In 1922 Supermarine renamed their "Seal I", built the previous year, "Seagull I"; The Seagull I then begat the II and II begat the III and its one-off brother the IV. The Royal Australian Navy liked their fleet of Seagull IIIs so much that in 1929 they asked Supermarine to build a replacement airplane to a very tough specification, which - inter alia - required catapult launching and the ability to operate in the open ocean in waves of up to six feet. The result was the Supermarine Type 228 Seagull V of 1932, in which the RAF - initially - took no interest at all. The prototype Seagull V made its first flight on June 21, 1933 and was displayed by Supermarine at the Society of British Aircraft Constructors' (SBAC) 1933 Hendon show. These shows were the precursor to today's biennial Farnborough shows held in even numbered years. In early 1935, as deliveries of the RAAF's 26 Seagull Vs were winding down, the UK Air Ministry purchased the prototype for evaluation.
April 4, 1935 the air Ministry ordered 12 Seagull Vs for the RAF. In the first amendment to this contract the Seagull V name was changed to "Walrus I" and the Type number to 236. Supermarine ultimately built 282 Aclad aluminum hulled Walrus Is at their Woolston and Itchen works before production was transferred to Saunders Roe at Cowes across the Solent on the Isle of Wight. Supermarine retained control of Walrus configuration management and all engineering. Saunders Roe built 271 aluminum hulled Walrus I's before the design was changed to the wooden hulled Walrus II, of which they built 191. There is no easily discernible difference between the Walrus I and II. The biggest difference to the crews was the replacement of the steel - Yes, Steel! - tailwheel with a rubber tired wheel. It made such a great deal of difference in crew comfort getting rid of the clatter of the steel wheel when taxiing on paved surfaces that most Walrus I's were retrofitted with the rubber tired tailwheel.
The Walrus served in every theater of WWII with the Royal Navy, Commonwealth Navies and the Navies of several of the Allies. Originally they were based aboard ship and used as scouts and spotters and for patrol and communications for the fleet. Their lasting fame, however, came in the search and rescue role after they had been removed from capital ships.
Consider, if you will, for a moment; the Brits took a flying machine originally designed in the early 1920s - a design which had not evolved very much by 1939 - and continued it in hard military service through 1945!
I know of only two survivors; one, based on hull L2302, is in the RAF's Fleet Air Arm museum at Yeovilton the other, RAAF Seagull V - hull A2-4,) is in the RAF Museum at Hendon. Does anyone know of any others?
This is another very nice kit from Classic Airframes of a subject not apt to be produced by Tamigawagram. And - won't it make a great companion for your Swordfish? The only other Walrus kit in 1/48th was produced in the late 1950s or early 1960s by Merit in the UK. The Merit mold later migrated east; first to Artiplast in Italy and now they reside with SMER in the Czech Republic. They have not improved with age. I have one of the Artiplast issues in my cache of kits, but I think it's headed for the dustbin now that I have the Classic Airframes kit. Squadron Mail Order currently offers the SMER kit for $8.96. I bought my Classic Airframes kit from them for $37.96, post-free, on a pre-order special.
The engineering of the kit is absolutely conventional with the fuselage, engine nacelle, tip floats and wheels split vertically; the tailplane and wing panels are molded in uppers and lowers. There are 64 injection molded medium gray styrene parts with only a couple of easily filled minor sink marks in the lot and 54 well cast, bubble free, resin parts. The Bristol Pegasus VI engine is an especially nice piece of resin casting. The parts map shows three sets of moldings for lights in clear, green and red; my kit arrived missing the red and green moldings. Two vac-formed canopies and a rear hatch skylight along with a small sheet of about .020" styrene for the side windows complete the "hard" components of the kit. A beautiful decal sheet, printed by Microscale, provides markings for four different Supermarine built Walrus I's - all in WWII camouflage. Personally, I think it's a pity no pre war, all silver schemes, were included. I trust the after market producers will take care of this in short order.
This is a complicated "vintage" airplane and it takes a 14-page instruction booklet to tell us how to build the models and a four-page folder to tell us how to paint and mark it. The instructions are especially good in that they provide several full size drawings showing alignment of components. Rigging is also well covered.
So, how good is the kit? It's good - not great, but good. Out-of-the-box you can build a very nice Walrus I. A "vintage" style airplane like this has zillions of little details that, if well done, are the mark of a great model. If you have AMS (Advanced Modeler's Syndrome) you can have multi-year good time building a great one from this kit. I plan to build mine as L2190 aboard HMS Birmingham in the Far East in 1938-40 as shown on pages 33 and 35 of Profile 224.
The kit provides a lot of good interior detail, which will be better seen if you open the side windows and top hatch of the cockpit. A question of detail here: Can any reader provide details of how the lifting sling was rigged atop the upper wing center section? It's obvious that it is attached through the wing structure to the upper ends of the cabane struts, but that's all I can discern for certain from my references. Help!
Congratulations to Jules Bringuier for another good kit of a great subject. Now, how about that 1/48th scale Boeing-Stearman and DeHavilland Tiger Moth that we've been waiting so long for?
The box, by the way, although top-opening (Joy!) is still too weak for stacking and shipping. Mine arrived pre-squashed despite being well packed by Squadron Mail Order.
Supermarine Aircraft Since 1914: C. F. Adams & E. B. Morgan, Putnam, London, 1981, ISBN: 0-85177-800-3.
Air Enthusiast Magazine: No. 74 (March/April 1998 & No. 76 (July/August 1998) article by Peter London.
Air International Magazine: March 1990
Airfix Magazine: October 1976, Photo page by M. J. F. Bowyer.
IPMS Magazine UK: November 1968 - cover feature.
Profile 224 - Supermarine Walrus and Seagull Variants: (Blue Series) David Brown, Profile Publications, Ltd., UK.
Scale Models Magazine: May 1978. Photos of Harry Woodman's beautiful detailed and refined Merit Walrus and scratchbuilt catapult.