Roden 1/72nd Sopwith F.1 Camel w/Bentley

By Robert Allen

History

The Sopwith Camel is probably the most famous Allied aircraft of World War One. For aviation buffs its fame lies in the fact that it destroyed 1,294 enemy aircraft, the record for a WW1 Allied fighter; to the general public, it’s the type of aircraft that Snoopy believed his doghouse to be. The Camel was noted for its ability to make quick right-hand turns, a result of the engine, pilot, guns, and fuel being packed into the first seven feet of the fuselage, combined with the torque of its rotary engine. However, this outstanding maneuverability came with a price, for the Camel was a difficult aircraft to fly, especially for a novice, and many British and Dominion aces preferred the more docile, and faster, RAF SE.5a to the Camel. The Camel used several different types of rotary engine. The Bentley B.R.1 was a development of the Clerget 9B, designed by W.O. Bentley, who would become famous after the war for building some of the most iconic sports cars of the 1920s.

The Kit

For years, the only readily available 1/72nd kits of the Camel were the Airfix 2F.1, one of their oldest, and worst, kits, and the Academy Camel, which is essentially a knockoff of the ESCI knockoff of the Revell kit. The Revell kit, which dates back to the 1960s, was a good kit for its time, and the preferred option prior to the Roden kits, but had a habit of only being in production for a short time, then disappearing again like a vampire up after dawn. Clearly the need was there for a new, state-of-the-art 1/72nd Camel. Roden has not only stepped up with a Camel, but an entire series of them. The F.1 w/Bentley follows the 2F.1, F.1, and TF.1, and a two-seat trainer and “Comic” night fighter are in the pipeline.

The F.1 Camel w/Bentley kit consists of four sprues of medium-hard grey plastic, with 56 parts in total. Of these, 13 are marked on the instruction sheet as being inappropriate for this version. Included among them are the Le Rhone and Clerget engines, so care must be taken to make sure that you’re using the Bentley. There’s also a small piece of clear film containing a windscreen. The eight-page instruction sheet contains two pages devoted to the four optional color schemes, and a very nice rigging diagram that takes up almost an entire page, showing five different angles. It’s very well-done, and eliminates one of my pet peeves concerning many biplane kits. Unfortunately, a jig for aligning the wings, as included in the Airfix Sopwith Pup, is not given, so that peeve remains. The instructions themselves take up two-and-a-half pages of exploded view drawings.

As far as accuracy goes, I want to say up front that I don’t have the Windsock Datafile on the Camel, so I had to use the decades-old drawings in the Harleyford book. The wings, fin and rudder, and tailplane match up well to those drawings in shape and dimension; the fuselage seems a tad short, though.

Quibbles and Commendations

The interior lacks one very important feature of the Camel – seat belts! Ordinarily this would not be a big deal, but the handling characteristics of the Camel were so abrupt that it speeded up the introduction of belts as standard equipment on British aircraft. In The Clouds Remember, Oliver Stewart spends half his allotted space on the Camel talking about the invention of the Sutton harness, so you have to at least make an attempt to replicate belts.

There are two front upper deck/cockpit options provided. The instructions seem to show that part of the cockpit coaming needs to be cut away, but after studying the instructions carefully, I’m not sure exactly what needs to be cut, or why, especially as cutting away the shaded part on one of the options, 3E, will result in removing the middle fork between the gun troughs. I don’t like instructions that remind me of an Escher drawing!

On the other hand, this model is very well-detailed, and touches such as adding the pitot tube and air-driven petrol pump to the struts are appreciated. As with all Roden kits there are no fuselage location pins, and the entire top decking of the fuselage is provided as add-on pieces (to facilitate the various versions of the Camel). This will require some careful fitting. On the other hand, the one-piece upper and lower wings should give no trouble replicating the Camel’s most distinctive visual trait – the heavy dihedral on the lower wing, combined with the totally flat upper wing.

Colors and Markings

This is the first Roden kit I’ve seen with color callouts in ModelMaster, rather than Humbrol, paint numbers. This is especially good, because previous Roden British WW1 aircraft had called for upper surfaces finished in Humbrol 108, which has been out of production for years. However, the ModelMaster color specified for all four options, 2050, is Olive Drab ANA 613, which is not exactly a British WW1 color. To add to the confusion, on the box back, the same color is given as 2051, which is Faded Olive Drab. The Matt Doped Linen for the undersurfaces is given as 2053, Sand ANA 616.

There are four decal options, all from Royal Naval Air Service units, or the corresponding squadrons in the RAF after the RFC/RNAS merger. They are as follows:

  1. B6212 “Black Prince”, 13 Squadron RNAS, flown by W.A. Moyle, December 1917

  2. B7234 “Laura”, 204 Squadron RAF, flown by R.L. Hollingsworth, July 1918

  3. B7230, 3 Squadron, RNAS, flown by K.D. Campbell, March 1918

  4. B3894, 9 Squadron RNAS, flown by A.W. Wood, October 1917

I have a couple of reservations about the schemes provided. First, Wood’s aircraft (used while gaining seven of his 11 claims), the only one of the four options flown by an ace, should be B3884, not B3894, according to both Above the Trenches, and Sopwith Camel Aces of World War 1. The decals provided by Roden for this aircraft include an attractive silver, white, and blue diamond marking on both upper wings, and the upper fuselage decking. However, a photo of the aircraft in the Aces book includes a caption that gives the diamond colors as “blue and white (edged in red).”

B6212 and B3894 were Sopwith-built aircraft, while B7230 and B7234 were built by Clayton & Shuttleworth. (As an aside, Sopwith itself built only about 500 of the over 5,000 Camels produced, the rest being subcontracted to eight firms). This is important, as many of the Camels built by Sopwith for the RNAS had reddish brown-tinged PC 12 colored upper surfaces, not the more common khaki-like PC 10 favored by the RFC. The subcontractors, however, were more likely to use PC 10. So there’s a strong possibility that the two Sopwith-built aircraft were finished in PC 12, and the two built by C&S in PC 10. In any case, Mister Kit makes accurate versions of either color, so I’d recommend using them rather than ModelMaster approximations.

The decals are nicely printed, except for a slightly off-center white surround to some of the roundels. Roden decals in the past have been prone to dissolving, but the company has improved their decals in recent years; nevertheless it might be an idea to proceed with caution.

Conclusion

Like most Roden kits, this looks like it will build up into an accurate representation of the original, with a little attention to detail. The parts breakdown means that care must be taken with the assembly, and this probably isn’t a kit for the rank beginner. But anyone with a little experience of building biplanes should be able to make this into a very nice model of a classic aircraft.

Thanks to Roden for the review sample.

References

Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces; Christopher Shores, Norman Franks, & Russell Guest; Grub Street, 1991

Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War; W.M. Lamberton; Harleyford, 1960

Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920; H.L King; Putnam, 1980.

Sopwith Camel Aces of World War 1; Norman Franks; Osprey, 2003

The Sopwith Fighters; J.M. Bruce; Arms & Armour Press, 1986

Sopwith Fighters in Action; Peter Cooksley; Squadron/Signal, 1991

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