Gavia's 1/48 Westland Lysander Mk.III

Model, Text & Photos by Steven "Modeldad" Eisenman

I found this little note in one of my Lysander reference books: In 1941 a notice hung in a Royal Observer Corps training center at Oxford, "There is a difference between a barrage balloon, an aeroplane and a Lysander; the aeroplane can't stand still in the air - which makes it difficult to identify". In modern terms, the Lysander today would be referred to as a STOL aircraft. The Lizzie, as it was known, was designed with the intention of army-cooperation, through observation and tactical reconnaissance. Its virtue was that it could make a very rapid decent and ascent in a relatively short space. This ability kept it in service, long after it was clearly obsolete, for the purpose of dropping off and recovering special agents from behind enemy lines. It also could pick up messages on the fly by means of a long deployable hook mounted on the underside of the fuselage (visualize a very long arrester hook on a SBD). During and after the Battle of Britain the Lizzie served in the air-sea rescue role by dropping dinghies to pilots forced to ditch in the water. The Finns also made use of the Lysander for reconnaissance work and to conduct nuisance bombings - not much damage done, but it kept the Soviet soldier from getting needed sleep.

I like the looks of the Lysander, those long thin wings, and those odd little winglets off the wheel covers. Just something different about this aircraft, you do not see it coming and going everyday! About seven years ago I built the Hawk/Italeri Lysander Mk. I and finished it in Finnish markings as part of my Finnish Air Force collection. I scratch built most of the interior of that kit using Evergreen plastic rod and sheets. By today's standards, my work was not so great (OK, it stinks!). I believe the Hawk/Italeri ("Italeri") kit is out of production, but went for about $12 US. The new Gavia kit retails for about $39US. (Editor's note: See current Roll Models' price at the bottom of this page.)

Overall appearance: As with the Airfix Ju 87 B and the Monogram AT-6, there is something about the rough outer appearance of the Italeri Lysander with the rivet detail that some people like and say is more accurate. The Gavia kit is smooth and finer looking. Not to be sexist, but the Italeri kit has a masculine look about it, while the Gavia kit has a feminine look.

The parts in the Gavia kit are molded in light gray plastic, and have the general appearance of a limited run kit. But the spru gates are not thick and there is virtually no flash. You will need to clean up some of the ejector pin lugs on the rear horizontal stabilizers so they will go together properly. There are neither resin nor photo etched parts in the kit.

The Gavia kit, however, has some strange objects molded on. There are two raised "vents" on each side of the fuselage just in front of the windshield. I cannot find them on the drawing and pictures I have of the Lizzie. My sources indicate that there was a "pop out" vent on the port side only and it was more rectangular in shape. Also, the Gavia kit molded the hand/foot holds as something that sticks out from the fuselage, rather than as an indent, which they were and which is correct on the Italeri kit. Neither kit has those small access panels just in front of the tail fin in "clear", as can often be seen in pictures. But unlike the Italeri kit, the Gavia has separate lights and lenses in the front spats. In the Italeri kit the lights are indicated as a mold lines; you either had to paint them silver or open them up creating a light and lens on your own.

The winglets on the Gavia kit also lack detail. They should have had attachment points on the bottom onto which such things as bomb racks or cargo carrier racks were attached. Simple attachment points are on the Italeri kit. Given the price of the Gavia kit, it could have come with the racks, or at least the attachment points! The Gavia also does not include the small bomb rack that was sometimes carried on the rear of the fuselage. One nice thing about the Gavia kit is that the clear parts are quite nice. Much better -clearer and thinner - than the Italeri clear parts. Its a shame the top canopy could not be positioned open.

First about measurements: The most noticeable difference is the opening of the cockpit. At the bottom of the canopy line, the Italeri kit is 6 scale inches longer than either Gavia kit or my reference drawings. But the Gavia kit fuselage appears to be shorter by about 5 inches than the drawings. The Gavia wings are more accurate in size than the Italeri wings. The length is the same, but the chord at the widest on the Gavia is 6 feet 6 inches, which appears to be correct. On the Italeri it is 7 feet. This makes the Gavia Lizzie far more graceful looking than the Italeri kit. It is amazing how just an 1/8 of an inch can make such a difference in the overall appearance of the aircraft.

Construction: The cockpit interior is similar in concept to the Tamiya Swordfish. You put the tubular frame together, glue to one fuselage half, put other fuselage half together; and there you do not have it! The frame cage is narrower than the cockpit opening, and the cockpit top decks are too wide. I needed a spacer in the front (.035 rod) between the forward bulkhead and the frame. I needed to reduce the edges of the decks to fit cockpit. Part 32 could be a problem; you might want to wait to attach this piece until you are ready to fit the wings. This little piece is what holds the wings on. If it is not perfectly level, you will have cockeyed wings. The instrument panel and other panels have very flat detail and dry brushing does not improve them very much. The instructions really do not give you a clue as to how to position the control stick/rudder peddle unit. In the instructions it appears to mount on top of the frame. But in reality, it slips down into the framework and the rudder peddles attach at the bottom of the forward framework. The seats are much nicer than the the ones in the Italeri kit (anything a little bit better would be better!).

The instructions are not good about the interior colors, color indicator letters are not described. I painted the interior similar to the Tamiya Swordfish. British interior green on the metal portion and a buff color on the fabric walls. I then dry brushed the walls with dark red to represent the dope, that was applied on the out side, bleeding through.

The kit has a rear package shelf on which you mount the twin 30's. My drawings and pictures indicate that, like the Vickers K gun in the Mks. I,II and III, the twin 30s were attached to a bar running across the back in front of the gunner/radio operator's seat. (The package-shelf was in all marks that had the Vickers gun to store Vickers ammo drums flat.) It should be noted that the twin guns were belt fed from two rectangular ammo-belt storage boxes on each side of the rear cockpit and stuck out from into cockpit opening. They appear to have been mounted in the rear package shelf. From the side, the forward half was visible while the rear of the boxes went under the covered portion of the cockpit/fuselage behind the gunners position. They actually stuck up about 6 inches from the bottom of the canopy edge. The feed belts ran down under the boxes and up to the guns. Theses boxes are absent in the Gavia kit, and the rear deck has some things on it which do not seem to belong. Rather than cut and sand the kit's package shelf, I made a new one out of sheet plastic and made two rectangular ammo boxes approximately 1/4 inch high by 3/8 inch long by 1/8 inch wide. I used fine stretched spur on the outside to simulate vertical ribs on the boxes. I did not like the kit's gun mount, so I built my own and used the protection shield from the Hasegawa SBD-4 to put on top of the guns. I used foil from a wine bottle to represent the belt feed guides entering the outside of the breach of each gun. It should also be noted that some Lizzies had a canvas piece about 4 inches high that ran from the rear of the cockpit opening to the fixed canopy portion just at the gunner's seat. I guess it reduced the airflow into the gunner's position. I did not put this on my model, but one could be made from masking tape. 

The cowling and engine are going to give some people fits, Like the Dragon/DML Fw190s, the cowling comes in three pieces with a separate cowling ring. At this point I did not follow the instructions. I made up the engine and attached it to the fuselage (a cylinder at the 12 o'clock position). Then I put the three cowling pieces together and slid them over the engine, only to discover that it did not fit. It was about an 1/8 of an inch smaller than the diameter of the engine. I removed the engine, removed all the cylinders and cut a bit off the base of each one, reassemble and it fit! As to the cowling ring, there are openings for the air inlets on each side but the inlet pieces are solid plugs and need to be drilled out! NOW THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!! The hinge lines on the cowling are not the alignment reference. Rather, the top hinge line is offset to the right slightly and the center lines up with the first bump to the left of it. When you put the fuselage halves together you need to notice two very small dimples on the nose at the joint lines. DO NOT FILL! These are the registration points for attaching the cowling. Look for two very small points of plastic on the inside of the cowl: DO NOT REMOVE THEM, they are the alignment pins. The Gavia kit also does not provide for the engine/cowling support arms which go from the front of the engine up to the cowl in a triangular arrangement. As to the clearance bumps on the cowl, they are larger and more accurate than the Italeri kit.

For comparison, the Italeri cowling was a one piece molding, but lacked the hinge and hinge line detail. However, the clearance bumps were separate which allowed you to do a Mk.. II. But the cowling was about 4 inches shorter on the Mk. II which means you have to remove a bit from the kit cowl. Also, the Italeri kit does not have the air inlets, but these can be made from plastic or brass tube. It does, however, have the engine/cowl support arm arrangement.

I must digress here before going on. I cut out the canopy sides at the pilots compartment, as shown as an option in the instructions. When on the ground, and often when flying, these side windows slid down into the fuselage. I cut off the tops of the window sides and positioned them so that one appeared as if it was all the way down on one side and about three-quarters of the way down on the other side.

Wing attachment: This is the pain of the kit. The little square (Part 32) that fits on top of the the interior frame is actually the attachment for the wings. I had to open the wings a little with a file so they would slide over the attachment point. I struggled every which way and messed up my paint job getting the wings, the canopy pieces
and the fuselage all lined up level and attached. I think the wings should first be attached temporarily to Part 32 after the canopy is in place and then it can be lined up and leveled off. I found I had to do some cutting and sanding of the top of the canopy sides to get a level fit. Then I attached the top canopy piece

The main wing support struts are about 3/16 inch too short. If you attach the supports to the attachment holes, the wings look like floppy ears on a Beagle puppy. You need to fill in the attachment holes on the underside of the wing and sand smooth. Attach the wing supports directly to the wings when you get the wings at the right position. There seemed to be only the slightest hint of a dihedral (3 degrees) to the Lysander's wings.

The rear horizontal stabilizers must be test fitted. The right tail plane tab seems to have been molded on the wrong side - should be on bottom. They will need some work to get a good and proper fit.

The wheel spats went together nicely, but a little filing and shaping may be needed to get the lights and lens to fit properly. These attach directly to the fuselage. There are mounting pins on winglets but no holes on spats, you must drill. But, I cut off the pin and butt mounted them with Tenax liquid cement to get better positioning. Note: Some Lizzies did not have the winglets mounted. So they could be left off if you have a reference showing this.

The tail wheel, in my opinion, is too long. I cut it off about halfway down the "faring".

After I completed the kit, I realized I did not use any filler, except to close the underwing holes for the wing supports. Always nice to have a kit that fits well, if not perfectly.

Gavia designed the rear part of the canopy, over the radioman/gunner position, it to be placed open. The rear canopy is a true mid to late Mk. III rear canopy. On the Mks. I, II and early III the forward portion of the rear sliding canopy angles back to the rear at about a 45 degree angle. On the Mk.. III/IIIA the canopy angles back only about half-way and then goes straight down. So to make a mid to late Mk.. III out of the old Italeri kit, you would need to either ignore or correct the rear canopy. Although the kit comes with markings for a Finnish Lizzie, you cannot make an accurate one from the Gavia kit. The Finnish Lizzies were from both the Mk.. I and early Mk.. III series. Therefore, the rear canopy forward edge went straight back at an angle (unlike the Gavia's rear canopy) and they carried the Vickers/Lewis gun, not twin 30s.

Decals: There are three options that come with the kit. The first one is for a Dark Green / Dark Earth and Aluminum underside aircraft of 26 Squadron coded RM*H /T1429. The second is for a Lizzie of 309 (Polish) Squadron in Dark Green / Dark Earth / Sky, coded AR*V / V9437. The final markings are for a Finnish Lizzie of 2/LeLv. 16. The colors are incorrect for this aircraft. The instructions indicate Olive green / Black Aluminum undersides. But since the aircraft was repainted from the RAF colors in Continuation War markings, the underside would have been repainted a color almost identical to RLM 65. But as I noted above, the Mark itself is not correct for the Finnish aircraft. The decals, however, are quite nice, and go on very well, conforming to all the nooks and crannies with just a little setting solution. But, in my opinion, the red on decals is too bright for the RAF markings. The color for the Polish checkerboard looks great. For the RAF markings, I used the red roundel center and fin flash from an Aeromaster set. But there is great stenciling, with enough for two aircraft.

I painted my model in the 209 (Polish) Squadron markings using Gunze Sangyo (acrylic) Dark Green and Dark Earth and Tamiya Sky.

Final Point: After I finished my Lizzie, I could not stand the sight of those plain winglets. So after checking some sources, I went into my Tamiya Swordfish kit and took the light bomb racks, which hold the flares and smoke bombs, and put them under the winglets. It is a nice final touch. I did not put any munitions in the racks. 

Is the Gavia kit worth three times as much as the old Italeri kit? At this point, I am not so sure. Considering some of the errors, the lack of detail in certain areas and the absence of both photo etched and resin parts, $39 might seem a little steep. (Editor's Note: See bottom of this page for current Roll Models' price.) But, if you are going to build only one Lysander (Bet you can't build just one!), then the Gavia kit will be the one for you. But you will need to correct some or all of the kit's inaccuracies. I have also seen the Special Duties version of the Lysander. The kit comes with one additional spru with the ladder and under fuselage tank. If you get this kit, you do not install the machine guns. The radio equipment goes on the rear package shelf to make more room inside the cockpit for extra passengers and equipment. The instructions, however do not show this!
  (Copyright Steven Eisenman 2002)

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