1/72 Breguet Br(M)4

KIT #:  
REVIEWER: Stephen Foster
NOTES: Scratch built .

In August 1914 the Michelin brothers (who owned and ran the Michelin tyre company), offered to buy and donate 100 bombers to the French air force. The type chosen was a Breuget design: a pusher powered by a 200hp Canton-Unne engine, but only 47 machines had been delivered by November 1915 and 75 by January 1916. One of the problems which caused the delays in delivery was manufacturing the engines. Another problem that the ground crews had to overcome was maintaining the machines in service. Pilots found the type difficult to handle and accidents and therefore damage to machines was common.

The slow introduction into service meant that the type was almost obsolete by the time sufficient numbers were available for the purposes for which they were designed, i.e. day bombing, as by then they were too slow and poorly armed. In addition to the bomber variants (the Br (M) 4 had special bomb holders under the wing designed by the Michelin company), the Br 5 was built which was supposed to be a fighter: it was armed with two machine guns, one of which fired rearwards over the top wing. These too were of limited practical use as they were also too slow and not nearly manoeuvrable enough for service on the Western Front. Consequently the bombers were transferred to night operations in October 1916 in which role it continued until January 1918. The RNAS purchased 25 machines from France, and another 30 which were powered by 250hp Rolls Royce engines built by Graham-White Aviation, but only 10 of this order were completed. The RNAS machines operated with No 3 wing in France and some also operated in the Agean area, but they were not popular with their crews and saw limited service.

I am not aware that any kit has been made of this type in any medium in this scale, but if anyone knows otherwise I would be pleased to hear from them. So if a modeller wants this aircraft in their collection they have only one option, to scratch build one.

I started as I usually do with my scratch builds by cutting out the flying surfaces from 30 thou plastic card. In order to get the curvature I took a sheet of card and put it into a piece of drain pipe which had been sealed at one end: very hot water was poured into the pipe and drained off after about 10 seconds. This gave me a suitable piece of plastic from which I have been able to cut many wings and other flying surfaces for other models. The ribs were added by adding 10 x 20 thou Evergreen strip which was attached to the upper surfaces with liquid cement. When the cement had set overnight I sanded the edges of the strip down and then sealed them with primer. The ailerons and elevators were cut out so that they could be re-attached later at a slight angle.
The nacelle was push moulded from 30 thou card and the window openings cut out before I detailed the interior with 10 x 20 thou strip. The cockpit floors and instruments were made up from thin card and rod, but as very little can be seen I did not spend too much time in this area. The windows were made from thin acetate sheet from the packaging of an old Airfix kit. The engine was entirely enclosed in the rear of the nacelle so I only had to add strips of thick card on the inside where the exhausts would be attached later. The oil tank was shaped from a thick piece of sprue: the fuel tanks were from bombs from an old kit which I made when I was a teenager so I have no idea which one they came from. The radiators and bomb containers were made from 60 thou card which had been laminated to give the correct thickness. I scribed the gun ring from 20 thou card using a pair of dividers to score the plastic.
Having made up the nacelle the lower wings were glued to the sides and the assembly was allowed to set before I attached the booms. These were from florists wire which had the advantage of being cheap and easy to cut but robust enough to support the weight of the tail unit without bending. They were attached to both wings using 2 part epoxy. Finally I cemented the bomb containers to the lower wings.

Readers who have followed my previous descriptions of building biplanes will know that I paint them at this stage, before I add the upper wing as this means that all parts of the model can be accessed easily. I used a mixture of Humbrol white and cream (103) for the nacelle and flying surfaces. The national markings on the wings were hand painted: I scribe the outer circle with a pair of dividers and paint three thin coats of white inside it. Then I scribe the inner circle for the blue ring and a circle for the red and paint these. Provided that care is taken the paint will run to the groove of the circle and give a sharp edge. The numerals on the rudder were from an old set of transfers in my spares box. The struts were Revell semi-matt tan (332)    . The tyres were dark grey. My model is based on an aircraft flown by 3 Wing of the Royal Navy Air Service at Dunkirk in late 1915.

With all the main components painted I added oil tank and exhausts, the latter were 80 thou rod with 20 thou rod to attach them to the nacelle sides. Now I could put on the top wing. I did this as I normally do with wings which have multiple struts: I cemented the inner pairs of struts to the lower wing and then gently lowered the upper wing on to the struts. Prior to lowering the wing I placed small drops of glue into the locating holes in the underside top the top wing so that glue does not get smeared over the paint. The assembly must be placed over a plan to ensure the correct alignment of wings and booms and jigged while the glue sets for at least two hours. Now the horizontal tail surface, complete with vertical stabilisers can be slipped between the tail ends of the booms and fixed with C A. The rest of the wing struts were carefully inserted a pair at a time on alternate sides, starting nearest the nacelle, followed by the vertical boom struts. Finally the cabane struts were put into place followed by the radiators. The fuel tanks under the top wing completed this part of the structure. The undercarriage was next - the struts inserted into slots which had been made on the underside of the nacelle. The axle was from thin wire on this model for additional strength. The wheels were made from discs of card with rod tyres. The rudder was glued to the horizontal stabilizer and the wire curve C Ad to the elevators. I carved the propellor from a strip of hardwood.
I rig my pusher models with 40 SWG rolled copper wire held with C A. This does take time but is worth the effort. Sections are measured using a pair of dividers and the pieces of wire checked for length before I add any glue. The glue is applied with the tip of an old scalpel blade to the attachment points. I always start with the cabane and inner wings and work systematically outwards from the least accessible wires: the long control wires to the tail and those from the control horns to ailerons, elevators and rudder are the last to be fixed. Note that Br 4 and 5 types sat on their tail when they were empty, but on the nose wheel when they were loaded so it does not matter if your model turns into a tail sitter: just tell people that it is unloaded! Of course if you want the model to sit on its nose then a small weight will have to be added to the nose during construction of the nacelle.

Pusher aircraft are not the most popular models to construct, but they always attract attention from others. They formed an important part of the air component of the Allied forces in the first three years of WW1 so if a modeller wishes to have a representative collection of types used in WW1 by the RFC and French air service, some pushers must feature. This was not a type that I would recommend to someone who is building their first pusher as the boom assembly is rather awkward on this type, but once the dark arts of pusher model assembly have been mastered, it would present few problems. Breuget Br 4 and Br 5 types were not an important element of the air services, but they are interesting examples of the pusher layout.

Stephen Foster

24 September 2019

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