Modelling the Morane-Saulnier MS.500
Best known for its wartime use by the Luftwaffe, the remarkable Fieseler Fi.156 Storch became synonymous with air operations over Indochina in the years following World War 2. Initially produced at the Fieseler plant in Kassel, in April 1942 the Storch also entered production for the Luftwaffe in the Morane-Saulnier works in the Paris suburbs and 141 aircraft had been delivered at the end of the year. With the Reich's air industry mobilized to meet the growing demand for home defence fighters, the Fieseler plant was switched to making the Focke-Wulf FW 190 and Storch production was entirely transferred to France and Czechoslovakia. In order to rebuild both its air force and its aircraft industry in the immediate post-war period, the French government decided to keep a number of German designs in production and 925 Fi.156s were ordered under their new designation, the Morane-Saulnier MS.500 Criquet, while around 65 Störche captured as war booty were turned over to the Armée de l'Air. Used for observation, liaison and casualty evacuation, the Criquet soon became a common sight over Indochina.
Available modelIn 1/144 scale, the choice is limited to the pre-assembled Fieseler Fi.156 Storch released by Takara as part of their World Tank Museum series of gashapon collectible toys. While this is not quite a Criquet, it is a good base for a conversion. Indeed, early production Criquets were no different from the wartime Fi.156 C-7s or D-1s, some were in fact ex-Lutfwaffe planes with new markings.
Model descriptionThe model comes entirely pre-assembled and pre-painted in one of four schemes: overall dark green, overall sand yellow, sand/green camouflage and overall white winter scheme.
Surface detail is basic but quite acceptable although the numerous struts are simplified, rather thick and out of scale. The fabric wings’ ribbing is peculiarly rendered: it is recessed below the wing’s upper surface.
The most obvious error is apparent when the model’s profile is examined because the fuselage is rather too deep beneath the rear cockpit and, as a result, the model looks quite wrong when viewed from the side.
Required modification.Although the model can simply be repainted as a Criquet, some simple modifications can significantly enhance it.
First of all, the wings should have the recessed area mentioned above filled with putty and sanded flush. This not only gets rid of a poor rendition of ribbing, it is also more accurate for the aluminium-skinned wings favoured in Indochina because of the climate.
The fuselage profile also needs to be corrected by filing the bottom to make it shallower underneath the observer’s position. Next are the wing struts which are carefully prised off, thinned down and reattached after the painting stage (thus giving easier access to the canopy). Alternatively, the original wing struts can be binned and replacements cut from thin plasticard substituted. This has the additional advantage of allowing a more correct placement of the struts, the original ones being attached too low on the fuselage. Secondary struts can be added from brass wire though this can really be done only if you replace the original wing struts. As for the huge tailplane struts, they are best cut and scaped off before being replaced by thin plasticard.
Replacing the original pitot tube with a length of angled brass wire glued under the port wing is a simple but effective alteration. Finally, as an option, the tailplane elevators can be squared off as seen on some late-production machines.
Colours and markingsWhile the Criquets wore a simple overall dark olive green livery, there is some doubt as to the actual shade.
A dark olive green roughly similar to FS 34091 is mentioned in Fi 156 Storch Vol.1 while French modelling magazines mention a paint close to FS 34079. Given that the Puteaux plant originally produced these aircraft for the Lutfwaffe, it is probably safe to assume it was in fact some local equivalent of RLM 71 Dunkelgrün and subject to variations. While some sources mention Olive Drab (FS 34087), it is doubtful that this shade was used on Criquets in Indochina although it certainly was worn some time later in Algeria.
Markings were simple and were limited to regulation roundels in the six usual locations, a fuselage code, usually one or two letters, and the regulation tricolour rudder. A very large proportion of Criquets wore a factory-applied white cross of Lorraine on the tail. Aircraft used as FACs sometimes wore a white square on each upper wing to make them easier to spot fom the air though this was far from universal.
Criquets of the fledging Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian air forces followed a similar system with national flags on the rudder. VNAF aircraft wore a single letter in the GAOC or a number in the CIAVN as a fuselage code, while Lao and Khmer Criquets were too few to warrant fuselage codes, the tail serial number being sufficient.