1/72 Avro Lancaster B. Mk.1 (With Tallboy) "Tirpitz Raid"
Kit Number: 00832
Reviewed by  Brian R. Baker, IPMS# 43146

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MSRP: $69.95

Parts: 206, including 42 clear plastic parts and 4 soft propeller washers.

The Lancaster, to the British, occupies the same place in the history of the RAF during World War II as the Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" does to the Americans. It was a large, powerful, heavy four engine bomber with excellent performance, reliability, and load carrying ability. Developed from the unsuccessful Manchester twin engine heavy bomber, the original prototype was little more than a Manchester with a new wing and four Rolls Royce Merlin engines. After initial tests, the aircraft was rushed into production, first appearing in the squadrons as early as March, 1942. The Lancaster went on to become the premier RAF Bomber Command heavy bomber, outpacing the rival Halifax and the Short Stirling, which was plagued by the problem of its short wingspan and resultant low performance at altitude, caused primarily by a short sighted design requirement that the plane be small enough to fit into standard 1930's vintage RAF hangars.

The story of the Lancaster is well documented elsewhere, and doesn't need to be repeated here. The aircraft was intended primarily for night bombing missions over Germany and the occupied European countries, and featured a 33 foot long bomb bay which allowed for a variety of special weapons programs. Probably the most famous of these was the "Dambusters" project, which used the Barnes Wallis cylindrical bomb dropped at low level to destroy the Ruhr dams in May, 1943.

However, there were other more ambitious projects, including the Barnes Wallis super-heavy bombs intended for highly fortified targets. The first of these was the Tallboy, a 12,000 pound bomb with offset tailfins which caused the bomb to rotate for better trajectory and accuracy. This was followed by the "Grand Slam", a 22,000 pound monster that required the aircraft to be stripped of everything not absolutely essential for flight if they were to get the thing into the air. Hasegawa's kit of the Grand Slam version was recently reviewed by my friend Jim Pearsall, and his comments in the kit are, in my opinion, accurate.

The Kit
This kit represents three of the "Tallboy" conversions that were used to attack the German battleship Tirpitz during 1944. In the first attack, the aircraft carried their bombs all the way from the UK to Archangel, Russia, a distance of 1750 miles, where they refueled and headed back, attacking the Tirpitz on the return flight. This attack was unsuccessful, so a second attack was planned. This occurred in November, 1944, when 18 aircraft from No. 617 Squadron and 13 aircraft from No. 9 Squadron attacked the ship in Tromso Fjord, this time sinking her. The kit has decals for three aircraft, two from No. 617 Sqdn, and one from No. 9 Sqdn.

Kit Assembly
Containing over 200 parts, some of which are not used in this particular version, this kit qualifies as a "project", but it is not quite as complicated or involved as building ,perhaps, a Corbin Baby Ace or Pietenpol Air Camper in full scale, but it does come close. The results, however, will certainly be worth the effort. I watched the progress Jim Pearsall made on his review kit, the Grand Slam, and was amazed by the complexity and quality of the kit. I encountered the same issues he did. The kit went together very well, although I used a little more putty than he admitted to, primarily because the fuselage had cutouts for the H2S antenna fairing and the dorsal turret, neither of which was used on this model. These needed to be filled in. A few parts are not clearly identified in the instructions, but this is not a problem for the experienced modeler, although a good detailed three view drawing would have been very helpful. I used the one in the Squadron "In Action" publication, which provided a lot of useful information. To avoid confusion, I went through the instructions step-by-step, and removed the parts from the sprue that I was NOT going to use, only removing the required components as I needed them. Major assembly is not quite in the "shake the box" category, but close. It is well engineered, and makes into a sturdy model once completed.

The clear parts, and there are 24 on the sprue, include the main canopy, the front and rear turrets, the nose bowl for the "bomb aimer", and a large number of side and top windows. I used a couple of the top windows, but opted for Crystal Clear for all of the small side windows. There is no reason why the kit windows couldn't be used; I was just lazy and didn't want to do all of that masking. The turrets and canopy require some tedious masking, but again, nothing an experienced modeler shouldn't be able to handle.

The landing gear appears to be quite spindly and fragile, but after assembly and installation, I found it to be actually quite robust. Even the wheels have a flattened section, so be careful not to glue it in the wrong position. One problem is that the instructions say to paint the landing gear flat black, while all of the photos I've seen of Lancasters show the gear to be silver. In addition, the instructions state that the interior of the bomb bay and wheel wells, along with all doors, should be flat black. Reason would have dictated interior green, but I followed instructions for once and used black. I couldn't find a photo which showed any color at all, as the undersides were always in shadow, and details like that just don't show in photos from that era.

Painting and Finishing
These Lancasters were finished in standard RAF night bomber schemes, including dark green and earth camouflage pattern topsides, with flat black underneath. The props and spinners were flat black with yellow tips.

There are only a few glitches to mention here. Although the photos of these particular aircraft show the later paddle-bladed props, the kit includes only the high aspect ratio ("pointy") props of earlier variants, which were used on the standard Mk. 1 bombers. Although there is some good interior detail, including several decals, and the canopy is clear enough to justify some super-detailing in the nose and cockpit area, not much interior is provided, and you're on your own here. Also, no information is given on the location of the long-wire radio antennas which run from the forward part of the canopy back to the vertical stabilizers. I used stretched sprue, although wire could be used if you can manage it. The antenna layout is shown in the Squadron publication so this is not a problem. Now on to the good stuff.

The good news is much better. This is an easy-to-assemble kit, actually very easy for a kit of this size and complexity. There are no surprises, and it is definitely well engineered. I particularly liked the way the props are installed. The soft washer is set inside the engine nacelle during basic assembly, and then the nacelle is glued together. After painting, the props are then pushed into the nacelle, holding snugly. They don't spin, but then, do we actually DO that any more? They can, however, be removed if required, for later replacement. Nice feature.

I would highly recommend this kit, especially if you haven't built your old Airfix Lancaster. Just make sure that you have a lot of room in your model cabinet, as this is a big one. But it was fun, and that is what it should be all about.

Thanks to Hasegawa for the kit, and to John Noack for his patience in waiting for me to finish this kit so I could write the review.

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