Thursday, October 29, 2009

SE5a Models for Canvas Eagles: Part I

On the hobby table, October, 2009: "C" Flight, 56 Squadron RFC, March 1918.

So, my current project is a flight of five 1/72 scale SE5a scouts for an upcoming Canvas Eagles game. The genesis of this project occurred about 10 years ago when I was collecting a lot of WWI material. I had been building one-off WWI aircraft models for gaming, but was interested in doing a cohesive unit; a jasta or flight. At the time I was reading Alex Revell's "High in the Empty Blue". This was the unit history of 56 squadron, RFC/RAF. Famous British aces like Ball and McCudden flew for 56 squadron, but I was more interested in some of the lesser known pilots from the unit. In our Canvas Eagles campaigns, I can often get pilots to 5 or 6 kills, then they get shot down. This seems to have been the plight of many WWI pilots who never rose out of obscurity to reach the celebrity of the well known WWI aces.

Anyway, I was attracted to the members of "C" flight, who in March 1918 were able to combine their efforts to achieve victory over 19 enemy aircraft with the loss of just one of their own members (the most accomplished, as it turned out). Four of the pilots were ranked as modest aces, with 6 to 14 victories each. Note, that for the British of this era, a victory was counted as an enemy aircraft either destroyed or driven down "out of control", and "shared" victories counted as full credit for each pilot involved. A pretty liberal policy which would have never passed muster with the tougher victory criteria of the Germans and (especially) French. Nevertheless...

Here is a photo of "C" Flight pilots from March 1918.

From left to right...

M.E. Mealing. 14 victories. SE5a "W". KIA March 24th, 1918.
W.S. Fielding Johnson (Flight Leader). 6 victories. SE5a "U". Died 1953.
H.J. Walkerdine. 7 victories. SE5a "Y". WIA April 11th, 1918.
L.W. Jarvis. 7 victories. SE5a "V". To Home Establishment May 24th, 1918.
L.N. Franklin. 1 victory. SE5a "X". KIA July 14th, 1918.
A.L. Garrett. 0 victories. POW June 28th, 1918.

For this project, I'm using the Roden 1/72 scale kit, since it has options for the correct engine, radiator, exhaust stacks, landing gear, cockpit cutouts and propeller types for "C" Flight's aircraft.

After a couple of hours wrestling with this kit, I was able to get the ridiculous 6-part fuselage structures closed up. None of the radiators fit correctly, but never this point I was just happy to get everything glued together and puttied. This photo shows the five assemblies, wings painted, along with stacks of assembled landing gear, propellers and Foster Lewis gun mounts. Oh, and the small pile of 20 main wing struts.

Here I've attached the lower wings to the fuselage sections. All fuselage filler has been sanded down at this point.

Now, I've built a number of WWI biplanes and as you may know as well, the biggest pain is getting a good alignment for the attachment of the upper wing. What I like to do is get the cabane struts set correctly...then attach the upper wing and pop the interplane struts in as the last step. Of course, it's always tricky to get the cabane struts set up correctly. As you can see in the next photo, I've made a little jig out of card with holes drilled in the correct alignment for upper wing attachment.

Using the jig, setting the cabanes to the correct angle went pretty smoothly.

In the next installment, I hope to show the fuselages painted and the upper wings attached. Fingers crossed!


  1. Oh you poor bastard. That Roden kit is a horrible thing to build! Parts break while being cut off the sprue, no pilot holes, pieces don't fit! Yours skills are impressive!

  2. I'm holding my breath...have nearly snapped a few struts cleaning off the gating plastic. Not out of the woods yet!