Where was the RAF at Dunkirk?

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  • Last reply 1 day, 13 hours ago
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  • Paul Barber said 2 weeks, 2 days ago:

    My usual process when it comes to a project begins with the choice of a point/people in history and a question in my head around that ‘moment’. In recent media versions of the evacuation from Dunkirk the RAF and its command are often viewed in a mixed light at best (see ‘Dunkirk’ and the 5 minute scene continuous ‘take’ from ‘Atonement’).

    The chaotic action at that port and the fall of France are the point of history at which I’ll be setting this build.

    My research has started with 2 books – there are more on order.

    I plan to build 2 kits of specific iconic planes, flown by well-known pilots that were present over Dunkirk, and to learn about the value of their contribution and that of The RAF.

    So, I will be building ‘Sailor’ Malan’s Spitfire and Willie McKnight’s Hurricane, as used during May 1940 in the skies above the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force from France.

    Apart from admiration for the pilots who flew these aircraft, and of course the theme, a practical reason for building 2 planes is that the paints to be used are identical for these new Airfix kits.

    As part of my preparation for Airfix models I tend to annotate the instructions with paint colours, as I need to find substitutes for the Humbrol paints that are detailed in the instructions (I prefer the brands)

    During this part of the process I use other sources to check the accuracy of the chosen colours. I find ‘Pinterest’ to be really useful as you can usually find and organise photos and drawings there by a simple search and save. I also use youtube to look for historical footage.

    I collected the relevant decals and some photo etch for the interiors (my normal pre-build routine these days).

    This choice also meant I had the perfect excuse to rewatch ‘The Battle of Britain’ as Robert Shaw’s character ‘Skipper’ is loosely based on Sailor Malan!

    Taka taka taka taka taka…..

  • Tom Cleaver said 2 weeks, 2 days ago:

    Where was the RAF ad Dunkirk? Largely inland, trying to get to the Luftwaffe before the Luftwaffe got to the beaches. Read Robert Stanford-Tuck’s account of his first combat mission during Dunkirk.

  • paul teixeira said 2 weeks, 2 days ago:

    Very interesting post and references. I will be watching your build.

  • david leigh-smith said 2 weeks, 2 days ago:

    Ah, the game is afoot, Mr. Barber. This has the makings of a classic thread and I’m locked in. Great start, Paul.

  • James B Robinson said 2 weeks, 2 days ago:

    Looks like a great start Paul. I watched the movie Dunkirk several weeks ago, almost thought the same thing until I talked with a few history buffs. I started ‘Darkest Hour” the other night, but was interrupted. Plan on finishing tonight. I recall early in the movie, there was a scene where Churchill was pleading with Roosevelt for help in the form of P-40 A/C. Never realized the political turmoil that was going on in the UK when he took office. Looking forward to following this build!

  • Paul Barber said 2 weeks, 2 days ago:

    Yes James, I absolutely loved both films. Gary Oldman is brilliant in Darkest Hour and the beach scenes in ‘Dunkirk’ are so eerie and haunting.

    And the question is clearly not my question. At the time, as shown in the recent film on Dunkirk and Atonement (among others), some of the BEF felt let down because they couldn’t see the air support. Which is certainly not to say the RAF wasn’t working hard against huge odds. The RAF were in a lot of places, some were even stuck on the beach at Dunkirk.

    So hopefully the point of this thread is to draw out some of the heroic stuff that happened in the air and to look at how Dunkirk has been portrayed in the media, both in terms of the response at the time (where it was almost viewed as a ‘miracle’ or a ‘victory’) and in terms of the recent films which often ask but don’t answer the question.

    As you correctly point out James, there is no glib one line answer to this question, it is complex. Let’s see where it takes us!

  • Paul Barber said 2 weeks, 2 days ago:

    Tom C, yes Fly for Your Life was something I read when younger, and some of the writing and talks by Paul Beaver, among others, just added to his legend for me. I know you rated him to be in a different league to Bader as a man. As I said before I could have gone for a Bader build, but decided against it for other reasons, and I could much more easily have gone for Stanford Tuck – as a Londoner having lived most of my life about 5 mins from his birthplace, and with his achievements, it was a tough call not to! At some point I’d love to have a look at the clashes between the commands of Galland and RST and maybe reflect that in a build. I’d love to source some of his radio interviews. Anyway, I chose this time to go for two gentlemen who represented an ‘overseas’ contribution.

    As I said to James I don’t want people to think it is my ‘question’ – I’m keen to see how the media of all eras and regions, during and since, portrayed the air war at the time of the evacuation. RSTs three kills first up, were probably while a significant chunk of the BEF were already were holed up in Lille prior to the main action there, and I wonder what their understanding of the RAF’s fight and struggle was then, with the Luftwaffe dropping maps on them explaining how they were surrounded, as well as bombs. It is a fairly logical question from their point of view and in desperation!

  • Tom Cleaver said 2 weeks, 2 days ago:

    I was actually just mentioning RST as someone who gave a good account of what the RAF was doing at Dunkirk.

    If you ever do want to do his Dunkirk Mk.I it’s on the Spitfire: Acesof the Empire sheet from Victory Productions Decals. Still the best overall 1/48 Spitfire sheet.

  • Paul Barber said 2 weeks, 2 days ago:

    Of course Tom and thanks, I just had a re-read of what I had written in the light of a couple of replies and felt I might have been unclear about my intentions! Just re-establishing the point in, hopefully, a clearer way!

    Just had a look at those decals – I might have to invest, you know – I have always fancied a go at Durnford’s ‘black’ Mk V, although I’d imagine a monotone black would be a challenge in itself! Cheers!

  • Craig Abrahamson said 2 weeks, 2 days ago:

    As will I, sir…..

  • Paul Barber said 1 week, 3 days ago:

    Well, I chose to do two plane build because I thought the two new Airfix kits would be (hopefully) straightforward. Anyway, a little reading is a dangerous thing. I read about the lead up to ‘Dunkirk’ and the Battle of France and some things are inextricably linked. So it is now a three plane build!

    Gavia (in the Czech Republic) released their 1/48th Lysander in 2001. It was subsequently picked up by Eduard and developed as a Profipack – so the 2016 rebox I bought includes Gavia sprues, Masks, Photo-etch, 5 decal options (which I won’t be using) and a small number of resin parts).

    I have on order some decals – ‘X48106 Xtradecal RFC/RAF 100 Years of 4 Squadron Pt 1 (4)’ – more when they arrive!

    Finally for this post I am happy that I have the colours for the interiors of the Spit and the ‘Lizzie’ – however there is some question (looking at photos from different sources) about the ‘colour’ of the seat in an early Hurri.

    So a question to the group – can anyone shed light on the seat colour of early Hurricanes?

    Seat colour aside – anyone building a Hurricane might enjoy these restoration sites – some stunning insight into how they go together!

    http://www.hawker-restorations-ltd.co.uk/_images/_completed/g-hury/hury.html

    Galleries

  • George Henderson said 1 week, 3 days ago:

    Looking forward to the build Paul for two reasons: I have the Spitfire kit to be build as a 57OTU kite, and Canadian Willie McKnight

  • George Henderson said 1 week, 3 days ago:

    This is a seat from a Finnish Hurricane (s/n N2394) shipped in Feb/Mar 1940 The article this came from said the cockpit was in original colour except for some war-time touch-ups on the starboard side. The caption says, “…..aluminum paint….”. Personally I think you couldn’t be wrong with green or silver.

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

  • Tom Cleaver said 1 week, 3 days ago:

    I’d go with what the restorers have – aluminum lacquer for the frame and seat, interior green for fuselage interior and bulkhead.

  • Louis Gardner said 1 week, 3 days ago:

    There you have it Paul,

    These guys are spot on from what I have been reading. I was doing some research on the Hurricane as well and accidentally “stumbled” across these photos at another website. This may be the same site that George is referring to.

    These were supposedly taken from an unrestored original plane that served in Finland. It was reported that the plane only received a thorough cleaning. To me the interior green color doesn’t look quite right, and may have been brushed in the field using something else other than the RAF Interior Green.

    (Maybe a captured “Russian” tractor green of sorts ???) Just a guess on my part. If you look really close at the bright green, in some places there appears to be a color that more closely resembles RAF interior green showing through where the “bright green” has chipped away.

    The seat appears to be aluminum colored, then possibly some shade of brown fabric slip on cover was added over the aluminum color. This may have been done by the Finn’s (in my opinion) to reduce cockpit glare or further enhance the camouflage of the plane as an effort to reduce the effects of “shiny things”.

    Or it could have simply been done to help a little with pilot comfort as it appears to be padded.

    It also appears that the seat color could be influenced by the manufacturer as well. Hurricanes were built by several manufacturers besides Hawker, with some produced by the Austin Aero Company, Canadian Car and Foundry, and Gloster.

    But so far, from everything I have found through online research is the seats could have been painted with aluminum color or RAF “Interior Green”

    This is how I will paint my builds when I get that far………….

    Green or Aluminum.

    Hope this helps…………….

    I’m very pleased to see you adding the Lysander to this build. I’ll be watching very closely with this one.
    Please post up progress and any hiccups you may encounter. I have these exact kits (minus the Lizzy) in the “to build” pile………….

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