Featuring this Sabre Kits limited edition release of the Morane-Saulnier MS 225 parasol fighter in 1/72 scale might appear off topic for this blog, but the eye was drawn to one of the four decal subjects depicting an aircraft in Nationalist Chinese markings, always a welcome excuse for delving into the eclectic range of aircraft operated by the Republic of China. The injection moulded parts are a re-release of the 1967 Heller kit, probably sourced from SMĚR which issued the kit in 1996 and still shows it in their website products line. It was also released as a Heller Humbrol kit in 1986.
The Chinese version is depicted in an attractive silver and green scheme with Republic of China Air Force white sun markings above and below the wings and a blue and white striped rudder. It is identified as Chung-Hua Min-Kuo-Ch'un, China Air Force, 1934. and the instruction sheet history relates that seven such aircraft were sold to China in 1933. So far so good, but Lennart Andersson's mighty tome (1) records General Gaston Wang, commander of the Fukien (Fujian) Air Force ordering only six Moranes via a M. Morant of the Société Général Aéronautique in July 1933 in lieu of six Nieuport 121C.1 fighters which could not be delivered in time. The aircraft were ordered via the Aero Trading Company in Hong Kong and the first three were shipped from Marseilles to Haiphong in French Indo-China accompanied by a French pilot. From there they were shipped on to Amoy, China, arriving in early November 1933. The Fukien Air Force was established before the Fukien Rebellion of November 1933 when the Nationalist 19th Route Army sent to the province to quell communist forces and Ch'en Ming-shu together with the province's governor Chiang Kuang-nai and Ts'ai T'ing-k'ai chairman of the Fukien Liberation Committee declared Fukien (Fujian) a socialist republic under the Fukien Peoples Government, officially the People's Revolutionary Government of the Republic of China The new government was ostensibly led by Marshal Li Chai-sum and was set against the Nationalist (Kuomintang) government of Chiang Kai-shek. Not to question Sabre Kits presentation of the markings on this aircraft, the reference source(s) for which are unknown, but the flag adopted by the new Fukien republic was a five-pointed yellow star with soviet-type black lines from the centre to each point on a horizontally divided red over blue background with a narrow black stripe separating the two colours. Online sources omit the black lines on the star and flag as described in Andersson.
According to Andersson only three Moranes were delivered to Fukien and the remaining three on the order were never delivered. In late November Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek launched an offensive against Fukien with 11 Nationalist divisions and four air force squadrons using hastily prepared airstrips close to Wenchow and Chuchow with light bombers operating from Shien Chiao (2). The Fukien airfields at Fuchow and Changchow were attacked and bombed by the Nationalist aircraft, presumably destroying one of the Moranes as the surviving pair were subsequently flown from Fuchow to Changchow where they were burnt.
The Heller kit is of its period, cleanly moulded (in pale grey for the Sabre Kits re-release) but quite simple with rather pronounced stringer and rib effect on the fuselage and wings. The engine is a separate moulding whilst interior detail consists of a cockpit floor, separate pilot's seat, joystick and forward bulkhead incorporating a flat and blank instrument panel, pretty good for 1967. The instrument panel would benefit from a decal unfortunately not included on the crisply printed sheet in the Sabre Kits re-release. The Chinese markings are a nicely saturated blue of the correct hue and not the turquoise or light blue colours seen on some decals. The other three decal options are for French operated aircraft.
(1) A History of Chinese Aviation - Encyclopedia of Aircraft and Aviation in China until 1949 by Lennart Andersson (AHS of ROC, 2008)
(2) Flight in the China Air Space 1910-1950 by Malcolm Rosholt (Rosholt House 1984)
Image credit: Heading box art and colour schematic © 2023 Sabre Kits; Flag via Wiki; Morane 225 box art © 1967 Heller