Book Review
The Bristol Beaufighter
Airframe Album 14 - The Bristol Beaufighter
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by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

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
2 -Tailwheel

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.

I 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.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE
Highs: Very well detailed reference material, plus top quality model builds.
Lows: Some of the photos in the Evolution section would be more useful if printed larger.
Verdict: This is an excellent go-to reference for the Beaufighter that should appeal to modellers and aircraft enthusiasts alike.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9780995777385
  Suggested Retail: 18.95
  PUBLISHED: Jan 02, 2019
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

Our Thanks to Valiant Wings Publishing!
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 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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