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Modelling With a Theme by Francis Chapman

Warren “Smokey” Edward Schrader, RNZAF - Part 1.



Some time ago I became interested in modelling aircraft with a kiwi connection and discovered Malcolm Lairds excellent Ventura Publications Classic War Bird’s series.  Documenting the service lives of less well known pilots and aircraft in various theatres of World War Two these books led to thoughts of building aircraft tracing a particular pilot’s career. From many possible candidates I chose Warren Schrader on the basis that all his aircraft were available as kits and therefore feasible to model with my limited skills. Later discoveries undermined this naive premise and increased the number of models but by that stage I was committed so the project rumbled on. Unlike Alan Deere, Evan McKay, or Colin Grey, who are reasonably well known, Warren Schrader has had little attention in the modelling world which was an additional appeal.



Warren Schrader was born in Wellington, New Zealand on the 27th March 1921 and at the outbreak of War was working as a clerk for Phillips in Wellington. His interest in flying was triggered by letters home from his elder brother, Gordon who had joined the RAF in 1936 on a short service commission. Gordon’s letters about air force life encouraged Warren to volunteer for the RNZAF when war broke out in 1939. Unfortunately he was medically rejected as the examination doctors discovered he had a hole in the wall of his abdominal cavity. Undeterred he underwent surgery to repair the hole followed by months dedicated to recovering his fitness and in March 1941 was accepted for training in the RNZAF.



During initial training at Harewood in the South Island his instrument flying abilities in the Link trainer had him marked out as a potential bomber pilot. Not what he had in mind, so when volunteers for training in Canada were sought Warren stepped up as this seemed a better route to becoming a fighter pilot. Training at Harvard OTU in Canada as fighter pilot was followed by refresher training in England on Miles Masters and finally a posting to a Hurricane OTU.



Vickers-Armstrong Spitfire Mk Vb



His operational career as a fighter pilot commenced with a posting to 165 Squadron which was working up in Ayr, Scotland. The first day with the Squadron brought home the realities of war service when his Spitfire conversion was left to the Corporal fuelling the aircraft for his flight. After a quick chat the Flight Commander responsible for his conversion departed saying “Good heavens is that the time? Must pop up to the Mess for morning tea. Do a few circuits and get some air experience. The Corporal will show you what all the knobs do”. Warren successfully got to grips with the Spitfire and had an enjoyable hour’s flight.



165 Squadron moved to Gravesend after their work up and it was from here he undertook his first combat flights, two sorties as number two to the Squadrons Commanding Officer on top cover for the Dieppe Raid on the19th August 1942. The aircraft he flew on this occasion was a Vickers built Mk Vb Spitfire SK – E AB986 and this is the first of my models.  I started with the Tamiya Mk Vb kit on the recommendation of the good and great Spitfire modellers I knew having paid little attention to Spitfires prior to this. The kit was built straight from the box save for the substitution of Ultracast exhausts, seat, and a set of wheels. Markings are a combination of Ventura sheet V4822 and kit items. Generally finish and markings are ‘standard for the period’ being Ocean Grey/Dark Green top surfaces, with Medium Sea Grey under surfaces, and Sky codes. After finishing this model, I learned that the crowbar fitted to the cockpit door would not have been painted red on wartime Spitfires, it should be the same colour as the cockpit interior or black or occasionally they were left unpainted. The application of the codes reflect the well known vagaries of field implementation of a ‘standard’ as on the port side the SK code is very cramped with the ‘K’ actually overlapping onto the yellow margin of the fuselage roundel and the ‘E’ impinging on the A of the serial number. The one photograph that I know of this aircraft shows a ‘Silver fern’, probably in white on a blue rectangle, ahead of the cockpit on the port side. Whether this motif also appeared on the starboard side I do not know but have assumed it did not.




  • ‘From D – Day to victory! Fighters in Europe 1944-45’ by Malcolm Laird.
  • Classic Warbirds Series No.5 Published by Ventura. ISBN 0-9583594-2-3.
  • Classic Warbirds number 7. Ventura Publication ISBN 0-9583594-7-4
Stuart Hadaway - RAF Museum Hendon.

Thanks also to Neil Robinson and Neil Schrader.