Kit No. 426
Decals: 6 versions – all Royal Flying Corps
Comments: Complete engine, detailed cockpit and machine guns; bombs and air-to-ground rockets
In 1914, immediately after the start of the Great War, it became obvious that the British Army needed to develop an aviation component. Aircraft were not yet considered instruments of combat; at that point their function was seen as purely one of reconnaissance and observation of enemy troop movements. Consequently, the greatest asset a military aircraft could have was stability in the air for lengthy observation patrols. The first order went to the government’s Royal Aircraft Factory (RAF). In pre-war years they producted a two-seater, the Bleriot Experimental 2, or B.E.2, under the direction of engineer Edward T. Busk. The aircraft got its name from the tractor-like configuration that was the signature of aircraft designs of French aviation manufacturer Louis Bleriot.
The design appeared to be successful, and orders for its manufacture were given out to such firms as Handley Page, Vickers and Hewlett, as well as the state enterprise. At the beginning of the war the B. E. 2 was delivered to the Royal Army as an observation aircraft. Unfortunately for the B.E.2, the pace of aviation development was such that it became obsolete in a matter of months. Edward Busk modified the construction of the B.E.2: the lower wing of the biplane was staggered rearwards in order to improve the observer’s field of view; the form of the empennage was also changed, and the wings were fitted with ailerons. This new version was the B.E.2c and it was even more stable in flight than its predecessor. Both the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) requested the type. The Royal Aircraft Factory did not have the capacity to execute such an enormous order, so licenses for the B.E.2c’s construction were issued to such firms as Bristol, Vickers, Armstrong Whitworth, Wolseley, Ruston Proctor and others. During 1914-1915 more than 2,000 B.E.2c’s were built, along with the B.E.2d (which mainly differed from the B.E.2c in having an additional fuel tank under the top wing).
The first B.E.2c appeared in the skies over the Western Front at the beginning of 1915, and was charged with reconnaissance, artillery spotting, and the bombing of enemy troop formations. This variety of two-seat aircraft, with the observer in the front cockpit and the pilot in the rear, quickly became outmoded, and the B.E.2c began losing more and more air battles to newer German two-seaters. Its underpowered engine ensured that the B.E.2c remained in front line service for only a short while. By late 1916, its replacement, the R.E.8, began to arrive at the Front. When the Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter, DeHavilland DH4 and Bristol F2.B Fighter appeared, the B.E.2c’s role was limited to training and the interception of the huge, slow Zeppellins, which the Germans used to bomb England. B.E.2c pilots from emergency flights destroyed at least 5 German Zeppellins. However, they were already obsolete by 1917 for the interceptor role, and gradually yielded to newer types. As the war came to a close, the B.E.2c was employed solely for training, and by the end of the World War I only a handful of machines remained from the production total of over 2, 600. By the beginning of the 1920’s, nearly all of them had disappeared for good, and today the only B.E.2c remaining is located at the Imperial War Museum in Great Britain.
Roden’s B.E.2c is molded in grey and consists of 149 injection molded parts, plus clear plastic transparencies that must be cut out for the windscreens. The detail is exquisite, and includes a complete engine (15 parts), detailed Lewis machine guns with separately mounted drum magazines, molded detail on the struts, and even an imprint on the plane’s tires that reads “Palmer Cord Aero Tyre.” There is a detailed cockpit (the observer/gunner’s seat is cemented onto another part that looks suspiciously like a fuel tank), a choice of bomb racks (depending on the size of the projectiles, another choice), and an option for 10 rocket rails holding Le Prieur rockets, to be mounted on the outboard wing struts. Among the extra parts are two aerial machine guns. The kit bears a mix of engraved and raised panel lines, with the engraved lines for the ailerons in each wing being rather heavy. Exact measurements are given to help the modeler mount the machine guns, and to position the rocket rails correctly on the outboard struts. There is also a single large illustration that serves as a detailed rigging schematic, and meticulous though it is, the modeler will need to follow the advice of the instructions, and refer to the box art as well as the schematic to be certain of a thorough job — mainly due to the sheer number of wires.
The decals have color that rings true, fully in register, right down to the two small Union Jacks provided. There is even a decal for the tri-color on the tail. There are six versions:
- Aircraft 4395, serving with No. 14 Squadron Royal Flying Corps (Expeditionary Forces), Arabian region, 1917 — the plane depicted on the box art — painted Brown overall with a Gloss Black cowling and Matt Linen undersurfaces for the wings;
- Aircraft 10000, the only British aircraft with a five-digit serial number, built by the firm of Blackburn, and delivered to the Royal Naval Air Service Observers School, Eastchurch, July 1917 — painted Matt Green (almost a lime green) with a Light Grey cowling and Matt Linen undersurfaces for the wings;
- Aircraft 1741, serving with No. 12 Squadron RFC, Western Front, France, March 1916 — painted Matt Linen overall with a Gloss Black cowling and khaki around the two cockpits;
- Aircraft 2509, serving with No. 2 Squadron, RFC. This was a “presentation aircraft,” paid for by Mrs. H.P. Stromberg of New York City, late 1916 — painted Matt Linen overall with a Light Grey cowling;
- Aircraft 8407, equipped with Le Prieur rockets, based at Cranwell aerodrome, early 1918 — painted Matt Green with Gloss Black cowling and Matt Linen undersurfaces for the wings;
- Aircraft 4451, based at Eastchurch and Grain, early 1916 — painted Matt Linen overall with a Light Grey cowling.
A very detailed kit of an early World War I aircraft called upon to make the transition from observation to combat.