Brewster Buffalo Mk. 1 – 1/32nd Special Hobby
Here is my Special Hobby Brewster Buffalo Mk. 1 in 1/32nd scale. I will say a few things about this high quality short-run kit later, but first I would like to give some historical background to the subject.
The History in Brief
The markings represent the aircraft of Sgt Pilot M N “Mac” Read, 453 Squadron RAAF, Malaya, December, 1941. Most written accounts accompanying profiles of this aircraft refer to the death of the pilot after he rammed a Ki. 43 Oscar on December 22nd , having “run out of ammunition”. More details are worth sharing about Mac Read’s brief but intense combat career prior to his death at only 24 years of age. Read’s squadron, 453 RAAF was amongst the Buffalo-equipped units virtually wiped out by overwhelming Japanese numbers over the month of December, 1941. However, it also experienced some notable successes in its short, doomed defense of Malaya. Read had become a highly skilled dogfighter in the Buffalo, having been credited with the destruction of 2 Ki.48 Sonyas and one shared in a December 13, 1941 engagement, according to airpower historian Brian Cull. This aircraft – W8209 – was the plane he flew on that date. It may not have been the aircraft he died in. The December 13th battle was a ferocious turning fight between just three Buffaloes and 21 Ki-48s and Ki. 51s. Read and his flying partner Sgt Bill Collyer had only just arrived at Ipoh airfield in Malaya, being in the process of ferrying their newly assembled Brewsters from Sembawang, Singapore. Low on fuel, they suddenly took off to engage the Japanese bomber formation which they witnessed bombing shipping in nearby Penang Island Harbor. Climbing to nearby cloud cover they then dived undetected on the enemy to engage in a diving, turning fight with the Ki-48 Sonyas. When they finally landed again at Ipoh, they were cheered on by local witnesses hitherto overwhelmed by relentless Japanese air attacks. For his personal role in this action, Read was recommended for a DFM, noting that he had not only shot down 2.5 aircraft but had subsequently landed to re-arm and refuel his damaged plane to ground strafe enemy transports. By the time the recommendation was submitted, however, Read had already been killed and the DFM could not be awarded posthumously. Read’s fatal engagement was also the last for the 453rd in Malaya (it was finally reduced to just three aircraft and disbanded). It was also the first in which they met Ki. 43 Oscars. Cull’s book has detailed accounts from Australian and Japanese perspectives, as well as from Indian troops who found the aircraft wreckage. On the morning of December 22nd, 1941, eleven Buffaloes engaged 18 Ki.43 Oscars of 64th Sentai over Kuala Lumpur. Read was almost certainly in a fight with a Lt Takeo Takayama, who had already shot down three Buffaloes in the air battle, according to the Japanese. The Sentai commander Tateo Kato believed that Takayama’s aircraft had structural failure of its wings while chasing Read. Indian troops, however, found bullet holes in the tail section of the wreck, suggesting Read had shot him down. Interestingly, almost all of the surviving Oscars had damage to their wing roots from maneuvering after the fight. This revealed both the weaknesses of the Japanese plane – much to the frustration of Kato – and the fight put up by the Australians. Eye witness accounts on both sides suggest a final, catastrophic collision, perhaps accidental, between Takayama’s Oscar and Read’s Buffalo during a low level climax to their dogfight. In any case, both planes were destroyed and both pilots lost their lives. Read was given official, posthumous credit for the kill as an aircraft destroyed by ramming.
The Buffalo was at first well-liked then judged inferior to its main Japanese opponents by the Australians and New Zealanders and a smaller number of British pilots that flew it. Nonetheless, it is calculated by Australian sources to have had an at least 2:1 kill ratio to its Japanese adversaries in the Malayan and Singapore campaigns. Much more could be said of its mechanical and design issues, but suffice it to say it was probably a much better aircraft in RAF service than generally acknowledged by the British, in particular. Australian and New Zealand pilots who flew it, including Mac Read of New South Wales, Australia got the very best out of the aircraft in grueling conditions. For that, they and the Buffalo deserve to be remembered.
This was a fun kit to build. It is short run with the usual challenges. Here are some of the things I did (which you can see in the Work in Progress- Aircraft Group Build, if you are interested).
I detailed the cockpit sidewalls, mostly from scratch with wiring, new throttles, console switches and very specific accurate bits from a labeled pilots manual I found online, including the RAF-style gunsight. The kit etch IP is excellent so I used that.
The RAF seat and seat armor were refined and an accurate tubular support system scratch built.
I scratch built the engine ignition harness from styrene rod, stretched sprue and solder.
All cockpit masking was done without commercial pre-cut masks.
Wing lights and fuselage formation light were made from stretched sprue, painted for the wing lights in clear green and clear red.
Antenna wire is E Z Line with stretched sprue insulator.
Kit decals are excellent and used throughout.
Upper camouflage painted with Gunze Dark Earth and RAF Dark Green, thinned with Tamiya Thinner and Acrylic Retarder (which works beautifully for a very smooth finnish)
Lower Camo/ID colours with MM Acryl Duck Egg Blue (very good) and MM Acryl Semi Gloss Black (not recommended! – too fragile and extensivley repaired with Tamiya Flat Black
Clear Coated with Tamiya Clear + Retarder
MM Acryl Flat for sealer and semi-matt finish
To summarize, I really like this model and this aircraft in RAF colors. My next Buffalo project will be the Special Hobby Brewster 239 in Finnish service in the same scale. For now, I hope you will be interested in this one.
On to the pictures:
22 additional images. Click to enlarge.