by: Stephen T. Lawson [ ]
Described variously as a "vicious little beast" and the "King of Combat" the Sopwith F.1 "Camel" was by all accounts anything but docile. Inthe hands of a capable pilot she was a force to be reckoned with. Much has been written on this "bird of prey" both pro and con. One source says that "Camel Drivers" accounted for more enemy aircraft destroyed than any other allied machine. Another says it killed more allied pilots than it did enemy aircraft. Of the known prototypes, we know that N517 was ready for operations by March 1917. Including the parent firm at least nine companies built production and experimental variations of the Sopwith F.1 totaling about 5,595 airframes.
In early 1918 the Sopwith-on-the-Thames began turning out their production version of the night-fighter "Camel". The 130hp Clerget mounted to the Camel gave it the best edge. But when they closed up the forward cockpit and moved all controls and instruments to the rear and opened the ‘office’ there. It was this version that received the official title Sopwith "Comic". The armament was changed and moved to the top wing as twin Lewis guns on Foster mounts. At first this was to help the pilot maintain his night vision in combat. But when they changed the armament it was found the 10 horsepower difference in the LeRhône still gave a good over-all performance. The term was originally but unofficially applied to the early "Strutter" version. It was these aircraft profiles that made most fliers and airmen cock their heads and wonder if it was all a joke / prop from a vaudeville or Piccadilly stage. But it proved to be a very serious war machine.
Here we will discuss the Blue Max 1:48th Sopwith F.1/3 Comic Camel Night Fighter conversion [BM001C]
The Blue Max Conversion set:
Under their WWI “Blue Max” series, Freightdog Models is going to release a high quality resin conversion set for the Sopwith Comic Camel night fighter. The conversion will include silkscreen printed decals by Fantasy Printshop. The conversion is for the Eduard 1/48 Sopwith F.1 Camel.
“The Comic Camel (F.1/3) was a conversion for Home Defense in the night fighter role. The conversion consisted of moving the Camel's cockpit back, while also relocating and changing the machine guns from in front of the pilot to above the wing. The Comic proved to be successful in the role of intercepting German Bombers on route to London during 1918, one of the decal options being B2402 of 44 (Home Defense) Squadron, ‘B’ Flight, Hainault Farm, Essex, 1918, credited with destroying a Gotha G.V attempting to raid London on 25th January 1918 while flown by Captain George Henry Hackwill. For his actions he was awarded the Military Cross.
Designed for use with the Eduard Sopwith F.1 Camel base kit (not included). This set features a complete new fuselage and separate top decking, navigation lights, Holt flare brackets and Lewis guns are all included in resin.
Please note the second batch of this kit now includes a Le Rhône engine that was used in most Comic conversions. If you purchased the kit from the website already this missing part will be dispatched separately when stocks arrive.” (: from Freightdog website).
The Eduard Kit:
Suffice it to say out of a possible “10” I would give it a “9.5”. The Eduard version is a great kit! One note of frustration in kit #8057 will be the mix up of the instruction references to parts on tree B or C. The parts map in the instructions is correct but it is in the references with in the step by step sequence where there is a problem. Check the trees as I reference the actual tree numbers here. They did improve this in subsequent issues though their weekend kit #8450 has some typos too. I will use the parts numbers from the parts maps to help keep things clear here.
Note!! Part of Poland has a great PE fret for the Eduard 1:48 Sopwith Camel.
The Sopwith model kits always require a little more effort than most other WW1 single seat fighters. With the Sopwith kits notably you will have a top wing that should look like it comes in 3 sections. It has doubled RAF wire rigging at half of the locations between the wings and extensively more rigging on the Empennage (tail unit). Comparatively the Nieuport 17 is much easier to rig than the “Camel.” Begin with basic clean up and pre-drill all strut locator and rigging holes. Note as you remove parts from the trees for painting or use, try using a flex file to rid yourself of any unsightly mold seams. I will also use a flex file to scuff up any potential union joints as this gives the glue surfaces a little stronger bite.
Step 1). Begin with the(acquiring or)assembly of a LeRhône 110-120hp rotary engine. Blue Max will be adding this and of course the Vector resin Clerget available through Neomega. Several Eduard or even the old DML Dragon kits use a similar motor. I am not too concerned with having my rotaries free floating or able to turn. For those of you that see this as a viable option try this; Make sure the shaft will pass completely through the retainer. That is the hole of the retainer should go completely through but do not add it yet. Insert the motor/shaft assembly part way through the firewall. Add a very small amount of petroleum jelly to the shaft between the firewall and the back of the rotary. Next completely insert the shaft. On the rear face of the firewall next to the shaft apply another small amount of petroleum jelly. Finally add the retainer and then apply a small amount of thin consistency cyano- glue to the tip of the exposed shaft tip with the retainer in place. Omit parts Eduard kit parts for the oil tank (B 7) & Vickers ammunition box (C 8).
I will add an extra >Copper State Models= firewall face plate that I had (normally from their Sopwith Snipe kit.) This item has some nice rivet and screw details. While a little large in area it cuts down and anneals at the edges nicely. The instrument panel (C 11) is detailed well and references can be found in the Sopwith Camel Datafile #26 on page 20 to their identities. For the “Comic” build you will want to fill the gun slots in the top edge. The only thing you might want to add is the pulsometer at the panel's lower left corner. The instrument panel (C 11) face itself can be painted to represent "Copal" varnished wood. I use Testors brown 1166. This is a small bottled flat that when thinned and applied as a wash stains well. (Hint: The slightly stiffer the bristles on your brush the better the >wood grain effect you can achieve, just don=t scrub the base coat too hard.) For the “Comic” build trim this to the sides of C 11. The cockpit brace (C 4) has a locator slot in the face of C 11. I chose to replace this piece with bent metal rod. Check your references. The carburetor intake pipes (C 11) also has a mounting slot in the face of C 11. Next, the rudder bar (C 28) attaches to the base support of the instrument panel (C 11). Later you will need to add fine wire to represent the rudder control cables. Next you assemble the hand fuel pump (C 24), seat (C 38) to the modified cradle/support frame (B 5). Note this cradle/support frame part has to be modified by cutting it of behind the transverse beam. Omit or reposition the Eduard kit fuel tank parts (A 5, 13 & B 13). Note in the scrap view the fuel mixture control mechanism (C 32) should have a linkage scratch built for the throttle quadrant (C 35). Note here if your thinking about adding the usual >fuel lines and accessories= small gauge solder is usually a good choice of materials. It bends easily, takes cyano-glue well and it=s the right colour.
Step 2). Omit Eduard kit cockpit vertical structures (B 12 & 17 X 2). You can use a linen colour for the wood and fabric areas. Then stain the wood ribs and ply with the Testors brown #1166 that I spoke of in Step 1. The flooring (B 1) & control column (B 13) are added further back in the fuselage halves in the slots provided.
Step 3). Add details to the seat and support assembles by attaching lap belt straps. The Eduard pre-painted metal etch Sutton Farm harness straps (PE 1-4) was a very late war item and was not used on the “Comic” airframes. Next unites engine, firewall, instrument panel, seat, fuel tank and fuselage sides. Do not forget to add some representative cable/ wire for the controls and interior structure bracings. Blackened brass wire is a good choice for this use. I also added a blackened brass wire to the tail skid (C 3) for better support.
Step 4). Is the lower wing (D 1), ailerons (A 7 & 11), cockpit floor and control column assembly and why Eduard gave us ten ailerons is anybody=s guess. Step 5). Is the emergency fuel tank application to the Blue Max cockpit turtledeck. Omit Eduard kit parts for the upper deck cowing. The empty shell ejector chute ( C 34) is represented by a plastic stub to be added here. There is also a choice of two cowlings. There is a Clerget type rotary (C 9) with a small vent or LeRhône type rotary (C 10) without a vent. In scale drawings we see the Clerget adds about 1 3/4" to the overall length of the standard F.1 type. Later many of the LeRhône cowlings had additional vents added to their 4 and 5 O=clock positions due to the exhaust valve opening later in the cycle than the Clerget that had the single vent at the 7 O'clock position. Check your references. The instructions try to simplify the concern and show C10 as one you can modify to a Clerget type if you drill your own hole. Also, the Clerget cowling fillet ( B 6) does not fit well without some sanding of its mating surfaces for the Clerget cowling (C 9.)
Step 6). Unite=s the “Comic” fuselage, lower wing and engine cowling assemblies, horizontal (A 15) and vertical (A 19) stabilizers. Again we note that you should delete gun breeches (A 8 X 2.)
Step 7). As mentioned previously omit the Eduard kit Vickers machine guns. Paint the Blue Max Lewis Mk .II gun assemblies with a base coat of aluminum then add a wash of black that darkens the over-all look of the pieces. Lewis machine guns were bare metal but the finish was not bright metal. This also makes a great contrast to the cowling if you are going with a polish cowling type. The Blue Max instructions show the attachments of the Foster gun mounts in the top wing. These are identical and not designated for left or right sides. Pin the guns and mounts and top wing together. The Lewis gun with the extended handle should sit on the left side of center. Note in some cases the right side Lewis guns are mounted to sit at a 45 degree angle.
Step 8). To mount the top wing (B 1 or D 2) try using a temporary jig of children's Lego blocks. I would add the outer struts ( C 9 X 2 & 19 X 2) first and get the wing plumb then go back and test fit the cabane struts (B 3-6) to keep everything lined up. For more strength in the attachments of the interplane struts you can use brass wire or rod inserted into pre-drilled holes in the struts. The exposed ends of the wire can be inserted into the drilled out locator holes. Don=t force a strut to go in place as it can throw the wing alignment off greatly. The outer struts are mismarked in the instructions as B9 & 19. The cabane struts are mismarked on the instructions as C 3-6. The scrap view shows the Rotherham pump located on the rear starboard cabane strut (B 6.) Check your references as this was variously seen on the forward leg cabane and the forward landing gear legs as well. (See Datafile #26, page 28.)
The Blue Max kit has parts for the fuselage and navigation lights. Note there were some differences in airframes. Check your references.
Step 9). Here you add the landing gear (C 18 & 20), (wheels (C 8 X 2 or C 26 X 2) rudder (A 9) and elevator (A 3) assembly. The landing gear and wheels are mismarked on the instruction as being on the "B" tree. The landing gear (C 18 & 20) items represent the types that had wood fairings over their steel tube structure. Some airframes simply had the streamlined steel tubing.
Step 10). Notes here the rigging patterns and propeller (A 4) attachment. Several types of propellers were employed on F.1 types. They=re presence evidently did not indicate with engine type that was installed in a given airframe. Check your references. Add your own windscreen.
Here they have given us 3 color profiles.
A. Sopwith Camel F.1/3 B4614 of Home Defense Squadron “B” Flight, Hainault Farm, Essex 1918.
B. Sopwith Camel F.1/3 E5165 based at AFC Training station at Leighterton (reported to be flown by Australian veteran combat pilot Captain E. F. “Tab” Pflaun, 1918.
C. Sopwith Camel F.1/3 B2404 of 44 (Home Defense) Squadron, ‘B’ Flight, Hainault Farm, Essex, 1918, credited with destroying a Gotha G.V attempting to raid London on 25th January 1918 while flown by Captain George Henry Hackwill. For his actions he was awarded the Military Cross.
1. Barker & 139 Sqdn I.E.F. by R. C. Johnson, IPMS Rocky Mtns Pp.8-9, May 1996.
2. Camel Drivers
3. Four Aces by Doris Reeves, IPMS Sounders-Erhart Pp.126-7 Circa 1972.
4. General Arrangement Drawings of the F.1 & 2F.1 (printed in 1/48 Scale) by W. R. Titus Cross & Cockade USA , Vol.7 #1, Pp.81-92, 1966.
5. Sopwith Camel, PAM News Intl. Pp.641-646, February 1979.
6. Sopwith Camel by J. M. Bruce, Windsock Datafile 26, Albatros Publications, 1991.
7. Sopwith Camel - King of Combat, by C. Bowyer, Aston Pub. Ltd. 1988.
8. Sopwith Camel Squadrons by L. A. Rogers Windscok Datafile Special . 2001.
9. Sopwith Fighters by J.M. Bruce, Vintage Warbirds #3, Arms & Armor Press, 1986.
10. The Legendary Sopwith F.1 Camel by Ray Rimell, Scale Models Pp.509-511, October 1978.
11. The Sopwith Camel F.1 by J. M. Bruce Profile #31, Profile Publications 1965.
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