KITS AT WAR DECALS

The RAAF’s ‘other’ Pig


Kits at War sheet K7/14, “RAAF, RNZAF and RAF


Review by Damian Coburn


Introduction

A couple of days ago I received among other things my Kits at War sheet for RAAF Venturas from Hannants via Snowy Mts Models, and I thought others may be interested in its contents. 

To get straight to the point: this is a very good decal sheet and, as far as I can judge, well researched.

The sheet is Kits at War sheet K7/14, “RAAF. RNZAF.  RAF: Ventura No. 464 Sqn RAAF.  Ventura No. 487 RNZAF.  Marauder 1 No.14 Sqn. RAF.  Marauder III No.39 Sqn.RAF.  Mosquito Mk.VI No.21 Sqn. BAFO. Lockheed Lightning I.

Kits at War, as most of you will be aware, is a brand name of Dutch Decals.  I don’t know why DD sell under this other brand, but perhaps it is a reasonable guess that DD is known for Dutch topics and they wanted another brand for non-Dutch subjects.
 
The subjects on some decals sheets are linked by type; some by a common campaign; and some are just a buncha aircraft owned by the same airforce.  As you can see this is of the last type, but a very interesting range of subjects for that.

I bought the sheet for the 464 Sqn Venturas, easing my unsuccessful research efforts.  Therefore I’ll focus my comments on them. 

The Ventura, for those who’s tastes may not run to these things, was a bigger and faster version of the Hudson.  It was also universally disliked as far as I can tell, at least by Commonwealth users in the ETO and MTO, and gained the nickname “the Pig”.  Three RAAF squadrons (if you don’t mind this interpretation of the ‘national character’ clauses in the EATS) used the Ventura; 464 in the ETO, 459 in the MTO, and 13 in the Pacific.  A bit of trivia, though probably well known in this forum: Gough Whitlam was a navigator in Venturas on 13 Sqn.

464 SQN was given its Venturas on formation in September 1942, and with the other two British-based Ventura Sqns, 487 RNZAF and 21 RAF, formed 140 Wing of 2 Group.  They then went on to demonstrate that while faster than the Hudson, the Ventura was not up to the job in that theatre at that stage of the war.  On their first mission in early December, while effective fighter cover prevented interference from the Luftwaffe, 9 of 47 aircraft from all squadrons failed to return, all shot down by flak.  Three of 14 aircraft despatched from 464 were lost. 

This was a low-level mission.  The Wing changed to medium-level tactics but the pattern of losses from flak was continued.  Worse, in May 43, 11 aircraft from 487 failed to rendezvous with their escorts on a raid on Amsterdam.  Having had the importance of the mission impressed on them they continued: and were massacred by 32 fighters.  Ten failed to return.  The formation leader, SQNLDR (later GPCAPT) L. Trent was shot down and captured, and was later awarded the VC for the mission.  Trent’s aircraft is featured on the decal sheet (I learned this bit of history before finding it on the instructions by the way).

The Wing soldiered on with Venturas until July, when re-equipping commenced with the Mosquito FBVIs with which they gained their later fame.  As for the seven months with Venturas: maybe they gained valuable experience, but for many losses in an inferior aircraft.  For what it is worth, 459 operated Venturas for an even shorter period: five months in 1944, between Hudsons and Baltimores, in the anti-shipping role.  13 Sqn progressively equipped with and operated Venturas from late 1944 to the end of the war.

Back to the decals.  They come on an A5 sheet (roughly) sheet, plus a small sheet with nose art.  The large sheet has minimal film around the decals, and the small sheet has continuous film.  Registration looks perfect.  This is helped by all the roundels that include white being in two or three parts: yellow outline where relevant; blue and white; and red centre.  The separate yellow is a nice change from decals from kit manufacturers who don’t seem to get what the separate parts are for, and give you a separate red centre but an out-of-register yellow surround.  The yellow surrounds, by the way, are on a ring of decal film so even with the three-part decals there will only be two layers of film in the centres of the roundels.  The fin flashes are single part but look fine.  The nose art items are also all provided with white background, except the winged bomb for the Marauder III, which is all black and white anyway.

You get roundels for each unique type: ie one Ventura, each of the marauders (roundels are different as noted below), and each of the lightning and mosquito.  Some thoughtful touches: you get two sets of Ventura fuselage roundels each combined with one set of codes (one each RAAF and RNZAF), so less fiddling with positioning codes if you happen to pick those options.  Also because you get two sets of fuselage roundels and the Marauder wing roundels are the right size for one option, you can do two Venturas if you forego that Marauder – though the instructions don’t tell you this.  There are also enough fin flashes for this, noting that twin-tailed aircraft need four (I got a bit excited by the number of fin flashes until I worked this out – I also can’t find it in the instructions), assuming I can count – there also seems to be an extra ‘B-type’ roundel I can’t find a use for.  Yup, 16 fin flashes is enough for three twin-tails and two single-tails.  Of course if you start with the Minicraft Ventura II you get the kit decals as well (which are for a 21 Sqn aircraft, by the way, so if you are really keen you can complete the set of UK stationed Ventura Sqns.  I don’t think I’m that keen).

The instructions are in black and white, but are available in colour on their website www.kitsatwar.nl (and you don’t need to have bought the decals to view the site).


Aircraft types

The aircraft represented are as follows.  All the Venturas are in the temperate day bomber scheme of dark green, dark earth and sky (more of this anon) with roundels on upper wings and fuselage sides.

  • Venturas EGoA/AJ478, EGoV/AJ209, and EGoYH/AE660 of 487 SqnRNZAF.  All carry mission markings.  “V” has a small four-legged animal looking a bit like a bilby but with shorter legs, and is the Trent VC aircraft.  “YH” has a small winged dragon and the underside of the port wing and stabiliser, and fuselage aft of the wing leading edge, are black as an exercise marking.  The ‘H’ is applied in roundel blue in spectacularly rough fashion.
  • Venturas SBoJ/AE854 “Joybelle” and SBoO/AE853 “WHAKATANGATA” of 464 Sqn RAAF.  “Joybelle” has what looks like a cartoon winged insect in RAAF uniform and holding a pistol and something else I can’t identify (anyone?), and “WHAKATANGATA” has a kangaroo and a kiwi over a boomerang.  There is a nice photo of this aircraft on the AWM site.  Looking at the photo (and the organisation of the lettering on the decal – its too small for me too read!) I think the boomerang has the words “Per Adua Ad Australiam”, which also appears on another Ventura with Australian and NZ iconography, SBoF, which has an emu and a kiwi over a boomerang marked with that wording.

Here by the way is possibly my only beef with the decal sheet.  All the aircraft are listed as Ventura Is.  464 at least had a fair number of IIs and adf.serials.com says “O” is one of these.  I think Lax and Kane-Maguire’s “The Gestapo Hunters” may include a list of all aircraft flown by 464, including types and serials.  I might mention there are also variations as to gun fits in noses and turrets even within types I think, but this may need guesswork particularly as to the turrets (photos tend to be of noses).  In particular, some aircraft seem to have been fitted with a pair of fixed nose guns replacing the single one in the transparent nose, making four instead of three nose guns.  As far as I know, Ventura Is didn’t have the Boulton Paul turret of the II.  This will make a difference to what kit you choose.

Back to the aircraft:

  • Mosquito FBVI YHoH/TA471 of 21 Sqn RAF in 1947, used as a shuttle aircraft between the UK and Nuremburg during the war crimes trials(!).  This has ‘c-type’ roundels on upper wings and fuselage and a badge on the fin.  Standard night-fighter scheme (unusual for a FBVI I would have thought) of dark green over overall medium sea grey but, interestingly and attractively, yellow with black-outlined codes, a silver nose with a thin black stripe, and yellow and silver spinners with a thin black demarcation line.  The thin black lines are also provided as decals.  21 Sqn of course operated Venturas and later Mosquitos with 464 and 487.
  • Marauder I D/FK375 “Dominion Revenge” of 14 Sqn RAF, Egypt 1942.  Standard Mediterranean scheme of dark earth and middle stone over azure blue, roundels on upper wings and fuselage sides.  This was a torpedo/reconnaissance squadron and the aircraft carried torpedos externally.  The instructions recommend the Monogram snap-kit, which presumably is the only available kit of the short-wing/small tail version.  This seems to be a moderately famous aircraft and has been done in various diecast versions.  It seems that 14 Squadron was particularly notable for the large numbers of Australians and South Africans serving in it.  Perhaps this explains the name, even though I can’t find any information to suggest the pilot of this aircraft and 14 squadron commander, WGCDR ‘Dick” Maydwell, was not British.  I would be interested to be told differently.
  • Marauder III, K/HD610 of 39 Sqn RAF, Italy 1944-46.  Winged bomb noseart (on the main sheet).  Olive drab over neutral gray.  Interestingly, c-type roundels on upper wings as well as fuselage sides.
  • Lightning I AE979, Burbank USA.  This is the sole example of the lightning taken on charge, and then rejected, by the RAF.  I can see some wanting the decal sheet for this aircraft alone, though it doesn’t entirely float my boat.  Temperate day scheme with roundels in six positions, A-type where relevant.  This will require some conversion as it wasn’t equipped with superchargers.  I understand that the US Govt wouldn’t let Lockheed provide the RAF with aircraft with propellers turning in opposite directions, and this affected performance and has been suggested as one of the reasons why the RAF rejected the aircraft.  Perfectionists (not me) may wish to attend to this aspect as well.  Kits at war tell you to fix the superchargers and exhausts: no hints on how to do this, but anyone capable of this probably can also find the references.

Paints and colour schemes

If all that’s not interesting enough, there was a real surprise in store in that Kits at War have actually made a serious attempt to correctly cite ANA [Army and Navy Aircraft] equivalents of RAF colours.  I first noted this in looking at the colour downloads of the instructions.  “Hmm”, I said, “typical.  They’ve used DG/DE/Sky.  Don’t they know they should be using DuPont equivalents which should be sandy brown, medium green and either pale grey or pale blue?”  Well Kits at War are ahead of me on two fronts.  First, for the Venturas and the Lightning, they actually do quote ANA colours (actually reading the instructions rather than just looking at the pretty pictures helped here).  They have correctly identified that the aircraft are in equivalent shades, not RAF colours.  Secondly, at the time these aircraft were in use, the ANA standards had arrived and they are a very different kettle of fish to the earlier, and in some cases poorer, matches that one would use on one’s Milne Bay Kittyhawk Is and DB7s.  Basically, the ANA colours in use here are 617 and 613 over 610 which are, respectively, ANA dark earth and olive drab over ANA sky.  I understand these versions of dark earth and sky were good matches for the RAF colours.  Olive drab was an agreed substitute for dark green and wasn’t intended at all to be a ‘match’ as such other than, well, they’re both green.  Ish.

They quote Xtracolour paints as well as the ANA standards and FS colours.  For ANA 617 dark earth they suggest FS30118.  This is a quite greenish-brown (I’ve seen it described as “field drab”) post-war USAF colour, though I don’t know for what scheme.  I’m sure someone will tell me.  You pays yer money and you takes yer choice.

A few really picky, and slightly stream of consciousness, points about the colour instructions.  As we all know use of FS colours to match ANA and BS standards is bogus, but many modellers expect it and Kits at War have provided.  They recommend Xtracolour X7 for sky.  This is Xtracolour’s version of BS210, ie RAF sky.  Kits at War suggest FS34424, which is a pale grey.  Question: is it like ANA610?  I don’t know but as I’ve already mentioned, I gather ANA 610 was a reasonable match for BS210 and the colour instructions certainly show a colour very like RAF sky, computer screen colour inaccuracies notwithstanding (plus down at the club, when someone comes over and says “I’m afraid to tell you that US built aircraft weren’t painted in RAF colours, and the underside should be pale grey”, you can answer [rubbing your chin thoughtfully]  “of course, but that was prior to the establishment of the ANA standards and the ANA 610 is actually quite a good match for BS210”).  The Marauder I in the Mediterranean scheme has BS colours quoted whereas these should be ANA colours I would have thought.  However as well as doing good matches for dark earth and sky, the ANA versions of middle stone and azure blue were also supposed to be reasonably.  Yes the US had their own version of sand, but they kept the ANA middle stone in production and Dana Bell cites a document suggesting they thought at one stage of dropping their own version of sand and using middle stone on US-operated aircraft.  But: if you are going to plump for FS30118 for ANA617 on the Venturas, then you should do so for the Mediterranean scheme Marauder as well (not to mention your Kittyhawk IIIs and IVs with kangaroos kicking dachshunds, etc).

Conclusion

The proof of the pudding is in the dunking and sliding, but I think this is one of the best presented and thought-out decal sheets I have seen in a while.

References

In case I had tricked anyone into thinking I am an expert, I relied heavily on Steve Eather’s “Flying Squadrons of the Australian Defence Force” and Dana Bell’s “Aviation Colour Primers No 1: US Export Colors of WWII” – though the comments about how good matches are between ANA and BS colours are drawn from my recollections of reading, not Bell.


 

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