The Battle was developed between the wars, when monoplanes were still relatively new. The Fairey Company developed the Battle as a 'state of the art' combat aircraft, designed to replace the Hawker Hart and Hind. The Hawkers were open cockpit, bi-wing, and fixed-gear machines, whereas the Battle featured an enclosed cockpit, retractable landing gear, and a low-mounted, single wing. The Battle also incorporated the new Merlin engine and carried its bomb load inside four wing 'bomb bays.'
The Battle prototype first flew on March 10, 1936. With a maximum level speed of 241 MPH and a range of over 1,000 miles, the Battle was indeed 'state of the art.' Unfortunately, aircraft technology and development was progressing during the 1930s and 1940s about as quickly as microprocessor technologies (and speed) are today. Within just a few years, the Battle was already obsolete. As hostilities broke out in Europe, the RAF had to press every available aircraft into service, and the Battle held its own until it could be replaced with a more capable aircraft.
The Battle did gain a few distinctions during its front-line service with the RAF. On September 20, 1939, the rear gunner of an 88 Sqn Battle scored the first German aircraft kill of the Second World War, shooting down a Bf109E over France. The crew of another Battle, Flight Officer D.E. Garland and Sgt. T. Gray of 12 Sqn, were the first recipients (posthumously) of the Victoria Cross in World War II for their heroism in attacking the bridges over the Albert Canal.
The Battle was easy prey for the Luftwaffe and losses were heavy. Nonetheless, the Battle and its crews performed their missions before being relieved from the front lines to serve with Coastal Command and with allied air forces.
The Classic Airframes Battle is the usual mix of injected plastic parts, resin details, vacuformed canopies, and nice decals. As the instructions state up-front, this is a limited production kit, so it lacks many of the conveniences that less-experienced modelers are accustomed to like locating pins, perfect fit out of the box, etc. For the more experienced modeler, this kit provides the basis for some serious detailing, or just the fun of building it straight from the box.
The main airframe parts are injected plastic. The type of plastic that Classic Airframes uses is a little softer than the 'mainstream' kits, so it responds very well to Tenax cement. In fact, with a little trimming, dry fitting and patience, the kit fits together very nicely. Let's get after it.
I built the Battle as indicated by the instructions, with a few deviations to facilitate painting. I'll cover these as we go along.
Steps 1 and 2 build the fore and aft cockpit assemblies, respectively. I had taken the liberty of pre-painting all of the interior plastic and resin parts Testors Model Master RAF Interior Green. In these steps, I painted the details as needed, then proceeded to assemble the cockpits. As these assemblies are mostly comprised of resin parts, I used gap-filling cyano in a well-ventilated area.
The build-ups of the fore and aft cockpits were straightforward with one exception - the cockpit sills (the only plastic parts in these steps) are mis-labeled. The instructions called for part 24 for the front sill, part 12 for the aft sill, and part 8 as a spacer (?). While the instructions have a parts layout (there are no part numbers on the parts trees) I found that I had to swap the three parts around to get the correct match. This is where dry fitting and studying the instructions do pay off.
With the cockpit tubs built up, I used my Flexi-shaft Dremel with a grinding wheel to trim the assemblies. In Step 3, pay special heed to the first text instruction. Grind off all ejector pin stubs on the inside of the fuselage halves before dry-fitting the cockpit tubs. These ejector pin stubs are definitely in the way but are no match for my trusty Dremel. While you're at it, remove the ejector pins in the horizontal stabilizer halves as well. You can leave the pins inside the wings alone. The instructions also suggest installing the exhaust manifolds (parts 16/17) before assembling the fuselage halves. I close to wait until the end so that I could simplify painting/masking later on.
Proceeding with Step 3, glue the fuselage halves together. Install radiator R20 and the fuselage turtle deck (part 23). Using Tenax helped to minimize fuselage seams, but as with any limited production kit, you should plan on filling and filing the seams. I ran a bead of gap-filling cyano around all of the seams, and after it had hardened, I used a four-grit wet/dry sanding stick to wet-sand the seams with progressively finer grit until the seams were no more and the fuselage was polished.
Once again, dry-fit the cockpit tubs into the fuselage. DO NOT FORCE THEM INTO PLACE! If you do, you are liable to hear that terrible snap as a seam pops open and you're back to the filling and filing duty. Once you have the cockpit tubs trimmed and positioned, use a little cyano from under the fuselage to tack the tubs into place. Complete Step 3 as described.
In Steps 4 and 5, you are building the wheel wells and then assembling the wing halves. Once again, do a little dry fitting and study, as wings will fit snugly and nicely to the fuselage. I evidently missed the fit of the aft end of one of the wheel wells. While the wing halves go together fine regardless, you don't discover the problem until Step 8 when the wings are joined to the fuselage.
I elected to skip Steps 6 and 7 (landing gear) until the end as not to interfere with painting.
As I said earlier, the wings go on nicely (no gaps) in Step 8, though I had a step in the underside where I had evidently mis-fit the aft end of one of the wheel wells. No matter, a sanding stick made short work of that problem! The instructions would have you install the landing lights in the wing leading edges in this step if the aircraft you are modeling was so equipped. The detail of the landing light castings is quite impressive.
Painting and Marking
I stopped at this point to apply the RAF camouflage. I used Gunze Sangyo acrylics for the three colors (RAF Dark Earth, RAF Dark Green and Night). Over the camouflage, I shot a layer of Future to provide a base for the decals.
I chose to model the 12 Sqn machine flown by the Victoria Cross winners described earlier. I applied the decals as shown in the color profiles provided in the kit. Microscale prints the decals, so as one might expect, the decals went on flawlessly.
Once the decals had dried, I used my secret flat/matte mixture: one third Future Floor Wax, one third Tamiya Acrylic Flat Base, and one third Isopropyl Alcohol. The alcohol thins the acrylic and the Future (also an acrylic). Flat Base is an additive to gloss paints to give you a flat or satin finish. Those who have attempted to apply Flat Base to a model have ended up with an ugly, milky white finish. However, the result of this mixture is a nice clear satin finish. You can adjust the proportions of the Future to the Flat Base and achieve any level of gloss, satin or flat you'd like.
Now its time to install the landing gear and all of the other fiddly bits. The main landing gear on the Battle is absolutely the most bizarre bit of engineering I had ever seen. The diagrams in the instructions are clear enough, but I could hardly believe that they intentionally had parts hanging out every which way. The instructions are correct however. I had the opportunity to hop over the pond on business and stopped into the RAF Museum for a look at the Battle. It is as strange in person as it is in the instructions. Press on.
The canopy is an interesting challenge to mask. I normally use scotch tape for a masking medium, but of course this is not practical for vac canopies as you must trim the tape with an xacto knife and it would be too easy to damage the vac plastic in the process. I used liquid mask on this project - a word of warning. This canopy will benefit from a coat of Future to help 'clarify' the transparency. DON'T apply the Future until after you've masked and painted the canopy. The liquid mask bonds to the Future and doesn't want to come back off the canopy. Thank you Classic Airframes for the spare canopy that you provide in every kit!
I used normal white glue to install the canopy and to fill a gap (my fault). The canopy fits very nicely indeed! I chose to carefully remove the windscreen and the front cockpit hood from the rest of the canopy. This allowed me to pose the aircraft with the front cockpit open.
This kit is not for the beginning modeler, but if you are an inexperienced modeler and you do want to have a Fairey Battle on your scale flightline someday, buy this kit and stash it away until you're ready. If you do have the skills and tools to work with limited production plastic moldings and resin parts, this kit will be straightforward and a fun addition.
This kit provided markings for three Battles: the 12 Sqn example used in this article, a 301 Sqn (Poland) and a Greek AF example. In addition, Classic Airframes is releasing two other variants of the Battle, which sport more colorful paint schemes: the Trainer (reviewed elsewhere in this issue) and the Tow Target Tug (coming soon).
If you're looking for a unique subject, this kit is for you. I recommend this kit to any experienced modeler and RAF enthusiast. My sincere thanks to Classic Airframes for this review sample.