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A Gladiator in a Wintry Setting

Modelling a Swedish Airforce J8 from the Finnish Winter War

n by Thomas Olsson
n English translation by Magnus Fridsell

I have been modelling since the 70s with the Swedish Air Force as my main interest. As a youngster I built two Gladiators, one each from Heller and Matchbox. After a ten year hiatus I decided to take up plastic modelling as a hobby again and build another Gladiator, this time benefiting from all the resources available on the Internet. Sadly, the Gladiator in 1/72 is out of production and hard to find but with a bit of luck I placed the winning bid in an online auction and a Matchbox kit was mine for 50 Swedish kronor.

To start with, I wanted to do an "ordinary" Swedish Air Force Gladiator but at a club meeting someone suggested doing an aircraft from F-19 wing flown in the winter war of 1939-40. F-19 was a very short-lived unit consisting entirely of volunteers helping Finland against the Soviet Union. The unit was made up of aircraft from the Swedish Air Force, one part of it was equipped with Gladiator fighters while the other part flew the Hawker Hart light bomber. The unit fought well until the armistice in spring 1940 with quite a few victories although none of the pilots made ace.

Adding some extras

The most significant thing missing in the Matchbox kit are the rather shoe-like skis. I made the ski "soles" from plasticard and the upper surface shapes from Milliput with the help of a profile in plasticard. Detailing of the landing gear was made using lead wire. A new interior was made using the instructions from the Eduard set for Roden's 1/48 Gladiator as a guide. This is downloadable from the Eduard web site as a PDF document. The instrument panel is made from plasticard and the instrument frames are from the thinnest electrical cable I could find. Sidewall detailing was made using photos from this site as a guide with a new seat made from plasticard. Since I had put in this extra work, I had to leave the small doors on both sides open in order to make my work visible! All flying surfaces were cut out and repositioned, the exhaust pipes were made new from wire and glued against the collector ring so that it would look like one complete unit. Clamps for the exhaust system were made from flattened fisherman's lead wire, kind of a poor man's photo etch that can be bought in specialised shops for fishing gear! A new canopy was drawn with the old one as a mould and then carefully cut into three pieces so that it could be left open.


The completely scratch-built cockpit


Lower surfaces were painted using Tamiya Neutral Grey (XF-66) mixed with 1/3 white. There are as many recipies as there are modellers for the upper surface colour (Swedish green 325) but my favourite Tamiya-mix is as follows: 30% Dark Green (XF-61) 20% Flat Earth (XF-52) 50% RLM Grey (XF-22) This will result in a very characteristic "grey-brown-green"! The F-19 Gladiators received a field applied winter camouflage of aluminium dope applied to the upper surfaces. This was masked using blue-tack and sprayed using Tamiya Flat aluminium (XF-16). After a coat of clear, all panel lines received a wash of thin brownish-black paint. The matte finish was achieved using Future mixed with Tamiya flat base, to start with using so much flat base that the model got a white, chalky surface. After some panic, the problem was solved using more future with less flat base in it!

The model after painting, note the rather odd field-applied camouflage consisting of aluminium dope sprayed over the standard green. The shoe-like skis are also noteworthy, they are by the way included in the Heller kit!

Final assembly

I had prepared the model for rigging by drilling small holes where the rigging attaches. The wires were made from stretched silver coloured sprues, carefully cut to length and then attached using white glue. The wires connecting upper and lower ailerons were made with hairs from a paintbrush. To finish it off, I drilled out the position lights and glued clear plastic sprues (red for left, blue for right) in the resulting holes.

After decaling! The Finnish swastikas were "stolen" from a Matchbox He-115.

The diorama

The base is an upside-down flower pot tray with a layer of plaster as ground. The snow is from Woodland Scenics, sprinkled over a layer of white glue. To add some interest, the scene includes a tree, a fence and an oil drum covered in snow. The figures are all from Preiser, the majority including the dog (!) from the Luftwaffe personnel set while the skier originates from "German soldiers at rest". The skis are from plastic card while the ski poles are metal wire. All parts had to be securely "anchored" using metal wire since glue doesn't work on Woodland Scenics snow!

Working on the diorama, the quality of the Preiser figures is apparent.

An appropriate wintry setting!

I am pleased with the result even if the Heller kit probably is a better model. For one thing, in that kit both skis and decals are included for a winter war machine. The diorama adds an extra dimension to the model and really conveys a cold feeling of northern Finland!


Additional images, click to enlarge


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