Roden 1/72nd Felixstowe F.2A with upper wing gunner position

By Dave Flitton

Background

The main task of the Felixstowe F.2A flying boats was to fly long endurance patrols over the North Sea. Each flight entailed serious danger because big, slow flying boats could be easy victims for German naval fighters. When the new German Hansa Brandenburg W.29 entered service in early 1918, catastrophe loomed for the British flying boats, like the Felixstowe F.2A or the Curtis H.16. The famous German naval ace Friedrich Christiansen shot down six Felixstowe F.2As during the first few months, and two of them during one mission.

British flying boats, like the Felixstowe F.2A and the Curtis H.16 had powerful (for the day) defensive armament which gave them a good chance of beating off an attack from most directions, but on many occasions German pilots attacked the big flying boats from their blind spots; the British gunners could not return fire without damaging their own tail unit. This tactic proved rather successful and the British designers were challenged to come up with an answer.

One standard, late-built, Felixstowe F.2A was specially equipped with an additional gun position in the middle of the upper wing, with a curved cupola provided for the gunner. This position was ideal for upper hemispherical defense, because with a 360 degree field of fire there were no blind spots for the enemy fighters to exploit.

This modified aircraft (serial number N4543) was delivered to 230 Squadron on July 9, 1918. There is little historical data about its success or failures but it is known that it attacked a U-boat with a bomb on July 9, 1918.

Any plans to retrofit this extra gun position on other Felixstowes were cancelled as the war approached it’s end; attacks by German naval fighters were, by now, rare.

N4543 served until November 9, 1918, when it suffered a forced landing due to a fuel system problem and sank. And so ended the first attempt to create a “fortress boat”; British designers would return to this idea on the eve of World War Two.

The Kit

The Roden Felixstowe F.2A comes in 201 tan injected pieces, along with three clear pieces. The molding of these parts is a beauty to behold. Ribbing detail is finely done and not too out of proportion. Flash is minor and easily taken care of with a few swipes of the sanding stick. Ejection pin markings are hidden except in my example the upper fuselage in front of the cockpit opening. The ejection pin went all the way through to the exterior leaving a very visible protrusion which will have to be sanded down. These things happen and may not show up in your example. The plastic is typical Roden, in that they use a rather brittle version of styrene plastic. Don’t use your nippers to cut off the small parts that have more than one extrusion gate, use a saw instead. This will keep the small parts in one piece.

Construction does not start in the cockpit but with the engines. These are small kits in and of themselves, taking up five steps of the build process just to produce one of the two engines you will have to build. Careful gluing and painting will produce tiny masterpieces that will set the tone for the rest of the model.

The cockpit consists of two wicker seats, flight controls (not joysticks but control wheels, steering wheels, joywheels?) and some sidewall details. Not much, but I think enough for this scale. Besides, this is WWI, they didn’t have much to complicate the joy of flying those days.

The twin Lewis machine gun installations are some of the finest molds I have seen yet, and you get three sets of them, along with the two single gun positions.

The construction of the rest of the model is standard fair. Fuselage halves, wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers and struts and some more struts and did I say there were some struts? This will be the more difficult part of the build. Some type of jig will have to be built in order for the struts to be placed correctly and without undo hardship. The IPMS-USA website has an excellent discussion and demonstration of a jig they built for another version of this same kit. I suggest you go to this website for further information.

Once the struts are in place and the upper wing fitted, it’s time to rig it. Unfortunately, the rigging diagram does not provide nearly enough information to accomplish the task. I suggest you look up all the pictures and model kit box tops to get all the detail you need to rig this craft correctly. This will be the hardest part of the kit to accomplish, and you thought it would be just the struts.

Roden has also provided a beaching kit to better display your model since the aircraft does not have any landing gear (amphibious aircraft not showing up for another 20 or so years later).

Decals provided in the kit are for the only aircraft that had an upper gun position fitted. This is quite a colorful aircraft with bright red and white stripes on the fuselage to aid in being spotted by rescuers should they be brought down in the gloomy North Sea. The decals are in register and look quite thin. The tail fin stripes do not conform to the shape of the rudder (horizontal stabilizer), this will involve some dainty cutting before or after the decal is set into place depending on how you choose to mount this. I have not yet decided which will be best for me but I am sure it’s going to entail some repair painting before all is said and done.

Conclusion

Roden has provided yet another beautiful example in the Felixstowe/Curtis line of flying boats. Careful planning, building and painting will provide you a unique craft to your stable of WWI flying machines.

My thanks to Roden and Internet Modeler for the review sample.

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