On the bench - Shake n' bake Beau

Episode 2: All-at-sea with a Beaufighter

If you've been paying these rambling posts the scant attention they rightly deserve, you'll know that the inspiration for this subject initially came from a well-thumbed first edition copy of C.F. Rawnsley and Robert Wright's 'Nightfighter'.

I recently re-read it as part of the inspiration process, and found it a starchy 1950s account of the nocturnal air war. I'm not sure if it was my own state of mind, but this time around, the tale of life as a gunner-turned radar operator and all-round lesser mortal in the rigid social class system of the 1940s RAF grated with me.

The book is well worth a look if you can put aside my rather unkind potted review, the continuous tugging of metaphorical forelocks, 'knowing one's place', and a perpetual sense of 'not being good enough' for the exacting demands of a pilot who, if we are to read between the lines, was a 'bit demanding'.

Rawnsley puts Cunningham on an impossibly high pedestal and almost worships the ground he walks upon and the air he flies through; but in between all the unspoken 'British stiff upper-ness', lies some gripping, poignant and at times, desperately sad accounts of what it was like to fly in the night skies over southern England in dangerous aeroplanes.

Anyway, You Tube. Isn't it the best waste of time ever? I mean U-boats, I've no earthly interest in these utterly evil machines (like an aquatic version of the Junkers Stuka. Which twisted individual came up with these things?) until I found footage of one of them having the stuffing knocked out of it by rocket armed Beaufighters. Go Beau!

As luck (or online cookie history spying algorithms) would have it, I was wandering around Pinterest looking for detail shots of black Beaus and came across a poor image of an all white sea-going Beau. Armed to the teeth with armour piercing rockets and sporting a fragile looking ASV 'Yagi' array.

This shouted "go on, you know you want to" in a pickled egg and four pints of Theakston's old Peculier type of voice. (for some reason, I equate these hairy looking aeroplanes to 'manly' persuits like supping strong ale and scoffing vinegary ovoid things).

The Tamiya Beau comes with almost everything needed to model this particular version, in fact only the aerial array is missing. The image is a limited reference source and due to the poor exposure, contrasty print and lack of image detail, there's a fair amount of 'filling in the blanks' to be done.

'It will be all white on the night. . .'

So, from black to white in one shot. Really?

White is white isn't it? Err nope, and finding something that fits the needs and also does the job with a minimum of fuss was almost a bigger task than building the epitome of a shake n bake kit. I eventually settled on a rattle can of Corax White from Citadel Miniatures, bought from my local Games Workshop. At this point I have to say I don't have a terrestrial model shop within 400kms, so I have to make do or wait for online deliveries. Anyway I think Corax is a base coat primer, but decanted and applied through the trusty Iwata HP-C, it went on a charm in several thin layers over the naked black Tamiya styrene to build up a suitably patchy effect. I reasoned this effect would have quickly been exhibited by any aircraft operating in an exposed salt-laden maritime environment.

My one and only reference image doesn't give much away in detail, so a fair amount of guesswork had to be done to work out what the logical finish might be.

In some respects, this reverse imagineering is healthy, and quite normal modelling practice. When combined with some additional research, it can give enough info to get close to what it probably looked like, and provide some sense of limited creative interpretation. DTD and Air Ministry specifications are all well and good until you add sun, sea, sand and sangria (eh? this is an exposed airfield in the south-west of England circa 1943, not Magaluf).

While valiantly searching the web for more images of white Beaus, I came across a fascinating resource on Coastal Command subjects - Ross Marven's Modelling Pages. Here's a sample (grey italics) of the level of his detailed research into the various schemes:

DTD Technical Circular 360

DTD Technical Circular 360 'Camouflage and Marking of Aircraft' was a complete overhaul of colours and markings specifications, superseding a number of previous DTD documents - but not A.M.O.664/42 (?!?!).

Appendix 5 (already at issue 2 in the copy I have seen - I assume there must have been an issue 1) gave details for Coastal Command (Home Based Aircraft). Appendix 3 states aircraft for coastal duties in overseas commands should follow Appendix 5.

Aircraft for Coastal Duties except PR, Met, ASR and Special Duties.

Upper surfaces Extra dark Sea Grey, Undersurfaces Glossy White (to pattern 1) extended upwards and merged into the upper surfaces so the front and side elevations appear almost entirely white and to cover the whole of the engine nacelle forward of the leading edge boundary. Fins, rudders, spinners to be white. De-icing sheaths to be in flexible paint (colour not given but seems to have been silver - ref photos, also Lucas and Bowyer articles). Engine cowl rings and anti-glow shields to be white. Flying boats to have white anti-fouling on undersurfaces. Serials to be Light Slate Grey (interestingly there is no mention of code letters). Roundels on fuselage sides and upper-surfaces of wings.

Aircraft for Special Duties

Scheme A - Upper surfaces Extra dark Sea Grey, Undersurfaces Glossy White (to pattern 1), undersurfaces between definitions in pattern1 and pattern2 to be Dark Sea Grey. Spinners Extra Dark Sea Grey. Serials to be Night. Roundels on fuselage sides and upper-surfaces of wings.

Scheme B - Upper surfaces Extra dark Sea Grey, Undersurfaces Night (to pattern 2). Spinners Extra Dark Sea Grey. Serials to be Red. Roundels on fuselage sides and uppersurfaces of wings.

The standard scheme to be used unless special instructions are issued for the application of either of the special schemes.

Air Sea Rescue aircraft (Appendix 8)

Upper surfaces Dark Slate Grey & Extra Dark Sea Grey, Undersurfaces Sky (to pattern 1), Spinners Dark Slate Grey or Extra Dark Sea Grey. Roundels on fuselage sides and both surfaces of wings.

PR & Met Aircraft

In spite of the exception in Appendix 5 these do not appear anywhere else in the document!

The Special Duties Scheme A (or an approximation thereto) does appear to have been used on Beaufighters - see this thread on Britmodeller for the full story.

Pattern No.1 included most of the fuselage sides in the upper-surfaces, pattern No.2 included most of the fuselage sides in the lower surfaces

As I think the reason for dropping Dark Slate Grey was to save effort in applying the second colour I assume it is unlikely aircraft were repainted until they had a major overhaul. I also imagine it is possible the upwards extension of the white onto leading edges etc. could have been done at squadron level on aircraft with two colour upper-surfaces.

If you've even a remote interest in Coastal Command aircraft, Ross's site and the detailed references are well worth checking out.

Slap it on!

Back to model paint colours, and my take on the official DTD - Air Min instructions uses the squadron level application approach, and an apparent lack of reflective surfaces in the admittedly poor reference image, to incorporate a two colour upper surface scheme and a weathered chalky dull finish to the white. I know the DTD. 360 says ED Sea Grey uppers, but my suspect reference image seems to have a contrasting darker tone. It's evidently not exhaust stain or weathering so it's most likely Dark Green.

The type and brands of paint used on this Beau are truly eclectic: Tamiya acrylics, Mr Hobby aqueous, some ancient Aeromaster 'toned down' acrylic, Alclad, Humbrol and of course that rattle can Citadel white.

The overall monochromatic tonal variation was achieved with grey basing, a variant on the black base technique but using a Luftwaffe grey tone over the first white undercoat to create the airbrush modulation stipple. Black would have been too contrasty. Several light layers of Citadel white over the modulation squiggle built up the variable areas of contrast. Applying heavier coats to the obvious highlight areas such as the fuselage spine and the top of the nacelles was done to replicate natural highlight areas where visual detail is sparse.

Weathering and homogenisation

I don't go in for a uniform panel line wash effect. Dirt doesn't conform to rules, so the panel lines are pronounced in some places and barely there in others. A standard Windsor & Newton artists oils dirty brown/grey (not black unless your going for Corgi die-cast 'realism') with a pre-swipe of turps along the line to aid the wicking process and flow of the tinted thinner line wash. The white areas got a Paynes grey line wash which has a blue component. I think it works ok.

Oil dot effects: I've never been totally sold on this technique. Sometimes it works for me, and sometimes its a hot mess. I've no idea why.

I reasoned that the Beau was living a secret life as a swashbuckling corsair of the high seas in a particularly aggressive environment, roaming about the bay of Biscay with a dodgy tash and an eye patch and living on pasties on some exposed Cornish aerodrome, but that said, I didn't want to go all 'HDR contrasty patchwork effect'. Don't get me wrong, done well, and in the hands of a skilled modeller (not me) it can look incredible, but quite often it is done too uniformly and looks contrived. Less is more chaps. . .What's that big word? Verisimilitude. . .

So I approached the Beau with the idea of warming up the green and cooling down the grey to start with by using the oil dot technique, then bringing in more white to cut this effect back. Reasoning that these colours fade and weather at different rates and their pigments react differently to atmospheric conditions and UV light, fuel spills etc.

Wear and tear: Beaus were scruffy oiks, but again I'm not a huge fan of knocking the crap out of a subject because a certain effect or look is in vogue. Plus the reference shot doesn't really suggest huge amounts of wear. So pencil chips on the white areas, silver prisma colour on the darker colour areas to create a suggestion of contrast and some gentle heavily thinned oil wash around the Hercules panels.

There's still more to do like dirty up the tyres add splashes to the main gear doors which collected crap from the wheels and exhaust staining. The yellow tips of the props look a bit pale and interesting on purpose. I've references which show these fading rapidly due to airflow effect and the obvious salt environment wouldn't help here.

Anyway here's a photo montage of the almost complete Beaufighter.

There are still some details to finish such as modified rocket rails to paint and apply, aerial rigging and that Yagi nose array plus the chin 'cats whiskers' (which are often missing from these types of Beaufighter models).


Wellington - (edited September 2021).

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