SOPWITH 7F.1 'SNIPE' of No. 4 Squadron AFC 1918

by George Grasse




This 3-view drawing is credited to J. D. Carrick or F. Yeoman and appeared in Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War compiled by W. M. Lamberton and published by Harleyford Publications Limited (page 38).  This three view shows the early 'Snipe' that equipped just four squadrons by war's end: RAF Nos. 43, 70, and 208; and No. 4 Squadron Australian Flying Corps (AFC).  Post-war, a revised  'Snipe' served well into the 1920s equipping no less than eleven squadrons but with a slightly different wing and tail unit configuration as denoted by dashed aileron lines and revised rudder on the right. 

Sopwith 7F.1 'Snipe' E8050 flown by Captain Elwyn Roy King, flight leader, 4th Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (previously, prior to January 1918, designated as RAF No. 71 Squadron).  Captain King was Australia's second highest scoring ace with 26 confirmed aerial victories but more importantly, the highest scoring 'Snipe' ace of the British Empire and Commonwealth with seven in E8050.  The white vertical bar forward of the fuselage roundel is the squadron's marking and the white 'U' aft of the fuselage roundel is King's code letter which is also repeated on the right-hand side of the top wing and probably appears on the underside of the bottom wing.  Both images are courtesy of the Wikipedia article on "Captain Elwyn Roy King".

This image is the artwork of Arvo Lennart Verkamer taken from Windsock Worldwide, Vol. 29, No. 2, Albatros Productions, 2013.

GETTING STARTED - COCKPIT INTERIOR:  Here is an 'exploded' view of the major parts that make up the cockpit interior.  Not shown are 'gadgets', 'widgets', and 'goodies' that will make up the finished product.  I would like to thank Wingnut Wings who offer their publication of the Sopwith Snipe Early' construction booklet which served as a guide.

The side frames, seat, control stick, and rudder bar are metal; the rest are plastic.  I started by dividing the fuselage side walls into three painted sections as shown based on the Wingnut Wings illustrations.  The rear portion is doped linen simulated with Vallejo VC0847 Dark Sand.  The center section is painted as wood paneling using Vallejo VC0856 as the base then other colors and colored pencils to roughly simulate wood grain (not much of this will be seen).  The forward portion is painted with a brush dipped a patch of  Tamiya's Gloss Aluminum. 

The side frames have lengths of .005 monofilament thread glued to unseen backside to represent internal bracing wires.  The wicker seat had a pair of the kit's metal seat belts glued in place.  The wicker portion was painted in Vallej0 VC00912 Tan Yellow though VC0819 Iraqi Sand might be a better, lighter choice. 

MY STUBBY LITTLE FRIEND:  After installing all of the internal cockpit parts, painting them, and even adding internal bracing wires, it was time to glue the fuselage halves together.  After thoroughly drying, I attached the top decking which included installation of the Vickers machine guns and instrument panel. 

WINGS AND TAIL:  The tail unit went on next.  First to be glued was the one-piece horizontal stabilizer/elevator.   I let these dry over night.  The lower win halves were somewhat of a problem.  The attachment points were barely visible in the fuselage casting.  The attachment stubs in the wings were quite small.   I cut these off.  I then placed the wings upside down and aligned the fuselage attachment points where the stubs had been located and marked both with a dot of pencil for both wings.  Next, I drilled out the holes, eight of them: two for each wing and two corresponding ones for the fuselage.  I inserted brass rods and made a test fit.  It's one of those rare moments when everything connected perfectly.  On the underside, I ran a small bead of gap-filling super glue and it was done.

LANDING GEAR:  The landing gear spreader was heavily modified.  I cut off all of the portions representing the axle and replaced it with a sturdy brass rod.  The wheels were drilled out to take the slightly large diameter.  The attachment holes in the fuselage were drilled out and the assembled landing gear was test fitted.  It was another one of those moments where everything fit perfectly.  I would have like longer pins cast onto the end of each strut.

ROUGH COAT OF PAINT:  This is the point in the building process where I expected trouble.  I spent an inordinate amount of time researching 'Snipe' colors and discovered that most if not all were finished in that mysterious shade of PC-12.

I did not get into the who and when aspects of PC-12 because there doesn't seem to be a consensus on the exact shade or how and when it was mandated to replace the ever-popular British PC-10.  So, I decided to take the word of the experts but ran into the problem of exactly what shade of 'brown drab' is PC-12!  I reviewed several of our modern day hobby paint manufacturers and compared a few samples but not all that are available.  I used Wingnut Wings' color chart from the illustrated manual for the early Snipe and compared their three recommended paints for PC-12:  Misterkit, Tamiya, and Humbrol.

My pre-conceived notion that PC-12 was a slightly 'browner' shade than PC-10 was dashed.  Apparently, PC-12 was really brown and really dark when compared to the all-time favorite green olive drab!

My stock of Misterkit as suffered over time and my PC-12 dried out.  Being a brush 'artist' and not a 'spray' artist, I sampled the recommended Tamiya shade and did not like how it covered with a brush and the fact that it tended to dry too quickly bothered me.  So, I was down to Humbrol which is the brand I originally grew up with way back in the 1970s.  As it turned out, the first coat with a broad brush was more than acceptable.  I always expect to do two coats and, as the photo above shows, the first coat looked pretty good and flowed off the brush nicely.

Yes, it's darker than I would expect but I'm sticking to it.  Weathering the overall finish at the end will lighten it up somewhat. We'll see.  

CABANE STRUTS:  The four cabane struts were scratch-built with brass rod and tube.  The front strut rods were individually cut to length.  The top wing was set on these two struts and the correct position and lengths were fitted and trimmed several times by eye-balling from the side and comparing the gap between the fuselage and top wing against the Windsock Datafile drawing.  I did the same for the rear strut rods.  This took quite a while but the kit's flimsy strut material was not top my liking.   

COLORS ARE NOW DECIDED:  I was not happy with my Humbrol experiment.  I used  these Humbrol colors as recommended in the Wingnut Wings instruction manual for their 1:32 scale Early Snipe:

Humbrol 98 Chocolate Brown for PC-12 topside fabric
Humbrol 121 Pale Stone for the underside fabric
Humbrol 145 Medium Grey 'battleship grey' forward metal panels

The finish of all Humbrol colors was just too dark for me.  I reverted to Vallejo colors expecting that I would have to mix my own paints.  I used paint chips I made from Misterkit colors before most of them dried up.  All of their shades were to my liking and I endeavored to match them.

In the end, I came up with my version of PC-12 which consists of these Vallejo colors:

Vallejo VC0872 Chocolate Brown, 2/5
Vallejo VC0887 Brown Violet 2/5
Vallejo VC0990 Light Grey 1/5

For the underside I used Vallejo VC0847 Dark Sand straight out of the bottle.  For the forward metal decking and landing gear as my 'battleship gray' I used Vallejo
VC0905 Pale Blue Grey.

Note that the cabane struts (and future wing struts) are Vallejo VC0856 Ochre Brown.

ONE MORE NOTE ABOUT PAINTING:  In this view, the Vallejo PC-12 mix is clearly shown.  To my eye, it is 1) a bit lighter because of the addition of Vallejo VC0990 Light Grey and. 2) a bit towards olive brown with the addition of Vallejo VC0887 Brown Violet. 
DETAILS:  Before gluing the top wing on, I finished up details around the cockpit and completed all the rigging on the tail.

The tail unit requires elevator and rudder 'horns' for the control wires (rigging).  These were taken from the Eduard PE sheet.  Holes were drilled out and each 'horn' was glued in place: one upper for each elevator, one underside for each elevator, and one on each side of the rudder.  Holes were drilled out where the control wires pass into the fuselage.  I used .005 monofilament thread and glued each strand into the fuselage holes.  After drying, I passed each line through its corresponding 'horn', clipped it for weight, applied glue to 'horn' and thread, and allowed the rigging to dangle so as to maintain a taut line.

Before continuing, I painted the rudder stripes blue forward (Vallejo VC0930 Dark Blue), white middle (Andrea ANCX01 White), and red trailing (Vallejo VC0947 Dark Vermillion).

To continue with the tail unit rigging:  The two rudder control lines were done next in the same manner as for the elevators.  After all of these lines were dry, I snipped them off.  The British typically used a semi-gloss black paint on metal parts.  The last rigging to do on the tail was the two stabilizing wires that pass through the fin, the horizontal stabilizers and into the bottom outside edge of the fuselage.  The lead wire is thicker and I used .008 thermally bonded bead weaving thread but .005 MFT for the rear wire.

Up front I made a gun sight from brass tube, wrapped it with thin lead sheet in two places to 'beef it up', put a short piece of plastic scrap underneath as support, passed it through a hole in the clear plastic windscreen and glued it to the top deck.  I painted it with a black/metallic steel mix and touched off each end with a bit of brass paint.  On the sides of fuselage up front are various apertures (carburetor intakes, expended ammo chutes, pilot's access steps all of which were painted with that black/metallic steel mix.

Note the drilled out holes in the lower wing the larger of which are for the struts and smaller for the rigging wires (.005 MFT).  Note that rigging wires from the top wing (not shown) will pass through these holes, be clipped, and glued.  I couldn't do the same for the rigging wires that will be attached to the fuselage so I used Eduard PE parts to which I can attached and glue the rigging wires.  You can see three of them just above the port wing root. 

DECALS:  The first attempt to use the kit's aged decals was as suspected, a disaster.  These decals were flimsy and easily torn even during the gentlest of applications.  I 'robbed' my Eduard 'Camel' kit to get the roundels, the fuselage one shown in the photo.  The white vertical squadron symbol and the white background for the serial number were cut from stock white decal paper.  The white 'U' was laser printed in pale grey (can't do white printing) and then over-painted in matte white.  The black 'E8050' was also laser printed.  The rudder stripes were hand-painted using Vallejo VC0963 Medium Blue, Vallejo VC0950 White, and Vallejo VC0909 Vermillion.   The roundel blue was over-painted with the Medium Blue to match.  The model was then over-sprayed with satin polyurethane.
RIGGING:  The only 'eyelets' used in rigging this model were attached directly to the fuselage because all of the other rigging 'wires' were passed through the lower wing via pre-drilled holes.  Each line in this manner was glued in place, allowed to dry, and cut-off from underneath.  When all of the lines were installed, the underside holes were filled in with putty, sanded, and given one coat of paint.  You can see the places patched up in this view.
FINAL DETAILS DECALS:  The underside of the lower wing and topside of the upper wing were given one more coat of paint and then a coat of polyurethane in preparation for the application of decals.  The kit's decals were not suitable and replaced by a set of wing roundels for my Sopwith F.1 'Camel' kit.  These roundels were split to accommodate the ailerons as seen in this photo.  The letter 'U' was printed off my laser printer in pale gray, just enough to see and hand paint.  The upper wing 'U' was painted white and the underside 'U' black. 

Before applying another coat of polyurethane to 'seal' the decals, I touched up wing struts, tail skid, and applied Eduard 'horns' for the elevators, top and bottom.  This view obstructs the aileron horns and wires but are clearly visible in photos 16 and 17 below.   The model was over-sprayed top and bottom with polyurethane.


Tamiya AS-12 Gloss Aluminum Cowling and fire wall
Vallejo VC0824 Orange Ochre Interior wood framework and formers
Vallejo PC-12 Mix 1 Fuselage and top surfaces
Vallejo VC0847 Dark Sand Cockpit fabric interior and undersides
Vallejo VC0856 Ochre Brown Visible cockpit wood paneling and struts
Vallejo VC0995 German Grey Rotary engine wash
Vallejo VC0905 Pale Blue Grey 2 Exterior metal panels and landing gear
Model Master 1778 Chrome Silver   Rotary Engine
Vallejo VC0963 Medium Blue   Roundel Blue
Vallejo VC0909 Vermillion   Roundel Red

1 Vallejo VC0872 Chocolate Brown 2/5, VC0887 Brown Violet 2/5, VC0990 Light Grey 1/5

2 Actually a slightly bluish grey for exterior 'Battleship Grey' metal panels


-------------------------------  C'EST FINIS -----------------------------


Australian RAAF No. 4 Squadron: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U51019

Bruce, J. M.  Sopwith Snipe Windsock Datafile 46.  Berkhamsted, UK: Albatros Productions, 1994.  This work concentrates on the Snipe's development both late war 1918 and quite a bit on post-war history but lacks details on WW1 combat deployment and operations.  It does contain a good black-and-white photo section on close-up details but see the Great War Paint No. 7 entry below for full-color details of a reproduction 'Snipe'.

Lamberton, W. M., Compiler, and E. F. Cheesman, Editor.  Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War.   Letchworth, Herts, UK: Harleyford Publications Ltd, 1954.

Rimmel, Ray.  Great War Paint No. 7, Sopwith Snipe Great Britain 1918.  Berkhamstead, Herts, UK: Windsock Worldwide, Vol. 29, No. 2, Albatros Productions, 2013.  This excellent source between pages 18 and 21 contains about 40 full color photographs of the TVAL reconstruction Sopwith 7F.1 'Snipe' by James Fahey.  Also included is a two-age full color spread of a dozen or so profiles by Arvo Lennart Verkamer (and see his reference below).

Rimmel, Ray.  Products - Sopwith Snipe from Blue Max - Kit Review.  Berkhamstead, Herts, UK: Windsock Worldwide, Vol. 16, No. 3, Albatros Productions, 2000.

Rogers, Les.  British Aviation Squadron Markings of World War I.  Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2001.  No. 43 Squadron pages 91-92, No. 70 Squadron pages 135-136, No. 71 Squadron page 137, and No. 208 Squadron pages 186-187.

Shores, Christopher; Norman Franks and Russell Guest.  Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915-1920.  London, UK:  Grub Street. 1996 (reprint).  Biography and victory list of Captain Elwyn Roy King, 4th Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, pages 224-225.  For an in depth biography, enter King's name on any search engine and visit a number of entries.

Taylor, Stewart K.  And Now There Are None - No. 208 Squadron 'Snipes'.  Cross & Cockade International, Vol. 39, No. 3, The First World War Aviation Historical Society, 2008. 

Verkamer, Arvo Lennart.  208 Squadron - five full color profiles, Cross & Cockade International, Vol. 39, No. 4, The First World War Aviation Historical Society, 2008.

Wingnut Wings Sopwith Snipe Early Publication for Modeling Kit #32020.  Wellington, New Zealand: Wingnut Wings Ltd, 2012.  This publication was especially useful as a replacement for the Blue Max kit instruction pamphlet which was impossible to follow with regard to cockpit detail and for outstanding tips on color of the various components.  Special thanks to Richard Alexander Co-Ordinator.





Copyright by George Grasse