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Book Review
Legends of Aviation #4 - S.E.5a

by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Kagero's new book, #4 in their Legends of Aviation series does a fair job of setting the record straight. Author Edward Kocent-Zieliski follows Kagero's now established format of combining bi-lingual Polish/English text with colour profiles and scale drawings. As usual with Kagero, there's a "bonus" feature - in this case a neat sheet of decals. The inclusion of these extras has now become established as part of Kagero's approach - aimed fair and square at modellers - and does a lot to increase the appeal of the books.

The soft-bound A-4 book has 66 pages of bilingual text, with 80 B&W photos. The text breaks down into the following sections:

Introduction - a graphic account of a typical dogfight over the Western Front

Origins of the British Air Force - a very interesting account of the development of military aviation in Europe and the growing conviction that Britain was in danger of being left behind. Early view that aircraft is "entirely unsuitable for military purposes". One oddity is the statement on page 9 that the Sopwith Camel "In 1916... proved worse than Fokkers and Albatroses...". The Camel only entered combat in June 1917, so I presume the author is referring to the earlier Sopwith Pup.

Genesis of Design - explores the thinking behind the design of the S.E.5 an the rival FE-10. The military requirements and the rejection of the proposal to build improved SPADs in favour of an indigenous design.

Powerplant Issues - takes a detailed look at the state of engine development in WW1 and the pros and cons of rotary vs. in-line engines. The chapter introduces the radical Hispano-Suiza in-line that became the chosen engine for the fledgling fighter.

Prototypes and Manufacturing - covers the early trials with enclosed cockpits, changes to wing incidence, engines and other equipment. The second chapter continues the theme, outlining the many small changes made in the different production batches and concludes with a list o companies that built the S.E.5/S.E.5a under licence, with the serials for each batch.

Powerplants - looks at the many issues which dogged the HS8 and Wolsely Python, along with the abortive Sunbeam Arab.

Equipment & Armament Modifications - covers many field mods to windscreen, headrest and exhausts - it's interesting to read just how radical some of the changes made at unit-level were.

Combat Use - takes a look at every RFC/RAF Squadron and foreign air forces equipped with the S.E.5/S.E.5a, along with the development of tactics for the new fighter, particularly by McCudden and Crowe of 56 Sqn. Surprisingly, Albert Ball seems to have thoroughly loathed the S.E.5 "The S.E.5 has turned out a dud... it is a rotten machine", but he never lived to see its classic incarnation with a 200hp Wolsely Viper engine.

Museum exhibits - a short section lists the surviving aircraft around the world.

Painting and Markings - a description of the use of PC-10 and PC-12.

Epilogue - takes a look at use of the S.E.5a after WW1.

Scale Drawings
Section 2 is, for me, the highlight of the book - no less than 16 sheets of superb scale drawings of the S.E.5/S.E.5a in its various prototype and production forms. The drawings are 1/48 scale, with 1/24 scale enlargements of details of engines and armament.

The final 3 sheets are printed in colour and give detail of the internal construction and cockpit layout and equipment. These drawings Will be an immense help to anyone tackling the recent Roden S.E.5a, as they include clear rigging-diagrams.

Colour Section
Finally, the book includes colour profiles for 15 aircraft, 3 or which are a treated to 4-view presentation. The subjects chosen give a great variety of users, with RFC/RAF, American, Polish, Bolshevik, Dutch and Australian aircraft, including a 2-seater and a sky-writer.

Decals are provided for:

The Polish aircraft flown by Capt. S. Ciercierski
B4863 - "G" - flown by Capt. McCudden, 56 Sqn. Oct. 1917
B189 - "S" - flown by Capt. W. Harris and Capt. J. Tuthope
A2-36 - the Australian 2-seater, Point Cook, 1930
C5303 - "X" - 56 Sqn. June 1917

The decals are very nicely printed and perfectly in register. A full set of Polish insignia is included, along with personal markings for the other aircraft.Kagero seem to have missed a trick; the British national insignia supplied in Roden's kit are rather poor, so a full set of roundels here would have made this a real "must have" for modellers.

This is an enjoyable and useful book, which will appeal to historians and modellers alike. The superb set of drawings will be of huge value and if only Kagero had also included a set of walk around photos of a preserved aircraft they could have made this an absolutely essential purchase. As it stands, it's still recommended.

Thank you to Kagero Books & MMD-Squadron for kindly supplying review samples. Legends of Aviation #4 - S.E.5a is available for $19.96 from MMD-Squadron

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on ARMORAMA
The S.E.5a ranks alongside the Sopwith Camel as the most successful British fighter of WW1 but, somehow, the S.E.5a has always been overshadowed by its Sopwith rival in the public's perception. But in fact, the S.E.5a was the mount of Britain's highest scoring aces.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 83-89088-61-4
  Suggested Retail: $21.95
  PUBLISHED: Jul 10, 2005
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright 2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. 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.


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