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Fine New Lancaster Model

A fine new one thirteenth scale model of a Lancaster has gone on display in the Museum’s Merston Hall. Built by Volunteer David Burleigh in tribute to his brother, who lost his life in a Lancaster during WW2, it has a 2.3 meter span and is displayed in the colours of 101 Squadron. You can read David’s fascinating story of the 650 hour rebuild here.

In late November 2006 Mrs Margaret Welton of Horley donated to the Museum a part finished unpainted large scale model of a Lancaster built by her late husband. For a few days it stood beneath the Merston Hall Spitfire and a call went out for a volunteer to take on the task of finishing it for display. This appeared to be an opportunity for me to fulfil a long held wish to create a memorial to my eldest brother Terence who at 20 years old just one of the 55,000 young men of Bomber Command aircrew who lost their lives in the Second World War. I volunteered to take on the rebuild and in within minutes was receiving wide ranging comments and advice from my colleagues as to some of the aspects that needed to be addressed!

The model having originally been built as a flying radio control model had several deviations from a common scale, these differences, to which the model had been produced were confirmed as varying between 1/10 and 1/15 using 1/48 scale plans and known Lancaster dimensions; in order to utilise part of the fuselage a scale of 1/13.5 was used for the rebuild. New drawings were generated to this scale, transferred to MDF boards which then become both plans and base boards for the build jigs. At 1/13.5 scale the model is 2.30 metres (90.66 inches) span and 1.57 metres (62 inches) long. The garden tool shed was commandeered; a bench and shelves were built and overhead webbing slings made for space saving storage of the fuselage whilst it was not being worked on. Due to space constraints work was undertaken in major sub assemblies, and the later work especially the painting carried out in the open. The rebuild was entirely by hand tools other than use of a modelling drill plus both a regular and modelling jigsaw.

For the wings a new centre section and outer panels were made using 3.0 mm marine ply, ribs and built up box section front and rear spars; the outer sections are detachable to facilitate both build and transportation. The leading edges have ply ribs with HD modelling foam infill, the wing tips are HD foam, all wing upper surfaces are skinned with 1.5 mm balsa sheet and the undersides with 1.0 mm ply. New nacelles were built with ply formers and longitudinals in-filled with HD foam, the inner nacelles having 3.0 mm marine ply main wheel wells which attach to the main and rear spars. To achieve the 3D curvature the undercarriage doors were moulded using glass reinforced plastic in a plaster mould cavity cast from hand carved solid form, the same method was used to produce the spinners. To complete the wing structures the ailerons and flaps were built as rib and skin balsa structures.

Attention then turned to the fuselage, which although in length was to scale was in need of correction to the section which was achieved by the addition of ply formers and skin supporting balsa spacers attached to the original surfaces, and after fitting the centre section it was skinned with 0.4 mm ply. The original silver painted solid cockpit and M/U turret disappeared in the fuselage reconstruction the original front and rear turret covers were deleted and new front and rear turret mountings added as was the mid upper coaming. The cockpit section was reconstructed and a floor surface added together with a front bulkhead and bomb aimer’s compartment floor, detail elements of the cockpit and bomb aimer’s area were left until the final stages. To complete the fuselage assembly the original tail surfaces were reduced in both span and chord and fins and rudders re-profiled to scale. Front, mid-upper and rear complete turrets were built, guns and ammunition tracks made and fitted; precise details of the rarely installed (believed to be 101 Squadron only) Rose-Rice rear turret are unavailable so it was produced as accurately as possible from the best of the few available photographs. The time spent on turret (and cockpit) glazing proved to be wasted; having made the all the multi laminated ply frameworks the attachment of individual glazing panels to these frames was found to be unacceptable scrap! So that which had initially been avoided became a necessity and carving of male form patterns from a mixture of hard wood and pine undertaken one pattern for each of the aircraft’s transparencies. Rather than make or buy a vacuum forming machine I looked for and received help from an ex- supplier who vacuum formed three sets of mouldings using the patterns. Each transparency was carefully trimmed to fit, masked and the framework painted on allowing completion of the turrets all of which are detachable.

The undercarriage and wheels were the biggest challenge; designs were produced from photographs and hardwood dowel, ply and brass mechanism with hand carved wheels of HD foam didn’t look the part; more scrap! Change to Plan B and use the skills of Burleigh Jnr! Using measurements and photographs from the Lancaster at RAAF Museum, Bull Creek WA, the knuckles, pivots and main wheels all in nylon were made in Australia by stereolithography from 3D CAD; these component parts were used to complete the main undercarriage assemblies, the jacks, oleos and radius tubes being made from nylon or brass tube.

The cockpit has the pilot’s seat with the engineers seat folded to the vertical position, there are both pilot and flight engineers instruments, and by the pilot’s left knee is the compass. There are also the control column together with the throttle and pitch controls; partly hidden behind the curtain is the navigators table. Only three members of the aircrew were modelled, the Pilot, Mid Upper and Rear Gunner; these were sculpted to shape from dolls house figures which were used as basic torsos built up with epoxy resin and painted.

External details: exhausts with flame dampers and air intakes with mesh guards complete the nacelles, mass balances on the rudders and aileron jacks and flaps set at 10 degrees complete the flying surfaces; fine wire aerials for the standard radio equipment including the IFF, however the most noticeable external details are the single small receiver and three large transmitter aerials for the Airborne Cigar jamming equipment.

The painting of the camouflage and black undersides using matt enamels was done as various assemblies were completed; then given a final coat when assembled to ensure camouflage continuity and over sprayed with a matt varnish following which the roundels and fin flashes were painted and varnished. The serial ME 619 and 101 Squadron code and identity SR-U were then added, and after approximately six hundred and fifty hours of work, it became the aircraft in which my brother Terence and three others of the crew of eight lost their lives 23rd April 1944.

The rebuilt model was donated to the Museum in time for the visit to the Museum on May 17th by 66 of the Old Uetonians Association, RAF Uetersen 1945-1955 (mainly Y Section signallers, four of whom had post Utersen connections with the Tangmere Language School). One of these visitors was Colin Burleigh, the last of three older Burleighs to serve as signallers in the Royal Air Force.

The author wishes to acknowledge the donation of the vacuum forming by Fb-Avak Ltd and the stereolithography by Solid Concepts Ltd Pty.

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