF of this period used flattened aerodynamic wire. How the hell you replicate that I don't know.

 For the control wires I tried out a new product from Uschi, which is their standard size .005mm rigging wire. It was excellent, being very much thinner than the other thread. In fact it is so anorexic that it is barely visible from certain angles.  And it hardly shows up in the pictures. I would say it was better suited to 1/72 models.

Then the undercarriage was fitted. Something I have noted before about Wingnut Wing models is that they wobble on their wheels in an alarming manner when nudged. In fact they are not fragile, because the undercarriage mounting tabs are very long and fit deep inside the fuselage, making for a strong set up. It is just that the plastic is soft and bendy. Hence the wobble. And the answer to that is: don't nudge them. The wheels come with separate hub caps, which is always a useful idea and means you can get clear demarcation between hub and tyre. I wish that all wheels came like this in 1/72.

 I didn't bother with the bomb rack, since I feel less and less warlike with age. But it is a very nicely moulded detail if you want it.

 Finally the propeller, which, like the struts, is painted grey, for which I used French blue grey. It has a tinge of blue just to alleviate the greyness of grey. The rear faces are matt black, the hub is wood, and the spinner plate silver. The prop was mounted at ten to four, and that was that.


Enough ink has already been spilled about how good these kits are, and certainly it is all justified.  I would say that even a beginner would turn out a very creditable model. Had I known that the decals were going to play up, I would have chosen a different set of markings, perhaps the one in Soviet markings, which is olive drab and has the name Nelly on it. Which doesn't sound very Russian, but was perhaps left over from some previous love-lorn western front pilot.

The most heartening thing is that Wingnut seem to be moving out of WWI and into the early 20s with this kit. I wonder if this points toward a wider range in the future. I certainly hope so because the 20s and 30s are poorly covered by mainstream kit makers.  A Siskin or a Bulldog or a Grebe would be very welcome. As would anything civilian. It was after all the Golden Age of aviation, but it is not nearly celebrated enough.


Chris Peachment

August 2014

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