Westland seeing the potential of the American-built Sikorsky HSS-1 applied for a licence to build a version suitable for the British armed forces. An airframe was sent over and it was fitted with a Napier Gazelle turbo shaft engine and flew on 17 May 1957. The first Westland built Wessex [HAS.1], first flew on 20 June 1958. The Fleet Air Arm [FAA] began performing anti-submarine duties with the Wessex in 1961. The Wessex helicopter was successfully adapted in the early 1960s as a general-purpose helicopter for the RAF, capable of performing troop-carrying, air ambulance and ground support roles. In contrast with the HAS.1, it used twin Rolls-Royce Gnome engines. These marks (HC.2, HCC.4, HU.5) had a single large exhaust on each side of the nose, the Gazelle-powered examples having a pair of smaller exhausts on either side.
In April 1961, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) announced that they had selected the Westland Wessex to become the standard service helicopter from their ships. The intention was to purchase roughly 30 for anti-submarine patrols, casualty evacuations, and fleet communications duties. The Wessex HAS 31A was a major operational shift for the Australian Fleet Air Arm, enabling it to proceed with the conversion of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne into an anti-submarine platform. RAN formally accepted the first two of 27 Wessex helicopters in September 1963; 817 Squadron was the first to operate the type. By 1980, the Wessex was no longer being used for anti-submarine operations and it was adapted for personnel transport duties and as a utility helicopter.
This is one aircraft that anybody that has spent anytime in the mountains of the UK will be familiar with. Despite it breaking the peaceful quiet that can only be found in the mountains, I never meet any walker or climber that complained. Yes they might complain about low flying jets, but never the Wessex and later the Sea Kings. With good reason, as any climber, walker or anyone enjoying the wild outdoors, might one day need the services of the Wessex and the highly trained crew that flew it.
The kit comes in a side opening box. There are two grey plastic sprues and a clear plastic sprue. I have to say the level of detail is quite superb. The recessed and raised detail is first class. It's not tiny either in this scale, the fuselage length measures 107mm.
The cockpit is a simple affair, the pilots seats are moulded with the floor and rear bulkhead. The instrument panel and cyclic sticks are separate. There are no instrument details molded on the panel. The main cabin has no detail at all, but I'm pretty sure it will be difficult to see inside, so the lack of detail is not a problem.
The clear parts include the windows for the cabin. A fair attempt has been made to replicate the blown look of some of the windows. The cockpit green house is made up from three clear parts. The pilots sliding doors are separate. There is no mention in the instructions of depicting them open, but it would not be difficult to do so. This does mean you would have to scratch build additional detail in the cockpit.
The strength of this kit is the detail on the outside of the kit and I hope my images do it justice. The fuselage is split as you expect minus the belly of the aircraft. The kit includes two separate bellies for the two different kit releases. The other release is for the later Wessex HAS.3/HAS.31B. Sorry to go on about the detail, but it it is very good particularly the tail hinge, grill behind the rotor housing and the belly. The four rotor blades are thin and each has a slight bend moulded into them. The rotor head is very simplified which is understandable in this scale. The tail rotor is one piece. This being a Napier Gazelle engined Wessex, it has two exhaust pipes either side of the fuselage. Each pipe is a separate nicely detailed part.
The main wheels are one piece and the separate floatcans are fitted to the wheel hubs. The undercarriage legs are each made up from two pieces. The tail wheel and oleo are one piece. There are a couple of weapon pylons included from which you can hang ferry tanks or torpedoes.
There are some very colourful marking options included with this release.
-Wessex HAS.1, White XM840/300-R, No.815 NAS, Royal Navy, HMS Ark Royal, mid-1960s
-Wessex HAS.1, White XM841/510-PO, No.771 NAS, Royal Navy, RNAS Portland (HMS Osprey), Dorset, 1973
-Wessex HAS.1, White XS863, Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE), Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, 1973
-Wessex HAS.31A, White WA215/825, No.723 Sq. Royal Australian Navy, RANAS Nowra (HMAS Albatross), New South Wales, Australia, 1963.
The decals look very good, but the Kangaroos on the Australian roundel has the tips of their tail missing. The yellow stripes on the rotor blades and the red stripes on the tail rotor are included on the decal sheet. Also included are the black rectangles on top of the fuselage. All the decals are numbered which makes life a lot easier.
The instructions printed on a folded A4 sheet feature black line drawing illustrating the building process though four stages. All the written instructions are in English. The painting guide feature colour illustrations.
has recently released a book on the Westland Wessex and should provide a one stop reference if you fancy super detailing this kit release or any other scale Wessex helicopters. Check their website for details.
It took me a couple of evenings to build this beauty and a couple more to paint it. It goes together really well, the only bits that needed some work was fitting the main cabin windows. For a tight fit they required a few swipes with a sanding stick. The components making up the canopy fit very well. The only detail I added to the cockpit was painting the seat pale brown to simulate the fleecy seat covers of the real thing. Nothing else will be seen once the canopy is put in place. I did glue a couple of small pieces of plasticard behind the two nose air intakes to prevent seeing into the fuselage. A little filler was needed around the tail wheel bay.
I would leave the assembly of the main rotor until the blades have been painted and decaled. The join of the blades to the rotor head is understandably very delicate in this scale.
Mark 1 Models have selected four great schemes. I was torn between the blue and yellow of “00” serving on the Ark Royal
and the red and blue of “10” based at RNAS Portland
. I used Tamiya acrylics for the main colours and Humbrol enamels for the detailing. The exhaust pipes and tail rotor were sprayed with Alclad II aluminium.
One thing you do need to take your time over is applying the decals. The size of the model means you have to apply the decals in stages; otherwise you could inadvertently lift off decals before they have set. The decals are superb and respond very well to Microsol. The one piece decal for the markings on the spine was much appreciated. The hatched yellow lines around the cabin windows add a feel of realism to the whole model.
I really enjoyed building this kit and it looks quiet spectacular sitting on my 1/144 flight line. The size of it means you could have several on your shelf without taking up too much space.
Mark 1 Models has produced a real gem with this Wessex and as far as I know it's the first injected plastic Wessex in 1/144 scale. Anigrand did produce a very good resin version. The attention to detail is superb. For the fastidious you might want to add the cables that you see on the outside of the real thing. I sure there will be a few modelers that will be keen on opening up the cabin door and detailing the inside. Don't be too surprised if the aftermarket companies come up with some interior details for both the cockpit and cabin of this beauty. This is one to get hold off even if this is not your choice of scale. Very highly recommended.