Welcome to the Workbench.
Well above the treetops..
My decision to work on a particular model often has more than one reason; in this case I was initially attracted by Valom's kit of the Handley Page Sparrow because I fancied making one with the black and whie "distinctive markings" that some of 271 Squadron's aircraft carried into 1945, with their Sparrows being used for some time after VE Day, not least for the repatriation of POWs. Some way in to the build I mislaid the port undercarriage, wheel, spat and some struts for no obvious reason, and I put the model - which was taking up some space on my traditionally crowded workbench - to one side to get on with rippling a few raspberries. Then at the Milton Keynes ModelKraft I got talking to some other like-minded modellers about the Dart Wellington, and brought home courtesy of Alec Smith a "Heritage Models" set of resin Dart Dakota nacelles for use when I resumed work on the Sparrow, with a view to causing a little confusion similar to that aroused by the Vickers test-bed. Sure enough the spat reappeared in its own time, and with a new set of wheel struts I was able to complete the original Plan B. The new nacelles grafted with reasonable ease on to the original fairings, but I had to use the upper turret - for an observer, obviously - because the fairing provided didn't come back from its wanderings until after I'd taken the photos. As for the colour scheme, always a cause of some head-scratching, I kept the original upper surface camouflage with the underneath of wings and tailplane in black and the roundels over painted; the nacelles had to be "metal" so it seemed reasonable to finish the fuselage the same. The markings quandary was solved with black 18" alpha-numerics for the B-class registration; you will recognise the prefix as being that for Rolls/Royce though it could be considered a touch anacachronistic, this not coming in until the mid-fifties. I'm not sure Sir Frederick would have approved.
I've always been a fan of the Miles brothers and their frequently novel approach to aircraft design and construction, and a prime example of their output was - no, is - the Aerovan, another type that I never expected to see kitted in resin, let alone plastic. I tagged it as soon as the Mikr Mir kit appeared in that Future Releases section and gave some thought as to how it might be used in an armed role; but it wasn't until I read, somewhat to my surprise, in the kit instructions that it was supplied to the Royal New Zealand Air Force - something else I'd never known - that the answer was obvious, coupled with an equally obvious colour scheme; any warlike Kiwi had inevitably to be All Black. The roundels and fin flashes, and the red flashes beneath the windows, came from the kit decals, and though there was no white in the national markings this chimed well with its nocturnal scheme. As so often with this style of moulding there's a proliferation of Very Small Parts, some of which I decided were best ignored on health and safety grounds, but I do seriously appreciate that without those companies who consider it worth their while to produce these kits in comparatively small numbers my modelling life would be somewhat curtailed. For the Aerovan I didn't need the cabin seating and I was delighted not to have to go through the assembly of twelve small seats and then attaching them to the cabin floor. If you're wondering about its gunship status you can just about see the barrel of a Lewis (?) gun protruding from the first port side window (there's an unseen one in the fourth); I'd thought or trying to find a couple of 1:76th Bren guns, but these came, unneeded, in the Sparrow kit. If you look at the serial carefully you'll see that it's the third of a pair.
I found some problems in relating the smallest mouldings with the assembly instructions, but I was able to turn to Volume Three of Peter Amos' masterwork on Miles Aircraft, published in 2016 by Air Britain, and find what I needed to know among its plethora of illustrations. It has been rumoured that this started as a replacement for Don Brown's account of Miles in the Putnam series (which I'm delighted to say I still have) but it grew a little! If you can't find room for Mr.Amos' four volumes I have seen the Putnam book at various airshows at a price somewhat less that it was a few years ago; go on, you know you've always wanted one!
Now could Mikr Mir please turn their hands to the M.28, the Messenger and the Gemini? 02.08.17
Small fangs for my memories
I could well have picked up this kit when it appeared anyway, but I saw it on the New Arrivals page when I had just opened the box of the Vickers Giant Bomber (see Mike's Pick). The illustration on the book cover on that page had been lodged firmly in my mind since its publication, but it crossed my mind that the size of the bomber would not be self-evident in the photos that I planned to publish here and I thought - perhaps optimistically - that most aircraft modellers would have a good idea of the size of Sir Geoffrey's single-seater (perhaps it's just my generation). I have fond memories of its part in my training, and with two in each box I'm working on one from that period; the first however is pseudo-2TAF, camouflaged with PRU blue undersides and wearing the codes of 67 Squadron in its second incarnation at Gutersloh. When the Command was first equipped with jets the squadrons were identified by single letters aft of the boom roundel, with the individual aircraft identificaton ahead it and on the nose. I had an initially fruitless chase for an illustration of one of 67s to confirm this, but I found a small selection after some searching in Bill Taylor's RAF Germany, one of those books that demands to be consulted from time to time and is then suddenly and immediately essential. I've not found any of 67's in camouflage - though one of the kit options is from 112 in camo with of course a sharkmouth - so this finish is the what if element. I realised when I was ten minutes in to the build that I had been rash in starting work on a model that small with some really tiny pieces, and I did give up on fitting the two small mass balances to the underside of the elevator, and it's possible that one or two others aren't quite aligned properly, but the limitations, on my pair at least, are the modeller's rather than the kits'.
The second Vampire is silver-finished, and carries the markings of an aircraft of 1 Squadron, 229 OCU at Chivenor; we did six weeks on these before progressing to the Hunters of 2 Squadron, which carried the same 'ES' codes. At least one of the Vampires on this squadron - possibly a mark 9 - wore the light/dark blue bands on its booms from its time at Cranwell; I have no evidence of its serial, and it would be too small for me to apply anyway but I like the smidgen of extra colour. The selection of ES-A as the code was arbitrary and I was convinced that in 1956 the dash appeared on the aircraft's nose; fortunately I found photos in David Watkins' excellent book on Chivenor - The Perfect Aerodrome - to prove that I was wrong. It also showed me the individual letter on the nosewheel door, but I drew the line at that! After it was finished in accordance with my memories I discovered that my remembrance of "T-bands" was almost certainly wrong. The Cranwell marking would have been a backing to the roundel on the boom, and on the single-seaters at least there would have been no yellow bands on the wings; it's possible, and I shall be consulting on the subject, that these were only applied to Training Command aircraft, and those at Chivenor belonged to Fighter Command. I must follow this up, because I recently picked up a Dragon FB.5 kit which, if I can work it out from my log book, I plan to mark to commemorate the ten shilling fine to the squadron rumble fund which followed my attempt to land with the airbrakes out. I enjoyed making these two, in spite of of the problems given me by their small size and, as you may have notoiced from the photos, the inability to put any weight in the nose at all. What we really need now is a set of 1:144th RAF - and RAuxAF - squadron markings. 10.09.17...
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