In May 1943, Operation Chastise was launched from RAF Scampton and consisted of 19 Avro Lancaster bombers. Each aircraft was carrying ‘Upkeep’ also known as the bouncing bomb. The target was three dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley. Now famously known as ‘the Dambusters’ 617 Squadron lead by Guy Gibson, it has been immortalised in both film and also by Tamiya in the form of a large scale 1:48 kitset.
At 443mm in length this model is large, although it looks superb in any display collection and accompanies the other 1:48 aircraft in Tamiya’s lineup perfectly.
Cockpit & Fuselage
This kit is a reissue of the original mould, although for its age is sharp and fits together very well. Due to the large scale it is perfect for additional detailing. I chose to use the Eduard photo-etch cockpit set, as the front is quite visible through the canopy once completed. The photo-etch uses all the parts in the kitset and adds detail on top of them.
If you are to follow the instructions, it requires painting prior to assembling. I chose to cement the fuselage and then mask before painting. The reason for this is that join lines are able to be filled and sanded back. The top gunner turret was removed from the Dambuster raid aircraft and covering this up to a satisfactory manner required some additional work with putty and sandpaper.
The first step was to cover the aircraft in a Tamiya white primer as the black moulding would be difficult to cover with brown using minimal coats of paint. Once the primer had been applied, I sprayed Tamiya matte black to the underside, then masked it off to spray the top coats. I decided to attempt a feather technique using only spray cans for the upper coats of paint. Initially I sprayed the entire aircraft in brown, then used blu-tack sausages stuck to a paper template and then sprayed the green over top once the plane had been masked off.
I was happy with the outcome as during the war the paint jobs were not pretty. The real aircraft had large rubber mats laid down across the airframe to achieve the camouflage patterns. There was very little feathering, although many Lancasters were then given ‘touch-up’ paint works as damage was repaired.
Prior to paint being laid down I filled and sanded in all gaps in the airframe. The engine cowling required filling around the tops although with some time invested the final result was a nice smooth fitting set of nacelles.
The top turret was filled, although I still wasn’t happy after the first coat so I added a second layer of white putty. Despite being a big aircraft requiring a lot of paint in the base coats, the details in the wings were still very visible after 3 layers of brown.
The top color was applied in 2 layers. I recessed the blu-tak sausages 1mm underneath the paper and had a raised height of about 1mm. This gave a strong defined edge although still allowed very minimal feathering between colors. I then left the aircraft to cure for a period of 48 hours. The only real difficulty was finding somewhere to store it while paint cured that was dust-free.
The turrets were masked using the Eduard masking set specifically for the Tamiya kitset. This saved a lot of time due to the many curves on the Lancaster’s glass. The masking set consisted of rear gunner turret, top canopy, front gunner turret, and the bomb aimer’s bubble.
The landing gear went together superbly; the fitment was flawless. I do recommend dry-fitting it prior to gluing just to make sure things are in the correct order. With a slight black wash across the parts it gives a nice weathered look. I highly recommend using the smooth tyres as the Dambuster raid was launched from a sealed runway and all aircraft were fitted with ‘runway tyres’ not the grooved ones for landing on a grass airstrip.
Of course we cannot forget ‘Upkeep’ also known as the ‘bouncing bomb’. This was a top secret weapon in 1943 designed by Barnes Wallace specially for the raid on the dam in the Ruhr Valley.
Markings & completed kitset
Decals for this kit are very good. I used decal solution to make them conform to all the small lines and bolts on the wings, and this worked very well. Most who build this kitset would use the markings to reproduce Guy Gibson’s aircraft (AJ-G), however, I used aftermarket lettering to build Squadron leader John Leslie (Les) Munro’s aircraft (AJ-W).
There are not many remaining crew from the 1943 Dambuster raid, however New Zealand is privileged to have Mr. John Leslie (Les) Munro, the pilot of AJ-W still with us. He very kindly agreed to meet me, take a look at Tamiya’s Dambuster edition Lancaster and share a cup of tea and a few stories. AJ-W was the second aircraft to take off that night to attack the Sorpe dam. While Mr. Munro was flying over Holland his Lancaster was hit by anti-aircraft flak, damaging the aircraft and cutting all radio communication between the crew members. With radio being of paramount importance for the bomb aimer to communicate the right flying height in order to drop the bomb, it was decided that it was in their best interest to return to base. Mr. Munro landed the Lancaster at Scampton with a fused, and primed bomb still slung under the aircraft.
The kitset was enjoyable to build; despite being an old tooling from Tamiya, the finished product is very worthy of the time you put into the kit. It is not an easy kit to build; you need to think outside the box and deviate from the instructions a little in order to eliminate the join lines and filling although this is quite easily achieved. The size of the kitset is a bonus, lots of room to detail, and also due to its sheer size, it makes for an impressive display piece. Anyone who wants to take on a bit of a challenge should look no further than a 1:48 Dambuster Lancaster.