Roden 1/32 SE.5a (Hispano)

KIT #: 602
PRICE: $59.95 MSRP
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


     If the Sopwith Camel was the "Spitfire" of the First World War, the Royal Aircraft Factory's S.E.5a was the "Hurricane" of that conflict. Two more different responses to the same need could not be imagined, other than that of the Spitfire and Hurricane.  While the delicate Camel was tricky and temperamental, and ofttimes dangerous to the less‑experienced of its pilots, the rugged S.E.5a was stable and predictable.

      H.P. Folland, the Chief Designer of the Royal Aircraft Factory, had been working through several "Scout, Experimental" designs, all of which were far more influenced by the German Albatros than they were by the French Nieuport ‑ the two fighters of the first part of the war that set the two different standards of fighter type aircraft, one solid and speedy, the other light and highly maneuverable.  Folland went on after the war, as Chief Designer of the Gloucestershire Aircraft Company (shortened soon to Gloster) to design all the fighters used by the RAF that were not designed by Sidney Camm at Hawkers before the Spitfire, and ended his career in the 1950s with the Folland Gnat, his answer to the size‑and‑weight spiral of the jet fighter, and a serious attempt to return to the kind of fighter he had designed at the outset of his career.

      The S.E.5, which began to appear in the squadrons on the Western Front in the Spring of 1917, was at first unsuccessful. Powered by the 180 h.p. Hispano‑Suiza, it basically didn't haveenough get‑up‑and‑go to meet the Albatros on an equal if not superior footing.  Re‑engined with the 200 h.p. geared Hispano and redesignated S.E.5a, the airplane found greater acceptance that summer in the hands of such aces as James McCudden, Billy Bishop, and Mick Mannock, to name but a few.  That September, pilots of 56 Squadron, under the leadership of McCudden, fought an epic battle with a single Fokker triplane flown by Werner Voss; though the Fokker could literally fly rings around the S.E.5a, not even Voss could outfly eight other aces at once, and it proved to be his final battle.

     During the war, the S.E.5a was powered by the 200 h.p. geared Hispano‑Suiza, and the direct‑drive 200 h.p. WolseleyViper, with the Viper being used on the majority of the aircraft produced in 1918.  Without the torque‑inducing rotary of the Camel, and with a high degree of dihedral in the design, the S.E.5a was never the dogfighter the Camel was, but it was a more stable gun platform; by 1918, most successful aces had realized that an ambush of the unwary was preferable to the unpredictability of a dogfight, so a fighter that could dive under good control and allow for a well‑aimed burst provided many British pilots with an increase in their scores.  The same was true of the French SPAD, which shared many similar characteristics with the S.E.5a as regards ruggedness.

      The S.E.5a also served in Mesopotamia, Palestine and Macedonia during the war, with the air forces of Great Britain, Australia and the United States, where it was used by both the United States Army and Navy.

 Roderick Stanley Dallas:

      Roderick Dallas, the second-ranked Australian ace of the Great War, was born in Queensland in 1891.  After moving with his family to New South Wales in 1898, he finished school and joined the assay office of the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co., to support his studies of chemistry and technical drawing at the technical college.  He became a sergeant in the school cadet corps and was later a lieutenant in the Mount Morgan Company of the 3rd (Port Curtis) Infantry Battalion. A typically-athletic Australian of his generation, he loved gymnastics, Rugby Union and amateur theatricals.

      Dallas had been interested in aviation at an early age, and when the American aviator Arthur Burr Stone carried out the first powered flight in Queensland, Dallas was a witness.  He built an unsuccessful glider and a seaplane that was lost in the sea during tests.

     Dallas was one of those men who neither drank, smoked nor swore, and was quiet-spoken.  He paid his way to England in 1915, but was unable to join the royal Flying Corps.  Through the advice of Australian aviator Sydney Pickles, he got into the Royal Naval air Service and won pilot’s license No. 1512 on August 15, 1915.

      By late 1915, Dallas was a Flight sub-Lieutenant in 1 Squadron, RNAS, flying Sopwith Pups.  He experienced his first combat in December 1915 and scored his first victory in May 1916. Winning the distinguished Service Cross for this action.  In early 1917, Dallas began flying the Sopwith Triplane, with which his score climbed.  In April 1917, in company with another pilot, he attacked 14 enemy planes at 18,000 ft. and engaged in a 45-minute dogfight in which the two Triplanes shot down three Albatrosses and forced the others to retreat.  He began flying the Sopwith Camel in August 1917. Promoted to Lieutenant Commander that November, Dallas assumed command of 1 Squadron RNAS in December. By March 1918 his score stood at 30 victories.

   Following the formation of the Royal Air Force, Dallas became a Major and took command of 40 Squadron, equipped with the S.e.5a.  Due to his naval background, the men in the squadron called him “The Admiral.” Over the next two months, Dallas scored nine more victories in the S.E.5a.

     While Dallas was a fearsome fighter, an instructional booklet he wrote made it clear he did not think that impetuousness was synonymous with aggressiveness. A strong leader of younger fliers, he taught his pilots of the vital need to search the sky thoroughly and frequently used his skill to protect inexperienced pilots.

      On June 1, 1918, while on patrol near Liévin, Dallas once again went to the assistance of one of his young pilots, despite the fact that several Germans were in positions of advantage.  As he dove to attack, he was attacked in turn by three Fokker triplanes and shot down in flames.  At his death, he was the 16th-ranked Allied ace, and second to R. A. Little among the Australians.


     Roden has produced a second 1/32 S.E.5a to accompany kit 601, the Wolsey-Viper S.E.5a released six months ago.  As with the earlier kit, this is a scale-up of their excellent 1/48 kit.  The wings and tail surfaces are thin as they should be, with excellent fabric detail.  The Hispano-Suiza engine is a model in itself, and a very effective display could be made of an S.E.5a undergoing engine work with only a little addition of detail like spark plug wiring.  The cockpit is as simple as the original, and will look very good with the addition of Eduard’s photoetch 1/32 WW1 Sutton Harness.  Decals are provided for four different aircraft, of which the best-known is that flown by Major R.S. Dallas of 40 Squadron, which was field-camouflaged in tan and dark green over the standard P.C.10 finish.



This kit is not as fiddly as the Albatros series are, since there is less interior structure to worry about, and since the engine is completely cowled.

      Since I was not going to display the engine compartment open, I only assembled the major parts of the Hispano-Suiza.  The cockpit was painted with Tamiya “Buff” for the fabric, and my “Yew” brown color, with Tamiya “Clear Yellow” over for the wood parts.  I used an Eduard 1/32 photoetch WW1-style Sutton Harness to set things off in the cockpit.

      Past that, assembly was easy.  I left off the rudder so I would be able to later apply the stripe decals.  The ailerons and elevators were posed dynamically.


      The lower surfaces were painted with Tamiya “Buff,” and the upper surface with Xtracrylix “RAF Dark Green” which is as good as any for P.C.10, a “color” that could range from dark green to chocolate brown, depending on which company made which batch.  I then masked off the dark green and applied Tamiya “Light Earth” and “Dark Green” for the field-applied camouflage, following the profile painting instructions in the kit.

      The kit decals went down without a problem under a couple applications of Micro-sol.


      The S.E.5a is a British “birdcage,” with doubled flying wires, which makes it a bit of a challenge for a modeler doing a first biplane model.  I used .010 wire, painted black for effect. The wiring diagram in the kit instructions gives you all the information needed, and the only other requirement is patience.


      Roden’s S.E.5a is a welcome addition to 1/32 First World War models and looks very good sitting next to THE Roden Nieuport 28 and Hobbycraft’s Camel and SPAD XIII.  The kit is quite simple to build out of the box and looks good when finished with only a bit of extra detail like seatbelts.  Rigging is more complicated, but nothing that cannot be accomplished with patience and concentration.  Highly recommended.

 Thanks to Roden for the review kit.

Tom Cleaver

October 2008

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