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Tom Cleaver
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Revell 1/32 Hawker Typhoon IB – Dennis Crowley-Milling

March 8, 2014 · in Aviation · · 11 · 3K

Traditionally, the hallmark of a successful aircraft manufacturing company has been that future requirements should always be the concern of the Chief Designer and the project team. In other words, when the latest project has been accepted for production, its replacement should be on the drawing board. Sir Sydney Camm, Hawker Aircraft's Chief Designer - and one of the true legends of aircraft design alongside Ed Heineman and Kelly Johnson - was already hard at work in the summer of 1937 on the Hurricane's replacement, designed to meet Air Ministry Specification F.18/37 which called for a fighter with a top speed over 400 m.p.h. when the first production model of that famous airplane had yet to fly.

The result was - at the time the first prototype was rolled out - the biggest single-seat, single-engine fighter ever designed, with the heaviest armament any traditional fighter had ever carried, and the most powerful engine ever installed in an airframe. Unfortunately, not enough was known at the time of its design to prevent it being equipped with a wing too thick for what was really needed, which would always hold it back in fighter versus fighter performance. The exigencies of war would dictate that the airplane was committed to production too early in the development cycle, resulting in it acquiring a worse reputation with its pilots than any fighter that ever preceded it, a dangerous reputation that was fully deserved at the outset, that would cost the lives of many young fighter pilots to resolve, and would still not be fully fixed by the end of the aircraft's career.

The airplane was the Hawker , the first all-metal airplane produced by Hawker Aircraft. Originally designed to carry 12 .303 machineguns, it was redesigned to carry the then-unheard-of armament of four 20mm cannon, and was powered by the Napier Sabre, the first 2,000 h.p. engine. Ordered "off the drawing board" in 1939, the prototype Typhoon flew on February 24, 1940. It became the subject of a quantity production order to be assigned to Gloster Aircraft, since Hawkers was thoroughly committed to the Hurricane and later to the Tempest.

Fortunately for the Typhoon, the Battle of Britain intervened before it could enter large-scale production and it lost all priority until October 1940. This allowed some of the plethora of problems that had manifested themselves with the Sabre engine to be dealt with.

Flight testing quickly revealed the dangerous effects of compressibility, of which little was known at the time. The thick wing also resulted in extreme slipstream buffet around the wing roots, due to the fact the engine was fitted as close to the leading edge of the wing as possible to preserve c.g. balance. Unknown at the time was the fact that the buffet also created a disturbed slipstream along the entire fuselage that became quite violent by the time it reached the tail. It would be early 1943 before it was discovered that the fuselage/tail joint was not strong enough to withstand these forces in a maximum-velocity dive, with the result that the joint was reinforced with the fishplates so prominent on the Typhoon afterwards. Nineteen pilots died due to catastrophic tail separation discovering this solution, which was the result of the sped-up development process.

The first Typhoon IA - with the 12 machinegun armament - was completed by Gloster on May 26, 1941. After a limited production run of this type, the cannon-armed Typhoon IB appeared in early July. By that fall, the RAF had encountered the Focke-Wulf Fw-190, and needed the Typhoon more than ever. 56 Squadron at Duxford received their first Typhoons in September, 1941; they were followed in January 1942 by 266 "Rhodesian" Squadron and 609 "West Riding" Squadron the following March. Due to the lack of development, these squadrons would by necessity become part of the flight testing of the Typhoon to unearth solutions to its many faults. One of the first items the pilots of 56 discovered was that the pilot had to wear his oxygen mask at all times, due to the leakage of carbon monoxide into the cockpit from the engine compartment.

The price of the premature introduction of the Typhoon was high. Despite being issued to 56 Squadron in September 1941, the first operational sortie - an interception of a "bogie" that turned out to be a Spitfire - was not flown until May 28, 1942. The first “Rodeo” sweep was flown on June 20. During the first nine months of operations, far more Typhoons were lost due to structural failure or engine trouble than were lost on operations. Between July and September 1942, it was estimated at least one Typhoon in four failed to return from an operational sortie as a result of one of its many defects.

Air Marshal Sir Dennis Crowley-Milling, the son of a Lancastrian solicitor, began his RAF career when he left Malvern College in 1937 to take up an apprenticeship with Rolls Royce and became a member of the RAF Volunteer Reserve. As a Sergeant Pilot with 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force in 1939, he flew Gladiators until the unit converted to Hurricanes in May 1940. Having been promoted to Pilot Officer in March 1940, he was transferred to 242 Squadron, then in France, in early June. His experience as an apprentice at the Rolls-Royce aero-engine experimental unit at Derby paid dividends when he was able to service the Hurricanes left behind in France for lack of crews to care for them, and thus make good the squadron's escape back to England on June 18, 1940.

Following the arrival of Douglas Bader as Squadron Leader of 242 Squadron that July, “Crow” flew as Bader's Number 2 during the Battle of Britain, where he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and was shot down on September 7 during the first attack of Bader's “Big Wing.” In June 1941, he became A Flight Commander in 610 Squadron, a unit of Bader's Tangmere Wing. Shot down over France on August 21, 1941, he was at first suspected by the Resistance of being a German posing as an RAF pilot, and came close to being shot. However, with the help of the French Resistance, he evaded and got to Spain that October, where he was captured by the Guardia Civil and placed in a Spanish concentration camp where he contracted paratyphoid. Repatriated to England in December 1941, he returned to his position of Flight Commander with 610 Squadron.

In August 1941 he was promoted to Squadron Leader and given command of 181 Squadron at Duxford, the first Typhoon squadron to be assigned to the low-level fighter-bomber role. Squadron Leader Crowley-Milling trained the squadron through the fall of 1942, and they entered combat in the Spring of 1943, flying low-level bombing raids over northern France and the Low Countries, where they pioneered the tactics that would later be used when the Typhoon became the leading RAF ground-attack aircraft following the Normandy Invasion. One of his pilots recalled, "Only a few years older than us - he was 23 - he had masses of experience and made operations seem like a walk in the park." That June 4, he was promoted to Wing Commander and given command of 121 Wing, which comprised 181 and 182 Squadrons. He led the wing in many low-level attacks against rail targets and shipping in the English Channel until his tour expired in October 1943, when he became the RAF Liaison Officer with USAAF HQ.

Wing Commander Crowley-Milling remained in the RAF post-war as a permanent rank Squadron Leader and retired as an Air Marshal in 1975, by which time - as Commander RAF Staff and Principal Air Attache in Washington D.C. from 1967 to 1970 - he had been instrumental in the adoption of the Harrier by the U.S. Marines. Following retirement, he was appointed Controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund where he introduced the International Air Tattoo, an event which went on to become one of the most popular aviation events in Europe. From 1992 until his death in 1996, Air Marshal Sir Denis Crowley-Milling was Master of the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators.

released their Typhoon in the early to mid 1970s, as I recall. It was remarkable for being the first “car door” Typhoon released as a model. The kit has been in and out of production over the intervening years. Most recently, it formed the basis for the MDC full-resin “bubbletop” Typhoon. The kit is simple, and the parts fit is what one expects from a 1970s kit. The raised detail is voluminous, with lots of small rivets - which are all located in the right places. Checking out the kit, one can see that Revell did intend a later release of the “bubbletop” kit as can be seen from the mold insert in the upper fuselage and the fact that the interiors of the lower wings have covered-over locating holes for the rocket rails that version carried.

Looking closely at the surface detail of this kit, I concluded that if it was sanded down until the raised detail was just apparent as I ran my fingertips over it, it would be far more “right” than the engraved rivet one finds on kits nowadays. I therefore sanded down all the parts before assembly, and carefully filled the area around the cockpit plug, which had a noticeable “sink,” with cyanoacrylate glue that I allowed to cure “naturally,” which gave a pretty flat surface. By doing the least possible and sanding carefully, I avoided loosing a lot of detail, and was able to rescribe the rivets with my pounce wheel. I then engraved the panel detail with a Number 11 X-Acto blade.

Next, I carefully glued the open engine cowling panel in place, again using cyanoacrylate glue to fill the panel lines, which I then rescribed after sanding the area smooth.

Next I painted the cockpit and assembled it. The instrument panel decal was too big, so I ended up using some individual instrument decals. I also used the Eduard photo-etch 1/32 RAF Sutton Harness. While that was drying, I assembled the engine and attached it, then carefully assembled the fuselage halves. I had cut off the locating pins so I could get as exact a fit as possible, and only had to scrape down the centerline with my Xacto, without losing surface detail.

I then assembled the wing and set it aside. I slid the cockpit into position, and glued it in, then attached the wing to the fuselage. Fit was extremely good and I only had to fill a gap in the lower fuselage where the wing attached. This was also done with cyanoacrylate, and then I rescribed the panel lines and went over the area with the pounce wheel. I then attached the horizontal stabilizers.

I first painted the black and white ID stripes on the lower wings, then masked them off, followed by the Sky rear fuselage stripe which I masked off. The model was then painted with Xtracrylix Ocean Grey, RAF Dark Green, and Sea Grey Medium, using the camouflage pattern in the old Profile Publications “Camouflage and Markings” book. When all was dry, I gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix Gloss Varnish.

I had picked up an old Aeromaster 1/32 sheet at the same time I bought the model, and used this in place of the kit decals. I chose to do the 181 Squadron Typhoon “Cemetery Bait,” since I was using the kit-supplied bombs. This airplane had been flown by Crowley-Milling.

This kit is easy to build and makes up into an accurate early-model Typhoon. One could super detail the cockpit if they wanted - I did the kit basically out of the box to demonstrate it is still viable. At $20, the kit is much more affordable than the MDC kit, which is ten times that (and not necessarily ten times better, though it makes into a nice model). I personally like the car door Typhoon the best, and am quite happy to have this sitting on the shelf next to the Spitfires, which it dwarfs with its bulldog appearance. The model is proof that just because a kit is old doesn't mean it isn't still good.

Reader reactions:
5  Awesome

14 additional images. Click to enlarge.

11 responses

  1. Hi Tom, its a shame the photos aren't very clear the images look quite muted some how, the third one down on the right is great nice and clear and sharp so it could be something your doing in your settings so all the hard work your describing is quite difficult to make out
    but from what i can see it looks great

  2. Another timely post for me as I'm doing the 1/72nd Airfix Typhoon for my D-Day kit.
    Hope mine comes out half as good as yours did. I think yours looks great.
    As a personal question: do you know anyone who offers 1/72nd markings a little closer in time to D-Day than the kit decals?

  3. Beautiful job on a purposeful looking aircraft. You really brought an old model to life.

  4. Well done Tom. I really enjoy articles that show what can be achieved with these old kits with careful assembly and a well applied finish.
    Once again the history was every entertaining and educational, I was aware of the weak tail joint, but don't know about the other problems.

  5. outstanding work and subject tom...that kit has all ways been one of my favorites...even in the box all that beautiful green plastic just begs to be fondled and build it you did...first class

  6. Nice clean build, interesting narrative.

  7. Tom,
    Love it. I too am a fan of the car door and your model really shows it off well. Amazing work on this old kit. It really does have some issues and way too many little bumps but you mastered those. Like the story, love the model.

  8. Tom, great job on one of my favorites. And as usual from you, a great story to go with it. Doesn't look like you had any trouble with that wicked seam line on the fuselage, apparently as a result of Revell originally planning to do a bubble canopy version as well, which they did not! Many thanks for posting, and I like the in progress photos.

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