|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||New tool kit|
The Whitley first entered service with No. 10 Squadron in March 1937, replacing Handley Page Heyford biplanes. By the outbreak of the Second World War, seven squadrons were operational, the majority flying Whitley IIIs or IVs, as the Whitley V had only just been introduced. With the Handley Page Hampden and the Vickers Wellington, Whitleys bore the brunt of the early fighting and saw action on the first night of the war, when they dropped propaganda leaflets over Germany. Among the many aircrew who flew the Whitley in operations over Germany, was Leonard Cheshire who spent most of his first three years at war flying Whitleys. Unlike the Hampden and Wellington—which met specification B.9/32 for a day bomber—the Whitley was always intended for night operations and escaped the early heavy losses received in daylight raids on German shipping, early in the war. With Hampdens, the Whitley made the first bombing raid on German soil on the night of 19/20 March 1940, attacking the Hornum seaplane base on the Island of Sylt. Whitleys also carried out Operation Haddock the first RAF raid on Italy, on the night of 11/12 June 1940.
As the oldest of the three bombers, the Whitley was obsolete by the start of the war, yet over 1,000 more were produced before a suitable replacement was found. A particular problem with the twin-engine aircraft, was that it could not maintain altitude on one engine. Whitleys flew 8,996 operations with RAF Bomber Command, dropped 9,845 tons (8,931 tonnes) of bombs and 269 aircraft were lost in action.
The Whitley was retired from front line service in late 1942 but it continued to operate as a transport for troops and freight, as well as for paratroop training and towing gliders. No. 100 Group RAF used Whitleys to carry airborne radar and electronic counter-measures. In February 1942, Whitleys carried the paratroops who participated in the Bruneval raid (Operation Biting) in which German radar technology was captured from a German base on the coast of France.
The Whitley V was the main wartime production version based on the Mk IV, modified fins, leading edge de-icing, manually operated tail and retractable ventral turrets replaced with a Nash & Thompson powered turret equipped with four .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns, tail fuselage extended by 15 in (381 mm) to improve the field of fire. First flew in December 1938, production ceased in June 1943: 1,466 built.
Most of Hornby's efforts in their overhaul of Airfix have been in releasing new tool kits of old favorites. It is a plan that works well for them as many modelers can recall "building an Airfix xxx when a kid" and that encourages them to pick up the new tool. Once that occurs, they are hooked as Airfix's newer tool kits are very nicely done.
In between all this, they have released new tool kits of subjects that they have not done previously. Such is the case with the Whitley. Before this, there was the Frog kit from the 1960s/70s that was a product of its time and is best left to collectors. This kit has all the trademarks of current Airfix engineering.
The kit provides a pilot's, navigator's and bombardier's station in the nose. No belts are provided for the seats and, unusual for Airfix, no crew figures. Decals are used for instruments and this includes a map for the navigator's table. This all fits into the nose section, which is separate from the rest of the aircraft. The main fuselage fits behind the wings and there is an upper fuselage insert. There are a zillion holes ready to be drilled out of the aft fuselage so expect the variant with a mass of antennas to be boxed.
The bomb bay area is a separate insert that includes the lower wings inside the engines. Two hefty spars are included to help align the wings and the kit provides an open bomb bay if you wish to so model your Whitley in this manner. Engine nacelles are properly complex as there are engine braces that can be seen from inside the wheel wells. You can model the coolant door exhaust open or closed as you choose.
The built up nacelles are then attached to the completed wing/bomb bay assembly, then the forward fuselage is attached followed by the rear. Separate flaps are provided for the trailing edges of the wings. Ther are separate elevators and rudders as well. To model the bomb bay doors open, the single piece bay door section needs to be cut. For those who like stand models, additional closed main gear doors are provided. For others, the main gear assembly is nicely done and it comes with a flat bottom wheel/tire.
There are small differences i the way one assembles the tail turret depending on the decal option with one having the gun ring slightly higher than the other. This assembly and the nose gun can be attached at the end of the build. One will have to do some carving to get the nose turret to properly fit as the clear section that holds it in place at the top is too thick. Both lower nose and side doors can be posed open and there is an entrance ladder provided for both.
Instructions are typical of the new Airfix with some color in the pages to help with construction. Airfix still has the irritating habit of only using Humbrol colors aside from the overall markings. There are two options. One is the box art plane in green/brown over black with 102 squadroin in March of 1940. The other is all black with 10 Squadron in December of 1941. While the markings options are hardly inspiring, the decals are nicely done and should provide no issues. I'm sure the aftermarket crowd is already getting sheets ready.
I am sure this kit will sell well in the UK. Outside the country it is just another ugly pre-war bomber, but there are enough of us who like ugly pre-war bombers to have it sell fairly well. I am positive they will do a Coastal Command boxing later as it has all the holes for the fuselage antennas ready to open up. Those wanting to do an earlier Whitley will have to wait for the retooling to provide the shorter fuselage, different fins and different turrets.
Review kit courtesy of me.
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