Building the Walrus
"The sea shall not have them"
The Supermarine Walrus in action
models and diorama by Bjørn Jacobsen
It is difficult to think of an aircraft design so
markedly different from the sleek and elegant
Spitfire, but the Supermarine Walrus amphibious
biplane was from the same designer!
Despite its somewhat ungainly appearance, the
Walrus proved to be an incredibly effective aircraft
and flexible enough to take on a number of roles in
some of the most demanding operating
Although outdated when the WW2 started (it went
into service in 1935), it gained fame and respect,
not only for its usefulness as a reconnaissance plane but also for its toughness. It was able to withstand the forces of a catapult launch as well as landing and taxing on often rough North Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
A total of 740 Walruses were built..
As the war raged on, the Walrus was soon to be
found patrolling the skies over the English Channel,
rescuing downed pilots from both sides and saving
thousands of lives in the process.
The Walrus was known by many unofficial names
such as "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Steam
Pigeon", but it was most affectionately known as
But if you were one of the thousand airmen and
sailors rescued by the Walrus in World War 2, you would likely say that it was the most beautiful amphibious biplane ever built.
The Walrus is probably best known for its extensive
air-sea rescue around the British Iles.
The Walrus had normally a crew of three (pilot,
navigator and radio operator). .
Rescuing a wounded or unconscious airman was
always very difficult for the Walrus crew.
His soaking wet uniform always added to the
weight when they hoisted him into the Walrus.
Once aboard, they would strip him of his wet clothing, wrap him in blankets and get some hot soup down his neck while the pilot tried to get them home, either by flying or taxing.
The heavy bombers had a crew of up to ten, and if they had to ditch or bail out over the sea, the Walrus crew would have a hard time to get them into the small amphibian, and with no chance of taking off. Taxing would be the only change to reach shore.
When the Walrus picked up survivors from a liferaft;
one crewmember opened the front hatch, and the
pilot taxed past the dinghy.
The man in the front had a rope with a hock in the
end. The idea was to hock the dinghy and let it float
under the wing and let it end up at the rear hatch
which was much lower in the water than the front
one. The second crew member would then grab the
raft and haul the occupant or occupants aboard.
It there was several survivors to be picked up, they
often had to make several passes before they could
pick up all. The reason was that the pilot was very
reluctant to shut down the engine as the procedure for restating was very tricky: A crewmember had to climb out of the cabin and insert a crank handle in the engine. With both hands, he had to turn the handle until sufficient revs were reached to keep the flywheel rotating. At this point, the crank was withdrawn, a small magnetic handle rotated, and at the same time, a wire toggle was pulled, which, if lucky, caused the engine to spring into life. All, these tasks had to be performed while the hull was rocking and breaking with each wave, and when the engine finally started, the propeller blades were whirring a few feet from the crewmember’s head! No wonder they rather would get around for another pass, than stop the Walrus!
Here is an example of the courage, honour
and hardship of the life-savers in the Walrus:
In late afternoon 14 December 1942, six men on a raft was spotted by a Walrus 10 miles (16 km) east of Dover.
The sea was rough, but the Walrus landed immediately, even if they knew that with the waves and additional weight, they would not be able to take off again.
They made three passes to pick up the survivors in the raft. Unfortunately, some men had been swept from the raft, and they continued to search for the missing persons even if the Walrus had started to fill with water.
They managed to recover another man after struggling 30 minutes to turn into the wind. By now, it was completely dark, and they had to abandon the search and started to taxi towards Dover.
The Walrus continued to ship water, but after two hours of coaxing the wallowing amphibian through mounting waves, they reach the Dover harbour.
Here, the harbour master reprimanded them for not getting permission to bring their sinking aircraft into his harbour!
But the best of all, the survivors they brought to safety were German sailors!
The pilot, Tom Fletcher, was awarded an immediate bar to his DFM.
The diorama shows a Walrus, rescuing two downed airmen.
It’s a fact that the British crew in
the Walruses saved German
airmen and sailors from the sea
and I was tempted to let them
rescue a German crew in the
diorama but was unsure how it
would be received by the model
I, therefore, put the question
(German or Allied?) to ten of the
largest Facebook modelling groups
and got an overwhelming majority
that wanted the Walrus to save
I decided to let the two survivors
come from a German Bf 110.
Of course, the German plane would hardly be floating. It would probably have sunk soon after the landing in the sea.
But; If the unlikely occurred and the Bf 110 was still floating, the Walrus would not have taxed so close to the wreck, it had been too hazardous.
Therefore, the diorama has several errors, but for the sake of making an exciting and compact diorama, I chose to let the Bf 110 be floating, and I let the Walrus dangerously close to the wreck.
The new 1/48 kit from Airfix is, without doubt, one of the best I have ever laid my eyes on! It is easy to build, everything fits great, and it has details which you only see in a modern-tooled kit.
All surface detail is superbly rendered with fine panel line and rivet detail, and there are a lot of individual details, such as footholds, wing root connection, radius arm and catapult spool locations and so on.
Inside the fuselage, the various frames and other constructional elements are fully reproduced. It is an only pity that these details will be hidden as soon as the fuselage is glued together.
You can build the Walrus with folded wings, but I chose to make it with unfolded wings.
The rigging might be a problem because there are a lot of wires to be fixed in place.
I used the elastic EZ tread which will always be tight and is easily fixed to the plastic with a drop of CA-glue.
The Walrus was initially built with the wheels down because I would like to photograph the amphibian on the tarmac before it took off for the rescue operation.
Afterwards, I retracted the landing gears and prepared the plane for the sea.
The propeller was fixed to a propeller shaft which rotated freely. It was only to blow on the propeller (in this case with a hair dryer), and it would spin nicely.
I made a crew of three:
One pilot in the cockpit, one crew member in the open front hatch, throwing the rescue line (thin metal wire) to the men in the dinghy, and one crew member in the aft hatch ready to haul the survivors aboard.
The second crew member is standing in the aft hatch waiting to pick up the guys in the raft.
The pilot is looking out of the opened cockpit window and manoeuvring the plane as close to the survivors as possible.
The pictures from the top show the progress in the building of the Walrus.
The assembling of the fuselage, the engine, priming, pre-shading, camouflage and decals.
To the left:
The Walrus in the diorama, clearly showing the three crew members in position.
The finished Walrus with the wheels down.
The Messerschmitt Bf 110E Zerstörer
The Bf 110 was an old model which I made some years ago.
It was ready for the bin, and it was, therefore, no big deal to make a wreck out of it.
I had to rip off most of the right wing and saw off the under nacelles and nose to make it ready for the water.
The idea was to place it so deep that part of the aircraft could be seen through the water while the tail and the port wing was above water.
As a gimmick. I placed a white bird on the Bf 110 tail.
This might be an ordinary seabird, but it could also be a Peace Dove which was watching over this extraordinarily rescue mission! I leave any interpretation to you.
The main parts of the drama
in the middle of the English Channel:
The Supermarine Walrus Mk1
The Messerchmitt Bf 110E Zerstörer
The two men in the dinghy is a resin kit from Czech Master’s.
The dinghy was low in the water with the waves and sea spray making the men soaking wet and cold.
They raise their arms to catch the safety-rope thrown from the Walrus
Building the Base
The Styrofoam Plate Caving out the waves and the aircraft
Paper Mache for making the waves Painting with white/black acrylic
Testing the props Adding blue and green colours
This is what I used to make the sea: (From left) Paper Mache, Acrylic colours, Water Effects and
Realistic Water (Woodland), satin and matt varnish, brushes.
The base was a Styrofoam plate
60 x 60 x 10cm (24 x 24 x 4 in) on which I marked the position of the three elements: The Walrus, the
Bf 110 and the dinghy.
The first I had to do was to carve out space for waves and aircraft in the Styrofoam with a knife (and produce a lot of small Styrofoam bits that are almost impossible to get rid of).
Then I used Paper Mache to sculpt the waves.
Using a plastic sheet to avoid getting the aircraft and dinghy in the smeared with sticky Mache, I could make exactly fitting room for the models in the wet Mache.
When making waves, you always have a choice of how rough you want the sea to be. I decided I needed some heavy waves to make the diorama more exciting.
When the Paper Mache had dried, I painted the sea with acrylic colours.
The first layer with grey/black and then layers with blue/green colours.
The white sea spray was painted last.
The wind is stark, and this means I had to paint not only the sea spray but also the white wind stripes on the waves.
The water above the Bf 110 starboard wing was made by Natural Water in several layers so it would look like the plane was disappearing deep into the water.
The whole surface of the sea was covered with Natural Water, hoping to make it look like “water”.
Wrong. It made the sea far too shiny(!) and did not look natural at all.
I, therefore, had to use a mix of satin and matt vanish to get the sea more natural and at the same time added new colours to some of the waves.
The last I did was to add some “Water Effects” to the top of the waves, around the aircraft and the digyny where the sea spray was most visible.
This gave the sea spray a wet look.
Placing the Bf 110 in the sea: Adding artificial water and acrylic colours until it looks good
I painted a rather gloomy and overcast sky on a piece of cardboard for the backdrop, using an airbrush.
The sea was rough, and it looks like it was getting worse by the hours.
This was after all in the middle of a war, and
there was no reason to make the surrounding
And here is the result:
The Supermarine Walrus on an Air-Sea Rescue Operation, spotting a dinghy with two men.
Landing and rescuing. “The sea shall not have them!”
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Thank you for visiting.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments