14 March 2017

Completed Review - Airfix Hawker Typhoon Ib (A02041)

Scale: 1:72, RRP - £9.99

The last time I'd written about this build was prior to starting the decals. I'd decided to opt for the option depicted on the box art, that of Typhoon MP126, in the markings it carried when flown by Squadron Leader Gerald Stapleton of No.247 Squadron.


In past builds I've found the quality of Airfix's decals to be very good but I had some real problems with those included in this kit. I had several break up on me, including one of the serial numbers, without which I could not complete the build. I don't know if this was a one off, lack of practice on my part or if they were bad decals, although I suspect it was more a case of the first two rather than the latter. Fortunately I had a spare set and they were applied without any further bother, indeed that could said for the rest of the build.

Weathering was once again mostly done by applying Flory Model washes. My previous builds had been very dirty, using the Dark Dirt wash. This time I wanted to refine the weathering. For the undersides I applied a Grey Wash and then for the upper sides I mixed the Grey Wash with Dark Dirt (about a 2:1 ratio) and this gave a more subtle look, which was exactly what I was aiming for.


For the first time I attempted to use oil paints to apply oil streaks but found at this scale I couldn't really get a noticeable, and realistic enough effect. Exhaust marks were airbrushed using Tamiya Smoke, X-19, and dirt was applied to the undersides in small quantities using Flory Models Sand wash.

Again this was another excellent kit from Airfix which I thoroughly enjoyed building. It looks accurate in terms of the detail and shape, and there are two notable decal options. Once I slowed down and started taking some care it went together without any real problems. Although I deviated from the instructions, I don't think that's absolutely necessary, just take care with the flexible lower wing part and you'll be fine.


And that was about it. On a personal note I think this is the best model I've built so far, surpassing my previous build, the Airfix Defiant in the same scale. I think I achieved a more realistic finish, it just took me much longer than I would have liked.

Overall Build Score: 4 out of 5, an excellent release from Airfix with the full options, in-flight or on the ground, open or closed cockpit and pilot figure. Fairly straight forward to build, accurate and with interesting decal options, what more could you ask for?

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03 March 2017

History In Detail: Squadron Leader Basil Gerald 'Stampe' Stapleton


The first History in Detail feature is going to take a look at the man behind one of the options in the latest release of the Airfix 1:72 scale Typhoon Ib kit (A02041). Typhoon MP126, is depicted in the markings it carried during December 1944 when it was flown by Squadron Leader Basil Gerald 'Stampe' Stapleton of No.247 (Chino-British) Squadron (RAF).

Airfix 1:72 scale Typhoon Ib kit (A02041)
Typhoon MP126
Source: Airfix
With his handlebar moustache and, described by fellow airman Richard Hillary as “over six feet tall, thick-set, with a mass of blond hair which he never brushed”[1], Stapleton must have been very much the quintessential, bold, adventurous RAF fighter pilot one imagines from that time.

By the time Stapleton was flying MP126, adorned with a Nazi swastika topped by a burning eagle and unofficially named "Excreta Thermo"[2], he had been at war for five years. For four of those years he’d been an Ace, gaining six kills and two shared while flying Spitfires with No.603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron during the Battle of Britain, an achievement which saw him awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[3] One of those shared kills has long since been debated by writers and historians, many believing that it was the Messerschmitt Bf 109 of Oberleutnant Franz Von Werra, “the one that got away.” It even appears that, while remembering the combat itself, at the time, Stapleton wasn’t aware of the identity of the pilot of the aircraft. In fact the point when he exactly found out it was Von Werra also seems to be up for debate, with author Dilip Sarkar claiming he informed Stapleton of the pilot’s identity[4] and David Ross, who would later be Stapleton’s biographer, claiming Stapleton had learnt of Von Werra’s identity soon after the end of the war.[5]


Squadron Leader Basil Gerald 'Stampe' Stapleton
Gerald Stapleton
While Aces tend to be associated with a certain invincibility his time in the Battle of Britain was not without incident. Shot down after believing he was out of range of the guns of an approaching Messerschmitt he recalled how he abruptly realised that this was not the case when a cannon shell suddenly stuck the starboard wing of his Spitfire between the two guns. As ammunition started spilling out of the wing and glycol from the punctured radiator started spraying into his cockpit he took the decision to make a forced landing in a field. The landing was by his account too fast, but successful, and after leaving his aircraft he encountered a family in their car who offered him a cup of tea before driving him, and another pilot who landed by parachute, to a nearby pub.[6]

The carefree attitude that typified pilots like Stapleton may seem strange to those of us living in the relative comfort of today's world. Looking back he declared those days as great fun in which each occasion was lived like it was the last.[7] Indeed his explanation as to how he and other pilots coped with the loss of so many fellow pilots in such a short space of time appears to show a certain amount of detachment, even a slight coldness, to what was happening around them. He explained:

“The Battle of Britain didn’t affect us... It’s a strange thing to look back on it and think, “Why didn’t we grieve more for the chaps that were missing?” And you never knew whether they’d been killed or whether they’d jumped out or crash-landed. And by the time the news came through that they had been killed, so much had happened in between that it had no effect on you whatsoever, none.”[8]

Following the conclusion of the Battle of Britain Stapleton went on to fly catapult Hurricanes with the Merchant Ship Fighter unit, standard Hurricanes and then Hawker Tempests with No.257 Squadron before acquiring his own command of a rocket Typhoon unit with No.247 Squadron, based at Eindhoven.[9] Compared to flying a small agile fighter such as a Hurricane or Spitfire the much larger Typhoon would prove to be an altogether different experience. As he recalled:

“The first thing that stuck me when I climbed into a Typhoon was that you had to get used to the height you were sitting at. On take-off the Typhoon swung the opposite way to the Hurricane and Spitfire, so we had to unlearn that which had become second nature to us.”[10]

The move to the Typhoon meant there would be very little of the dog fighting that had typified the earlier years of the war. While in the eyes of the public there might have been a certain glamour attached to those battles with the Luftwaffe fighters the growing Allied dominance of the skies over Europe meant a changing, but no less important role for many pilots like Stapleton. For them the focus would now be the important task of supporting the ground troops in a ground attack role took precedence as the Allies advanced through Normandy and North-West Europe. The rocket and strafing attacks carried out by the Typhoons left no room for error but were used to devastating effect and in his own words he described the Typhoon as “a tremendous ground attack aircraft.”[11]

Gerald Stapleton & Hawker Tphoon MP126 "Excreta Thermo"
Gerald Stapleton & MP126 "Excreta Thermo." MP126 was lost
in a forced landing on the 5th December 1944 after being borrowed
by Flg Off Wiersum (who was captured) [12]
Moving fast and low there was almost no chance of bailing out of a damaged aircraft. It was here that his luck would run out. On December the 23rd 1944 he attacked a train at low level, with rockets, and the shrapnel from the resulting explosion punctured his Typhoon’s radiator leaving him with no choice but to force land his aircraft. Certainly his previous experience of a forced landing during the Battle of Britain would have helped; but this time it was behind enemy lines. Looking back on the incident, possibly with a hint of self-deprecating humour, he said:

“I wasn’t shot down, I suppose I shot myself down when I flew through the debris.”[13]

Captured he would spend the rest of the war as a prisoner in Stalag Luft I until its liberation by the advancing Soviet Army in May 1945.[14] No doubt during this time he chance to reflect on his luck something which he felt decided every pilot’s fate:

“You thought it’s never going to happen to you. That’s what you live with… I was lucky enough to get away with it. And that’s absolute luck. If anybody tells you any different, they don’t know what they’re talking about… With hindsight, it becomes more apparent that it was luck rather than skill.”[15]

Later in life he became enthusiastic supporter of the Battle of Britain Memorial flight and in 2007 a Spitfire of the Memorial Flight wore the markings of one his wartime aircraft.[16] He died in 2010 at the age of 89.


References

 1. Hillary, R. (2005) The Last Enemy. [Online] Available from: Project Gutenberg Australia [Accessed 18 February 2017]

 2. The Telegraph (2010) Squadron Leader 'Stapme' Stapleton. [Online] Available from: The Telegraph [Accessed 18 February 2017]

 3. The London Gazette (1944) Royal Airforce, 34993, p.6570.

 4. Sarkar, D (2013) Spitfire Voices. [Online] Available from: Google Books [Accessed 25 February 2017]

 5. Ross, D (2003) Richard Hillary: The Authorised Biography of a Battle of Britain Fighter Pilot and Author of The Last Enemy. [Online] Available from: Google Books [Accessed 1 March 2017]

 6. Davidson, M. and Taylor, J. (2004) Spitfire Ace: Flying the Battle Of Britain. Pan Macmillan: London, pp.169-70

 7. The Scotsman (2010) Obituary: 'Stapme' Stapleton DFC, RAF pilot during Second World War. [Online] Available from: The Scotsman [Accessed 28 February 2017]

 8. Davidson and Taylor, Spitfire Ace. p.175

 9. Thomas, C (1999) Typhoon and Tempest Aces of World War 2. Osprey Publishing: Oxford, p.62

 10. Rowley, C (2014) D-Day RAF: The RAF’s Part in the Great Invasion. Mortons: Horncastle, p.52

 11. Ibid.

   12. Thomas, C (2010) Typhoon Wings of 2nd TAF 1943-45. Osprey Publishing: Oxford, p.78

 13. Rowley, D-Day RAF: The RAF’s Part in the Great Invasion. p.52

 14. The Telegraph, Squadron Leader 'Stapme' Stapleton.

 15. Davidson and Taylor, Spitfire Ace. pp.180-1

 16. Air-Scene UK (2007) Happy Birthday BBMF! [Online] Available from: Air-Scene [Accessed 18 February 2017]

28 February 2017

Kit List, What's In, What's Out for 2017 - February


Part way through last year I decided to keep a record of everything hobby related that I bought and sold in order to keep track of my hobby consumption.

2017 has seen me continue this, so here's what I bought and sold this month, just been a few detail parts to enable me to work on several more aircraft kits which I currently own.

In - Purchases for February 2017
  • Yahu Models Instrument Panels - £4.30
  • Vacform Canopies - £4.60
Total Yearly (2017) Expenditure - £46.06

Out - Downsizing for February 2017
  • None

12 February 2017

In Box Review – Bandai First Order TIE Fighter Set & Poe's X-Wing Fighter (003 & 004)

When Bandai started releasing their new Star Wars kits a few years ago they raised the game to a whole new level. Just focusing on vehicles we had a whole new range of 1:72 scale fighter sized models, and 1:144 scale larger sized spacecraft. And now, spotting another gap in their range, Bandai have started producing their fighter sized craft, in a smaller scale.

The 1:72 scale models are excellent. They are finely detailed and innovatively engineered in such a way that it is possible to snap fit them without any glue. In addition you have a choice of decals or stickers for the markings which opens up the models to a whole range of people, from children who want a simple toy, to model makers who want a finely detailed scale replica.

But can this excellence be scaled down? I've decided to take a look at two sets which feature vehicles from the Force Awakens film, the First Order TIE Fighter set and their adversary, Poe's X-Wing Fighter.



The first thing that come to note is that these are very compact offerings. No instruction manual, the instructions are printed on the inside of the box lid, although they are clear and in both Japanese and English. No decals this time, only stickers, I think they've taken a view that most people won't be comfortable with applying such small decals.

Looking at the plastic, there is, once again, plenty of detail despite the size. The part count is low and there's no clear parts, and as before they'll both snap together. The TIE Fighter set contains two TIE Fighters. One standard First Order fighter and one Special Force's fighter (the twin seater that Finn and Poe escape in during the film).

Star Wars Force Awakens - First Order Special Forces TIE Fighter Sprue
First Order Special Forces TIE Fighter Sprue (one of two TIE fighters in the box)
Star Wars Force Awakens - Poe's X-Wing Sprue
Poe's X-Wing Sprue
Each of the boxes also comes with a stand. In the case of the TIE Fighter set there is a twin stand or one single stand (which means you won't able to put both on single stands). If you don't want to use a stand then there's optional base plates to both TIE Fighter bodies which means you won't be left with a hole where a stand would connect.




I have seen these models advertised as 1:144 scale although in both cases the box does not mention a scale. Other models in the range, such as the Star Destroyer and Millennium Falcon (although there is an actual 1:144 scale Falcon) are clearly not. I measured a TIE fighter and compared it to a 1:72 FineMolds (original) TIE fighter and it seems to be in the same region, scale wise. This means they could easily accompany the larger 1:144 craft, such as the Millennium Falcon should you wish to create a battle diorama.

As I had them open I thought I'd go above and beyond an in-box review and start building. As you can see, a few minutes work and you'll have yourself a very nice little TIE Fighter. It's also worth noting in the picture you can see that the way the wings and cockpit top join it means you can't put this together in the wrong way. This is the same for every part, once again, an example of the thought that has gone into producing these models.

Bandai First Order TIE Fighter Set & Poe's X-Wing Fighte - Overall In Box Score: Promising. I'm scoring both kits together as they both offer a detailed but easy to assemble model. I have seen more complex 1:144 kits with clear parts and decals but these kits appear to be purposely simpler to appeal to a wide range of modellers. Certainly they're much better than any other Star Wars snap fit kits on offer.

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09 February 2017

12 Day Modelling Challenge: Day #12

Day 12 and I feel it’s time to bring this modelling challenge to an end by writing about an overlooked part of my hobby, reading and research.

For me I rarely build a model or paint a miniature without some sort of reading, or search for inspiration, or in some cases, in-depth research into the subject area. This takes up hobby time, but currently has no obvious direct physical result. A completed model is a completed model, and the depth of research, and the time taken, is not obvious at first glance. I have estimated that with my models I spent an equal amount of time researching a topic as I actually do working on the model itself.

I’m very much a person who likes reading and then, due to my creative, hands-on nature, I explore those topics via my modelling. It’s important to take this journey, it helps build connection between the concepts and information I read and the, physical, real world object I create in my hands. There’s also the issue of accuracy. I get a sense of achievement by producing an accurate model. Again this is personal to me, as I’m not the kind of person who would take time to comment on the inaccuracies of the work of others, only my own work.




It’s slightly different when it comes to the miniatures I paint. In this case I’m trying to create a physical representation that fits a theme. An example of this is when I paint models for Warhammer and I’m trying to aim for miniatures which fit a certain era of the Warhammer world, both the fictional world and a point in time of the real world, something I have written about before.

This reading and research gives me time to engage with my hobby when I’m not sat at my desk working on the models themselves. Usually this is time during the week as I tend to only have time for actual modelling at the weekends. But until now it’s not really been reflected on this blog. When I’m not modelling it appears that I’m just inactive, which is far from the case. And so that’s why I’ve decided, going forward, to share my research here, as I get as much enjoyment from writing about models, history, my inspirations and interpretations as I do from actually building them.

In the coming weeks and months you will see two types of new posts, they will be called, History in Detail and Inspiration in Detail (and will be labelled as such to assist searching). History will typically focus on the real life historical aspects of a model I’m building. This might be a look at the type of aircraft I’m building, the pilot who flew the aircraft or broader themes such as the campaigns in which an aircraft or vehicle took part in. Inspiration will be more geared (but not exclusively) towards my miniatures projects. In this case it will look towards the literature, games etc. which influence the miniature that I’m creating or helped shape my interest in that topic in the first place.