AIR Modeller 64


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FEB/MARCH 2016 • £6.50 UK $15.99



Short Stirling Part One Megas Tsonos begins his multipart 1:48 scratchbuilt project to build the British heavy bomber.


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Meng AIR Modeller is published Bimonthly by AFV Modeller ltd Old Stables East Moor Stannington Northumberland NE61 6ES Tel: 01670 823648 Fax: 01670 820274 email: [email protected] Editor and Designer: David Parker Deputy Editor: Mark Neville Sales Director: Keith Smith

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Meng AIR Modeller welcomes contributions from interested parties, but cannot accept any responsibility for unsolicited material. The contents of this publication including all articles, drawings and photographs originated by AFV Modeller ltd become the publishers copyright under copyright law. Reproduction in any form requires the written consent of the publisher. Whilst every care is taken to avoid mistakes AFV

ISSN 2059-5964

Modeller ltd. cannot be liable in any way for errors or ommissions.




he Short Stirling is one of the esoteric subjects of RAF

Bomber Command aircraft. One needs to go ‘back in time’ in order to fully understand the true impact this aeroplane made to the RAF, to British industry and to the British public in general, as a ‘mighty, war-winning machine’, when it went into service. The fact that due to Air Ministry restrictive specifications, it failed in its primary role of the long range bomber, and its ungainly looks, have contributed to the Short Stirling unfortunately becoming, over the years, a neglected subject. It its also a complicated subject and one that it is not easy to research. If you


wanted to build a model of it in 1:48 you will have to rely on the Sanger vacform kit, and its accuracy both in shape and dimensions leaves much to be desired. The finished product will, at best, look ‘like a Stirling’, suitable only for filling the gap in some projected RAF bombers collection. The approach of a scratchbuilt model of a Stirling is a more complicated one, but can lead to a better result as one is free to do away with the restraints a vacform kit usually imposes. You only have to follow the plans, but which plans?



Plans or Numbers? At the start of this project, I came across two sets of plans for the Short Stirling, one as published in “Warpaint” (issue No15) monograph, made by Mr. John Bishop, and the one that was kindly provided by Mr. Gordon Leith, Curator, Department Of Research And Information Services, Royal Air Force Museum, drawn in 1:48 by Mr. John Sizer. The Warpaint plans are in this modellers’ opinion, grossly inadequate for a model in 1:48, their thick outlines when up-scaled wreaking havoc with measurements, being up to 1/16’’ thick! Additionally, some “hidden” dimensions were alarmingly wrong, a striking example being the wheel track which is wider by 5/16’’ than normal (in 1:48), taking with it the entire landing gear, inner nacelles and propellers and “pushing” them outward to the wingtips! The propellers themselves are drawn smaller in diameter (3’’), instead of 3 3/8’’, a fact that distorts the appearance of the finished model.


The J. Sizer plans on the other hand are more detailed, their major advantage being that important dimensions and distances from given points, (for example the distance of the outer nacelles from the aeroplane centre line, or the correct wheel track) refer to the real thing; I only had to divide by 48 and use them. As the plans were already drawn in 1/48, I could check them in relation to my calculations and thus be sure of the task ahead. Consequently the “Warpaint” plans were put aside in favour of the J. Sizer ones, their use being only of secondary if not, cosmetic, importance… I had always to keep in mind that in both sets of plans, some curves and shapes (for example, gun turrets) are incorrect and should be thoroughly checked against photographs, and other sources before being modelled. I chose to work primarily with as many of the real Stirling dimensions as I could find, and keep the on-the-drawing personal measurements that most of us modellers usually do, a secondary option.


Requirements, Materials and Outside Help Every scratchbuilt model tends to be usually heavier than the injection moulded kits we are more familiar with. I expected that the Stirling would be extra heavy when finished, and reinforcing during construction was a prerequisite, which added weight to that already envisaged. The model had to be rigid while at the same time providing opened bomb bays in the wings and fuselage, so as to justify its role as a model of a bomber aeroplane. A huge landing gear was needed to support everything during the construction and absorb all the inevitable mishandlings, whilst itself and its associated wheel wells needed to be superdetailed. The fuselage should be strong enough to withstand all stresses during the construction, nevertheless thin enough to allow for interior detailing to be added, as and where necessary. The principle requirements as mentioned above pointed towards a multi-media construction; fibreglass, metal and resin being the basic materials I used except styrene. Although the use of fiberglass for the fuselage construction was within my modelling capabilities, if it was not for the expertise of Mr. Michael

Skoularikos ([email protected]), a friend and fellow modeller who transformed my drawings of the bomb bays and wing framework into photo-etched parts, the model may not have materialized in the quality seen here! Brass in photo etched form was used to construct the fuselage bomb bay, the foundation of the whole construction. Likewise, the wings where formed around two “boxes” of brass extending from the wing roots up to the outer engine nacelles. Additional friendly help, came in the form of a set of finely and accurately made resin moulds, carefully cast by Mr. Yiannis Sagiadinos of Y.S. Masterpieces ([email protected]), who took care of propellers, engine cowls, exhausts, main wheels, and everything that had to be duplicated in resin for more than one example. In the Illustration above one can see the different materials used and their locations in the Stirling model. Thus the model was made really heavy but extra strong at the same time, ensuring a construction without setbacks and a long life in the showcase.


WHICH STIRLING? A unique subject like this necessitated some additional thinking. I had to come to a decision as to what mark of the Short Stirling I should build so as to focus on the special demands of the construction ahead. I concluded that only a very early production Stirling could combine technical interest (always among my favourite interests in this hobby) with an attractive finish, which the early-war bombers usually wore. An anonymous plane (aces and ace-planes are not my cup of tea), but one that actually saw the


war out was N6004. This aircraft was the fifth production machine to come out of the Short Bros. factory at Belfast. As the story goes, this was a Stirling Mk.I series I aircraft which had not yet been fitted with a mid-upper turret; the Nash and Thompson Type FN7 turret was fitted on the 81st and subsequent bombers. Additionally, the first ten bombers from Belfast differed from subsequent in having de-icer boots installed (as written in p.43 of Michael J.F. Bowyer’s book ‘The Stirling Bomber’), N6004 being one of them. N6004 went to war (as well as being a type-training machine simultaneously) initially with No 7 Squadron on 24/3/1941, soon to be allocated to No XV Squadron which was re-established with the new bomber type on 10/4/1941. It was repainted in the Squadron codes as LS-F ; I tracked down actually eleven replacement Stirlings, coded as ‘F’ until the type’s withdrawal from No XV Squadron service. N6004 had an undercarriage collapse during a landing overshoot in Wyton aerodrome on 12/6/1941. She was repaired on site and continued flying in secondary duties; she was replaced by a new ‘F’, N6086, the famous

‘McRobert’s Reply’. On 23/12/1942 the bomber went for a major overhaul at Sebro, the Short Bros. Repair Organisation, in Cambridge where it was converted to a Mk.III; it was re-engined and most probably fitted with a the Nash and Thompson Type FN50 mid-upper turret, as was the case with the older machines being repaired after 7 August 1942. Looking good once again, N6004 flew until the end of the war though not on bombing operations as the type was steadily withdrawn from the bombing role. It was struck off charge on 13/9/1946 as obsolete. This is not the end of the story though, as 48 years later a section of the fuselage of N6004 which was used as an allotment shed, was salvaged by the Cotswold Aviation Restoration Group, operated from RAF Innsworth, and transported to Medway Heritage Trust at Chatham Dockyard Leisure Centre, to form part of a future Short Brothers Museum. Fascinated by its unsung longlife story I decided in favour of N6004 as my chosen subject.

the empennage

The whole project started with the tail surfaces. First, the horizontal stabilizers were crafted as a single unit, thus providing rigidity against any damage arising during the construction. Thick black solid plasticard was used as a core, its horizontal reference line drawn in red on the sides.

The correct aerofoil shap...

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