by: Stephen T. Lawson [ ]
Plans for the RAF RE.8 (Royal Aircraft Factory Reconnaissance Experimental 8) were drawn up in late 1915 as a replacement for the pre war lineage BE series of two seaters. Utilizing many components from the BE.2e such as wings, undercarriage and tailplane, the main design difference of the RE.8 was the addition of a forward firing machine gun for the pilot and moving the passenger (observer gunner) to the rear of the pilot. On the BE.2 series the passenger was placed in front of the pilot between the center section struts where, with the propeller in front of him, pilot to the rear, wings above and below and struts all around him, he had a devil of a job performing his observation and gunnery duties.
Much maligned because of its quirky looks (not one bit of the RE.8 appears to point in the direction of flight), apparent lack of performance and, according to various reports, because it was too stable or unstable (too stable to adequately defend itself or too unstable to perform low level turns), the RE.8 nevertheless performed its intended tasks of bomber, reconnaissance and artillery spotting with rugged dependability through to the end of the Great War. Aircrew quickly gave it the affectionate nickname "Harry Tate", RE.8 rhyming well with the popular Scottish music hall comedian's name and, possibly, because of its similarly comic appearance. Built in large numbers by various contractors the RE.8 entered front line service with 52 Sqn in late 1916 and despite a career not entirely free of controversy, it remained in production and front line service until the armistice. In the hands of a confident aircrew that flew it aggressively, the RE.8 could defend itself almost as well as the great Bristol Fighter. Any history of this significant aircraft here is of necessity very brief, therefore we encourage you to seek out any, or all, of the reference books mentioned below for a more thorough understanding.
Development was completed several years ago. The first time that the general public saw the end result was in 2009. It was on display with several other WNW kits built up (but not painted} for the Wellington Expo. Even then the few images we were offered promised the modeling community a great potential addition to their personal displays. One of the few large scale two-seater Allied subjects (the other being WNW Bristol F.2b) it is a high quality kit. The few I have seen built up so far have had little or no problems.
Plastic parts = 294 pcs.
PE fret = 15 pieces.
Profiles = 5 a/c.
Instruction monograph = 30 pages.
Note: Wash all sprues in warm soapy water and rinse and let thoroughly dry. (I use antibacterial hand soap.) Pre-drill all rigging pilot holes before you begin work. Read through the instructions and familiarize yourself with every aspect of the built.
Step 1. Engine bay supports ( A 28, B 11 & 12 ) & fuselage skeletal structures ( A 13 & 46 ). These are fairly straight forward and the WnW instructions list the items by name with thumbnail image and text for identification. First clean up any mold lines. Check page 7 for possible rigging paths. Start by spraying all the ‘wood’ and metal parts of the skeletal structures with a base coat, note WnW colour recommendations. These can be done on the sprue as it is easier to handle the small bits, and check that you have identified all the wooden parts.
Give it a base coat for the wood and let dry. The parts were then stroked with a fan brush for the final finer grained effect. An easy technique it allows a lot of control. The engine mount and firewall were assembled. To the rear of this are fixed the side frames. These have their cross frames fixed on in order from the front to the rear. Individual parts include Flare box (A 22 ) Transmitter keys (D 22 ) Spare Lewis ammo drums ( A 64 X 2 ), 6 gallon oil tank ( A 69 ) and Vickers ammo magazine ( A 1 & 3 ).
Step 2. Pilot=s cockpit adds the instrument panel can be a little darker in colour as per the instructions. When dry, the bezels, switches and knobs were picked out in brass, black and silver. WnW supplies superb Cartograph made instrument decals that are so well printed, they need no trimming to fit the tiny bezels. Once dry, a drop of clear seals them on and creates the glass. You need a good magnifier, but these dials are readable. And you even get a scale topographical map. Here you add cockpit flooring (A 29), rudder bar (A 25), guide tube ( A 5 & 6 ), bomb/ flare case (A 12 ) and various patterns for the pilot’s instrument panel (A 37 ). Then This all is assembled into on insert with the seat support frame (A 27) and further instrument panel details.
Step 3. Interior combines assemblies from steps 1 & 2 into one unit. Next you add the pilot’s rear cockpit former (A 38) and its details for the rear gunner observer. Ammo drums ( A 64 X 2 ), Map board ( A 57 ) and if applicable an Admiralty Compass ( A 40 ). I would rig the side walls here. You can use monofilament line painted with a silver felt tip. This was superglued through holes drilled in the frames. These were then touched up and white glue used as the cross fixings, painted when dry. The twin rudder cables and elevator trim cables were also added and white glue used for the rudder control toggles used by the observer, in the event of the pilot being incapacitated.
Step 4. Gunner=s cockpit and pilot=s seat. The rear cockpit with the observers round seat (A 20, 58, 68) , auxiliary control column (A 10 ) and floor fitted next ( A 53 ). There was no rear seatbelt fitted in the RE.8. But quite possibly there was a tether line of some type.
See the WnW website hints and tips section to improve the pilot’s wicker seat (A 26 & 35) details. Finally, the pilot’s wicker seat was made. A more expert modeler may remove the back moulded seam that supports the upper and lower portions of the seat back, but as this would be hardly noticeable. The wicker can be painted with a thin matt dark brown paint. Then it was dry brushed with yellow ochre oil paint to bring out the cane effect well. The seat and top capping can be painted flat brown.
Step 5. Interior continued add the fuel tank (A 32 & 45) and camera, Stirling wireless radio set and antenna reel.
Page 7. Rigging diagram for fuselage. Now you will do yourself a large favor NOT to have the rigging ends attached to the outside faces of the fuselage structure. It will not allow a complete close up of the fuselage halves later in step 9.
Step 6 RAF 4a Engine build up. A fine piece of work, this, with separate cylinders ( D 17 & 18 X 12, E 6 & 7 X 12), pipes (E 2), crankcase ( E 3, 9,10). Gather the key components and painted them before final assembly. Reference photos tell us that there is little to be added to this assembly other than plug cables and pushrods. The pushrods actually run through the distinctive air intake scoop ( A 54, B 22 & 23 ) on top of the engine, so can only be added after assembly anyway. Alter the existing holes in this scoop using a drill bit in a pin vise and held at the angle of the pushrods when installed. These will be fitted at the end. See step 21. The side plates ( A 44 X 12) were used to protected the exposed flanged edges of the air cooled cylinders.
Step 7. Engine assembly is installed here. The pilot’s lap belts (P 7 & 8 ) are typical for most installations. Very late 1918 machines may have had the Sutton farm straps type A.
Step 8. Fuselage halves preparation. For holes drilled various equipment you have to open up the correct elevator cable and rudder cable holes. WNW provide an etched surround to finish these holes and represents leather reinforcement edges .
Step 9. Close the fuselage halves( F 1 & 3). I am told the fit is excellent on the completed kit. You just need to sand down a little of the cockpit frame to allow the two halves to fit together.
Step 10. Lower wing (G 1) and fin (B 1 or 4) are next. The lower wing is a one piece item, again, excellently moulded with fine rib stitching details. The wing was cleaned up, rigging holds opened up and, the gun interruptor gear under the wing centre section was scraped off. If you decide to do aircraft the B profile colour scheme). Another slight trimming of the mating edges allowed the wing to be offered into place precisely. Images also tell us for the B profile only the spars are exposed at the wing roots. Further trimming or brass rods may be needed.
Step 11. Exterior fuselage details include the Vickers cocking handle (P 9) and various synchronizing mechanism details.
Step 12. Here you add the tailplane and its external fixtures. This includes the horizontal stabilizer (G 9), tail skid (A7), Vertical fin (G 2 or 6) Elevators (D 6 X 2)
Step 13. Next add the interplane (B 2 &3 , D 16 X 2), cabane (B31-34) struts and lower ailerons (G 10 &11). It is best to pin these items for strength.
Step 14. Here you assemble the upper wing panels (F 2 & 4) and ailerons (G 3 & 4). Version B demands that I use the painted triplex centre panel (C 3 & 4), which is a clear moulding. This was cleaned up, but being clear, it will be difficult to check until it is painted. The whole thing was painted over anyhow, so no clear masking here. The dihedral is fixed by the large wing tabs, so no problem.
Step 15. Here we address the undercarriage / landing gear (B 8,9,10 & D 8,9,10 X 2), Aileron rods (D 15 X2) and Holt flare details (C 5 X2).
Step 16. This shows the general layout of bombs / munitions and added details.
Step 17. Is the assembly and painting of the 20 lbs Cooper Bombs and carrier racks.
Step 18. This assembles the larger 100 – 112 lbs Hale Bombs and carrier / racks.
Step 19. Next we see the details for the Brown & Barlow Carburetor option.
Step 20. Here we see the details for the Claudel & Hobson Carburetor option.
Step 21. Propeller (B 19 & 28) & Engine cowlings are next. The pushrods actually run through the distinctive air intake scoop ( A 54, B 22 & 23 ) on top of the engine, so can only be added after assembly anyway. Alter the existing holes in this scoop using a drill bit in a pin vise and held at the angle of the pushrods when installed. These will be fitted at the end. See step 6.
Step 22. The final assembly includes the Lewis machine gun(s) , Scarff ring, Exhaust stays.
Step 23. The rigging diagram details the two types of rigging materials needed and their locations on the airframe by colour key.
A. A3474 #18, Siddley-Deasy built, assigned to 34 Sqn. Flown by 2Lt C.C.F Osborn and Sgt J. Lewis in May 1917.
B. A4267 #7, Austin built, 52 Sqn, Feb. - March 1918.
C. B3420 AK@, Diamler built, 3 AFC Sqn.
D. B5106 A1A@, Diamler built, 59 Sqn.
E. F3556 ACeylon #1 - A Paddy bird from Ceylon@, Diamler built, October 1918.
RAF RE.8 Windsock Datafile, JM Bruce, 1990.
The RE.8, Profile Publications, JM Bruce 1966.
Schedule for RAF Aeroplanes Type RE.8, D.385/1772 3/4/18.
The Royal Aircraft Factory, Putnam, Paul R Hare, 1990.
The Vintage Aviator Ltd 1914 18 Aviation Heritage Trust.
Colin Owers private collection.
Note: I would like to thank Aeroscale member Mr. Gordon Upton for allowing his build images to be posted with this article.
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