Sea Shall Not Have Them...”
1/72 “Whaleback” Air Sea Rescue Launch
by Anthony "Pappy" Papadis
Sea Shall Not Have Them...” this was the motto
of the Royal Air Force Air Sea Rescue Service (
The subject of this build is the venerable old Airfix chestnut, which
was originally released in 1979, and is currently available again.
The ASR boats were colloquially known as “whalebacks” due
to their distinctive cambered deck. Designed by the British Power Boat
Company (BPB Company), the RAF’s ‘Whalebacks’ played
a pivotal role in rescuing thousands of downed aircrew, from death or
capture. The BPB Company’s
Type Two 63Ft HSL was capable of a maximum of 36kts, powered by three
500hp Napier Sea Lions, guzzling 60 gallons/hr each. ASR boats serviced
the coast of Britain, the Mediterranean (notably Malta) and the Indian
The kit instructions
take the form of the typical Airfix A4 booklet with clear illustrations.
The kit can be built in one of two configurations, an early 1941 boat
with light defensive armament, or two later examples from 1944, which
were more heavily armed and had better shrapnel protection.
I chose to build the later, specifically
boat 156, callsign “Seagull 70”. This particular boat was
commanded by Flying Officer Geoffrey Lockwood (D.S.C) out of 128 ASR
Unit, Newhaven , 1943-44. In October 1944, ‘Seagull 70’ rescued
two downed B-17 crews (totalling 19 men) from the middle of a minefield!
That was good enough for me, ‘Seagull 70’ it would be!!
The builder will need to decide early
on which confiiguration they will want, as there are several holes
that need to be opened up before the deck is attached to the hull.
with the vertically split hull, to which the one piece deck is attached.
I found that there was little of no gap at the bow, however, a gap
appeared towards the stern. The problem appeared to be that the rear
transom did not spread the rear hull far enough apart, with a resultant
I had not test fitted the parts,
a classic rookie mistake! I shimmed the gap with plastic strip and
added putty, lesson learned I moved on!!
The next major sub-assembly is the
wheel-house. I had no references for the interior and little can be
seen in any case. Detail provided is very basic, simply a steering
wheel, helmsman & commander figures. The officer’s hatch
was left open. I added an electrical cable to the back of the spotlight
mounted on the wheel house roof. I also replaced the clear screen around
the hatch with acetate sheet from a blister pack, as I felt the kit
part was overly thick.
The cabin section follows next. This
is divided into an upper deck and two sides. Unfortunately, Airfix
have moulded the grab rails with the upper deck piece, which means
that there are two prominent seams to tackle. I cut off the grab rails
and cleaned up the seam. I then used the grab rail parts as a template
to drill locating holes and replaced the lost detail with plastic rod.
I didn’t fit the cabin windows as I didn’t want to bother
masking them. I simply left them out and would replace the ‘glass’ at
the end with PVA wood glue applied with a toothpick.
Various stowage boxes, rail fittings
and pipes are added to the deck next. Depending on the configuration
, different items will be added. Since I would be building a later
1944 boat, I needed to add the 20mm Oelikon. I built a replacement
splinter shield from plastic card as the kit item was overly thick.
The twin Lewis guns were assembled next, and put aside, as were the
turrets and the Oerlikon.
I replaced all the masts with new
items built from brass and plastic rod, mainly because I hate cleaning
up seams on round sections, and they look nicer.
The deck was now sprayed, followed
by the hull. Once all the major colours were on, the kit was given
several light coats of Future floor polish, and the decals were applied.
I then added a wash of various greys and browns, followed by a light
dry-brush. I added paint chips to the hull using thinned brown paint,
applied with 000 brush. A matt varnish coat followed and the turrets
and armament were added.
I wanted to add a human element,
to give an idea of scale. The kit includes four figures (CO, helmsman
,gunner and a dude with a life preserver) whilst in reality, the full
complement was nine. I was able to scrounge a couple of extra gunner
figures (Thanks Keith!!), which were placed in the Vickers .303 turrets.
I also manned one of the twin Vickers to add some interest.
None of the figure poses were modified.
I drilled a small hole in one of the feet, into which a small length
of brass rod was glued. Once I determined where I wanted to place the
crew, a small hole was drilled into the deck and the brass rod was
inserted into the hole and the figure was glue in place with a spot
The last job was the
rigging. I am not an avid ship builder, indeed, this is my first boat
kit. The rigging filled me with dread. I used a product called Ezy-Line
for the rigging. This is a stretchy rubber string like material that
can stretch up to seven times its own length before it breaks. It also
only requires slight pressure to look taut. This would be
important as my scratchbuilt masts were very thin, and too much pressure
and they would begin to bend under the tension. Thankfully, I was able
to achieve the desired result with very little tension.
The boat sits on the kit provided
stands, which in turn are fixed to a simple wooden base, onto which
a brass name plaque was added.
All in all, not a bad little kit.
Not without some issues, but a fun build,, and a nice change from aircraft.
The kit is pretty cheap and superdetailers can go to town, opening
up the cabin etc.