Sunday, August 25, 2013

The best Westland Wapiti Indian scale model ever! PERIOD!..... BUT....

A couple of years ago, my friend Phil Camp posted photographs of a scratch built 1/48 scale Westland Wapiti IIa in 1930s Indian Air Force Colors. The model was built (by an unknown modeller) and displayed at the IPMS UK's Scale Model World event in 2011.  Its no wonder that this model won the Best Aircraft Award for that year.

The aircraft is an excellent example of attention to detail and ingenuity. The modeller displayed the aircraft with panels removed and with internal components visible.

The aircraft was displayed in the colors of No.1 Squadron, Indian Air Force. The Wapiti bore the serial K1263 and the Dark Blue/Light Blue chequer board markings on the fuselage and on the top of the wings. It featured the painted fin flash and the serial number. Two photographs exist of this Wapiti K1263 showing it being prepared for an operational sortie.  The accompanying plaque purports it to be of a Wapiti that served with the squadron at Drigh Road in the year 1934.

The model had photographs showing the various stage of scratch build process as well as the approach .

While there is no doubt that this is the best ever representaton of a Wapiti , and of one in Indian Air Force colours, and at that time I was totally in awe of the effort, I do in the interest of 'History' point out to a few inconsistencies. In the two years since this model appeared, I had attempted to write a history of the Westland Wapiti in Indian Air Force Service. After studying the records and archives available, and poring over more than a hundred photographs of Indian Air Force Wapitis, tracking the career of each individual aircraft over a decade, I found myself with a better understanding on the aircraft and the markings of the Indian units of that era. Without much ado, the inconsistencies are:

  1. Wapiti K1263 did not serve at Drigh Road in 1934, but rather at Peshawar starting late 1936 and into 1937. At that time No.1 Squadron had 'A' Flight detached to No.20 Squadron RAF for operations in the NorthWest Frontier.  K1263 infact has the distinction of flying the first operational sortie when Flt Lt Awan flew a Pamphlet dropping mission in early 1937.
  2. Though the aircraft features a 3 x 3 Checkerboard Square, Wapitis of that time had a 'wraparound' checker board marking that looks like a square from a distance but actually isn't. The following photograph shows the obvious difference where a small segment of a top row is visible.
    Photograph of K1263, of 'A' Flight, No.1 Squadron  (The Eagle Strikes)
  3. As is visible in the photograph - the aircraft also featured a small "AC" superscript to the serial . This superscript is not on all the aircraft - and K1263 happened to be one such rare example.
As a fellow historian pointed out, the modeller may have been misled by the fact the aircraft had a fin flash painted.  RAF aircraft markings changed sometime in 1934 when the finflash was not painted on the aircraft - they featured plain tails. However many aircraft appeared to have continued in service with the fin flash painted on and K1263 retained its scheme well into 1937.

Ofcourse all this doesnt take away from the model - this post is only to highlight that new information surfaces all the time. What was not available in 2011 will now be on the record in 2013.  Future modellers will have this information to get the next ultimate variant of the Wapiti right!.

All photos of the model are courtesy of Phil Camp

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