On Atlas' Shoulders
Given the minimal modelling I got through in 2016, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that it's been a year since I selected a "pick" to go in this patch of the web; it won't raise your eyebrows either to find that the successor to my happy welcome of the S+M HS.681s is the write-up on the much awaited On Atlas' Shoulders, by Chris Gibson on Crecy's Hikoki imprint and covering, as the cover says, RAF transport projects since 1945. (Apologies for the late arrival of the cover shot; entirely my fault, not Crecy's)
At the end of the second world war the RAF's transport force was composed virtually entirely of Lend-Lease Dakotas, all of which would have to be returned quickly to the USA under the terms of their transfer. With the exception of a few Avro Yorks the only British transport of any size was the Mark X powered version of the Hamilcar tank-carrying glider - I hadn't realised that the purpose of fitting this large glider with a pair of Hercules was for self-ferrying rather than combat use - and it is here that Chris Gibson starts the story. The Hamilcar was the progenitor to the same company's Universal Freighter which under the acquisitive wing of Blackburn morphed in to the Beverley which, in the way of the RAF, found itself becoming used on what were still briefly the Empire routes moving the squaddies and their kit a long way from Blighty. There were some short-range sidetracks such as the Argosy and Andover, and the very short range Pioneers, single and Twin, but by and large the rest of the story that leads to the recent, if protracted, introduction of the latest Atlas is a search for range, capacity and speed in variable combinations with the transport of troops usually involving adaptations of airliners. The Britannia, Comet and VC.10 play large parts in Transport, and subsequently Air Support, Command, but even getting these fit for military service was not straightforward; but the two tales that fascinate me are those of the Hawker Siddeley 681, sadly - for enthusiasts anyway - cancelled and the long gestation of the A400 which has finally emerged as the Atlas.
Many of the projects are illustrated with - sometimes rather small - three views, and as well as a generous assemblege of photos there are the invaluable artists' renderings which bring some of the unfulfilled designs to vivid life, and which can inspire the modeller to try to reproduce them, or at least something similar in three dimensions. While many of those that did go in to service are now more readily available in plastic, more usually in 1:144th although other materials and scales are available, the opportunities for WiF versions is a little limited. The STOL Medway-powered HS. 681 has been produced in resin and I had hoped that the VTOL version with the substantial lift-engine pods would be a simple variation for which I could badger S+M, but it appears from the development history detailed here that there were considerable differences, and that such a change to their first kit kit would require a "jack up tail, fit new airframe" approach; shame. One possibility that does appeal to me is the variation on the VC 10 that appears on the cover (coming soon, really), with a high wing, higher engines and a swing-nose for loading; Adrian Mann's depiction of its take off will I hope suggest to one of those Good Chaps who devise resin conversions to approach it with intent! Incidentally I note that it's captioned as a BAC Atlas; I don't know if this is a flight of author Chris Gibson's fancy or if it was floating suggestively around Wisley at any stage. He does go in to some length as to how the VC 10 was/wasn't named which I find fascinating, as was his similar tale of the Mighty Hunter in his Nimrod Genesis.
Non-British aircraft do have their parts to play in this saga, even if they're mostly bit parts; the exception - best supporting role, perhaps - is the C-130 in its several functions, though sadly not gunship. This was ordered to fill the gap left by the cancellation of the 681, although its performance was seen as inferior. BAC proposed a variant with Tyne engines but this was rejected largely on cost grounds, and the Allisons served to the end of its RAF service, even if by then they wore a Rolls-Royce label!
Unsurprisingly this latest addition to the Crecy/Hikoki output of books partly or wholly concerned with projects and developments, with varying What If? flavours, is first class both in content and production and which I have, as you may have gathered, enjoyed very much. As a technical and political narrative it's fascinating, and I will no doubt continue to return to it from time to time for both historical and modelling reasons.It's a considerable credit to both author and publishers, and as always I look forward to whatever they come up with next! 27.01.17.
It's not that I'm impatient, you understand, but I try not having my models hang around either in my mind or on my workbench; sometime enthusiasm tails of. When I returned to plastic modelling during my year in Canada, not having to whittle and sand and coming with pre-formed parts enabled me to produce a variety of models and subsequently - especially in such exotic locations as Chivenor and Sylt - speed of finishing was a prime concern not least so that I could get on with the next project. Later in the days when I was doing several reviews in short periods I was happy when there weren't too many small and time-consuming parts, even before manipulating them became an increasing problem. Some projects do get prolonged though and it would be fair to say that the group of models I've just finished had their genesis seventeen years ago.
In 2000 I went to Oz on an Ian Allan excursion in very distinguished company and met the High Planes chaps who were producing kits of Reno racers, finding as a result that I was reviewing them for SAM. After a couple I found myself realising how little I knew about some of them - the modified Yak-11s were I think at least one trigger - and was able to graft myself on to the end of an Ian Allan tour which took in the Reno air races for 2000, which proved entertaining and fascinating, and added a (probably unneccessary) extra aviation hobby horse to my already well-stocked stable. There were two aircraft that I really fell for; the first was the heavily modified Sea Fury Critical Mass and this was the second.
When I first saw it it had the very small "racing" canopy, but by the time I took this photo at the "Gathering of Mustangs" at Columbus in 2007 it had reverted to the standard P-51D style because, as I found out in a conversation with the driver in I think Nellis, he'd had a serious moment with an unseen Cessna in a circuit. I was at least able then, and five years later on a return to Reno, to bring back the statutory cap and shirt and to persuade the then editor Neil Robinson that the event was worth featuring in SAM, and that Voodoo's exotic colour scheme was ideal for an eye-catching cover. Several years later I found a set of DrawDecal markings at an SMW, and brought them home, and though I was able to get a resin kit of Strega with similarsmall canopy and modifications I've never quite got around to it.
At the 2016 SMW the appearance of the AZ kit of the Martin-Baker MB.5 brought everything together for me, when it was of course obvious that that most elegant of designs would be an excellent canvas for purple, yellow, lime green and black-an-white check (I've often thought that the designer of that scheme must have been really happy, at least at the time!). And the appearance of a set of post-WW II RAAF and RNZAF Xtradecals meant that I could use Red Roo's boxing of RAAF napalm-headed rockets - no, me neither - to place the service version in Korea; I know they were meant for Meteors, but if jet engines hadn't worked... It turned out of course that the Australian "kangaroo" roundels came slightly later, so I've had to rely on an Australian serial to establish the ownership, but I was delighted to find that the 77 Squadron Mustangs from whom I stole the colours had painted their spinners patriotically (now, I suppose, they'd be yellow and green). Plan A had been to start with the racer, but with a facility which some of you will I'm sure share I'd mislaid the Drawdecal sheet; following a slightly shamefaced conversation with Paul Davis who Knows All about such things I contacted the company in the States, and they supplied me with two more sets within three weeks, excellent service and really good quality decals that fitted an MB.5 with very little adjustment. The"Voodoo" was by now structually complete, and while waiting for the post I spent quite some time tryng to match the shades of the three principal colours; in the end, after having tried several possible solutions from a Wargames shop on the wilder shores of Milton Keynes with the aid of a print of the "Columbus" snap I returned to Tamiya acrylics even though they seemed a touch too vivid - reverse scale effect, perhaps.
I didn't want to give up the 'roos though and the answer was an RAN example copied from a long-serving Sea Fury finished in what's usually described as Oxford Blue, but for which the Humbrol acrylic of that name seemed much too dark; but by chance while trying to sort out a purple for the racer I'd come across a "cobalt blue" from Mr.Hobby, which was close enough to the photo in the Warpaint to make me happy. By this time AZ had brought out the "Sea Baker" boxing, although the hook" section of the rudder had been on a sprue for all of them, and the same Xtradecal Sea Fury sheet that provided the RAN markings also came up with RCN decals which consultation with Pat Martin's invaluable volume on Canadian Navy aircraft finish and markings enabled me to use their unique combination of dark and light grey with the small "maple leaf" roundels (and the tale of the problems that the Canadians had in persuading Hawkers to use these shades on their later Sea Furies is entertaining. The codes and serials came directly from the same sheet; I was quite happy to hand-paint the red/white spinner, but on this - and on the RAN aircraft - I drew the line at hand-building the serials. I can just about cope with Modeldecal's 8" alphanumerics - it worked on the RAAF aircraft - but I find the RN and its cousins use of 4" becomes increasing frustrating for me.
Sometimes I feel the need to invent, or at least adapt, a name for a WhatIf?, if possible with some element at least of alliteration; after a few trials and error I've settled on Mongoose, while avoiding Sea Mongoose and trying not to think of a flight of Mongeese (see below). I've really enjoyed working on this quartet; the kit needs a little work to get the very best out of it, but it's struck me while all this has been going on that Martin-Baker's very capable and very good-looking MB.5 has become for me, and I suspect for some other What If? modellers, a 1945 equivalent of the TSR.2. There are multiple possibilities, not least if you work on a back story that the jet engine was not the success that everyone expected; just think of all those Meteor and Vampire operators that would have been left bereft! For a start there's those Kiwi roundels still looking for a home!
and of course the red Jack should always go on the black Queen
© GOM and © Deltaweb International Ltd 2015