Royal Navy Biplanes -
Flycatcher, Osprey, Sea Gladiator, Sea Fox, Shark
In no particular order -
Aeroclub models produce a wide range of very high quality accessories and conversion parts. They also produce an excellent range of limited edition 1/72 kits, including this marvellous little Fleet Air Arm aircraft from between the wars. A replica of this particular aircraft, fitted with a P&W Wasp Junior engine instead of the original Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar, is stored at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton; Aeroclub can even provide the alternative engine if required! (link to build page)
The Flycatcher holds an important place in the history of Naval Aviation; not only
was it one of the first aircraft to enter service that had been specifically designed
to fly from an Aircraft Carrier, but it remained as the Fleet Air Arm's primary Fleet
Fighter for over 10 years (an achievement only equalled by the Sea Harrier), until
it was eventually replaced by the Hawker Nimrod and Osprey. Robustly built and very
well suited to life at sea in an aircraft carrier, it was armed with twin Vickers
machine guns, but could carry 4x20lb bombs in an attack role when required. A float
equipped amphibian version was also used from capital ships. When it entered service,
the Flycatcher was a commendably advanced design, using novel Fairey camber changing
flaps to reduce take-
Up until 1926, the Flycatcher continued to use longitudinal arrestor wires, which engaged with steel jaws in the undercarriage, but these were not particularly effective and were eventually abandoned as larger and heavier aircraft entering service demanded the now familiar cross deck arrestor wires.
Reliable and safe to fly, it was always highly popular with its pilots, but its unusually
long service life foretold the creeping neglect of British Naval Aviation during
the austerity driven inter-
Yeovilton's Replica Flycatcher
For this model I have used the Airfix Hawker Demon kit as a basis for modification into its naval equivalent. This kit first appeared in 1968, as a modification to the earlier 1957 mould of the Hawker Hart. Originals can change hands for very high prices, but the basic kit has been released much more recently as part of the RAF Collection set. Despite its age, this is still one of the better Airfix kits, nicely detailed and crisply moulded. As a template to convert it into an Osprey, I used another kit from my collection, the Merlin Models Frog Penguin replica, which is definitely a crude little blob of plastic, although it too can be built into a nice model; it also includes some detailed 1/72 scale plans of the Osprey! (link to build page)
Although it may have seemed to the Fleet Air Arm that the Flycatcher would hang on forever, by 1932 it was finally being replaced by naval variants of Hawkers' latest Rolls Royce Kestrel powered biplanes. When it first entered service the Hawker Hart bomber was much faster than the RAF's existing fighters, leading to an urgent programme to convert it into a fighter version, to be known as the Hawker Demon. With the RAF flying such successful and avanced aircraft from ashore, it seemed only sensible to convert the Hart/Demon to operate at sea as well.
The result was the elegant and advanced looking Hawker Osprey (which could also operate
from Cruisers and Battleships as a float equipped seaplane), the Fleet Air Arm's
first high speed 2-
Nevertheless, as this example shows, the Osprey rather overstayed its welcome. 801
Sqn were still flying the Osprey in 1938, at the time of the Munich Crisis and on
the eve of WW2. Although they hurredly re-
With the clouds of war gathering over Europe, in 1939 the FAA desperately began to
replace its Nimrods with the Sea Gladiator. Although still a biplane and very much
a compromise choice that had been hastily converted from the RAF's (obsolete) land-
This aircraft was one of four flown from HMS EAGLE in July 1940. The only RN Carrier
in the Med when war with Italy broke out on 10 June 1940, EAGLE did not carry a fighter
squadron. Cdr Chris Keighley-
Sea Gladiators are equally well known for their valiant part in the defence of Malta
in 1940. When she departed the Mediterranean for her ill-
After the battle, most appropriately, three of the planes were named Faith, Hope and Charity.
Matchbox are infamous for their deep panel lines and toy-
There were also 2 aircraft present; history does not record with certainty which one was used!
The Seafox was an effective and reliable spotter aircraft carried on Cruiser and above. It is most famous for its part in the Battle of the River Plate, when the German Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee was driven to take refuge in Uruguayan waters by an RN Cruiser Squadron under Cdre Henry Harwood (AJAX, ACHILLIES, EXETER). The Graf Spee was then scuttled by its Captain, Hans Langsdorrf to prevent its capture and save the lives of his men. This victory was an enormous boost to the British public, at a time when they had little else to celebrate. With extensive media coverage across the Americas, the battle did much to encourage US support for the British cause.
Lieut E D G Lewin, RN, the pilot of this aircraft, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his conduct during the fight with the Admiral Graf Spee. He was catapulted off after the action had started, when the airworthiness of his aircraft was in doubt (as the guns were fired before the aircraft was catapulted there may have been doubt as to whether they had disturbed the rigging of the machine), and made a landing and recovery under difficult conditions after the battle. Observer Lt R E N Kearney was Mentioned In Despatches.
The wing struts on this kit are a nightmare to align and the float struts barely able to support the finished kit! It is a nice kit though, giving the option for a colourful Portugese seaplane, an RN Spotter seaplane or a land based RN trainer from WW2.
The Shark served the FAA successfully from the mid 1930s into the 40s, as torpedo
carrier, floatplane spotter and trainer. Canadian aircraft had some success in the
Fairey Swordfish -
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Azur produce a marvellous, if fiddly, short-
Supermarine's Sea Otter was an advanced development of the Walrus, replacing the
pusher Pegasus engine with a tractor configured Bristol Mercury engine. Increased
range, plus a larger hull, radar and an extended cabin area completed the improvements.
Intended originally as catapult launched spotter aircraft, they saw extensive service
in the land-
Most Sea Otters were built by Saunders Roe and the type entered service in 1942 as the last biplane type to enter service with the Fleet Air Arm and the RAF. They remained with the RN in the ASR role until the late 1940.
The stubby and functional Supermarine Walrus will be a fairly familiar sight to modellers. Designed by the famous RJ Mitchell (who also designed the far more elegant Spitfire), it firs t flew in 1933 and remained in service throughout WW2 and on into the 1950s.
Originally flown by the Fleet Air Arm as a spotter aircraft from light Cruisers and
battleships, the Walrus became equally well known as an Air-
As spotter aircraft were withdrawn from ships, several Walrus remained in service
operating form carriers as general communications aircraft., Including the subject
of the model, an aircraft used in this role, operating from HMS VICTORIOUS in December
1944 and sporting the distinctive US-
The Matchbox Walrus is an excellent example of the quality of these later Matchbox
biplanes. This is a recent Revell re-