by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Valiant Wings have recently published a detailed study of Bristol's hard-hitting twin-engined fighter and strike aircraft, the Beaufighter.
Written by Richard Franks, the new 178-page volume follows the well established and successful format of the series, blending an historical overview with colour scheme details, a comprehensive technical section and high quality model builds. Richard Caruana provides colour profiles and markings placement drawings, while Chris Sandham-Bailey supplies isometric views and Libor Jekl and Steve Evans tackle Beaufiighter kits in two scales.
The Introduction forms a 20 page overview of the development of the Beaufighter and its subsequent long career with the RAF and FAA, along with a number of air forces around the world. While the full service history of the Beaufighter is beyond the scope of this book, the author includes a list of all the squadrons which operated the type and their code letters along with a brief unit history of its service. This alone is a very useful "foot in the door" when researching any given colour scheme.
I think it's safe to say most modellers will by this book for one reason - the Technical Description. This section comprises a walkaround combined with a multitude of vintage photos, plus diagrams taken from original pilot's and servicing manuals. The balance that Valiant Wings strike is ideal in my opinion, because it avoids the potential pitfalls inherent in relying solely on modern photos of restored airframes.
The chapter is broken down into 9 main sections, each further subdivided as follows:
Group 1 - Fuselage
1 - Cockpit Interior
2 - Canopy & Forward Fuselage
3 - Main & Aft Fuselage
Group 2 - Undercarriage
1 - Main
Group 3 - Tail
1 - Vertical Fin & Rudder
2 - Tailplanes & Elevators
Group 4 - Wings & Controls
1 - Wings
2 - Ailerons and Flaps
3 - Fairey-Youngman Flaps
Group 5 - Engine
1 - Engine Cowls & Propellers
2 - Exhausts & Cabin Heating System
Group 6 - Armament
1 - Cannon & Machine Guns
2 - Bombs, Rockets, Torpedo and Drop Tanks
Group 7 - Fuel & Oil Systems
1 - Fuel
2 - Oil
Group 8 - Electrical Systems
1 - Radio
2 - Radar
3 - Camera
4 - Miscellaneous Electrical Systems
Group 9 - Miscellaneous
Suffice to say, this volume covers the Beaufighter's finer details more comprehensively pictorially than any other source I've read and it's an ideal asset for any modeller wanting to enhance a kit.
The Evolution section will serve as something of an eye-opener for anyone who mistakenly thinks the Beaufighter is a straightforward modelling subject. Beyond the major versions and prototypes, the myriad of sub-types with a plethora of modifications and combinations of features is bewildering, so having an easy to access guide to what to look for on each variant is a real help.
The isometric drawing work well in highlighting the changes, and the inclusion of reference photos is very useful. My only minor criticism is that additional photos keyed to the diagrams are included in many cases and these are rather small and not always very clear. It's a great idea in principle, but it would work better if the photos were reproduced larger.
The chapter on Camouflage & Markings covers the Beaufighter's long career in the UK and abroad and holds a few surprises. It begins with the usual caveat about the dangers in estimating the colours from vintage monochrome photos, but then provides a perfect example of the hazards that come with colour reproductions as well. We are all probably aware of the famous "blue Mustangs" debate that raged for many years, and here Valiant Wings show just how easily an original colour photo can be manipulated to give two entirely diffferent and equally convincing results. So, the same photo is made to apparently show a 252 Sqn. Beaufighter sporting either Dark Slate Grey and Extra Dark Sea Grey or Dark Earth and Mid- Stone. Scary!
The section is illustrated with a very nice selection of colour profiles by Richard Caruana to give plenty of inspiration for modellers. If you're looking for something a little more "left field" for your next Beaufighter, how about an Israeli or a Dominican Republic Air Force Mk. X?
The Modelling Section allows Libor Jekl and Steve Evans to provide a pair of excellent builds to get the creative juices flowing.
Libor tackles the recent Airfix 1:72 and, as usual, such is his attention to detail, one could easily mistake the finished kit for a larger scale model. He adds some very fine details to his build, along with subtle riveting before adding Aviaeology aftermarket decals.
Steve was lucky enough to get a pre-production moulding of Revell's recent 1:48 kit for his build, and he completes it in a custom scheme with a little skillful scratch-building and extra detailing. Of course, test-shots come with their own challenges, and Steve found some fit problems with his model. Happily, these seem to have been resolved with the kit in its production form, because I haven't encountered the same difficulties, but Steve's other observations still hold true and the article is a very handy guide for anyone tackling this largely impressive kit.
Rounding everything of is a series of Apendices that list the many kits of the Beaufighter that have been released over the years, along with accessories and decals and, finally, a useful list of titles for further reading.
ConclusionI found Valiant Wings' study of the Beaufighter a very enjoyable and inspiring read. Inspriing? - well Steve Evans' build was enough to tip the balance for me personally and I bought Revell's 1:48 kit on the basis of this book alone. This is an excellent reference that is something of a must-read for anyone wanting to add detail to a kit in any scale, and which will also appeal historians and aviation enthusiasts.
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