Fairey Battle IIA

Gallery Article by Dave Bailey, aka The Rat on Jan 3 2021

Silly Week 2021



As Britain approached WWII, it was clear that RAF Coastal Command was operating a rather motley collection of obsolete and obsolescent aircraft that would not be adequate for defending the shores of the nation, or harrying enemy shipping at longer distances. The only capable aircraft was the Short Sunderland, but something was needed to replace the ancient Vickers Vildebeest, Supermarine Stranraer, and Saro London, and the short-ranged Avro Anson. Proposals to re-equip with various more modern mounts were proposed, and one that saw service was the Fairey Battle, which was modified with the Bristol Pegasus XXII engine. A loss of 20hp from the RR Merlin II was more than offset by a significant reduction in engine weight, which was also aided by obviating the need for a liquid cooling system.

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Number 12 Squadron was moved from Bomber Command to Coastal command, and new camouflage was applied. Attacks on shipping were regular and carried out with some success, and made a significant dent in Axis supply lines. On the 12th of May, 1940, two aircraft from 12 Squadron intercepted an armed German merchantman that was steaming through the North Sea, and began to attack. The lead aircraft was flown by Flying Officer Donald Garland and Air observer/Navigator Sergeant Thomas Gray, and began while the other aircraft circled and watched for enemy fighter cover. Attacking at low level, FO Garland pressed home his attack despite withering and accurate anti-aircraft fire from the ship, and managed to cripple it with his first two bombs. A third bomb missed, but the fourth hit amidships, and caused such damage that the crew quickly abandoned the vessel, which sank in minutes.

Sadly, the final run was also damaging to the aircraft, which crashed into the sea with the loss of both crew. In recognition of their gallantry, both F.O. Garland and Sgt. Gray were awarded the Victoria Cross. 

The Build
The Airfix Fairey Battle is definitely not up to modern standards, and there are accuracy issues, but it is still a fairly easy and pleasant build, apart from the fiddly landing gear. But that's on Fairey, not Airfix, they seem to have taken a perverse pleasure in making things difficult for future model designers and builders. Modifying it to take the nose section from the Matchbox Vickers Wellesley LRDU variant was fairly straightforward, sawing off the original nose, a little filing to accommodate the new one, and it was done. The only other modifications were to replace the bomb doors with thinner plastic card, and sand down the tops of the bombs to fit into their bays without hanging below the bottom surface of the wing. The greenhouse canopy is not the easiest thing to mask and paint, modelers who hate that task (looks in mirror) will have that hate buttressed by this one. The story of Garland and Gray is half true, as they lost their lives, and were awarded the VC, for their attack on two bridges over the Albert Canal in Belgium. I couldn't modify the back story without rewarding their gallantry, albeit in a different theatre of operations. Salute.

Dave Bailey

Photos and text by Dave Bailey