Lanoe Hawker’s DH-2:
Building Eduard's Airco DH-2 in 1/48 Scale.

By Will Hendriks

History

One of the earliest designs of renowned engineer Geoffrey deHavilland was the Airco DH-2, designed from the outset as a single seat scout aircraft, or fighter. Contrary to some popular accounts, the DH-2 was not a deliberate response to the “Fokker Scourge” brought about by the Fokker E series. The pusher layout of the DH-2 was deliberately chosen at the time to address the problem of firing a machine gun from a flying platform, without the complications imposed by a tractor, or forward mounted propeller arrangement.

At the time of the development of the DH-2 the whole idea of aerial combat was still in its infancy, so the idea of an aircraft solely devoted to that role was novel to say the least. The RFC took this one step further by forming dedicated Fighting Scout squadrons in the spring of 1916, choosing the DH-2 to equip these units. No. 24 Squadron was the first such unit formed and was placed under the command of Major Lanoe George Hawker, V.C. A twenty-five year old Royal Engineer turned Airman, Hawker contributed much to the development of air combat weaponry and tactics on the British side during this early period.

During the Somme battles of 1916, the DH-2’s of the RFC wrested control of the air from the previously dominant Fokker Eindeckers. This was to last until the advent of the Albatros Scouts in September of that year under the leadership of Oswald Boelcke.

On November 23 Hawker flew as a wingman in ‘A’ Flight on a patrol of the Somme battlefield. During an encounter with five Albatros D.II’s of Jasta 2, Hawker fell victim after a vicious scrap to a then relatively unknown young German ace, Manfred von Richthofen.


Hawker’s DH-2

The DH-2 that Lanoe Hawker flew during his last engagement has been recorded as being 5964, one of ‘A’ Flight’s regular machines. British Squadron commanders were normally not assigned a dedicated airplane during this period. Many commanders, Hawker included, often flew as ordinary members in patrols, in ordinary Squadron aircraft. Such was the case on November 23, 1916.

Not much is known about the specific colors and markings of 5964 in particular, but much has been documented about 24 Squadron markings in general. DH-2’s arrived in theatre from the factory finished in clear dope and gray metal surfaces. No.24 Squadron mechanics were ordered to paint all upper surfaces with a “chocolate-coffee colored” dope (presumably PC-10?). The bottom of the nacelle was painted white in many cases, with a saw-tooth demarcation around the edge. Accounts differ as to whether all upper surfaces were thus painted, or whether the metal nacelle was left gray, whether the saw teeth were gray or PC-10, and so on. From examination of contemporary photos of 24 Squadron airplanes, it appears to me anyway that all upper surfaces were painted with the dark coffee colored mixture. It is hard to tell for sure. No.24 Squadron was also unique in that each aircraft had a distinct set of banded interplane struts corresponding to the Flight colors: Red for ‘A’ Flight, black for ‘B’ Flight, and blue for ‘C’ Flight. The wheel covers were also colored to match.

I wanted to build a model representing the machine Hawker flew on his last flight. Markings for it are not provided in any kit that I am aware of. Surprisingly, there is very little information regarding 5964 in popular sources. What follows is only my “best guess” as far as colors and markings and aircraft arrangement is concerned, using the resources available, outlined in the References after this article. Any errors are mine.


Construction

For a description of the kit and its contents see the First Look Preview by Matt Bittner in the March, 2005 issue of Internet Modeler.

The model was built in various sub-assemblies, each being painted, decaled and otherwise finished. This included the nacelle and lower wing unit, the upper wing, the empennage, the booms, engine and landing gear. Only after each component was complete was everything assembled. Paints used were Tamiya, Testor’s Acryl, Citadel acrylics, and Gunze Sangyo Aqueous Hobby Colors. Weathering was accomplished using light washes of Windsor Newton Oils, such as Raw Umber and Payne’s Gray. The instruction booklet is useful and well organized, and follows a logical sequence. The rigging diagrams (in four steps!) are very useful.

The fit of all the major parts is excellent, which is the usual case now with models from Eduard. The only area where any filler was used was on the nacelle underside, to eliminate the joint there with the lower floor that is part of the lower wing assembly. As this is a non-Profi kit, no photo-etch is included. The seat, while useable, was replaced with a photoetch woven seat from the Eduard WWI Seat set, with seatbelts from their WWI British Seatbelt set. The kit provides three different instrument panels, with no indication of which to use, so consult your references and make your best guess. The instrument dials are included as decals, which look very good with a drop of clear varnish over them to represent the glass. There are many spare instrument decals on the decal sheet, so these went into the spares box. The interior was painted with my favorite match for Battleship Gray: Gunze H335 Medium Sea Grey on the metal surfaces, and my home-grown mix of clear doped linen, consisting of 1 part Gunze H34 Cream Yellow to 10 parts H11 Flat White. The bracing wires inside the nacelle were drawn in with a sharp 2H pencil. Wood colored areas were done with Tamiya Desert Yellow, brushed over with Testors Burnt Sienna enamel to give a grainy look.

The wings were prepared by first removing the ailerons so that they could be posed somewhat. I wanted to impart a semi-translucent clear-doped effect to the lower wing surfaces. After experimenting on a spare wing from another kit with several different ideas, I decided on the following: The lower wing and tail surfaces were first sprayed with an opaque coat of Gunze H72 Dark Earth. Tamiya tape was cut into thin strips and applied where the spars, ribs and other structures are using drawings and photos as a guide. The masked surfaces were then sprayed with a light coat of the CDL mixture mentioned above. The tape strips were removed, and another light coat of the CDL mixture was applied, with just enough to blend the colors and reduce the contrast. I must say I was quite happy with the result! The darker underlying color suggests the presence of structure under the fabric surface. The upper surfaces were painted with a mixture of 2 parts Tamiya XF62 Olive Drab to 1 part XF-10 Flat Brown, resulting in a rich, opaque coffee colored variety of PC-10. The saw tooth pattern was added as well over a coat of Tamiya Flat White. Details were painted at this time such as the leather fuel tank straps and the cockpit coaming. A coat of Future was applied and the decals added to the wing and tail surfaces.

Decals went on without silvering and snuggled down around the detail without setting solution. The rudder tri-color was weathered a bit by applying the thin strips of Tamiya tape over the red, white, and blue, and misting on a very light coat of Tamiya Smoke to highlight the structure. The rudder code numbers were made by taking various numbers from the codes provided on the sheet (for example, the “9” is merely a 6 upside down), and cutting up several others to make the number “4”. A light wash of oils was applied around the various fittings, panel lines and other nooks and crannies.

A feature of the kit that concerned me most was the very thin boom structures, which I thought were far too flimsy. Using the originals as a pattern, I replaced the tubular longerons with 1/32 inch brass rod, with the original struts superglued in place. The resulting structure was far more rigid and able to withstand the rigors of handling during the rigging process later on.

The interplane struts were prepared by adding pulleys to the innermost ones for the rudder and elevator circuits, accomplished with thin gauge brass wire wrapped around thin slices of plastic rod. The four inner struts as well as the boom assemblies were painted with Gunze H335 Gray. Each strut was then adorned with an Airco logo decal on both sides. The four outer interplane struts were painted with the red and white stripes of ‘A’ Flight, but without the Airco logos.

The engine, while well molded, has an unsightly seam line along the cylinders which is very difficult to clean up without destroying the cooling fin detail. After this was cleaned up as best as I could, the rocker arm assembly was attached with superglue. The detail here is a little soft, so I think an aftermarket replacement might be in order for the fussiest among us. The completed engine was painted with Citadel Boltgun Metal, a steel shade, then given an oil wash of Payne’s Gray. The four blade propeller (a two bladed option is also provided) is very well executed, and this was painted a wood color. Gray vinyl masks are provided for the prop hubs and brass tips, but these just fell off when I tried to use them. Tamiya tape was trimmed to shape to mask off the tips, which were sprayed with Testors MM Brass enamel. The prop hubs were hand painted with Citadel Boltgun Metal. The wheel and tire assemblies were painted with red and CDL covers and neutral gray rubber. I wish some aftermarket producer would make tire logos for WWI aeroplanes, for example “Palmer Cord Aero Tyre” in various scales. That would finish off the tires nicely.

The landing gear struts were fully assembled with the axle, and bungee shock absorbers added made from cotton cord.


Final Assembly and Rigging

Once all of the various components were ready final assembly could begin. First step was to build up the wing cellule, and this turned out to be a fairly straight forward affair, as the top and bottom wings together with the nacelle resembles a box kite. A simple jig was made to keep all square and true, consisting of a sheet of graph paper glued to a sheet of foam core illustration board. Pieces of balsa were glued to the sheet to immobilize the lower wing, and set squares and paint bottles used to align the top and bottom wings while the glue dried after the struts were cemented in place with Tamiya Extra Thin Cement. A drop of thin superglue at each joint fixed and reinforced the assembly. Then the fuselage booms were attached, again using the jig for alignment. The empennage was then attached in the same manner. The landing gear assembly was attached, and other various little details added to finish off. The ailerons were attached with a very slight droop, imitating the rigged-in droop evident in photos of the real airplane. The rudder and elevators were also slightly deflected for a more realistic appearance. Late in the program I noticed that I had forgotten to scratchbuild a pitot assembly on the left inner strut, which is annoyingly absent in the kit. Strangely though some plumbing for the overwing fuel tank is provided, which I thought was far too thick for the scale, and these are hardly visible in photos, so I left them off.

Rigging was the last and most difficult stage, if only for the sheer amount of it. Heat stretched sprue painted a dull steel color was used for this attached with white PVA glue. Turnbuckles were added were appropriate with droplets of Testors PLA Gold enamel (from the little square glass bottles), which resembles weathered brass. The rigging was accomplished over four sessions totaling about twenty hours. While the instructions are very useful to determine where all the wires go, the drawings in the Datafile and elsewhere are a worthwhile supplement. While this task seemed overwhelming at times, careful planning and steady progress saved the day.


Conclusion

This kit was certainly a challenge to build, mainly because it is the first “boom-tail” pusher I ever built, and due to the amount of rigging involved. The subject was fascinating to research, and while I cannot speak to its complete accuracy, it is the best I could accomplish with the references that I had at my disposal, and is therefore only the interpretation of one modeler. But is that not what all models are?

Recommended.

Thanks to Matt Bittner and Eduard for providing the review sample. Also thanks to the folks on the WWI Discussion Forum, especially J. R. Boye, Bob Pearson, and Steven Perry for their insight.


References and Further Reading:

  • Airco DH-2, Windsock Datafile No.48, by B. J. Gray. Albatros Productions Ltd., 1994.

  • Colours & Markings of the World’s Air Forces, CD, Bob Pearson, 2000

  • Aeroplanes and Flyers of the First World War, by Joseph Phelan. Grosset & Dunlap, 1973.

  • Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War, by W. M. Lamberton. Harleyford Publications Inc., 1964.

  • Aces and Aircraft of World War I, by Christopher Campbell. Treasure Press, 1984.

  • DH-2 In Action, by Peter Cooksley. Squadron/Signal Publications, 1999.


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