Wingnut Wings 1/32 DH.9a "Ninak"

KIT #: 32007
PRICE: $89.00 SRP (which includes shipping)
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: New mold kit


             The AMC DH.9a (Aircraft Manufacturing Company de Havilland design 9a) bomber came about due to the necessity to find a replacement for the underperforming DH.9, which had been introduced as a replacement for the 275‑350hp Rolls Royce Eagle powered DH.4, with the pilot and gunner repositioned closer together for improved communications.  The DH.9 was in fact a great leap backwards due to the inferior performance and unreliability of its 230hp Puma engine.

               The initial design for the improved DH.9a was created by Westland Aircraft, due to workload considerations at AMC, and differed primarily by being designed to use the 400hp Liberty V-12 developed and produced in the United States. With  larger wings and re‑designed nose, the prototype C6350 began  flight testing in February 1918. The 2nd prototype was the first to be fitted with a Liberty engine, and C6122 took to the air on April 19, 1918.

             The need for the airplane was such that an initial production order for 400 DH.9a was given to Whitehead Aircraft in January 1918, a month before the first prototype flew. The DH.9a was manufactured by Whitehead, AMC, Mann Eggerton & Co. and The Vulcan Motor & Engineering Co., in addition to  numerous rebuilds and small post war production orders from de Havilland Aircraft Co, Handley Page, HG. Hawker Engineering Ltd. and Short Bros among others, as the D.H.9a along with the Bristol F2B became the backbone of the postwar RAF during the 1920s and early 1930s.

             An American order for 4000 USD‑9A was placed with Curtiss but was canceled due to the Armistice; only 13 USD‑9A were built, all prototypes. At least 2,700 unlicensed copies were built in the newly formed Soviet Union as the Polikarpov R‑1.

             The DH.9a “Ninak” (Nin = 9, ack = A) became operational with 110 Squadron of the Independent Air Force of the Royal Air Force (the strategic bombing force headed by General Hugh Trenchard)at the end of August 1918. While 110 Squadron was the only unit in France fully equipped with the DH.9a before the Armistice, D.H.9a aircraft also made up part of the aircraft complements of 99 Squadron, 18 Squadron, and 55 Squadron of the IAF.  The United States Marine Corps replaced their thoroughly-unusable American D.H. 4s with 53 DH.9as for the USMC Northern Bombing Group in September, 1918, and flew them until the Armistice.  After the war, the DH.9a served with the RAF in Germany, Russia and the Middle East and saw service in the Canadian Air Force, the Australian Air Corps as well as the Soviet Union and China (which was supplied the R‑1 version).  The D.H.9a left RAF service in 1934, having been used on the periphery of Empire in such locations as Iraq and Afghanistan for local “aerial policing” (i.e., bombing uppity natives who weren’t enamored of their enforced membership in the British Empire).

The USMC Northern Bombing Force:

             Marine Corps Aviation began on May 21, 1912, when USMC Lt Alfred A Cunningham received Naval Aviator's Certificate number 5.  Further expansion of Marine Aviation between 1912 to the entrance of the United States into World War I was slow; the entire force on April 6, 1917, was 5 officers and 30 enlisted men on duty at NAS Pensacola, Florida. On February 13, 1917, Lt F. T. Evans climbed to 3,000 feet in a Curtiss N-9 single‑pontoon seaplane and looped and spun the airplane, which had previously been considered impossible.  Promoted to Captain in October 1917, Evans commanded the original tactical aviation unit, the First Marine Aeronautic Company, which was sent to the Azores in December 1917 to fly anti‑ submarine patrols as the first completely-equipped American aviation unit to leave the Continental United States for war service.

             The remaining 26 officers soloed at Mineola, in December, 1917, in temperatures far below zero. On arrival at Gerstner Field in Louisiana, the Marines found the Army had hundreds of new airplanes in crates, a large number of cadets awaiting instruction, several thousand drafted men who had never seen an airplane, and only a handful of pilots and experienced mechanics. All hands in the Marine Squadron, including the cooks, assisted in assembling the airplanes, and the Marine pilots became flying instructors.

            Four more squadrons were formed at Miami, under the command of Marine Aviator No.1, Maj. Alfred A. Cunningham, and arrived in France in July, 1918, to become the Day Wing of the Northern Bombing Group, operating in the Dunkirk area against German submarines and their bases at Ostend, Zeebrugge, and Bruges.  Arriving in July and August, the Marines flew with the British while awaiting delivery of their own airplanes.  When 72 American-built D.H.4s finally arrived in early September 1918, they were found to be unusable due to poor quality control during production and had to be completely reassembled.  The Marines were able to obtain 53 ex-RAF D.H.9as which were flown on 57 raids during the 61 days of the war remaining, despite the fall of 1918 being one of the rainiest on record.  The Marines shot down 12 German fighters, for the loss of only one airplane. It was learned after the Armistice that one raid had resulted in the death of 60 enemy officers and 300 enlisted men.

             The Marines may only have been in combat a little more than two months, but they wrote an epic tale in several bloody battles.  One of the more amazing feats was the aerial rescue of a French regiment cut off by the enemy near Stadenburg. Marine Corps pilots successfully dropped 2,600 pounds of food to them in the face of heavy fire from artillery, machine guns, and rifles over the course of two days. Three pilots were killed or died of wounds received in action, two of them being shot down over the enemy's lines. Captain Robert Lytle received the following Distinguished Service Medal citation:

 "For extraordinary heroism as commanding officer of Squadron C, First Marine Aviation Force, at the Front in bombing raids into enemy territory. On October 2, 1918, when word was received that a body of French troops had been cut off from supplies for two days by the enemy, and it was decided to feed them by aeroplane, Captain Lytle flew over the besieged troops at an altitude of only one hundred feet and dropped food where these troops could get it. This performance was repeated four times, each time under heavy fire from rifles, machine guns and artillery on the ground.

 “On October 14, 1918, while leading a raid of seven planes near Fittham, Belgium, his plane and one other became separated from their formation on account of motor trouble, and were attacked by twelve enemy scout planes. Captain Lytle shot down one of the enemy planes, and before his motor quit entirely, landed under fire in the Belgian front line trenches."

             On October 14, 1918, the Marine squadrons of the Northern Bombing Group flew the first of eight American missions against German targets. In all, the eight raids saw 15,502 pounds of bombs dropped on enemy held territory.

             On October 22, 1918, Marine aviators Harvey C. Norman and Caleb W. Taylor were shot down and killed. Both received the Navy Cross posthumously with the following citations:

 “The Navy Cross is presented to Harvey C. Norman, Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as a Pilot in the First Marine Aviation force, attached to the Northern Bomb Group (USN), at the front in France. While on a bombing raid into enemy territory, October 22, 1918, Lieutenant Norman became separated from the other planes of his formation, owing to heavy fog and while so cut off was attacked by seven enemy scout planes. In the engagement which ensued he behaved with conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity, continuing the fight against overwhelming odds until he himself was killed and his plane shot down.”

 “The Navy Cross is presented to Caleb W. Taylor, Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as an Observer in the First Marine Aviation Force, attached to the Northern Bomb Group (USN) at the Front in France. While on a bombing raid into enemy territory on October 22, 1918, Lieutenant Taylor became separated from the other planes of the formation on account of fog, and was attacked by seven enemy scout planes. Despite the overwhelming odds he fought with great gallantry and intrepidity until he was killed and his plane shot down.”

             Observer/gunner Sergeant Thomas L. McCullough was awarded  the Navy Cross for action on September 9, 1918:

 “The Navy Cross is presented to Thomas L. McCullough, Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as an Observer in the First Marine Aviation Force, attached to the Northern Bomb Group (USN), at the Front in France. Sergeant McCullough participated successfully in numerous air raids into enemy territory and on September 9, 1918, while flying over Cortemarck, Belgium, was attacked by eight enemy scouts. Sergeant McCullough shot down one of the enemy planes and fought off the others until his gun jammed and he was forced out of action.

            On September 28, 1918, First Lieutenant Everett R. Brewer and his observer/gunner, Gunnery Sergeant Harry B. Wershiner both won the Navy Cross for action while flying with 218 Squadron RAF:

            “The Navy Cross is presented to Everett R. Brewer, First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism on September 28, 1918, as a Pilot of the First Marine Aviation Force, attached to the Northern Bomb Group (USN), while on an air raid in company with Squadron 218, Royal Air Force. Lieutenant Brewer was attacked over Cortemarck, Belgium by fifteen enemy scout planes. During the severe fight which followed, his plane was shot down and although both himself and his observer were very seriously wounded, he brought the plane safely back to the aerodrome. Lieutenant Brewer was shot through the hip and his observer shot through the lungs. Considering the distance from Cortemarck to his aerodrome this is a remarkable instance.

 “The Navy Cross is presented to Harry B. Wershiner, Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as an Observer of the First Marine Aviation Force, attached to the Northern Bomb Group (USN), while on an air raid in company with Squadron 218, Royal Air Force, at the Front in France. On September 28, 1918, while on an air raid into enemy territory, his plane was attacked by fifteen enemy scouts. Despite the overwhelming odds Gunnery Sergeant Wershiner fought with great gallantry and intrepidity. He shot down two enemy scouts and although he was himself shot through the lungs and his pilot shot through the hips, he continued to fight until he was able to shake the enemy.

            Second Lieutenant Chapin C. Barr won the Navy Cross on September 26, 1918:

 “The Navy Cross is presented to Chapin C. Barr, Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as a Pilot in the First Marine Aviation Force, attached to the Northern Bomb Group (USN), at the front in France. On September 26, 1918, while on an air raid over enemy territory, Lieutenant Barr was attacked by a superior number of enemy scouts. In the fight which ensued he behaved with conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity, and despite having been mortally wounded, he drove off the enemy and brought his plane safely back to the aerodrome.”

             Future Marine Corps aviation legend and Second World War battlefield commander Captain Roy S. Geiger received his first wartime recognition as a member of the Northern Bombing Force:

 “The Navy Cross is presented to Roy Stanley Geiger, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, for distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of Airplane Squadron No. 2, 1st Marine Aviation Force, attached to the Northern Bomb Group (USN), in which capacity he trained and led this Squadron on bombing raids against the enemy. His conduct throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Navy of the United States.

             America’s highest award, the Medal of Honor, was awarded to Second Lieutenant Ralph Talbot and Gunnery Sergeant Guy Robinson:

 “For exceptionally meritorious service and extraordinary heroism while attached to Squadron C, 1st Marine Aviation Force, in France. 2d Lt. Talbot participated in numerous air raids into enemy territory. On 8 October , 1918, while on such a raid, he was attacked by 9 enemy scouts, and in the fight that followed shot down an enemy plane. Also, on 14 October , 1918, while on a raid over Pittham, Belgium, 2d Lt. Talbot and another plane became detached from the formation on account of motor trouble and were attacked by 12 enemy scouts. During the severe fight that followed, his plane shot down one of the enemy scouts. His observer was shot through the elbow and his gun jammed. 2d Lt. Talbot maneuvered to gain time for his observer to clear the jam with one hand, and then returned to the fight. The observer fought until shot twice, once in the stomach and once in the hip and then collapsed, 2d Lt. Talbot attacked the nearest enemy scout with his front guns and shot him down. With his observer unconscious and his motor failing, he dived to escape the balance of the enemy and crossed the German trenches at an altitude of 50 feet, landing at the nearest hospital to leave his observer, and then returning to his aerodrome.”

 “The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Gunnery Sergeant Robert Guy Robinson, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as observer in the 1st Marine Aviation Force at the front in France. In company with planes from Squadron 218, Royal Air Force, conducting an air raid on 8 October 1918, Gunnery Sergeant Robinson's plane was attacked by nine enemy scouts. In the fight which followed, he shot down one of the enemy planes. In a later air raid over Pittham, Belgium, on 14 October 1918, his plane and one other became separated from their formation on account of motor trouble and were attacked by twelve enemy scouts. Acting with conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in the fight which ensued, Gunnery Sergeant Robinson, after shooting down one of the enemy planes, was struck by a bullet which carried away most of his elbow. At the same time his gun jammed. While his pilot maneuvered for position, he cleared the jam with one hand and returned to the fight. Although his left arm was useless, he fought off the enemy scouts until he collapsed after receiving two more bullet wounds, one in the stomach and one in the thigh.”

            The Day Wing returned to the United States in December 1918 and was disbanded, with most of its personnel returning to their civilian lives.  Today, Marine Attack Squadron 231 is considered their direct lineal descendant.


            The Ninak is definitely one of the biggest of the Wingnut Wings airplanes, being second only to the Gotha for overall size, and is the first kit of the D.H.9a to appear in any scale.  In fact, the only other model of this airplane I have ever seen was John Alcorn’s incredible 1/24 scratchbuilt Ninak that appeared at the 1998 IPMS-USA convention.  As with all Wingnut Wings kits, it is superbly designed with attention to ease of assembly.  The kit provides different details such as different machine guns for each of the five aircraft - four RAF and one USMC - that can be created from the kit.  The Cartograf decal sheet is again among the best WW1 decal sheets, with accurate colors and a myriad of stencil detail.


            I have said it before with every review of a Wingnut Wings kit, but the secret to success with these models is to follow the excellent instructions.  If you do so, the only reason you will not have a superb model at the end will be “operator error” somewhere along the line.  The kit is complex but not complicated, and if you take your time any modeler who has done at least one kit with advanced rigging will have no problem creating a masterpiece.

            I began as I always do by prepainting every detail part before assembly.  I did the wooden struts by painting them Tamiya “Desert Yellow”, then dry brushing a very little bit of Tamiya “Red Brown” over them, followed by a solid coat of Tamiya “Clear Yellow.”   

            With that painting done, I proceeded to commit the radical act of following the instructions in assembling the model.

            The inner fuselage detail is where assembly begins, with the cockpits and then the engine.  These are then enclosed in the fuselage.  Be certain when you begin what airplane you want to do, because the instructions point out the detail differences between each as you go along and you need to know that before you start.  As an early D.H.9a, my Marine airplane had the fabric rear fuselage side panels, which are cleverly done to show the “sagginess” of the fuselage fabric which was nowhere near as tight as that of the wings.

            I elected to enclose the very nice Liberty Engine in the cowling, but a modeler who takes the time to add the wiring detail will be well rewarded if they leave the cowling off and the engine visible.

            I had decided I was going to try a trick of wing assembly and rigging told me by another modeler, so after I assembled the wings I made very certain that they could slip in and out of the fuselage and upper wing center section easily, by scratching the openings a bit wider and taking the edges off of the tabs on the wings.  This involved test-fitting as I went along.

            Once the fuselage, wings and tail sub-assemblies were completed, it was time to paint the outer airframe.


            I pre-shaded the wings and tail surfaces by air brushing flat black in the area between the ribs, leaving the ribs a lighter color.  I then applied Gunze-Sangyo “Sail Color”, thinned 50-50, for the lower “clear doped linen” colors.  I applied Tamiya “Khaki Drab”, again thinned 50-50, for the upper surface color.  The grey areas were painted with the new Tamiya “Ocean Grey”, which is a good match for British “Battleship Grey.”  I finished off with a coat of Xtracrylix “Gloss” clear varnish.

             The decals went on without problem under a coat of Micro-Sol.  I did note a fit problem with the national insignia on the upper wing.  Be sure not to apply these with the wing and aileron separated; Apply the larger piece to the wing, then apply the smaller piece over that and position it so the color rings match up.  When they were set, I washed everything to get rid of decal solvent residue, then gave everything a final coat of Xtracrylix “Satin” clear varnish. 


             I decided to do as much of the rigging before assembling the wings as possible.  This is a process that works very well if you are using wire for your rigging.  If you are using thread, then you want to proceed with the usual assembly and then run the rigging threads.  I used .010 wire for this rigging, and was very happy to discover that the D.H.9a did not have double flying wires, as do most British WWI airplanes.

             First I attached the upper wing center section in place with its struts.  Then I attached the interplane struts to each lower wing.  Be certain to test-fit this assembly by putting the top wing on (I suggest you open the positioning holes for the struts a bit to insure ease of fit) and slide that into the fuselage and wing to be sure everything is at the correct angles.

            I then took off the upper wings and did all the interplane rigging other than the two inner bay flying wires.  When all was set up, I attached the top wings and finished the rigging of those last wires.  I then slid each outer wing into position and glued them in.  I finished off by doing the rear control wires, using .006 wire.

             I then attached the bomb racks and the Scarff ring and twin Lewis guns, and the prop.  I will attach the bombs later, but doing all the decals for them was creating too much delay in finishing this review.


             Another winner from Wingnut Wings.  A brutal-looking British two-seater that is really impressive size-wise when it sits on the shelf next to the other WNW models.  Since the Ninak was used extensively in the post-war period, an enterprising modeler can create a number of different paint schemes and squadron markings if they so desire.  A modeler with experience of building World War I models with rigging will have no problems doing this model.  Highly recommended.

Tom Cleaver

 October 2011

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