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In-Box Review
De Havilland DH 9
Ambulance prototype
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by: Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]


“In 1917 the first production de Havilland DH 9 bombers, from the aircraft manufacturers Airco, joined the ranks of the Royal Flying Corps, with the intention of replacing their predecessor the DH 4. The new type's construction inherited many of the successful features of the DH 4; the fuselage had an improved design; and the new more powerful BHP Puma engine should have given the DH 9 substantial advantages. However, in practice, all the hopes of the designers were ruined very quickly, both literally and figuratively. The faulty construction of the new engine together with lower than expected flying performance figures, led to catastrophe. Total losses of the DH 9 during a few months in 1918 on the Western Front quickly reached a three figures, and pilots of the German fighter squadrons frequently perpetrated massacres when they met the DH 9 in the air. The situation appeared so dire, that the general in command Hugh Trenchard ordered an immediate withdrawal of these airplanes from the front line.

The sheer numbers of DH 9 types already built up to that moment, in accordance with signed contracts, was already so considerable, that in spite of all the type's difficulties the military authorities simply could not give up its operational use. Gradually, the DH 9 began to be transferred to the secondary fronts and the colonies, where they would not meet such great opposition in the air as in the air of the Western Front. Small numbers of machines were occasionally used during the Great War for non-combat purposes, such as transportation of loads or communications.

At the end of the war some of them were rebuilt as passenger airplanes and even as an air ambulance. For the ambulance role, a special installation was built behind the cockpit over the former gunner's position in the widest part of the fuselage, where it was possible to fasten stretchers keeping the injured in a steady position. The construction of the fuselage itself was little changed, there simply appeared a prominent fuselage fairing. Only a single machine of this variant was built, and its operational use was short, because from the mid 1920's more capacious ambulances were produced, converted from more modern twin-engined bombers or transport airplanes.” (From Roden website heavily edited by me.)

The kit

Roden's DH 9 kit #436 arrives packed in the typical Roden top-opening box with 9 sprues.

231 plastic pieces in the kit including sheet of film for windscreens.
Decals are for 1 aircraft .

The parts are quite cleanly moulded, but there is a touch of flash here and there, plus some sink-marks (particularly noticeable on the front fuselage sides where there's detail moulded on the inside). On the plus side, ejector-pin marks are few and far between and kept pretty much out of sight. Generally, there's little to worry experienced modellers and clean-up should be quite straightforward.

Detail consists of some engraved lines, raised items like louvres and subtle lacing on the fuselage and lightly depicted fabric effect on the flying surfaces. Wing ribs are slightly raised on upper surfaces and recessed on the undersides (as though the fabric has sagged under gravity a little. There are no rib tapes depicted, so some modellers may wish to add these as appropriate.

As Aeroscale Managing Editor Rowan Baylis once said ". . . full test fit is impractical because, if nothing else, this kit is all about options. . ." It could be built in three different variations and this means a choice of fuselage tops and nose panels, meaning the fuselage has little rigidity until the various sub-assemblies are fitted for real. Nevertheless, taping the fuselage parts together is encouraging and they fit snugly on the lower wing. In this issue the kit has only one suggested profile. The kit features a reasonably detailed cockpit. But even after several issues of this kit in various guises there is not a single fret of PE available on the market.

As may be becoming clear, this kit isn't suitable for beginners - and probably wouldn't really make a good choice for a first biplane kit for modelers with a little experience either. While the overall construction isn't particularly complex, the two-bay wings will be best done using a "Lego" block jig. There are no safe short cuts to an easy assembly - all the struts are separate and using the jig I mentioned a good idea to keep everything lined up straight and plum.


The instructions are well drawn, but careful study is paramount due to the number of options offered. They include helpful rigging diagrams, but it does not show the double-wires RAFwires as noted on the original. Colour matches call for Testors Model Master paints.

The build

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 colour recommendations are sparse. 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.

Step 1. Next is the Armstrong Siddley Puma 230hp engine build up. Start with crankcase / cylinder banks ( 14 0, 14, 16 & 17 F), carburetors ( 3 F X 2 ) , Magnetos (4 F X 2) and engine accessories ( 6, 8, 10, & 15 F). Gather the key components assemble engine halves and paint all before final assembly.

Step 2. Engine supports (5 K, 30 C X2 ) are straight forward and the instructions shjow the engine being united to them before adding to the fuselage.

Step 3. To the rightt fuselage (22 O) side interior add the tail-plane adjusting wheel (13 K) and the fuel tank hand pump (19 K).

Step 4. To the left fuselage (1 O) side interior add the tail-plane adjusting wheel (13 O) and the pilot’s throttle quadrant (7 D).

Step 5. Now invert the forward deck / cockpit coaming unit (29 K). Add the simplified dash panel (with two gauges molded in place). Also you add the rear cockpit screen / head rest (3 K).

Step 6. This assembles the rear cockpit shroud for the ambulance. (1 & 2 V, 3 S X 3).

Step 7. Next you work on the pilot’s cockpit shelf / upper frame 6 & 12 K).

Step 8. Detail the wooden flooring (2 K) Individual parts include; Pilot rudder bar ( 26 C ), control column (32 C).

Step 9. Assembles the pilot’s seat and support frame (6. 10 & 24 O).

Step 10. The engine mount from Step 2 is added to the fuselage sides (1, 22 O). Also add the radiator ( 22 K )and the other sub-assemblies from the earlier steps. Here you add the tailplane and its external fixtures. This includes the rudder / stabilizer (21 O) horizontal stabilizer / elevators (19 O) and actuation control horns (15 C X 2, 16 C X 2). The undersurface chin cowling ( 26 K ) is added here.

Step 11. Lower wings (2 P) are next. The lower wing is a one piece item, nicely moulded but with no rib stitching details. There is a “window” (2 S) to be added in the lower wing bridge.

Step 12. Add the nose cowling (25 K), plumbing (10, 18 & 23 K), tower mounted twin generators (27 C X 2) for the magnetos. Don’t add the windscreen (1 S) yet.

Step 13. Next add the exhaust manifold (15 K), the interplane (2 D X 4, 29 C X 2, 4 & 20 O), cabane (7 C X 2, 24 C X 2) struts, under surface of the center section gravity feed water tank (20 K) the upper wing (1 P). Also add the elevators control horns for fuselage sides (22 C X 2), side mount ladder (6 V) for rear cockpit.

Step 14. Here we address the undercarriage / landing gear and wheels (14 D X 2, 27 & 28 K, 11 O).

Step 15. Then we add the undercarriage / landing gear and wheels from step 14. Add also the tailskid ( 23 O) stabilizer bracings ( 7 O X 2), and wing tip skids ( 12 D X 2 ) and control horns (17 C X 4). Finally the propeller (1 F).

Page 07. The rigging diagram does not detail the two types of rigging materials needed and their locations on the airframe. Further study is warranted but generally speaking RAFwires for the flying wires and regular cables for the landing wires.


De Havilland D.H.9 ambulance, D3117, “#6” of “Z” Force Unit, British Somaliland, Africa, 1919-1920.


1. The DH.4/DH.9 File, Ray Sturtivant & Gordon Page, Air Britain 1999.
2.de Havilland DH.9 (RAF 1918-30), Profile Publications, Chaz Bower 1973.
3.RAF Museum Hendon - 1914-18 Aviation Heritage Trust.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Unique subject, mould is very fine and almost flashfree. Roden is coming out with sucessively better kits.
Lows: On some examples there are some tiny sinkmarks on the outside of the fuselage noting the rib locations on the inside. The plastic was too soft when pulled from the mold. So the plastic slightly sunk in where the ribs are on the inside.
Verdict: Roden's DH 9 is an involved kit, but the build offers a chance to have a very impressive model. Experienced WWI modelers will extend their skills with the challenge it brings.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: #436
  Suggested Retail: $23.50
  Related Link: Website store
  PUBLISHED: Apr 01, 2012
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

Our Thanks to Roden!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Stephen T. Lawson (JackFlash)

I was building Off topic jet age kits at the age of 7. I remember building my first WWI kit way back in 1964-5 at the age of 8-9. Hundreds of 1/72 scale Revell and Airfix kits later my eyes started to change and I wanted to do more detail. With the advent of DML / Dragon and Eduard I sold off my ...

Copyright ©2021 text by Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Here is the photoimage that Roden based their artwork on.
APR 02, 2012 - 03:53 PM
Here is a correction to the instructions.
AUG 31, 2012 - 02:14 PM

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