22 Squadron RAAF 1943
“The Art of Camouflage”
(Or “Disguising the boo-boos”)

1/48 AMT A-20B/C converted to DB-7B

by Robert Hagger


The aircraft gallery on includes a model of a Douglas A-20A with impeccable surface detail and a natural metal finish you could use as a mirror to shave your whiskers. My build of the same kit is different.

I started the 1/48 scale AMT/ERTL Douglas A-20B/C Havoc kit around 1997, proceeded as far as unsuccessfully trying to modify the engine cowls and exhausts, and put it away as life intervened until 2007. Armed with Red Roo’s engine cowl set and further references I took a deep breath and continued the build.

To my eyes it seemed that the dry fitted engine cowlings - both kit supplied and after market - sat with an excess angle of incidence when compared to photos of the real thing. Much tinkering led me to trim the wing as shown in the middle photo above and remove the cowl flaps thereby reducing the angle when attaching the cowling. This left irregular gaps where the cowl flaps should have been so I made some new flaps from “Dymo” tape and attached them in an open position to partly hide the irregularities. The supplied parts probably sat at the correct angle to start with. Air intakes atop the wings had their height reduced a touch by knife, plastic card and filler.

The nose had holes drilled to accept extra guns, was weighted with fishing sinkers kept in place with superglue, which in turn partially obstructed the drilled holes. The extra weight also resulted in the nose cracking when I managed to drop it and repairs led to the loss of some of the panel detail.

True Details main wheels and life raft were used. Excess bulging of the tyres was trimmed away, main wheel gear moved forward a tad as per a couple of references.

A bulkhead at the front of the gunner’s compartment was removed to allow the canopy to be posed open.

The colour scheme was settled on after looking at photos of the aircraft on and books including "Frend Bilong Australia Tru" and references containing colour photographs. I understand the aircraft modelled was originally destined for a Dutch order with American equivalents of British type camouflage colours and would have been repainted in sections at least with change of nationality markings, style of squadron codes and serials, and repairs, so my final choice of colours is possibly as accurate as the painting jobs of my childhood when various available remnants of Dulux and British Paints from the shed adorned my models. I attempted pre shading for the first time and a rather random pattern of black squiggles and blotches resulted. The undersurface colour was made by mixing some Tamiya XF19 “Sky Grey” with Model Master “RAF Sky Type S”. I was completely confused as to whether the undersurfaces should have been a blue or a grey so used both. This fortunately went on smoothly giving a nice satin finish and obscuring the horrid pre shading. Humbrol 118 was chosen for the brown. A bad choice of thinner and foibles of the airbrush resulted in a less than smooth application of paint. The greens behaved beautifully though-Model Master FS34102 “Medium Green”, Humbrol 149 (as “Foliage Green”) to the nose and Humbrol 116 around the port side nose gun blister and port engine cowl. Paint chipping was applied to the propellers with Floquil “old silver” by brush. Very light chipping elsewhere was applied with a silver pencil. The Camouflage pattern was based on diagrams in 'Frend Bilong Australia Tru' and modified according to photographic references.

Humbrol gloss enamel did not seem to coat smoothly and actually still felt a little tacky on the wing leading edges after a couple of days, but the decals went on very nicely. The decals were a mixture of Aussie Decals, Aeromaster (for the fuselage codes in particular as the “Q” is a more correct shape), and Ventura decals for some roundels and fin flash. Aeromaster Aeroset and Aerosol II decal solutions worked a treat. I did decide to try and move one roundel AFTER applying the softening solution with predictable destruction of the decal and reminded myself not to be such a goose.

I continued to be a similar sort of goose.

The figure of Tojo settled so well that a huge Himalayan like ridge became apparent across his forehead, the result of previously masking the area with tape to touch up the camouflage colour/pattern and applying a tad too much paint along the tape edge forming a raised line. Late one night after exhausting myself at tennis I returned home and got it into my head to correct the ridge with a scalpel-and nearly scalped Mr Tojo.
Fortunately a mix of some yellow and white Humbrol enamels adequately patched his scone and the scarring was further hidden with some brushed on clear gloss. The indentations on his forehead can still be felt if one runs a finger across the affected area. I elected not to use the wing walkway decals as they seemed too bright. Markings probably were present on the real aircraft. I’ve not used washes before so was hesitant to risk the paint job. I read of water colour washes and these seemed pretty benign so I bought a set of Reeves water colours (tubes) and merrily spent a day applying and removing very dilute paint (containing a drop of dish washing liquid) by brush and cotton bud. A coat of matt Humbrol clear enamel gave a good flat finish.

Engine exhaust staining was airbrushed with a mix of a brown and gun-metal.

An armoured glass windscreen was made from clear plastic and attached inside the main canopy windscreen. A little glue managed to fog the very top of the windscreen as I used super glue rather than my usual Aquadhere for clear parts in an attempt to get a quick attachment in a fiddly spot. I am attributing the fogging to condensation in the tropics. A Red Roo etched brass gun sight was attached to the canopy frame. Nose guns were made from 21 G hypodermic tubing. Tail mounted pitot tube and nose mounted gun sight were fashioned from plastic card and wire, cockpit seatbelts from an Airwaves etched set, gunner’s seatbelt from masking tape, rear fuselage step from a bent staple and card, and the antenna wire from 5/0 monofilament nylon suture material. I did not add wing tip lights and I have learned that the tailplane dihedral could be greater, but mine is as AMT decreed.


Finally I looked at the “completed” model and it dawned on me that the nose landing gear should be longer to give a slight nose up attitude to the aeroplane (“Never never call it a plane Bader. It is an aeroplane”)*.

Boldly a few days later after a good sleep, no tennis and careful consideration and planning I used a new scalpel blade and excised cleanly the nose wheel gear without mishap, attached some blocks of styrene in the nosewheel bay, and reattached the nose gear. I also set the nose wheel doors just inside the wheel well to help give the appearance of a slightly higher nose.

The model is done and no more tinkering is allowed. I shudder to think of the natural metal jobbies in the stash still to be built.


Books and magazines
1. Gary Byk "Frend Bilong Australia Tru", Red Roo Models, Melbourne 2000
2. Gary Byk & Peter Malone "Understanding RAAF Aircraft Colours", Red Roo Models, Melbourne 1996
3. Roger A Freeman "The Royal Air Force of World War Two in Colour" Arms and Armour Press, London 1999
4. Daniel J. March (Ed) "British Warplanes of World War2", Aerospace Publishing Ltd Kent 2002
5. Jim Mesko "A-20 Havoc in Action" Squadron Signal Publications ,Texas 1994
6. Geoffrey Pentland "RAAF Camouflage and Markings 1939-1945" Volumes1 & 2, Kookaburra Technical Publications, Melbourne 1980/1989
7. Stewart Wilson "Boston,Mitchell and Liberator in Australian Service", Aerospace Publications, ACT 1992
8. Models and Hobbies Magazine, Best Models 199?

1. www.adfserials,com -especially gallery photographs of A28-15
2. -discussion forum
3. -“RAAF foliage green-a brief discussion” by Gary Byk and Peter Malone

1. The Way to the Stars, 1945 United Artists –contains film of RAF Bostons with
engines starting up, cowl flaps closing and taxying/taking off.
*2. Reach for the Sky, 1956 Rank Organisation -irrelevent quote from movie.

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