1:72 Westland Wessex HAS.31
Review by Michael Johnson
Wessex is essentially a licence-built Sikorsky S-58
fitted with one (or two) turbo shaft engines in place of the original
piston power plant, and converted to anti-submarine, utility and
The Mk.31, a variation
on the RN HAS.3, was ordered by the Royal Australian Navy for
operations from the carrier HMAS Melbourne.
Twenty-seven were delivered in the twelve months from November 1962.
Some served in a training role at the Nowra shore base, and others
with HS 817 Sqn. on the Melbourne. In 1969
the 23 surviving Wessex’s were upgraded to Mk.31B standard, identifiable
by the bulged gear housing behind the main rotor.
The Wessex was phased
out of anti-submarine duties from 1975 by the Sea King, and 725 Sqn.
was disbanded. The Wessex’s joined 723 Sqn. for miscellaneous
duties including Army support. The Wessex’s underwent a revival
in 1984 when they replaced the Navy's Grumman Trackers, often operating
from ships such as HMAS Stalwart and HMAS Tobruk,
as well as from Nowra.
and utility helicopter.
|COUNTRY of ORIGIN
||One Napier/Rolls Royce Gazelle
162 turboshaft of 1600 shp
diam.: 56 ft 0 in / 17.07 m.
• Fuselage length: 48 ft 4.5 in
/ 14.74 m
• Height: 16 ft 2 in / 4.93 m.
8,900 lb / 4,037 kg
• Max. loaded: 14,000 lb / 6,350 kg
•Max. speed: 110 kts /
•Max. cruise: 105 kts / 195 kph
•Max. climb: 1,540 ft/ 469 m. per min
•Service ceiling: 14,100 ft / 4,298 m.
•Normal range: 262 n.mls / 483 km.
||(ASW) Two externally mounted
With HT 725 (training)
at Nowra, and HS 817 Squadron (HMAS Melbourne); from 1975,
when replacement Sea Kings arrived, Wessex’s transferred to 723
Another of my end of project-on to the
next, stash perusals yielded this old gem, purchased for the princely
sum of $4 from a fellow club member, who was happy to pass it on to
me as he knew I would build it.
This is the most recent
boxing of the Matchbox Wessex, issued by Revell Germany
during the early to mid nineties. The decals seem to be better than
other Matchbox re-releases by Revell Germany decals
that are often thick, indistinct and reluctant to settle down on anything
but a flat surface, even with decal treatments!
So what is in the box?
There are three sprues within the typical box, all moulded in light
grey and a clear sprue for the canopy and windows. The canopy is rather
thickly moulded but has nicely defined framing. The RAN HAS.31 option
consists of a new nose and exhaust stubs.
Two decal options are
provided, along with an instruction sheet with painting instructions
for two helicopters, one RN and the other RAN.
The kit is typical of
Matchbox, but with very fine raised panel lines other than the more
usual trench like panel lines. Dry fitting indicated that the kit went
together very well, with the most glaring inaccuracies centred on the
cockpit and minor shape issues. Well I was not after a contest winner
here at all, so I could safely ignore all the shortcomings built into
the kit or otherwise.
The traditional "Matchbox" tri-colour
Assembly started with
the cockpit. Matchbox supply two seats, a centre console, foot pedals,
joysticks and an instrument panel. The seats are certainly too tall
but I did not want to accurise this kit, preferring to just add some
Tamiya masking tape harnesses. While the seats were drying I scratch
built a collective lever and cemented that in the correct position.
I used various shades of Vallejo acrylics to paint all the cockpit
The instructions called
for the removal of the RN type nose so that the RAN style nose could
be added. This was done with a scalpel, lightly scoring along the moulded
guides on each fuselage half until the nose came away. A quick wipe
over with wet n dry tidied up the cut.
The main cabin was devoid
of any sort of detail whatsoever, so the installed floor and cockpit
sides were quickly painted Vallejo Basalt Grey and
the cabin windows added. Once the paint was dry I added the floor and
cockpit tub to one fuselage half and then used masking tape to hold
both fuselage halves together, thus ensuring each assembly was square
and true while the cement cured.
The remainder of assembly
proceeded smoothly and rather quickly, with only small amounts of filler
in most areas required to smooth out ill fitting joints. I found the
rotor gear housing covers very troublesome with significant filler
required to smooth over the seam line and restore the surface contours.
To add to this, cleanup was complicated by the need to protect raised
Once this was done I
cleaned up, polished and masked the canopy. The masked canopy was offered
up to the fuselage and cemented into place with clear parts cement,
reinforced with a careful application of liquid cement; this filled
any gaps between the fuselage and the canopy. A quick application of
white glue, with excess wiped away with a wet mk1 finger, smoothed
out any remaining gaps. The cockpit side windows were added at this
stage as well and did not fit very well at all, requiring some work
to get a somewhat decent fit.
Once masking was completed,
I attached the main gear legs to the fuselage. Matchbox supplies each
assembly in two parts. This proved troublesome and much manipulation
was needed to achieve correct sit and to ensure the assemblies were
symmetrical. I am still not exactly happy with the final placement;
it appears that the main gear sits “low” in relation to
Photographs © Michael Johnson
Now that construction
was finished I could settle down to masking fun and painting. I started
with the white area, using a mixture of Tamiya white
primer and Citadel skull white to achieve a nice even
white finish. This was left to cure for a week while I continued with
other sub components. I then used Tamiya masking tape
to mask the demarcation line between the oxford blue and white. Cut
into thin strips, Tamiya masking tape is excellent
for masking around bends and corners.
I then used a spray can
of Model Master Sea Blue, this giving a good shade
approximation of the Oxford Blue used on the Wessex. The spray went
on thick and did not seem to cure very well at all, so I sanded back
the flaws as well as I could and over painted the area with Aeromaster
USN Sea Blue. Certainly not the exact blue I was looking for as it
is a little too green in shade but looked good enough based on some
colour pics I have of the Wessex. Removing the masking revealed some
minor runs which were dealt with fine wet n dry used wet and some touch
up painting with white paint. The winch frame was then added with the
winch mechanism box cover painted Vallejo flat black.
The completed airframe
was put aside to cure prior to application of Johnson's “Super
Stride” (Future equivalent) with a wide flat brush kept
especially for this purpose. Now the Wessex was ready for decaling.
The decals performed
like champions, adhering very well even after several adjustments in
position. I was a little alarmed at the milky coloured decal adhesive,
but this dried perfectly clear. Indeed the only issue with the decals
was the nose number, which needed some cuts with the scalpel and repeated
applications of decal solution to help conform over the surface. A
subsequent touch-up with white paint was required to fill up the resulting
gaps in the decal.
I then turned my attention
to the main and tail rotor assemblies which needed careful painting
and assembly, followed by weathering with a sludge wash.
All finished assemblies
were washed with warm water to remove any decal glue residue and then
airbrushed with Pollyscale flat clear to seal everything in and impart
a uniform finish. As per my previous Matchbox F9F-5 Panther, the flat
clear really gives a good in-scale gloss finish without making the
finished model look toylike. Checking out reference photo’s confirmed
this as in service pictures indicated a well worn gloss finish fading
to a more eggshell or very low sheen finish. Only the examples preserved
in museums had a factory fresh glossy finish.
The exterior aerial wires
were then added using smoke coloured invisible thread and the rotor
assemblies added. My Wessex was now finished.
I then noticed that the
warning danger arrows were pointing the wrong way, oh well, a good
example of not checking references more thoroughly whilst applying
Frog and Matchbox were
the only game in town for those modellers wanting to add a Wessex kit
to their collection, until Italeri released a superb offering with
full interior detail. (Revell’s kit is a re-boxed Italeri kit
and the old Frog kit has been re-released recently by Eastern Express).
I am unaware of any 1:48 scale kits currently available for the Wessex,
though there was a 1:48 Revell kit some years ago.
This little Matchbox
Wessex however, inaccuracies aside, builds up very well indeed and
would make an ideal first kit foray into the diverse world of helicopter
I have ordered the Italeri Wessex as
I am most taken by the canary yellow rescue version!
Good fun and it looks great!
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