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Hawker Hurricane Mk IIa
RAF 185th Sqn
Hal Far, Malta, May 1942
1/48 Hasegawa (modified from Mk IIc)
Why this plane?
If you don't know about the battle for Malta in World War II, I highly recommend you watch this. It was an epic fight against huge odds, like Thermopylae or Samar, but with one difference: everybody, not just professional military, made a stand. The people of Malta were awarded the George Cross, the civilian equivalent of the Victoria Cross, for their amazing resilience and bravery during the German and Italian bombing campaign.
In a story with so many heroes, the airmen who defended Malta still deserve special mention. They were outnumbered 10 to 1 in the early months of 1942. Most of the fighters available were Hurricanes, which by that time were outclassed by the German Me-109 fighters. And yet, they kept going up, in the process paying an enormous price.
In a sense, the plane I chose to build perfectly encapsulates the many individual stories that made the Malta saga. In May 1942 Hurricane HA-F/ BV163 was being flown by 185th Squadron pilots, but had kept its 126th Squadron markings. In fact, it had also kept is "temperate" camouflage scheme, appropriate for the Battle of Britain, but out of place in the Mediterranean. I think repainting was a low priority when each available plane was flying several missions a day (and maybe there wasn't even proper paint available).
HA-F had been damaged in a crash landing in the last week of April, but patched up in time to be flown by Australian Flight Sergeant Gordon Tweedale on 8th May 1942, when he claimed his 4th and 5th victories. This was not "Gordon's plane": by that stage, the planes that could be made flyable were assigned to the most experienced pilots who happened not to be too sick.
The story became even more emblematic of the Malta saga by the death of Tweedale on the following day. After many months of battle flying Hurricanes he finally got assigned a much-awaited Spitfire, which had arrived in Malta on that same morning, having taken off from an aircraft carrier as part of Operation Bowery. As chronicled by the Times of Malta, he was shot down in his first Spitfire flight, and died on the 9th May 1942.
What was added
Because I wanted to represent a specific plane, new decals were needed. The idea of printing everything at home was daunting, so I broke my "no upgrades" rule and got Aeromaster's Defenders of Malta decal set. This includes markings for Hurricane HA-E (as restored by the Malta Aviation Museum). Based on the only surviving picture of HA-F (unfortunately, blurry and black and white) I felt this was close enough. Only the serial numbers were laser printed at home, using Bare Metal Foil decal paper.
The wire connecting the radio masts was made from human hair, and attached with cyanoacrylate gel.
Once the plane was completed I decided to make it part of my first attempt to create a basic diorama. For this, I got the Aerobonus "Middle East Allied Pilot WWII with dog" resin set, which was very nice, requiring minimal sanding. See below for details.
Notes and lessons learned
This is an excellent kit, which allows a very straightforward, drama-free build, if the modeller just wants to represent one of the Mk Iic Hurricanes for which decals are provided. The cockpit has a lot of detail, and it comes with an instrument panel decal (see photos). The fit is as good as any I have seen, with little to no filler being needed. As explained below, all the issues I had were self-inflicted, due to my decision to try to keep the canopy open.
The only place where I had a little bit of trouble was in joining the parts representing the lower half of the wings with the underneath of the fuselage, towards the back. In real Hurricanes, this is where the construction changed from all-metal (front) to fabric covering metal spars (back). Here there was a bit of filling and sanding work needed, to blend so that the "ribbed" appearance of the lower fuselage continued across parts.
The Hasegawa kit was for a Mk Iic's Hurricane, but I wanted a Mk IIa. Fortunately, there were spare parts for the front of the wing without the 20 mm Hispano cannons, which made the conversion easier. I basically had to use these spare parts, not include the "blisters" on top of the wings corresponding to the 4 cannons, and cover the 4 corresponding exhaust holes under and above the wings. Instead, I had to drill 8 ports in front of the wings for the Browning .30 machine guns, and 8 exhaust ports under the wings. This was a fairly straightforward process, since there are many good pictures online to orient the positioning of the ports (like these ones).
Following my references, I used the RAF temperate camouflage colours: Vallejo duck egg green for underneath, and dark earth/ dark green for the upper parts. Floor polish was used to seal the paint before decals and weathering were applied. The final coat was flat Vallejo acrylic varnish, diluted half with airbrush thinner.
Malta in the first months of 1942 was not a place for the faint hearted, and accordingly I felt that relatively heavy weathering was justified. This included highlighting many of the panels and panel joints with heavily diluted Tamiya chrome silver, to simulate worn-out paint, and liberal application of Tamiya weathering master (oil stain, soot, rust and orange rust). This was complemented by dry brushing silver metallic paint and drawing fine lines with a Prismacolor PC949 (silver) pencil helped create the effect of more localised worn out paint along the leading edges of wings, nose and stabilisers.
There are some small parts, like the "stirrup" used to help the crew to climb on the wing, which are best left to be attached at the end. That, and the aerials, broke off several times during the build, and had to be ultimately reinforced with wire and reattached at the very end.
The canopy is only offered as closed, but I felt it was a shame to hide all interior detail, so I cut the single clear plastic canopy piece into two. This in itself was not a problem: just going slowly, first with a scalpel and later with a scriber, resulted in a sharp and straight separation. But, as detailed below, this was the start of a major issue with fitting the open canopy...
Hurricane diorama 1.jpg
View from the top
Hurricane diorama 2.jpg
Front left view
Hurricane diorama 3.jpg
Front right view
Hurricane diorama 4.jpg
Diorama left view
A simple diorama
For a bit of extra fun I decided to try to make the Hurricane part of a diorama. This being my first attempt, I got the basics of how to simulate a sandy airfield in a dry place from this video tutorial in Youtube, which made it easy.
cockpit detail left.jpeg
cockpit detail right.jpeg
cockpit with panel.jpeg
cockpit with panel 2.jpeg
cockpit with panel 1.jpeg
Building the cockpit
These images give you some idea of the great level of internal details you can get out of the box. There is good detail on left and right sides of the fuselage, pilot seat, and the associate frame, and the instrument panel comes as a relatively accurate decal. No harnesses, though, so I had, as usual, to make my own using Evergreen strips. These are best seen in this picture of the completed plane.
The aftermath of opening the canopy
My greatest problem in this otherwise trouble-free build came from deciding to open the canopy. Cutting the single clear piece in two was not an issue, but the part that slides back was not high enough: it appeared to float over the rails rather than following them (as evident in the pictures shown here). I felt that I had already broken my rule by getting aftermarket decals, so rather than buying a new canopy (like this more sensible modeller did). I tried to "fix" the look by filling the gap with polystyrene strips. As you can see in the photos above of the complete model, this ended up less than optimal. So my advice; if you are building this Hurricane either keep the canopy closed, or get a new one...