by: Tim Hatton [ ]
The Short Sunderland was developed in parallel with the S.23 Empire flying boat. The Sunderland was seen by the RAF as an ideal platform for the role of long-range patrol/reconnaissance . During WWII, the Sunderland was heavily involved in Allied efforts to counter the threat posed by German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic and the Meditarranean theatre.
In addition to the RAF, the Sunderland was operated by other Allied military air wings, including the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), South African Air Force (SAAF), Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), French Navy, Norwegian Air Force, and the Portuguese Navy.
The Sunderland was a well-armed aircraft both defensively and offensively. Defensively it was more than capable of defending itself.
The Mk.III is considered the definitive Sunderland and featured a redesigned step on the lower hull. This improved the sea handling of the Sunderland as the operational weight had been rising steadily. Bristol Pegasus XVIII 9-cylinder air-cooled radial engines provided the power. The Mk.III was fitted with the ASV Mk III radar and latter the ASV Mk IIIA. The RAAF experimented with the installation of four fixed forward firing machine guns placed on the fuselage. This development was adopted by the RAF.
Post WWII a number of Sunderland’s were converted for civilian use, were they were known as the Hythe and the Sandringham.
I have a personnel interest in the Sunderland as my partners father was a prisoner of war from the start of WWII. He was part of the British Expeditionary Force and was captured close to Dunkirk in 1940. When he was repatriated after the German surrender he was flown back home in a Sunderland. Oddly after all that he had gone through he reckoned that flying in the Sunderland was the scariest thing he had ever done.
The weight of the box and its contents is impressive, feels like you’re getting your monies worth. First thing I checked was the panel lines and Special Hobby has represented the look of the panel lines pretty well. The heavy representation of the panel lines and rivets of the recent Sunderland release by Italeri really put me of purchasing it. That said I have seen some great builds by folk that have reduced the look of the panel lines on the Italeri kit. The second thing that you notice with the Special Hobby release is the amount and quality of internal detail.
The fuselage is moulded in two parts left and right. Moulding looks very good although there is a long sink mark on both sides opposite the load bearers for the bomb bay floor. But they are not deep so could be sanded out. Special Hobby has designed the moulds so that multiple versions of the Sunderland can be created. There is a large gap around the dorsal area where the gunner’s position [Mk.I] or turret is situated. The gap in the middle of the keel is for the two different styles of step that were fitted to the Sunderland during its development. The three open hatches allow you to see a bit more of the internal detail. Open hatches include on the port side the crew access door and the two bomb bay doors. The bomb doors are made from clear plastic and the doors with two or three windows are included. You’ll notice that the layout of the slots in the wing roots, these accommodate the spars attached to the wing which slot into the fuselage. They slide right through the hull, so hopefully no saggy looking wings when attached. The locating points for the fuselage are interesting, not holes more slots.
The internal detail looks very good indeed. There are some recessed ejector marks, but they tend to get lost with the wealth of moulded detail. There are two decks: upper deck with the cockpit, stretching back to the bomb racks in the upper bomb bay. There are four general purpose bombs [500lb?] to attach to the bomb racks. Unlike the Airfix kit the racks are not designed to be moved. A pity there are no depth charges included. It looks as if the two gunners’ platforms in the dorsal position were retained on the Mk.III or the instructions are generic. The lower deck starts with the bow turret, moving into the living and sleeping accommodation [including beds, then into the lower bomb bay. The retractable front turret is made up from twelve parts including two clear parts. Additional detail includes an anchor, mooring bollard and the foot holds. There are a couple of 0.5 machine guns to add to the starboard side depending on which marking option you go for.
The cockpit under the glass house canopy has plenty of detail included in the box. The instrument panel has a decal to represent the detail. The two pilots’ seats are made up from four pieces, there’s a three-part radar operators’ seat behind the co-pilot and a two-part folding radio operators’ seat behind the pilot. Rudder pedals and flight control wheels are included and there’s a nice representation of the radar and radio apparatus. There is even the overhead instrument panel attached to the central frame of the canopy.
There are a number of walls dividing the internal space and these have plenty of surface details. The walls added to the decking will make up into an impressive looking structure in its own right. There are moulded areas on the inside of the fuselage where the internal structure is glued. A distinctive feature of the Sunderland is the myriad of small round windows. These need to be attached from the inside of the fuselage. How much of the internal detail will be seen through the portholes will be interesting to find out? One thing for sure is that the internal structure will add considerable strength to the fuselage. Which is crucial as I noticed a lot of flex while testing the fit of the fuselage halves
The vertical tail is separate and made up from two parts. The rudder is also two parts and looks as if it can be offset before gluing. The rear turret comprises of nine parts one of which is clear. The dorsal turret is made up from seven parts one being clear. Scheme ‘B’ has no dorsal turret and the gap is faired over. All the turrets including the bow can be fitted after construction and painting is completed.
Wings are moulded as upper and lower halves with the ailerons attached. The upper wings have long tabs that slot into the fuselage hopefully making the structure rigid. The ailerons have actuator arms to fit. A nice touch are the alternate parts for the bomb rack rails. If the rack was stored internally there were tabs in the rails that filled in the gap preserving the aerodynamics of that section of the wing.
The floats are split in two and the struts are separate. You need to drill out the holes in the wing to fit the struts. The instructions provide details of the rigging layout.
The nacelles are split in half with the cooling flaps set in the open position. The Pegasus engines look good. Each one is made up from two parts. The engines fit onto a dome-shaped firewall which attaches to the wing. The hedgehog exhausts are resin. The props are one piece with separate bosses.
The horizontal tail surfaces are two piece with the elevators moulded on.
There is a myriad of radar aerials to fit to the fuselage, twenty in all and a couple to fit under the wing. Something to bear in mind if you need to handle the model a lot after its built. The four aerials on the spine need holes drilling into the fuselage. The rest of the aerials are butt joined.
The beaching gear is included and will make the display of the completed kit much easier. The colour [red or yellow] varies depending on which marking option you go for
There are four marking options all of which were built by Blackburn Aircraft Ltd:
Short Sunderland Mk.III EK591/2U, No.422 Squadron [RCAF] based at Castle Archdale Northern Ireland, Early to Mid 1944. Sank U-625
Short Sunderland Mk.III EJ168/J, No.343 Squadron (French) RAF, Dakar 1944.
Short Sunderland Mk.III EJ134/N, No.461 Squadron[RAAF] Royal Australian Air Force, Pembroke Dock, 1943. This aircraft famously fended off and destroyed a number of attacking Ju 88’s. Badly damaged it crash landed by Praa Sands on the Cornish coast, Sgt ECB Miles was killed during the combat with the Ju 88’s
Short Sunderland Mk.III DV969/E, No.10 Sqn [RAAF], Pembroke Dock, spring 1943. Sank U-563. Shot down in the Bay of Biscay with the loss of all hands.
All the schemes feature the Sunderland’s painted white with upper surfaces of Extra Dark Sea [EDS] Grey. Option ‘C’ has a disruptive pattern that consists of EDS Grey and Dark Slate Grey. Option ‘B’ has two shades of grey the outer lighter colour is believed to be faded EDS Grey, the darker is freshly applied EDS Grey. The Sunderland featured a distinctive yellowish green painted surface below the water line which was a lanolin-based waterproofing. The painting instruction show you where it was applied. It’s well worth you checking out references on how weathered the Sunderland could get.
Decals are printed by Cartograf so quality will almost certainly be ensured. There are a few placards to attach on the inside of the Sunderland during the build. Hatched red warning lines are included outlining the hatches on marking options ‘A’ and ‘B’.
The instructions are printed in a A4 format with twenty-four pages. The instructions take you through eighty steps of construction, not surprising with a kit with so much internal detail and compartments. There are a few useful scrap views of the internal detail, which aids placing of parts. There are four pages for the marking options, the four-view drawing: upper, lower and port and starboard side are in colour. Paint reference are for Gunze paints
This is good looking release from Special Hobby and is a marked improvement on the old Airfix kit that I have built a few times. It looks a somewhat complex build and not one for a beginner. I did a dry test of joining the fuselage halves and I wouldn’t exactly say it clicks together so some fine tuning and perhaps gluing the two parts bit by bit will be necessary to achieve the best fit. It doesn’t look like a kit that builds itself, but I’m pretty sure anyone with some building skills will achieve good results. I will be finding out how it goes together in the next few weeks here on Aeroscale. Look out for a build log on the new Aeroscale WWII Forum.