This build story began with two gifts : The Tamiya 1:48 Lancaster bomber and a book called "Lancaster, the biography" by Squadron Leader Tony Iveson,DFC and Brian Milton.
The book is a wonderful account of the history and development of the Lancaster as well as many of Iveson's stories from the elite 617 squadron, The Dambusters which inspired me to try to recreate Tony's own Lanc; ME554 KC-F "Fox"
My original plans were to simply represent the aircraft with custom markings but soon grew as my own confidence rose (with the exceptional encouragement of the Aeroscale members)
The description of the third RAF attempt to sink the Tirpitz in November of 1944 presented me with an opportunity to present the model in a quite unique way with the many modifications to the aircraft that were necessary for this particular mission.
Tamiya's 48th scale Lancaster, molded in 1975, seems to be holding it's own against the injection molded kits of today. That it is still the only model in this scale of this impressive subject speaks volumes.
It's raised panel lines are typical of the techniques of it's time and it could be argued that engraved panel lines would be no more accurate to the real thing.
The fit is generally excellent with the small exception of the engine nacelles to the wings where some care and putty work is needed to avoid steps.
The wings are especially well engineered in that they interlock inside the fuselage ensuring stability and the correct dihedral.
A well known error in the kit is the incorrect location of the Navigator's window forward of the wing edge which needs to be moved back a little.
Another is the shape of the bottom of the engine nacelle. This was an early correction I made which gave me a lot of confidence to tackle further areas.
The Planned Conversions
To fully represent the extensive modifications the aircraft received in it's mission there were some equally extensive conversions! The kit represents the Lancaster B1 which was the correct type but several important details emerged:
The bomber carried the 12,000lb Tallboy bomb and was therefore fitted with the "bulged" or expanded bomb bay doors to accommodate it. These had to be designed and built using the original bomb doors as a base and using sprue and putty to build up the correct profile.
The mid-upper turret and fairing was removed from the aircraft to save weight as well as the nose turret guns, the flare dispenser, and the pilot's armour plated headrest.
These were naturally easy changes to make to the kit ! The discovery of the blanking plate for the hole left by the turret was a great moment as it appears that this was part of the "Grand Slam" variant of the kit that this later boxing inherited.
Fuel capacity was increased to allow the twelve hour round trip from Scotland to Norway to attack Tirpitz in her fjord. A pair of extra, long range fuel tanks were fitted in the fuselage.
My research was inconclusive but pointed towards these being a pair of Mosquito tanks, likely scavenged from the squadron's auxiliary aircraft.
More powerful Merlin T-24 engines and paddle bladed propellers were fitted to offset the additional weight of the added fuel.
The paddle blade props were fortunately included in the later boxing of the kit, and the engine swap made no visual difference to the aircraft.
To fully represent the modifications, especially the added fuel tanks which were an important detail to this mission, I took the ambitious step of removing the full length of the top of the fuselage to allow all the extra details to be viewed.
This of course presented me with the chance to go to town with a fully scratchbuilt interior but threw up many unforeseen challenges too.
The excellent wing engineering described above had to go and was replaced with scratchbuilt wing spars of which only a small part is seen but which act as in real life to support the weight of the wings.
The main section painted "interior green" is 100% from scratch and includes:
- The structural parts of the aircraft namely formers, stringers and flooring as well as the crew entry door and the access to the rear turret.
- The crew rest bed, hydraulic tank and other details in the area between the wing spars.
- The hydraulic flap mechanism and the pair of Mosquito fuel tanks sitting above.
- The ammo bins and chutes for the rear turret.
- The Elsan chemical toilet and other smaller details.
The bomb aimer's area in the nose as well as the nose and rear turrets received some minor detailing to increase the visual interest but as these areas are hard to view I did not spend too much time here.
The flaps were displayed open to once again add more interest and was another fully scratchbuilt area which also required a small modification to the rear of the engine nacelle.
Some aftermarket details in the shape of Quickboost's gun barrels and Eduard's instrument panels and seatbelts helped where I felt I couldn't have !
Paint and Decals
I painted the camouflage areas of the model with a variation of the "black basing" technique where a dark undercoat is allowed to show through a random patchy lighter layer. This allowed a subtle colour variation once light coats of the camo colours were applied.
I went very understated on additional weathering and chose not to add the typical exhaust stains on the wings.
The undercarriage received an anodised metal look to help it stand out from the largely black under and sides of the aircraft. It also worth noting that my "black" was Tamiya NATO Black which I believe gives a more natural scale look than a dead black.
Decals were quite an adventure in that I designed and printed my own for the bespoke markings and nose art this aircraft required.
The markings didn't live up to my expectations and I chose instead to strip them and paint markings with the help of Aeroscale's own Mal Mayfield and his excellent paint masks. His service was top notch and the masks provided a very crisp finish which was sorely needed to finish off the model.
The full build log detailing the evolution of this project can be viewed in the forums