Wonky Wings

This is a Blackburn Shark, a torpedo-spotter-reconnaissance plane which served onboard an aircraft carrier for only a few years in the mid-1930s until replaced by the Fairey Swordfish (see previous post). The blue markings signify that this particular plane served aboard HMS Courageous. The odd thing, to me at least, is that except briefly aboard HMS Furious, it mainly did only serve aboard that one carrier; I'd be curious to know why. The broad picture is of an extraordinary variety of different types serving in the Fleet Air Arm in the Twenties and Thirties, often for only a few years at a time, and when the Royal Navy had a mere 5-6 carriers for them to fly from. And yet, there were a few hundred of these planes built. I imagine most ended up operating from land bases, for training purposes.

This is another of my quick builds, and I wouldn't have troubled this blog with it, except for some model making points, and that, like with the Swordfish, there's a connection to my Uncle Basil. Since I've broached the subject, I'd better introduce him. Here are a couple of pictures. One is of poor quality but as you can see he has staged a shot of himself posed in front of a flypast by another plane he flew, a Blackburn Ripon torpedo bomber. As I mentioned previously, I have tried to get hold of kits of planes he was connected with, and I have some vac-form kits of the Ripon which I may summon up the nerve to build one day. More than one, because I just assume I'll mess up the crucial process of cutting out the pieces. I've never made a vac-form kit; they're a little more challenging. I'm also put off by the fact that they simply don't offer a great level of detail. I'm probably deluding myself, but maybe one day a better injection moulded kit will appear - ?

Perhaps like this kit of the Blackburn Shark. It's come out very much better than I expected; I gave it a quick build, because I realised it was never going to be of great quality, as I hope to achieve when I can eventually put together a group of types connected with Basil. Although I did my best with my camera to disguise it, you can readily see a glaring problem, that the wings aren't level with each other. At one point the whole thing looked impossible, because of the complicated geometry of the struts, and the wings in their folded positions. So I cocked it up? Yes; but in my defence I was really up against it. This kit is what's known as a short run kit. There are a large number of manufacturers like the one which produced this, Modelcraft, a Canadian outfit, which work the economics by creating cheap moulds which inevitably don't last long. The plastic is soft, hence these struts all being a bit bent, and their slim resources mean that the kits generally require a lot of the modeller to make them fit together. But we're lucky that the short run kitmakers exist, because otherwise we wouldn't have models of obscure types at all. In case you're wondering why a Canadian firm would bother with a lesser known FAA type, it's because a few were produced under licence in Vancouver, so it is indeed a Canadian aircraft. By the way, when I say 'firm', it's very likely to be a couple of guys in a garage, working in their spare time. No big complaints about the wonky wings! The problem doesn't look awful, if you stand at the right angle, and the end result is kinda interesting, I don't have any other models of carrier planes posed with folded wings.

To come back to Basil; I don't know if he actually flew in a Shark, but he would have been familiar with them. His service was mainly aboard HMS Glorious, its planes resplendent in their yellow stripes. But he did spend some months aboard HMS Courageous, possibly more. I know he flew Blackburn Baffins, the type which succeeded the Ripon and immediately preceded the Shark. And if my skills had been up to making a decent hash of this kit, I'd have included it in that particular project. As of now, I have the very nice new Airfix kit of the Swordfish, his last aircraft; and, one way or another, I will make a Ripon. But the 'Uncle Basil project' can't really happen without a kit of the Fairey IIIF, and a Baffin as well. And if someone brings out a better Shark, I might have another go at it. Whether I'll try to pose it with folded wings is a question I don't want to think about for now.


  1. Amazing as usual, did Uncle Basil get to fight in the Swordfish? Have you read "To war in a Stringbag" a memoir of WW2 by a Swordfish pilot?

    1. I don't know for certain, although I would think he must have flown some operational flights during wartime, as an observer. In the Norway Campaign. No, I haven't read that book, but the title rings a bell...


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