Seventeen years? Really?
A little while back I wrote that for many of us, modellers and historians, with an interest in British aviation projects - largely unfulfilled - this was kick-started by Derek Wood's Project Cancelled in the late 'seventies and given a boost when a second, updated, edition appeared with expanded information on the types covered. The baton was picked up with some articles in history-oriented magazines in the 'nineties, frequently written by Tony Buttler, and consolidated with his book British Secret Projects - Jet Fighters since 1950. Adding many more of us to this interest it began an increasingly successful series initially from Midland Counties Publications and carried on, to my great enjoyment, by Crecy. A welcome and continuing feature of the series has been the dramatic cover art, started here by Keith Woodcock with this "Fairey Delta 3" in 5 Squadron colours pursuing a Bear; this itself must have surely been responsible for many addicted modellers, including me, badgering those who make resin kits for us for one of this big fighter. If only...
Tony Buttler, although since followed by several distinguished colleagues, is still the doyen of the genre and is now updating his earlier volumes with a considerable amount of extra information, no doubt prompted I'm sure by this initial publication. With the Bombers volume to follow later in the year the first relaunch covers fighters; some of have these have become familiar to some extent because of the book shown above, though many have had expanded entries, and there have been some previously unknown additions (the number of pages is almost double!). The arrangement of this book follows that of the earlier, with almost identical chapter headings and only one deleted (on Hawkers - sob!), but with three rather than two appendices. The style of the illustrations is much the same, with many line drawings and several photos of models of the unbuilt.
I don't know how you approach this style of book; I probably shouldn't admit it but as soon as it gets into my hands - and I was lucky enough to have mine placed there by the ever-helpful Crecy management at Flying Legends - it gets the box of chocolates treatment as I look through the contents for probable favourites (Hawkers in this case, of course) before making one or two initial choices and retiring in to a dark corner to get their full flavour. Being easily swayed by good packaging I did go, with the aid of the index, to the Armstrong Whitworth AW.169 featured in Daniel Uhr's dramatic painting on the dust cover, and wondering about the chances of getting one - or perhaps two, or even three - in resin to carry Javelin squadron markings. 33's stripe would look good on that big fin, but this one wears those of, I think, 92; the surrounding gloom is doubtless to signify the all-weather role, but I needed a magnifying glass for the detail.
When you've had a first delve and collected sufficient "favourites" you then need to find a really large chair, and after dislodging the cat settle down to read the whole narrative, which is up to a point chronological by category, though somtimes it helps clarification to shuttle between a couple of chapters, and you will no doubt identify heroes and villains; in many cases their identities and careers are an essential part of the narrative. This can get interrupted by my ability to get easily sidetracked - once or twice so far it's made me to go back to the earlier edition - but it's well worth the perseverance to build a coherent narrative; after that of course you can dip back in at irregular moments to refresh the memory and, if you're a modeller, compile a list of those you would really like to see in three dimensions. It'll take a while for my copy of this book to find its niche in the designated bookcase; at the moment it lurks handily next to the high chair while I work out my list of requests, starting as always with the Hawker P.1091 and the Quasimodo of fighters the Supermarine 559. I do like that Armstrong Whitworth on the cover too, and it's not just the power of art. I'll have to move this volume on in a couple of months or so when its companion updated volume of bombers arrives, and you will realise how much I'm lookng forward to that.
By one of those unexpected coincidences, a couple of days after picking up the Tony Buttler book the latest edition - number 20 - of The Aviation Historian was delivered; it's always stuffed with interesting features, usually on Things I Didn't Know which is part of its fascination, and its lead article here is a useful companion to the Fighters book. Author Greg Baughan is writing a series of books on the history of the RAF, and this article commemorates the sixtieth anniversary of the "Duncan Sandys" White Paper; the "Endangered Species" of the title is the fighter pilot, and this coveres the period of the 'fifties and 'sixties when it was expected that the manned fighter would be phased out. It sets out the rationale for the decisions that led to what were widely seen at the time as substantial changes in the future shape and size of the RAF; with hindsight I can find some of these convincing, but I may be still somewhat prejudiced! Included as part of the article is a section on the contenders for the next generation of interceptors which turned out to be stillborn, with a page of their plan views by Chris Gibson, himself well-known as an author in the What If? field. As you may know I'm a big fan of this magazine and this contribution is a very useful sidebar to Tony Buttler's latest.
From Then until Now
I seem to spend much of my time these days thing, and occasionally writing, "it doesn't seem possible that it's n - or sometimes even x - years since......", as evidenced by the introduction to the revived British Secret Projects - Jet fighters above. Its companion volume on British aircraft from 1935 to 1950 was published in 2004, and I remember clearly my first reaction was to the Really Big Bomber depicted on the dust cover in the excellent painting by Keith Woodcock; then thinking that I really must make a model of that and having read the text that it should be in "Tiger Force" colours and almost certainly in 57 Squadron marks. At that stage my thoughts turned, fruitlessly, to kit-bashing, but this foundered fairly quickly on my inability to decide or indeed find the sources needed, and the possibility of accomodating the resultant model with a wingspan of three and a half feet. This would have been mitigated by settling for 1:144th scale, and perhaps in resin if one of the companies with the needed expertise could be persuaded. Thirteen years down the line this has indeed happened, and the combination of Allen Ury's Fantastic Plastic marketing and Anigrand Craftswork's production skills - and the invaluable PayPal facility - have persuaded me to invest Serious Money; after a very brief moment's thought I decided to get two just in case this was a seriously limited run, and with a scheme already in mind for the second (though I must try to find a red seahorse for it).
The kit is remarkably straightforward even considering that it has six main undercarriage legs and a similar number of main wheels, a pair of doors for each and six two-piece sets of six-blade propellors. The castings are as we expect from Anigrand very clean and flash-free, with accompanying all those little bits only eight major pieces; the few transparent parts are in clear resin. There are fairly detailed instructions illustrated with small photos, but for my next one (and perhaps the one after that - obsessed, moi?) I shall make at least one variation in assembly. Having attached the u/c doors to the nacelles at an early stage I had a problem inserting the legs between them (all six, it wasn't just one), and having then detached the doors I had to remove the forward pair of tabs from each to avoid fouling the legs. The resulting six-legged stance is very impressive, and all the wheels touch the ground! Inserting the ten guns in to their pre-drilled sockets was a touch delicate, though less pain than I expected; the specification table in Tony Buttler's book gives them as five 20 mm and five 0.5" which seems a bit unlikely, and those in the kit are all the same size. The intended white/black scheme looks just as I hoped, and it's taken directly from a photo and profile of one of 57's Lincolns in the invaluable Warpaint; decals, both roundels and code letters, are from 1/72nd Xtradecal sets as is the red serial which I picked out of the air but which really belonged to a late production Lancaster. I added an H2S blister by courtesy on Mike Verier and a "Dambuster" kit which wasn't going to need it. I know it's a big beast, so the Vampire is there to give an idea of the size of the bomber, and is from the just issued Mark 1 kit; it's in a probably spurious scheme for a 67 Squadron aircraft before they were swopped for Sabres, and I have my doubts that they were camouflaged (details are/will be on the Workbench page). Since the Vickers aircraft never got as far as being named I exercised my WiF modeller's licence, and decided that Winchester would carry on the tradition of bombers carrying British city names, and that it was practically local to Vickers' works at Weybridge.
I am really pleased with being able to bring this particular What If?, or perhaps even What Should Have Been - we might have to rename the SIG! - in to three dimensions. Even as I write this my third kit has come through the door, all the way from California - maybe it's an obsession after all - and will may very well carry the grey/black Bomber Command scheme if something more eye-catching doesn't turn up. Unless the Marshall Plan is revived I might take a break at that point. 28.08.17....
The Tiger Force Winchester was always my priority, long before the kit was announced, and the name came to me while I was painting all those thirty-six propellor blades. Having prudently ordered a pair of kits it became inevitable quite quickly that the second would be an MR.2 in Coastal colours; pictures and profiles of maritime Lancasters came quickly to hand, followed by as much Shackltonia as I could lay my hands on, and one of Mel Bromley's decal sheet of 1:144th maritime and reconnaisance unit markings with red/white alphanumerics. I also have a Kipper Fleet consultant whose father spent much time marshalling those mythical forty thousand rivets from both right and left-hand front seats, which made the markings of one of his aircraft an obvious choice. The availability of the red/white letters and numbers made a dark sea grey aircraft with a white top obvious; I thought about the big white panels applied to the top of the wings of Singapore-based aircraft to help keep the fuel cool, but discarded that idea once it became evident that the squadron's home base was less-than tropical Ballykelly. I omitted all the guns except th e two 20 mm cannon, and added glazing - Kristal Kleer - to the now empty barbettes behind the cockpit to mark them out as visual sighting stations; and it still lacks a radar housing, but thought it would be less than reasonable to approach Mike Verier again and I haven't yet found a sutable substitute in my spares box. One day, I hope. As you can see the colours are those of 203 Squadron and you may just be able to discern a small red seahorse just below the cockpit; Murphy's laws being what they are, this was the one squadron that hadn't made its way on to Mel's decal sheet and with some trepidation I therefore attempted to hand-paint it. Fortunately as far as I could tell it was only the one colour and I only had to resort to one repaint; I can only hope that knowing what it's meant to be you can see what it is! A Vampire is there again to give an idea of the size of its big friend; in theory it's wearing the markings of an aircraft of 229 OCU that I flew at Chivenor a Very Long Time Ago, but I've discovered more than one error (more than just a mistake!). I'll be writing it up on the Workbench page shortly where more, though probably not all, will be revealed. You may have to skip lunch for a week or so, but the Vickers Giant Bomber as it's described on the box top really is a very good kit - and I still find it fascinationg. An Australian Mark 32, perhaps? 05.09.17....
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