Fondiere Miniatures 1/48 Hampden

KIT #: 6056
PRICE: $60.00 or so. Currently OOP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Pierre-André Boillat
NOTES: A real challenge – almost two years in the making!


Based on the Air Ministry specification B.9/32 of 1932 (the same which was the base for the Vickers Wellington), the Handley Page Hampden twin-engine bomber was first flown on June 21, 1936. Two weeks after this first flight, an order for 180 Hampden MkIs was placed, the type entering service in September 1938. At the beginning of WWII, 226 Hampdens were serving in 8 different RAF squadrons. At first well-liked for its good handling characteristics, speed (410 KmH), manoeuvrability and defensive armament (4 .303 MGs), the sleek and modern (for the late 30’s) Hampden quickly showed its limits as soon as it entered combat, like so many aircraft of this troubled period. It suffered heavy losses against German fighters, which caused its withdrawal from day bombing operations. 

The Hampdens continued their career as night bombers over Germany and were also used to drop mines into the North Sea until Bomber Command handed them over to Coastal Command in 1942, after which it soldiered on as a maritime patrol aircraft and torpedo bomber. After Squadrons 144 and 455 RAAF were sent to the Soviet Union to protect convoys, 23 Hampdens were left behind when the crews went back to Britain and were used by the Soviet Naval Aviation for anti-shipping duty until the end of 1943.

The type was also flown by the RCAF, RAAF, RNZAF and the Swedish Air Force (only one machine in this case). After the war, the remaining 200 Hampdens were brought to Canada where they ended their career as bombing and gunnery trainers.

150 Napier Dagger engined Hampdens were built under the name Hereford, but the new engines proved to be highly unreliable and most were retrofitted to Hampden standards, the remaining ones serving for training only.

Of the 1’430 built aircraft, 714 Hampdens (half the total production) were lost, 1077 crew being killed in action and 739 being reported missing. Two RAF servicemen, Flight Lieutenant Rod Learoyd and Sergeant John Hannah were awarded the Victoria Cross for their gallant deeds during the battles of 1940.

Before switching to the Avro Lancaster and becoming famous for leading the “Dambusters” raid, Guy Gibson served in a Hampden squadron. This model depicts an aircraft he flew.


Being an amateur of less famous aircraft with an original look, I always was quite a fan of the “Flying Suitcase” (as its crews dubbed it) and wanted to build one, if possible in 1/48 (at the time, the Airfix antique in 1/72 was the only alternative, and the superior Valom effort didn’t exist yet).

 Hence, I first purchased the Sanger vacform kit from Britain, which turned out to be practically unbuildable. No interior detail at all, unusable small parts (like plastic engines which were more like 1/72 WWI Clergets, vacformed prop blades, you name it)… everything but the basic airframe had to be made from scratch. Being courageous but no glutton for punishment, I gave up. At least it wasn’t too expensive.

Then came the Fonderie Miniature kit from France. Still hanging on to my dream of a 1/48 Hampden, I ordered one. As it’s often the case with larger FM models, it’s basically an injected version of the Sanger vacform, but fortunately, with several improvements, like acceptable resin engines and wheels, white metal detail parts (MGS, landing gear legs, crew seats, cockpit sidewalls, exhaust pipes, air intakes) which, while rather crude, are good enough to “do the job”. A pair of very nice “porcupine” exhausts is also included for the Coastal Command version – these two joined the spares box.

 After the box gathered dust in the stash for a while, I finally started cutting plastic in the spring of 2011.


This time, I honestly can’t place the obligatory sentence “I first assembled the cockpit”. On this kit, everything has to be dry-fitted, tested, twisted and forced in place. So I first assembled the wings to help this dry-fitting, and continued with the rather difficult installation of the internal parts (you get no positioning holes and the instructions sheet is… hmm… sketchy at best. Plus, fit is more the result of luck than of anything else and several glitches (like fuselage openings which don’t have the same shape on both sides) quickly become obvious. However, with a bit of patience and creativity, you end up with an assembled fuselage, a set of wings (with engines) and tail planes.

 Then, trouble begins as you try to put these elements together. The wings are thicker than their roots and you notice their positioning slots are not at the same height. Plus, the horizontal tail plane makes a funny angle unless you force it in position, with a large gap on one side. After looking down in this abyss, you either shelve the kit or call…

 Putty to the rescue!

 The guy who coined the term “putty monster” surely knows this kit. In fact, the amount of putty needed to give the wings and tail planes a correct position and angle, and to add matter to the wing root gaps is positively awe-inspiring (not mentioning that *every* joint on the model will have to be thoroughly filled and sanded). In fact, I had to do the job in several layers until the wings and their roots were even, and let the whole thing dry for several weeks until I started sanding. Then, a coat of paint was applied to check out the filling job – to notice that more putty was needed, and so on. Eventually, the operation had to be done three times until the airframe looked ready for re-engraving and painting (with a few retouches here and there). At this moment, I lost courage, put the project aside and switched to easier kits and online gaming… until January 2013.

 Back to the Bench!

 After seeing this half-finished thing laying around my workshop for 20 months (and having a bit of time on my hands), I suddenly decided to end this project once and for all. I first sanded the last corrective putty additions, re-engraved the panel lines which had gone missing under all this filling (plus, adding some, as some lines are not the same on both wings), and started painting the airframe in its dark earth, dark green and “night” camo, using Vallejo acrylics and my Tamiya “extra fine” airbrush. At this moment, a miracle happened: not only did the model look like a Hampden, but the whole work had been useful. One couldn’t notice most of the kit’s crudeness any more. Or not at once, at least. After this highly rewarding moment, I wouldn’t stop until finished. But more challenges lied ahead.


 As said above, the machine I chose to represent belonged to No 83 Squadron, RAF and was flown by P/O Guy Gibson. As FM’s decals, while more or less useable, are a bit too bright in colour and in fact not very appealing, I used Kits at War’s DDK4823 sheet - a selection of RAF planes which included Guibson’s ship (they went on fine, but I had to use Gunze Mr. Mark Softer and some motives showed a bit of silvering, probably due to the model’s grainy surface). After spraying the airframe with Future, I applied the decals and sealed them with a further coat of the same. Then, I applied a dark brown/black wash (light grey for the undersides), using water-soluble oils of the “Cobra” brand (which have the advantages of being both washable and completely odourless). This being done, I sprayed a coat of Italeri acrylic flat lacquer, and I could go on with the “fiddly bits”.


 The resin wheels are reasonably detailed, but the tyres have a large gap (Surprise! Surprise!) around their center section. This can be easily corrected. The white metal gear legs are extremely strong, which is an advantage on such a heavy kit. The Lewis MGs are quite OK, but I had to scratchbuild a mount for the dorsal twin guns. The plastic props look allright after a bit of sanding, and so do the white metal engines’ air intakes. A pair of (facultative) external bomb racks are provided. I used them on the kit, but I left the (injected) bombs aside, which are unusable. All this being painted and ready, I went on to the last challenge:


 The kit provides you with a double set of vacformed transparent parts. This comes handy in case of an accident – but the plastic is grainy and not extremely clear. I dipped all parts in Future, which gave them a much better aspect, and glued them with Pacer’s Formula 560 canopy glue, which works wonders, fills gaps and dries out completely transparent. All these parts require a long and patient fitting job, and I’d recommend (unlike what I did) to install the part which covers the ventral MG stand prior to painting (it fits rather badly and should best be included in the filling and sanding part of the project – this said, I did what I could to hide the dirt under the carpet). I also recommend to open the cockpit, as its fit is a bit awkward and it’s much easier to install  like that (plus, you get a better look inside the cockpit, which is the most detailed part of the kit). The different side windows are quite difficult to fit and put in place. Take your time and be careful. I skipped the smallest ones (as well as the two circular ones on top of the fuselage, which you have to drill yourself) and filled these with “Crystal Clear”. The landing light cover was less difficult than expected (I represented the light with a pin head). Best clear part is the nose, which (fortunately) fits well. As it was rarely installed, I left out the bombardier’s MG. As usual, the framing was made with painted decal stripes, the curved frames on the nose being hand-painted.

 Last details

 After adding the (optional) underwing bomb racks, aileron counterweights, antennae and MGs, I airbrushed a few retouches of the basic colours and matte coat here and there, added pastel powder to weather the aircraft, then ended with the antenna wires (in that case, a Lycra thread which has the great advantage of never breaking when you struggle to put the model into your showcase).


So, after a long struggle and an even longer break, I have a rather nice-looking 1/48 Handley Page Hampden proudly sitting in my model cabinet. I know it’s not perfect and I can’t imagine what the more talented modellers among you guys would make of it, but after taming this beast and forcing it into shape, I didn’t feel like spending more months adding all the bells and whistles. The model is rather large (roughly the size of a Ju88 in the same scale), looks impressive and recaptures the unique form of the “Flying Suitcase” pretty well. Was it difficult? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes, indeed. Let’s call it the price of originality. Would I build another FM kit? Why not, as long as they’re the only game in town.

 Recommended to fans of British bombers who happen to be experienced modellers, like a challenge and are not afraid of hard work.


Chaz Bowyer, « Hampden Special », Ian Allan Ltd, 1976


Pierre-André Boillat

May 2013

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