Bombers, 1939
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley II – Amiot 143 – Dornier Do17F

By the northern summer of 1939 Europe’s great powers had been preparing for war for more than three years. From as early as 1935 the clouds of war had been gathering and governments had been building up their armed forces in expectations of conflict. Air forces had been expanding rapidly and more powerful and effective aircraft had been brought into service. However, by the standards of what would follow after only a couple of years of war, the equipment they had on the eve of war seems quaintly outdated. Here’s three examples.

Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk II in 1/72 by Frog with conversion parts
This aircraft was designed to meet the Royal Air Force requirement for a combined heavy bomber and troop transport. These two roles were necessary to give Britain an aircraft that could fly to and fight in parts of the British Empire a long way from home. The prototype first flew in March 1936 and they began entering service a year later. They were the first ‘modern’ bomber flown by the RAF and evolved rapidly through a series of versions with improved engines and other features including better armament. At the beginning of the war the RAF had 196 Whitley’s flying in seven operational squadrons. They were Britain’s first night bomber which saw action on the first night of the war when they dropped propaganda leaflets over Germany. They were, however, already obsolete, retired from front-line service as bombers in 1942 but flew in other roles for the rest of the war.

I made this model from the Whitley Mk VI which was published by Frog in 1972 and has appeared in many guises since then. It was a good kit for it’s time but does not seem so good many decades later. Being unhappy with the quality of the in-line engines of the kit, I acquired conversion parts to make an earlier version which had radial engines. However, making that conversion was one of the things that made me go grey before my time. If you want a radial engined Whitley have a look at the 2014 Fly Models kit which looks a little to me like a version of the Frog kit with new parts. The review on the mmscalemodels website gives it the thumbs up. <<>> If you want the later in-line engined version the Fly Models kit comes in that version too but all the experts recommend the 2015 Airfix kit. Modelling Madness and Fine Scale Modeller give it good reviews and the reviewer in Hyperscale praises the quality of this kit and declares it a ‘lovely build’.

Amiot 143 in 1/72 by Smer
Development of this aircraft began in 1928 to meet a specification for a monoplane capable of day and night bombing, long-range reconnaissance and escorting bombers. The first version of this aircraft, the Amiot 140 made its maiden flight in April 1931 but the French Air Ministry revised its requirements, leading to the improved Amiot 143 which first flew in August 1934. They were introduced into service in July 1935 and 138 were built between 1935 and 1937. By the beginning of war these aircraft were obsolete and being replaced by more modern aircraft, but were still a major part of France’s bomber force. During the Battle of France they were used mainly on night attacks against German airfields and lines of communication. When used during daylight German fighters made easy work of them. About 50 of these aircraft served with the Vichy air force and the last ones were retired in 1944.

This model was made using the Smer 1990 boxing of the 1966 Heller kit which has also appeared in many other boxes. This kit was published well before Heller’s golden age and has little to recommend it except that it is still the only kit of this aircraft over fifty years after it was first published. There is a good in-box review on The Sprue Lagoon website . I highly recommend the build review on workshoprecord that you really need to read if you are building this kit because it is the best source of information I’ve seen about what to put in the huge cabin that the kit leaves so conspicuously empty.

Dornier Do17F in 1/72 by Airfix/MPC
Design of this aircraft began in 1932, said to be as a high speed mail plane although military uses were probably in the designers’ minds from the beginning. The prototype made its first flight in 1934 but development was lengthy and they began entering service as the Do17E 1937. (The Do17F was a reconnaissance version of the Do17E.) These aircraft first saw service in the Spanish Civil War, leading to many revisions including improved cabins and more powerful engines that were included in later versions. They performed well at the beginning of World War 2 during the Polish campaign and during the Battle of France once Germany had achieved air superiority. However they suffered greater losses during the Battle of Britain and were superceded by the improved Dornier Do217 and Junkers Ju88 bombers.

I have a real soft spot for this model, I made it from the MPC kit I bought during my first visit to the United States in 1974. Like almost all MPC kits this one is the Airfix Dornier Do-17E kit that was first published in 1972, but the MPC kit also had decal options for the Do-17F, which I made. I read that RS Models offer a Do17E in 1/72 but I haven’t seen one or read a review of it. It is likely to be better than the old Airfix kit but RS Models kits rarely fall together easily. There are several kits of the later Do17Z with the radial engines, including a nice Monogram kit, a 2016 ICM kit republished by Revell, a 2014 Airfix kit and Frog kit that Scalemates doesn’t mention. I think that the earlier Do17s look nicer, but not as purposeful as the radial engined ones, so take your pick. The Hyperscale review says very nice things about the Airfix Do17Z kit which, it says, renders the earlier offerings obsolete.