The Westland Welkin was a text-book case a specialised aircraft left high and dry by the changing fortunes of war. The initial proposal for a high-altitude interceptor stemmed largely from the alarm Britain felt in the face of its vulnerability to the Luftwaffe's Junkers Ju 86P which operated over the British Isles at altitudes beyond the reach of the RAF's standard fighters. Fitted with a pressure cabin, powered by a pair of high-rated Merlins and packing a quartet of 20mm cannon, the Welkin apparently offered a potent answer to a very real threat.
The first prototype displayed quite serious handling faults, but these were steadily solved and initial problems with the radical pressure cabin were overcome to produce a basically sound, certainly purposeful-looking aircraft, which could be considered graceful in its own way. The problem for the Welkin was that, by the time it was ready, the need for it had evaporated; any threat of high altitude Luftwaffe attacks had clearly vanished. There was a proposal for a bomber variant which wasn't proceeded with, and a two seat nightfighter that flew as a prototype, but some sign of the almost desperate search for a use for the Welkin surely lies in a patently absurd plan to use it at low altitude - a role for which it was structurally completely unsuitable and which denied its very raison d'Ítre
As it was, the 75 production Welkins built were destined never to fire their guns in anger and ended up being scrapped without entering squadron service. The aircraft provided much valuable data for later high altitude types but, through no fault of its own, the Welkin joined the ranks of almost forgotten "What Ifs" of WW2.
Planet Models Welkin arrives in a very solid cardboard box, with the parts held in a continuous roll of sealed pouches. The kit consists of:
50 x standard beige resin parts
3 x strengthened black resin parts
21 x etched steel parts
A vacuformed canopy
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
Examining the parts is very encouraging; as with all the latest Plant Models kits, the casting is excellent. My kits almost entirely free of bubbles and there is very little "flash" to take care of on the detail parts. Items like the fuselage halves have "flashed-over" openings for the wings, but these will clean up in moments. Surface detail consists of finely scribed panel lines, along with a few raised details.
The main parts of the airframe are supplied ready-separated from their casting blocks, so a test fit is quick and easy. The fuselage consists of conventional halves, cast surprisingly thin and perfectly straight in my kit. The wings are massive! To give you some idea of the sheer size of the Welkin, each wing panel is basically the same width as the wingspan of a clipped-wing Spitfire! Each is cast as a solid piece - again dead-straight and with an excellent thin trailing edge - and that means they are heavy... far too heavy for a conventional butt-join to the fuselage. To overcome this, Planet Models have cleverly designed the wings to pass right through the fuselage with interlocking tabs to form a kind of spar.
The vertical tail is a separate piece, complete with its characteristic acorn fairing and "dished" rudder profile. The stabizers are a good fit and butt-join to the fin.
Instructions & Construction
Planet Models' instructions have undergone a significant change lately, with exploded diagrams being replaced by B&W photos of a kit under construction. These are well taken and printed large enough, but I have to say I don't find them anything like as clear as conventional instructions. For me it's a case of style taking precedent over function and I hope Planet Models return to their old style soon.
For such a large model, the Welkin is surprisingly straightforward, with the assembly broken down into just a dozen stages.
The cockpit consists of 15 parts and matches reference photos pretty well. The sidewalls are nicely detailed (there's still room for superdetailers to add more), while the seat is provided with an etched harness and there's a correct "spade-grip" control column. The instrument panel looks is quite accurate, but it's maybe surprising that it's resin, not etched, so Mike Grant's decals
will be a good source for the instrument faces. The panel is correctly split in two, with an auxiliary set of instruments to fit under the cockpit coaming. There's no gunsight included, but if you want to add one, the Welkin was fitted with a Mk.II Reflector Sight which attached to the centre rectangle on this auxiliary panel.
The nacelles and undercariage are reasonably straightforward, but the assembly photos could be a lot clearer on how to assemble them. They are depicted fully assembled with the undercarriage and propellers in place before attaching to the wings at almost the end of construction sequence. Modeller's common sense will suggest fitting them much earlier and checking the joints before adding the delicate details.
The propellers each consist of a solid spinner with 4 separate blades, so a simple jig will be a good move to ensure the correct alignment.
The undercarriage is nicely detailed with treaded tyres. All the photos I've found seem to show plain tyres, but that's not to say the Welkin was never fitted with treads. The undercarriage legs are cast in dense black resin, but they will have a lot of weight to bear with those heavy wings, so it may be a good idea to give the model some additional support when it's not on display - particularly in hot weather...
The kit contains an excellent vacuformed canopy which is very clear and has crisply defined frames. In my case, the canopy was almost a mini-story in its own right as the kit arrived with a very nice set of... Fw 190 canopies! Luckily, I'd bought my kit from Modelimex and their close ties to the Czech kit industry proved invaluable; as soon as I alerted them to the problem, they got straight on the case and checked their entire stock, pinning the glitch down to small batch of early kits. Full marks to both Modelimex and CMK (who produce Planet Models kits) for reacting so quickly and providing a replacement as soon as possible.
Painting & decals
The kit contains decals for 3 aircraft:
Welkin F Mk.1, s/n DX281, Westland Aircraft, November 1943 wearing standard day fighter camouflage.
Welkin F Mk.1, s/n DX286, ZQ-X, FIU, Wittering, May-July 1944 in the high altitude scheme of Medium Sea Grey uppers and PRU Blue undersides with two-colour roundels and fin-flash.
Welkin F Mk.1, s/n DX289, ZQ-V, FIU, Wittering, May-July 1944, again in high altitude colours.
The decals are very well printed by Aviprint. The roundel colours look good and the registration is excellent. The decals are thin and glossy with minimal carrier film.
The colour schemes are illustrated in full colour with diagrams apparently drawn from those in 4 Publications excellent profile on the Welkin. The camouflage pattern for the Temperate Scheme don't match photos in that same volume, but for me that's largely academic - I'll build my Welkin in the high altitude scheme - some it just doesn't look "right" any other way...
Planet Models' Westland Welkin is a very impressive kit of a largely overlooked aircraft. The straightforward construction makes it suitable for anyone with a bit of experience with resin kits and it should have great appeal to anyone looking for something a little unusual for their collection. The price might put it beyond the reach of some modellers, but it's a sad fact that large resin kits of this quality don't come cheap. Highly recommended.
Westland Welkin, 4 Publictions, 2005
Planet Models' Westland Welkin is available from Modelimex - specialists in Eastern European short run kits.
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