by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundThe Wellington (or Wimpy, as it was affectionately known by its crews) is something very unusual - an aircraft arguably as famous for how it was constructed as for what it achieved. The reason lies in its use of a geodetic structure, used previously by designer Barnes Wallis for the pre-war Wellesley. The geodetic structure disposed of traditional ribs and stringers and, instead, took the form of a "woven" basket-work. This proved both light and immensely strong - with the consequence that many wartime Wimpys returned safely to base with large areas of their fabric-coverered fuselage and wings torn away by enemy fighters or flak - not surprisingly earning the Wimpy a place in the hearts of grateful crews.
The Wellington embodied the RAF's pre-war philosophy of precision daylight bombing, with the belief that tight formations of heavily armed (by the standards of the day) bombers would be able to fly unescorted and successfully defend themselves against enemy fighters. Early encounters with the Luftwaffe soon brought a rude awakening and despite the replacement of the original hand-held guns in the nose and tail with power-operated turrets, the Wellington still received a mauling.The ventral turret proved very problematic and was often removed in service, being deleted altogether in the Mk.1C which fitted beam-guns positions in its place and included other much-needed improvements such as self-sealing fuel tanks. Nevertheless, the early losses forced a profound rethink of Bomber Command tactics and, most significantly, a switch to night-bombing.
Wellingtons of No.s 99 an d149 Sqns were among the aircraft dispatched on Bomber Command's first raid on Berlin in August 1940, and the Wimpy formed the backbone of Britain's bomber force until the 4-engine "heavies" were available in sufficient numbers. To give some idea of it's importance in the early/mid years of WW2, of the 1,046 aircraft which mounted the first "Thousand Bomber Raid" against Cologne at the end of May 1942, no less than 599 were Wellingtons.
Although replaced in Bomber Command's assault on Germany, the Wimpy continued to give important service with Coastal Command and as a bomber overseas, flying offensive sorties until late 1944 in the Far East and right up to the end of March 1945 in Italy. The Wellington was built in huge numbers compared with its contemporaries - 11,461 as against just 1,432 Hampdens and 1,814 Whitleys - and far outlived them in service, remaining in production right through WW2. The last Wimpy, a Mk. X transport version, was handed over to the RAF in October 1945.
The kit"A sense of dread" might sound a bit harsh, but after the dubious accuracy of their SM79 and Fw 200, I wasn't holding out much hope for a decent Wellington from Trumpeter. My chief worry was about how they'd handle the fabric surfaces; both the earlier kits feature grossly exaggerated "fabric" effects, so what on earth would the all-fabric Wimpy turn out like?! Based on my experiences with the previous kits, I was actually determined NOT to buy the Wellington - but, as any modeller knows, those sort of resolutions are hard to keep once a new kit hits the shelves! My resolve evaporated entirely when I sneaked a peak inside the box at the LHS and saw... quite a decent representation of the geodetic structure!
But more of that later! What do you get in the sturdy and massive box? Well, for once, I'm not doing my usual piece-by-piece count of the parts. Why? Because the box states that there are 644 of them! The main sprues are packed into separate plastic bags while the clear parts and other details are bagged and protected in a cardbox box at one end of the main package. The contents include:
13 x Pale grey styrene sprues
2 x Clear sprues
13 x Etched parts
1 x Printed fim for the instrument panel
3 x White metal u/c legs, plus steel pins for axles
3 x Vinyl tyres
Decals for 2 colour schemes
As you'd expect with a new kit from one of the "majors", the parts are crisply moulded with little sign of flash. The fuselage includes a geodetic structure moulded throughout the interior, but there's no sign of any sinkmarks due to this on the kit I bought.
The external finish is what's going to make or break the Wimpy - and thankfully Trumpeter have listened to their critics and completely revised how they represent fabric-covered surfaces. The grotesque "lumps" that marred earlier kits have gone and the control surfaces here have delicately depicted ribs. The fuselage is done a bit heavier, but wartime photos of the Wellington show quite a pronounced structure through the fabric, so I don't think it's too OTT. The wings and tail are a bit different - the geodetic effect is definitely overdone, but let's face it, many modellers would complain if it wasn't exagerrated a bit! Personally, I'll knock it back somewhat by applying a few heavy coats of gloss enamel as a "filler" and then gently sanding it to reveal the geodetic ribs again.
One of the biggest surprises is that, at first glance, there aren't any ejector-pin marks inside the fuselage. Closer inspection reveals that they are there - but Trumpeter have been very clever and used rectangular pins matched to the size of the intenal structure. Unfortunately, other areas of the kit aren't so lucky and items like the floor, bulheads, bomb-racks etc. are covered with pin marks. To make matters worse, the mould makers also seem to have had an unerring knack of placing them where they'll be hardest to fill.
Some of the clear parts are rather on the thick side, but they are all beautifully clear and there was no sign of any flow marks.
Test fitI dry-fitted the fuselage halves and they match up very nicely. Mating surfaces need cleaning up, but the halves are straight with not too much flexing. Surprisingly, even the interior geodetic detail matches at the roof! The wings are perfectly straight, but I wasn't able to attach them to the fuselage at this stage (see below).
Construction breakdownThe instructions are printed as a clearly illustrated 20-page booklet and the assembly is broken down into 35 stages. Trumpeter have packed a lot of detail into the kit, but the painting instructions are disappointingly sparce. Mr Color references are given, but they are few and far between for the interior - and strangely (when Mr Color include RAF Grey-Green in their range) the instructions suggest a mix of RLM 02 and white...
Stages 1-17. With so much detail on the inside of the fuselage halves, it was a fair bet that Trumpeter would devote a good deal of attention to supplying a well detailed cockpit and crew areas. A total of 41 parts are supplied, including a 5-part pilot's seat, a clear instrument panel with foil backing (odd that Trumpter didn't supply an etched panel). Some items, such as the throttle quadrants are very basic, but the foundations are there for a well-detailed office and it almost guaranteed that after-market details will be available to improve matters.
One disappointment, especially as the kit includes an etched fret, is that no seat-harness is provided. Similarly, details like throttle levers would have been neat additions to take advantage of the fret.
A huge variety of bombs is included with a clear loading diagram for the following combinations:
2 x 1000 lb + 6 x 250 lb
2 x 2000 lb AP
18 x 250 lb SAP
6 x 250 lb B
18 x 250 lb GP
9 x 500 lb GP
9 x 500 lb SAP
The turrets are very nicely detailed - probably the best yest in a 1/48 scale injected kit. The kit includes an FN25 ventral turret and herein lies something of a mystery for me. The kit is described as a Mk.1C, but most of my refs state that the ventral turret was deleted on the '1C and beam positions added instead. The exception is 4+ Publictions superbly detailed profile, which states that the turret was fitted to early Mk.1Cs (but the book doesn''t include photographic evidence to back up the statement). I'm tempted to say it best represents a Mk.1A (or an early '1C if you believe 4+). What is clear from period photos is that many Wellingtons captioned as Mk.1Cs didn't have the beam positions - but they weren't fitted with ventral turrets either. "British Aircraft Armament Vol. 1" (PSL, 1993) states that the FN25 turret was only fitted to the first batch of Mk. 1As and those units not used were stored and later became the mounts for Leigh lights.
Stage 18. The engines also look well done, with no less than 14 parts each, including engine-bearers.
Stages 19 & 21 cover the tailplanes which feature separate elevators and trim-tab actuators.
Stages 20, 22 and 23 return to the fuselage interior, adding more items like flares and ammunition storage and feeds, plus the afore-mentioned turrets. The tailwheel is made up from a metal leg and axle with a vinyl tyre. Stage 23 sees the fuselage halves joined.
Stages 24 and 25 assemble the main undercarriage. The wheel wells are a bit unusual as they are lined with etched parts. The main legs are cast in white metal and will need a bit of a clean-up, but at least they should be suitably sturdy to support the finished model. The tyres are again supplied in vinyl, which is never a great favourite of mine, but I must admit they are well moulded, with no flash or other exterior marks to clean off, so they should look fine after painting or with a light sanding to dull them down a bit. (Be careful of allowing vinyl parts to touch unpainted styene as there have been many reports of disaster over the years due to a chemical reaction causing the styrene to melt.)
Stages 26 and 27. Next come the wings, complete with separate ailerons attached by etched hinges and a choice of raised or lowered flaps.
Stage 28. Attaching the wings to the fuselage is rather unusual. Trumpeter supply large blocks with locking clips which must be glued to the fuselage to act as stubby "spars". The instructions don't say so, but obviously these must be allowed to dry firmly before going further. Once they're dry, the wings clip into place. I'm sure the intention is to cement the wings on but, if they clip on firmly enough, it does open up the intriguing possibility of building the kit with detachable wings if storage space is an issue.
Stages 29-35. With the airframe finished, the last details ike the canopy and side glazing go on. Then you must decide whether to display the bomb-bay open or closed. With all those bombs, I doubt that many modellers will go for the latter option - but be warned... if you display the bomb-bay open, be prepared to be patient attaching the doors... there are no less than 30 of them!
Painting and decalsA separate sheet includes colour illustrations of the two featured aicraft. Both are camouflaged with Dark Earth / Dark Green Uppers and Black undersides, with Mr Color matches provided.
The decal sheet is surprisingly small for such a large kit, but reasonable quality with roundels printed in good register. The decals are thin and glossy with minimal carrier film, but the red used is a bit on the bright side and, on my example, there is a very slight "bleeding" of the blue.
Markings are included for 2 aircraft:
1. BL-D - X9889 of 40 Sqn., Malta, 1941
2. AA-C - T2835, 75 Sqn., Norfolk, 1941
Unfortunately there seems to be a bit of a problem with both schemes - and I'm not sure either is appropriate for the kit as supplied. I found a shot of X9889 in "Bomber Squadrons Of The RAF" (MacDonald, 1964) when it was based at Gibralta in late 1941. It's captioned as a Mk. 1C and clearly has beam gun positions and no ventral turret. The squadron codes also seem to be Grey. T2835 is included among the artwork of the 4+ Publications profile, but I haven't been able to find a photo of it. . A sister aircraft - AA-N was photographed at Feltwell in the spring of 1941. Any beam positions are hidden, but the a/c has no ventral turret and, again, seems to be wearing Grey codes. This matches the 4+ rendition of T2835/AA-C which is shown with Medium Sea Grey Codes and Dull Red serials - and no beam positions or ventral turret.
ConclusionThe Wellington is undoubtedly a massive improvement over Trumpeter's earlier 1/48 scale bombers! Apart fom my doubts over whether it really represents a Mk. 1C and the accuracy of the decals, it is a beautiful model, packed with detail. I haven't been able to compare it with scale drawings yet, but I'm sure most modellers will be delighted with it as it stands. It's pretty good value for money - yes, £50 - but you do get a heck of a lot of model for your cash. It's big too! Don't let the fact that it's "only a twin" mislead you - it seems to match up to published dimensions pretty well, which means it's just over 15 inches long with a wingspan of over 21 inches - so make sure you have plenty of space to build and display it. With FM's Halifax on my workbench, I couldn't help but compare the two kits... suffice to say, it's like the difference between night and day in terms of fit and detail! Recommended.
Some Useful ReferencesVickers-Armstrong Wellington - 4+ Publications, 2003
British Aircraft Armament Vol. 1 - PSL, 1993
Bomber Squadrons Of The RAF - MacDonald, 1964
British Warplanes of WW2 - Grange Books, 2000
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