HISTORICAL MINIATURES BY GEORGE GRASSE
WORLD WAR 1 AIRCRAFT IN 1:48 SCALE

SOPWITH 1-1/2 STRUTTER 1.B2 (1.A2) OF THE  OF THE USAS 90th AERO SQUADRON, June-July 1918

by George Grasse

RODEN 1:48 SCALE PLASTIC INJECTION MOLDED KIT RO0402 OF THE SOPWITH 1-1/2 STRUTTER

SOPWITH 1-1/2 STRUTTER  3-VIEW DRAWING

This 3-view drawing is thought to be credited to either J. D. Carrick or F. Yeoman and appeared in Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War. 1  This drawing shows the British two-seater reconnaissance version and illustrates the general arrangement of the 1.A2 and 1.B2 versions used by the U. S. Air Service in mid-1918.  The 1.A2 version equipped the 88th and 90th, and 99th Aero Squadrons.  Obsolete by any standard, the Strutter was hurriedly issued to the USAS in order to get corps and army observation squadrons practical combat experience albeit in the relatively quiet Toul sector. 

The 88th and 99th were issued the 1.A2 version with the 120hp Le Rh�ne 9Jby rotary engine.  The 90th was issued the bomber version, 1.B2, because its initial mission was day bombardment.  However, this was impractical and the 90th was re-designated a corps reconnaissance squadron.  Their engines were the slightly more powerful 130hp Clerget 9Ba rotary engine.  The 1.B2 aircraft were all modified to the 1.A2 configuration by having the bombing equipment removed and a French radio set installed.

 During June and early July, 1918, the 88th and 90th operated their Strutters partly in the Toul sector but were reassigned to the U. S. 1st Corps Observation Group and participated in the Chateau-Thierry sector where French and U. S. forces stopped the last German offensive.   The 99th was still acclimating with Strutters during June but became the first squadron to receive the Salmson beginning on 29 June 1918.  During the last few weeks of month of July, the 88th and 90th also received their Salmson 2.A2s.

The U. S. Air Service ordered something like 915 Strutters of various configurations mostly having to do with the engine but a few were single-seat 1.B1s.  Most of these were apparently new machines but many were re-cycled from French escadrilles.  After the introduction of the Salmson 2.A2, all Strutters reverted to advanced two-seater training roles.

This model will represent a Sopwith 1.B2 of the 90th Aero Squadron flown by Lt. H. R. Ellis and Lt. P. B. Schuss out of the Ourches Aerodrome, France, in July 1918.  I arrived at a crew and serial number well after starting on this model.  Click here to skip to my serial number assumption.






CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 1
20 October 2014
    
COCKPIT DETAILS - THE BEGINNING: The Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter makes its appearance in no less than four Roden 1:48 scale kits.  The kits represent a French or British 1.A2 two-seater (kit 402), a French or British 1.B1 single-seater kit fighter (kit 404), a British single-seat Home Defense "comic" fighter (kit 407), and a French 1.B1 bomber (kit 411).  I am using the first named kit, 402.  

This photo shows the initial work on the interior.  I am incorporating PE parts from Part's S48-110 detail set.  Visible is the control panel which has the Roden former painted white, over which is glued the Part instrument panel film, and then Part's PE instrument panel.  Some of the interior "walls" will have Part's PE framework installed some of which can be seen at both ends of the cockpit area.  Much more work needs to be done.

 

CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 2
20 October 2014
COCKPIT DETAILS - CONTINUED:  In the view, a little over half of the cockpit components have been added, most of which have been painted.  In the left fuselage half is the radio (W/T) just behind the observer's seat.  It's an oblong bit of plastic to which to two Archer dry transfer instrument dials have been added with Parts' bevel frames; a couple of nondescript scrap plastic were added for knobs, the being painted semi-gloss black.  On the right a small box was added.  On both sides, I cut sections from the Parts PE sheet for the Strutter and added them to the sidewalls at the rear of the cockpit.  The thicker PE frames were painted in a wood color but the wire bracing was painted in Andrea's Union Blue, as were other metal fittings.
 
  
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 3
4 November 2014
COCKPIT DETAILS - ALMOST FINISHED:  Based on the Lewis gun ammunition storage for the Salmson 2.A2, I presumed a similar method for the French Sopwith 1.A2.  I had room for three drums.  The seat has its lap belts installed.  Other items added were the control column, just barely visible, a documents pouch, and throttle quadrant (not visible).
 
   
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 4
7 November 2014
FUSELAGE HALVES JOINED:  After completing the cockpit detail I prepared to join the fuselage halves.  First, I sanded done the surfaces to be joined on both halves.  Second, I made several dry runs observing how they fit and if there were any obstructions.  When satisfied, I glued the two halves together and bound them with a rubber band on the rear fuselage.   The next day, I lightly sanded the seams to uncover any voids.  I covered the underside seam with green putty, waited until dry, and sanded it down.  One more application was needed and the underside was smooth.  I applied a couple of coats of Misterkit MKFR04 French CDL.  Next I dry-fitted the lower wing.  The fit was quite tight but a little shaving here and there and it popped into place.  I removed it, applied glue, and re-set the lower wing in place.  The tailskid was added.
 
"The progress of the war in the year 1918 has clearly demonstrated the fact that the work of the observer and observation pilot is the most important and far-reaching which an Air Service operating with an army is called upon to perform".

Quote from: The U.S. Air Service in World War I
2
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 5
7 November 2014
LOWER WING:  Another view showing the attached lower wing and tail skid.
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 6
13 November 2014
MAIN LANDING GEAR:  A much stronger main landing gear was built to replace the flimsy plastic of the kit's landing gear which served as patterns.  The left and right landing gear struts are made from Albion Alloys 1.6mm OD Brass Tube (Code: MBT16) into which brass rods were inserted.  Each was a single piece of tube bent to the pattern.  Brass rods were inserted and the whole was lightly pounded to an oval shape.  The projecting brass rods served as anchor points into the fuselage.  The brass rod axle was secured to the struts using fine copper electrical wire and super glue.
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 7
27 November 2014
TAIL UNIT:  This was a simple step.  First the one-piece horizontal unit was glued to the flat recess at the rear of the fuselage.  The one-piece vertical unit is glued to the horizontal unit and the rear of the tail skid unit.
 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 8
28 November 2014
RIGGING TURNBUCKLES:  For me, the best solution to 1:48 scale turnbuckles are those produced by Gaspatch.  Somewhat expensive, these are absolutely accurate and quite strong being made from a metal alloy.  This photo shows some of the Gaspatch single-ended turnbuckles in place.  For the wings and undercarriage, slightly over forty have been installed and I'm not sure I got them all! 
 
 
"About 4,200 Sopwiths were built by France. . . It equipped 70 French escadrilles of the Aviation Militaire beginning in January 1917.  Late that year, Breguet 14s and Salmsons began to replace them, but it was not until the summer of 1918 that the last of the 1915 design had been removed from combat escadrilles."

Quote from: American Military Aircraft 1908-1919 3
 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 9
26 December 2014
TAIL STRUTS:  Two views of the supporting struts on the Strutter's tail.  I used piano wire.  Holes were pre-drilled.  The top surface struts are each a single piece of wire bent and cut to length.  The underside struts are four separate pieces of piano wire cut to length.  
 

The delay in proceeding with construction of this aircraft is the uncertainty of the French five-color camouflage scheme introduced in 1917 which applied to all U. S. Air Service French-built Sopwith 1.A2 and 1.B2 aircraft.  The Cross and Cockade (US) "Project Butterfly" series published in three parts mentions Sopwith 1.A2 schemes as "K-1, K-2, and K-3" on page 171 of CCUS Volume 13, Issue No. 2 but there are no drawings or photos that define these schemes.  I contacted one of the original researches on that project who told me that schemes would be forthcoming sometime in 2015.  I have not heard back from him but he did send me a number of photos from which I have come up with my own interpretation although whether it is "K-1, K-2, or K-3" or even correct, I do not know.  I used the three-view drawings from the Harleyford "Reconnaissance and Bomber Aircraft of World War I".  Note that the model "1.A2" is used throughout even though the 90th Aero Squadron was issued "1.B2" models.  However, all of these were converted to the "1.A2" configuration by having the bombing equipment removed and replaced with "1.A2" reconnaissance equipment including radio.


 
FRENCH FIVE-COLOR CAMOUFLAGE SYSTEM 1917-1918 FOR THE SOPWITH 1.A2, LEFT-SIDE DRAWING
Interpreted by George Grasse
I used colored pencils to differentiate the five colors to determine the pattern.  Of course, the pencil colors are no where near the correct shades.  The scheme on the left side from photos I have seem to show a color sequence of brown, beige, light green, black, and beige.  The black is the famous "footprint" usually seen on the top right wing.  The underside finish is CDL or possibly light blue.
 
 
 
FRENCH FIVE-COLOR CAMOUFLAGE SYSTEM 1917-1918 FOR THE SOPWITH 1.A2, RIGHT-SIDE DRAWING
Interpreted by George Grasse
The right side color sequence, front to rear, is dark green, light green, beige, black, and beige.  The Sopwith 1.A2's fuselage sequence is similar to the Salmson 2.A2 except for the black "footprint".  The cowling color is not known for sure and could be bare aluminum or white.  Strut colors are hard to determine.  It is possible that they were painted to roughly match the fuselage scheme against which they would appear as in a side view.  The cabane struts appear lighter and may be light blue or plain wood finish.
 
 
FRENCH FIVE-COLOR CAMOUFLAGE SYSTEM 1917-1918 FOR THE SOPWITH 1.A2, TOP VIEW
Interpreted by George Grasse
 The top wing color sequence, left to right, seems to be dark green, beige, and light green.  French roundels (or perhaps USAS roundels) are not shown.  The bottom wing sequence, left to right, is light green, brown, beige, dark green.  The rear decking of the fuselage is interpreted by joining the colors of the left and right sides in a somewhat logical manner.  The horizontal tail surface is beige with a brown spot on the left and a dark green spot on the right.  Note that the top wing foot print is not shown.  I had trouble trying to determine if one was present on the few photos I had with which to work.
 
 

The Sopwith "Strutter" was built by Britain and France in three basic models:

Model Britain France
Two-Seat Reconnaissance Type 9400L 1.A2
Two-Seat Bomber Type 9400S 1.B2
Single-Seat Bomber Type 9700 1.B1

 
 
  
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 10a
31 May 2015

FUSELAGE 5-COLOR CAMOUFLAGE, LEFT REAR VIEW:  In this and the next image, only the fuselage is painted in the French 1917 5-color Camouflage Scheme.  For the left side, the Misterkit colors are, front to rear, Chestnut Brown, Beige, Light Green, Black, and Beige.  The left horizontal plane is Beige with a Chestnut Brown spot.  The right horizontal plane is Beige with a Dark Green spot.  The supporting rods on the tailplane are Beige on the upper surface but CDL on the under surface.  The wings shown are primed in light gray.  Rudder stripes are painted in acrylics in the French order of blue, white, and red, blue leading. 4
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 10b
31 May 2015
FUSELAGE 5-COLOR CAMOUFLAGE, LEFT REAR VIEW:  In this right rear view, the  fuselage is painted in the French 1917 5-color Camouflage Scheme and, for the right  side, the Misterkit colors are, front to rear, Dark Green, Light Green, Beige, Black, and Beige.  You can clearly see the gray-primed lower wing. 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 11
5 June 2015
WING 5-COLOR CAMOUFLAGE, TOP VIEW:  I followed my interpretation of the 5-color camouflage scheme on the upper surfaces of both wings with one exception.  I thought the top right wing should have an additional panel of color on the far right.  Also, I have not yet included the black "footprint" that is so prominent on French aircraft in this scheme.  All colors are Misterkit.  The sequence of colors on the top wing, left to right, is dark green, beige, light green, and chestnut brown.  The sequence on the bottom wing is light green, chestnut brown, beige, and dark green.  One further note: I interpreted the joining of the colors on the topside of the fuselage because I did not have access to any photos that should how the colors were connected.
 
 
DETERMINATION OF THE SOPWITH 1.B2's SERIAL NUMBER

The national insignia on U. S. Air Service Sopwiths was French.  The French roundel is prominent in photos of the Sopwith 1.B2 as are the French rudder stripes which blue, white, and red, blue leading at the rudder post.  The 90th Aero Squadron flew Sopwith 1.B2 aircraft that were converted from a bomber configuration to that of reconnaissance.  Technically, they were Sopwith 1.A2s but their rudder identification remained unchanged and read "Sop 1.B2".  Specific serial numbers in photos of 90th Aero Squadron are few.  In the book entitled "The Ninetieth Aero Squadron" there is a photo of a 90th Sopwith 1.B2 identified as "?349" number "9" in the squadron flown by Lt. Alexander T. Grier at Ourches Aerodrome.5  From the recently published book "American Military Aircraft 1908-1919", pages 658-659 list all of the known Sopwith 1 models and serial numbers issued to U. S. Air Service squadrons.  The only serial number having "349" is number 1349, one of 41 known Sopwith 1 aircraft with a 130 hp Clerget engine.  I have made my rudder decals representing aircraft number "9" serial number 1349.
  

 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 12
16 June 2015
RUDDER MARKINGS:  These are the decals I made for N.1349.  I used Century Schoolhouse font (WORD size 6 except for "OP" which is size 4). 
 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 13
27 June 2015
TOP WING PRELIMINARIES:  There are three preliminary steps going on here to prepare for the installation of the top wing.  First, the engine panels were all painted aluminum according to photos.  In previous construction photos I had only painted the cowling, not the engine panels behind it.  Second, the rear machine gun mount is being built  because the kit version is flimsy and fell apart.  This one is made from brass and needs additional work.  Third, the interplane struts, which give the Sopwith its famous sobriquet "one-and-a-half strutter" is glued in place.  I used the kit struts here.

 
 
SOPWITH 1.B2 NUMBER BLACK "9"
Sopwith 1.B2 marked black "9" with its observer Lt. Alexander T. Grier.  This photo was taken from The Ninetieth Aero Squadron, facing page 17 (see bibliography below).  I have decided to model this aircraft and have assumed that it's serial number is "1349" for which I have already made up and applied the rudder decals.  Next, I made up the black "9" using this strange font set called "DFkai-SB" which makes the number look like this "9".

 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 14
4 July 2015
ADDITIONAL DECALS, OBSERVER'S LEWIS GUN:  The black "9" decals were added to the fuselage.  Additionally, two more decals were made.  The marking "Lever Ici" (lift here) was added to the bottom rear of the fuselage.  The aircraft's serial number "1349" in small font was added to the wingtips, stabilizer tips, and main wing struts (stabilizer markings shown here). 

The observer's Lewis gun is partially completed now.  I used a Gaspatch Lewis Mk. I (stripped with cooling fins) from their accessory kit 48025.   Several additional components to the turret need to be added. 


CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 15
4 August 2015
DETAILS ADDED, READY FOR TOP WING ATTACHMENT:  Both cockpits have their windscreens in place and the Lewis gun mounting is completed. 


CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 16
21 August 2015
TAIL UNIT RIGGING:  Using .005 monofilament thread, I rigged the rudder and elevator control wires.  This top view shows the elevator wires.  I painted the thread after rigging which is not my normal practice.  I wish now that I had taken the time to pre-paint them.


CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 17
21 August 2015
STRUTS:  The outboard wing struts were made from brass tubing with brass rod inserts for strength.  The model is ready for attachment of the top wing.  Note the elevator control lines that run to a "distribution" point just outside the rear cockpit and then angle downward to the points aft of the forward cockpit.  These were especially hard to paint after installation. 



CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 18
31 August 2015
TOP WING INSTALLED:  The center wing struts are from the kit.  Usually, as with the outboard wing struts, I make them from brass tube and rod simply because of great strength.  The dangling rigging wires of monofilament thread are apparent.  They'll be hooked up next.  he outboard wing struts were made from brass tubing with brass rod inserts for strength. 


FINISHED PHOTO SECTION
LEFT SIDE VIEW

RIGHT SIDE VIEW

LEFT REAR VIEW

RIGHT REAR VIEW



----------------------------  FINIS  -----------------------------
 

Footnotes:

1  Publication data for this early World War 1 aviation book published in 1954 is not forthcoming in the book itself.  The title page lists O. G. Thetford and E. J. Riding as co-compilers.  The managing editor is D. A. Russell.  Only the date of publication, 1954, is shown.  It is presumed that it was published by Harleyford Publications in the UK.

2 Maurer, Maurer, editor. The U.S. Air Service in World War I, Volume 1, page 104.

3 Casari, Robert B.  American Military Aircraft 1908-1919, page 654

4 In all my research, I have not found any evidence that the markings of French Sopwith 1s used by the first USAS squadrons (88th, 90th, and 99th) were other than French which means the roundels and rudder markings were in the French style and not the later U. S. Air Service style.  Photos generally show red as much darker than French blue which is one indicator that the darker color at the tail-end of the rudder is red which makes it French.  Roundels are easy to identify because the center circle is white which can only be French because the center circle on later U. S. Air service aircraft was blue.

5 The photo shows observer 2/Lt. Alexander T. Grier standing next to Sopwith 1.B2 "9".  Later, flying a Salmson 2.A2 flown by 2/Lt Floyd H. Hart, the two earned a victory credit each by shooting down a Fokker D.VII on 20 September 1918.  It is presumed that 2/Lt Hart was the pilot of Sopwith 1.B2 "9".  2/Lt Grier previously served with French Escadrille R.46 before joining the 90th Aero Squadron.  He earned the Croix de Guerre with Palm.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

Bibliography:

Bruce, J. M.  Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter Volume 1, Windsock Datafile 34. Berkhamsted. Hertfordshire, UK: Albatros Productions 1992.

Bruce, J. M.  Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter Volume 2, Windsock Datafile 80. Berkhamsted. Hertfordshire, UK: Albatros Productions 2000.

Carver, Leland M., Gustaf A. Lindstrom, and A. T. Foster.  The Ninetieth Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces.  Nashville, TN: Battery Press, 1990.

Casari, Robert B.  American Military Aircraft 1908 - 1919.  Aeronaut Books, 2014.

Davilla, James J. Dr and Arthur M. Soltan.  French Aircraft of the First World War.  Boulder, Colorado: Flying Machines Press, 2002.

Maurer, Maurer, editor. The U.S. Air Service in World War I, four volumes.  U. S. Government Printing Office, 1979.

Thetford, O. G. and E. J. Riding, Compilers, and D. A. Russell, Managing Editor.  Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War.   England: Harleyford Publishers, 1954.

Toelle, Alan D. "French 1918 Camouflage Colors - Typical Palette", 2001.

 

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