The little Air Observation Post (AOP) aircraft of the British Taylorcraft Auster family served in almost every theatre of operations in which the British Army fought during World War II, primarily providing support to the Royal Artillery. The motto of the Royal Artillery is ‘Ubique’which translates as ‘everywhere’ and this motto could apply equally to the Auster units which spotted for the Royal Artillery’s guns worldwide.
Above: Tony’s finished Auster Mk III looks resplendent in its Dark Earth and Dark Green camouflage. The model is finished in the markings of a No. 656 Sqn aircraft, based in India and Burma.
Artillery also provided the pilots for the AOP units, with the RAF providing the ground crews, and the drivers and cooks for the units coming from both services. Although the units themselves were formed as RAF squadrons, their operation could be described as an early example of today’s fashionable ‘jointability’. The AOP units were obviously fully mobile and were capable of operating from small grass strips just behind the front line, sometimes near to artillery batteries or HQ’s, since the Auster only needed a landing run of 150 yards (137 m).
The first AOP unit was a small experimental detachment that went to France in 1940 with the British Expeditionary Force and this laid down the foundations for the formation of the later AOP squadrons. These units went on to serve with distinction in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, north east Europe and Burma and many continue to serve today as modern squadrons of the Army Air Corps.
Sword is likely to want to get the most out of its Auster Mk III kit and the breakdown of parts suggests that other Auster variants could be produced. Apart from engine differences, there were few major changes between the Auster marks, with the exception of the split trailing-edge flaps and revised cabin glazing that were introduced on the Mk III and the enlarged cockpit glazing of the Mks IV and V. Comparing the Mk I illustrated with Tony’s Mk III model shows how similar these two marks were. (Aerospace Publishing Ltd)
Austers also served with the Royal Australian Air Force in the south west Pacific and later versions served with post-war British squadrons on operations in Malaya, Suez and Korea.
The version of the Auster modelled in this article is the Auster Mk III and it is based on the recently released 1:48-scale kit by Sword.
The Auster Mk III was powered by a de Havilland Gipsy Major I engine, owing to worries about the supply of the American Lycoming engines of the previous Mk II. These problems never arose, however, and after 467 Mk Ills had been built the later wartime versions, the Mks IV and V, reverted to the US engine. Post-war, the Auster AOP. Mk 6 was powered by a de Havilland Gipsy Major VII.
The Auster Mk III saw action mostly overseas, having been almost fully replaced by the Mk IV at home by the time of D-Day, with only a few still remaining to go to France, mainly in the liaison role. It had, however, been on active service since 1942 in Tunisia and Sicily and went on to serve until the end of the war in Italy, Burma and with the Australians in the Pacific. The Australian Mk Ills gave tremendous service and went on to serve well into the 1950s.
With supplies of the Lycoming engine secured, British Taylorcraft reverted to the American engine for its Auster Mk IV (above left). The Mk V, shown at right, differed little from the Mk IV, but was fitted with a blind-flying panel. The Mk IV introduced the bulged upper rear cockpit glazing that was also retrofitted onto some Mk Ills. It was also the first Auster model to feature three seats, (both Aerospace Publishing Ltd)
The Sword kit is really very nice and consists of well detailed, limited-run injection-moulded plastic for the main airframe parts, with a vacform canopy, of which two examples are supplied in case of mistakes.
Among the injection-moulded parts are the many small pieces that will eventually represent the interior framework that is visible through the canopy. These parts need a lot of care to remove from the sprues and will all need a lot of cleaning up afterwards. I managed to snap a couple of mine and I hope that the repair work does not show up too much on the finished model. After all of these parts had been cleaned up, they were painted Interior Grey Green and left to one side.
On 8 March 1946 British Taylorcraft became Auster, production of the company’s AOP machines continuing with the Gypsy Major 7-engined Auster AOP. Mk 6. This aircraft was basically an improved, re-engined Auster Mk V. (Aerospace Publishing Ltd)
While the framework parts were drying I removed the cockpit floor, seats, control columns and the instrument panel from their sprues and dry fitted them into the already removed fuselage sides. Once I had worked out where everything fitted, I scored small lines to indicate this on the inside of the fuselage and then painted the interior parts in the the same Interior Grey Green as the framework, with the exception of the insides of the doors and the instrument panel, which were painted satin black. The insides of the doors were painted black to represent the leather interior of the actual doors. The real doors also had large map pockets incorporated into them, essential equipment for the AOP role.
The breakdown of the kit in the engine area might suggests that other Auster versions could be released with the Lycoming engine, or someone from the cottage industry could come to the rescue with some resin parts.
The engine cowlings were assembled next, while the interior parts were drying,
and they consisted of three parts for the sides and bottom with a one-piece frontal section, into which was fitted a very nicely detailed part to represent the front of the engine, as viewed through the air intake. The lower part includes the distinctive separate exhaust pipes of the Auster Mk III. The engine cowling went together with no trouble and was then left aside until later on.
As the interior parts were still drying, I decided to assemble the wings. These were simplicity itself to put together, being an upper and lower section for each wing. To make the model a little more interesting I decided to separate all of the control surfaces and reattach them slightly displaced. The ailerons were removed using a sharp scalpel blade and a razor saw. They were then sanded down and given a more rounded leading edge, before being reattached. For the rudder and elevators it was just a simple matter of scoring over their hinge lines and bending them into the desired positions.
Now that the interior parts were dry they were all dry brushed in silver to bring out the detail and then the floor was attached to one fuselage half, in preparation for adding the seats. The only addition that I made here was to place a radio set from the spares box behind the two seats. Next was the first part that I was dreading – adding the interior framework. To be honest this was not too bad at all, with everything meeting where it should, with the exception of the ‘V’-shaped bars that are attached to the instrument panel coaming. In the end, these were left to simply butt-join onto the coaming, but I am sure that they should have been longer and gone into the back of the coaming so that hey were flush with the windscreen instead of sitting well back as they do now. I will certainly replace these with longer plastic tube when I build a second model. Not withstanding this minor trouble, there were no other hiccups and the unique control columns, which are very long and disappear under the instrument panel, were fitted without problem. The fuselage halves were now joined and the engine section attached.
Once all of the parts were dry they were sanded to remove the joint lines and the undercarriage, with its pre-painted wheels, along with the pilot’s foot steps, were added.
Sword has provided some really nice colour options in the kit, including an anonymous D-Day striped aircraft, an overall-green Australian machine with a shark mouth and an immediate post-war example with underwing codes from the Polish-manned No. 663 Sqn that served in Italy with the Polish Division. I will eventually build all of these as they are all excellent options, but for an article I always like to build something different, so I chose to build an aircraft of the
India/Burma-based No. 656 Sqn, wearing SEAC roundels.
This squadron was formed in the UK on 31 December 1942 and went to India in August 1943. It became attached to the 14th Army and provided support all the way through the Burma campaign, eventually ending up in Kuala Lumpur to be disbanded in January 1947. The main home for the squadron while based in India was the airstrip of Deolali. It was based here alongside No. 1587 AOP Refresher Flight, as well as the jungle artillery school, which trained replacement crews before passing them to the active squadron. Later on in 1945 a further AOP unit, No. 659 Squadron, was sent out to India, arriving in October with the later Auster Mk Vs and Mk Vis, after having already served in north west Europe with the 21st Army.
I decided at this stage of partial assembly to start painting the little Auster. I brush painted two coats of Polyscale Dark Earth, followed by the disruption shade of Dark Green, onto the fuselage and the separate wings. These colours were standard for most wartime AOP aircraft, with the exception of certain aircraft based in India late in the war that carried an all-over silver scheme. I have only seen photographs of Auster Mk Vs wearing this scheme, however, so this may only apply to the later versions.
Now that the model was painted it was starting to look very nice, but I decided to add one more extra feature to it, apart from moving the control surfaces, and this was to open up one of the pilot’s doors. To do this was a simple matter of scoring along the door panel lines until the door came away, cutting out the window from the vacform canopy and adding this to the door. The door was then added to the model in the open position and the edges of the door were cleaned up and painted, as was the doorway, adding a little bit of silver to represent wear and tear. At this stage the propeller, which had been pre-painted black with yellow tips, was also added.
With its radio fit being such an integral part of the AOP mission, Tony was keen to simulate the Auster Mk Ill’s antennae. Careful use of elastic monofilament, brass and super glue produced this excellent result. (Tony O’Toole)
With its extensive cockpit glazing, the Auster Mk III pays great dividends for time spent on its cockpit interior. The internal framework is very evident in this image, although Tony is not convinced that the forward ‘V’ struts are correctly positioned. (Tony O’Toole)
Before adding the vacform canopy I decided to add the decals. To build the SEAC aircraft I had to rummage through my references to eventually come up with the serial MZ196. but unfortunately no photograph. During the campaign through Burma, No. 656 Sqn operated from many rough strips, but one of the favourite operating surfaces was a beach. I found a photograph of one of the squadron’s aircraft operating from such a location, as well as another picture in Scale Aircraft Modelling Vol 16 No 4 in an excellent feature on SEAC. Although the serials of both aircraft could not be deciphered in the pictures, I based my model of MZ196 on both of these.
The Austers wore the SEAC dark blue and light blue roundels, but these appeared quite large when compared to the very small type seen on most larger aircraft. I used items from the spares box to represent these markings, but there are decal sheets from Modeldecal (sheet 117) and Almark (sheet A3) that provide these roundels also. The serial came from Xtradecal sheet X021-48 and once the decals were added to the previously glossed surface, they were sealed with a further coat of gloss varnish. Finally, once the gloss was dry. Uie model was toned down using Polyscale acrylic matt varnish.
A low-angle shot shows the open cabin door, the pilot’s boarding steps and the tailplane rigging to advantage. The substantial underwing struts played an important role in Tony’s chosen method for attaching the wings to the fuselage. (Tony O’Toole)
I could no longer put off this next stage – it was finally time to add the vacform canopy and attach the wings. The canopy had been pre-painted and was removed from its plastic surround using a fresh scalpel blade. I scored along the panel lines, making the canopy a little larger than necessary to leave a bit of plastic to work with when fitting it to the fuselage. As ever, the inclusion of a spare canopy is very welcome, even though in this case it was not required. The canopy was dry fitted to the fuselage and the waste plastic whittled away gradually until the piece fitted. To attach it to the fuselage I used Humbrol Clear Fix. but reinforced this with very small amounts of super glue, making sure that this was only on the outside of the canopy to prevent the dreaded white mist. If any of this appears on the outside of the canopy then a stroke of a brush with a little gloss varnish will remove it.
Now that the canopy was attached. I had to work out how to put the wings on while keeping the whole thing nice and strong. I considered putting brass rods through the canopy to act as spars, but these would appear as extra framework and would be very obvious through the clear, glazed roof. With a little forethought I could have incorporated these into the interior framework at the beginning, but I did not. so I had to do something else. In the end I decided to add the wing struts to each wing, making sure they were nice and strong, and then attach the wings to the canopy using a mixture of Clear Fix and super glue. The struts supported the wings very well, but while they were drying a simple jig, made out of two stacks of books, was used to support them. The next day, when I removed the model from the books, it was nice and strong, so it is up to you whether you wish to add wing spars or not.
The main role of an AOP aircraft was to use its radio to communicate with the ground-based gunners, so the aircraft had to have some form of radio antenna. In the Auster Mk III this consisted of a dipole arrangement from one wing to the other, via the tail fin. This would need three attachment points, one in each wing and one on the tail and these were made out of brass rod. A nick was made in the tail fin using a scalpel blade, into which a length of brass rod was placed using super glue, and a hole was drilled into each wing for the other two attachment points. Once these were dry, I used elastic monofilament for the actual antennae and this was stretched between the attachment points, being held in place with super glue. The monofilament that I used is available from Aeroclub and is very useful for this kind of job, as well as for rigging biplanes. One of the advantages of using elastic is that if the model is knocked, then the antennae do not ping off into the carpet, since they simply bend and goes back to their original position. This same material was used to represent the rigging wires on the tailplane. To do this a small hole was drilled through the fin, into which the monofilament was threaded before it was stretched down into pre-drilled indentations in the tailplanes, to be held in place using more super glue. The monofilament for the antennae was painted with Humbrol Metalcote Steel and the rigging wires were painted dull silver.
Now that the model was nearly finished, I tidied up the paintwork and weathered it a little using water colours, which were mainly used to highlight the control surface joints, along with dry brushed enamels. The wheels especially were dirtied up, using a muddy brown colour to represent the sometimes bog-like conditions that the Burma-based units endured. A few more splashes of mud were added to the rear fuselage and the model was complete.
I really enjoyed this kit and I am glad I went that little bit further by altering the control surfaces and opening up the door. Assembling the Internal framework and attaching the wings were my main worries when starting the model, but these were easily dealt with and I can recommend this kit wholeheartedly. Hopefully some enterprising resin manufacturer will bring us an engine set for the Lycoming installation of the other Auster marks, which were more widespread than the Gypsy Major-engined Mk III. Indeed as mentioned earlier, the Mk III was only put into production due to a potential lack of Lycoming engines.
The prototype Auster Mk III (top) provides an interesting contrast with the completed Sword Auster Mk III kit. At the time of this photograph LB319 had not received the standard-pattern Mk III rear cockpit glazing. (upper Aerospace Publishing Ltd, lower Tony O’Toole)
I intend building a few more of these little Austers, especially the shark-mouthed Aussie example and if a Lycoming installation does appear, then that opens the way for a nice silver-painted Fleet Air Arm Auster Mk V.
I read with interest Trevor Glover’s article on constructing a Tornado GR. Mk 4A and would like to offer some comments on the real thing. Post-MLU aircraft no longer have the area in front of the windscreen painted black. Since all the aircraft have fully NVG-compatible cockpits, the inside of the canopy frame, cockpit sill, and rear cockpit instrument top box are all painted black (see attached cockpit pictures). As the Revell kit is based on the German IDS Tornado, the fin-mounted RWR fairings are too wide. If you compare the picture of the real thing on page 318 with that of the model on 319, you will see that the width of the fairing on the model needs to be reduced. This is because the Luftwaffe uses a different system to the RAF. I have included further pictures to show other differences between the Tornado GR. Mk 1 and GR. Mk 4. One image shows the intercooler intake underneath the aircraft, which has a larger inlet than that on the GR. Mk 1 and now has holes drilled into its faring. The final shot shows the pre-cooler intake at the base of the fin. This is also larger than on the GR. Mk 1 and is now similar to that on the F. Mk 3. The exhaust at the base of the fin has also been increased in size. Finally, on the subject of external stores, unfortunately Trevor has fitted the outboard stores the wrong way round – Sky Shadow only fits on the left side of the aircraft. The pictures of the real ‘U’ in the article show it carrying a live BOZ on the right and a dummy BOZ (for ballast) on the left. On the picture on page 318 you can just make out the blue band around the nose of the pod indicating that it is inert. I hope you find this information helpful.
I have long been an admirer of David Howley’s artwork and your excellent magazine. I agree with Mr Howley (June issue, 25/5) that the separation between Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey is hardly detectable in monochrome pictures. I believe most of No. 45 Sqn’s Beaufighters had the standard Day Fighter Camouflage of Dark Green and Dark Sea Grey, with Medium Sea Grey undersurfaces and a Sky (fighter) fuselage band. The fuselage band was definitely not white, as stated in WgCmdr C. G. Jefford’s book on the history of No. 45. There is a picture of a No. 84 Sqn Beaufighter with the band in Beaufighters in Action and it clearly shows that the band is a colour appreciably darker than white. When the Beaufighters were repainted and given post-war ‘DType’ roundels the fuselage band was dropped.
An equally puzzling feature of No. 45 Sqn is the painting of the spinners on its Hornets. According to Jefford they had alternate bands of Dark Blue/Red/Dark Blue/Pale Blue/Dark Blue (from the front). Does anyone know the reason for this?
I have to question the descriptions of the current RAF Jaguar colour scheme as given in your previous issues (May, 25/3 and June, 25/4). You call the lower surface colour Medium Sea Grey and the upper surface colour Dark Camouflage Grey. Surely the correct colours are Dark Sea Grey (BS381C:638) upper surfaces with Dark Camouflage Grey (BS381C:629) over the rest of the airframe – the same shades as carried by Tornados GR. Mk 4s and Harrier GR. Mk 7s. Neither of these colours are the same as Medium Sea Grey ((BS381C:637) or Camouflage Grey ((BS381C:638), the former being carried on most Royal Navy aircraft (Sea Harrier FA. Mk 2, Merlin, etc). The latter shade, the BS381C incorporation of the colour known as Barley Grey, is carried on Tornado F. Mk 3s and as an ARTF finish on Operation Warden Harriers and Jaguars. Both of these shades are lighter than Dark Camouflage Grey.
I hope you do not think of this as nit picking, but I think it is important that these colours are described correctly.
Thanks are due to Mike Ingham of Wantage, Oxfordshire, who also wrote in to tell us of our error concerning the Jaguar camouflage colours in the May (25/3) and June (25/4) issues. Our apologies for any inconvenience caused to readers.
Apart from the photograph referred to by Davide Di Odoardo in the June (25/4) issue, most photographs of Korean War Firefly FR. Mk Is show the aircraft before theatre stripes were added. The one exception to this is on page 21 of The Korean Air War by Dorr and Thompson, published by Motorbooks International in 1994. This shows an FR. Mk 1 which is unfortunately largely hidden by canvas covers over its propeller, engine and cockpit canopy, with the rear of the fuselage out of shot. Nevertheless, it is clearly painted in the old scheme of Extra Dark Sea Grey/Dark Sea Grey/Sky, as illustrated in the Warpaint series. The ‘C-Type’ roundel on the upper surface is over the stripes on the upper surface of the wing. The stripes are painted across the outer part of the wing, as shown on page 11 of Warpaint No. 11, for the Royal Australian Navy. The fuselage stripes are not visible in the photograph, but it is probably safe to assume that they were similar to those on the Seafire Mk 47s.
The aircraft number on the canvas covers is ‘272’ and the serial number on the propeller cover is VG978. Most VG-serialled Fireflys were convered to FR. Mk 4s, but this would seem to be an exception.
Concerning Neil Robinson’s comments, in the May (25/3) edition of my favourite model magazine, about the length of model shows, there are a number of factors that I believe have contributed to the return of the one-day show, in the UK at least. I am interested in model railways as well as model aircraft and make the following comments based on my experience.
Our last model railway exhibition was held at the local school. For the hire of school facilities for two and a half days, the cost was in excess of £3,500. The local civic hall was asking a similar fee for its facilities. We are now planning a move to the church hall were we hold our regular meetings. Here we could hold a one-day show at a much reduced cost. We also hold an open day, which is free to the public to help attract more interest to our society.
The setting up of any exhibition is time and energy consuming and it often seems that the same people take on this responsibility again and again.
In addition, the society I belong to was, when I first joined, the only model railway society to hold an exhibition for miles around and therefore our events were well patronised and we gave a pretty good show. Now, however, there are at least six other shows within a four-mile radius and one tends to see the same layouts more often, so that their impact is lessened. We try to bring in layouts from other parts of the country, but the downside to this is again the cost – of fuel, accomodation, etc.
Lastly, the size of the club or society has an impact on how large or ambitious a show can be planned. Larger clubs can offer more in the way of show facilities because they have more finances and greater manpower to actually organise and run shows.
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