Thursday 22 September 2016

Euro Militaire, 2016 (Sunday, 18th Sept)

View from the Leas venue terrace. Weather was nice! [1]

Having become somewhat more of a model builder than a figure collector/painter in recent months, when a pal suggested a trip to Folkestone for Euro Militaire, 2016, I said 'yes please'.

A nice model of the German's Mickey 'Maus' tank. [2]

As something of a Boney-phile I like that their logo is a portrait of the man himself. But, although there were a good deal of Napoleonic subjects on display in the competition and display areas, there was very little of that era for sale in a form I felt tempted by. 

I did buy an MB 54mm Hussar at the last Salute I went to, and a few stalls had the figures from that range, but I was determined to try and remain 'on track' and 'on scale'! There was one guy with a lot of mostly second-hand models, who had some vintage Airfix Napoleonics in 54mm, the nostalgia value of which tempted me. But I thought they were a bit pricey... and then I ran out of money anyway!

F-F-F-Folkestone's f-f-f-famous f-f-f-funicular lift. Powered by water and gravity, so I was told.

My buddy said the show was a lot smaller than the last time he went, and that he heard one of the organisers muttering about how Brexit might've discouraged some of our continental brethren (and sistren!) from making the trip this year. 

That'd be a terrible and ironic shame if it were true, as, just as the name of the show itself suggests, this is an instance of UK folk being friendly and welcoming to the idea of internationalism, at least as far as the near continent is concerned.

No prizes for guessing the title of this competition entry!

The truth of the matter for me is that, despite greatly admiring what modeller's do in larger scales, single figures, and realms such as fantasy, etc., I'm really much more of a dyed-in-the-wool small scale historical guy; I like masses of troops and tanks, based on real conflicts. 

So, although I admired much of what was on display - it's stunning, frankly, so how can one not be bowled over? - nevertheless, my chief concern was to acquire some small scale armour and figures.

In the end, however, I bought mostly planes! This might partly be the influence of the buddy with whom I travelled, Paul Crossman, who's primarily been making 1/72 planes in recent years. But it's also been influenced by films I've watched - from 12 O'Clock High to the Battle of Britain - and books I've been reading.

My swag from the show! 

In both Hitler's Soldiers and The War In The West, the role of the Luftwaffe was looked at in some detail, the latter title devoting a fair chunk to the way in which Germany's air-arm's supremacy was crucial to both their initial victories in Poland and France, and subsequent extensions of conquest such as Norway and Greece and the Balkans.

Even though the Battle of Britain was both short and relatively small scale, it was clearly crucial in stopping Hitler gambling on invading Britain, and thus knocking out the last West-European adversary he had failed to either conquer or otherwise neutralise. Anyway, all this got me more and more interested in buying and building model planes to add to my growing 1/72 WWII collection.

Up until the weekend of Euro Militaire, this had been a very small scale and sporadic development, with as many WWI aircraft winging their way to my worktable as WWII machines. Then I bought and built a Spitfire and Messerschmit on our recent short summer breaks - at the time I was reading the Battle of Britain segment of The War In The West - and that's when the bug really bit!

Then, whilst shopping with Teresa in Ely, I spotted a Battle Of Britain 75th anniversary set by Airfix, reduced from £45 (a bit overpriced!) to £30, and snapped it up. Despite knowing I was off to Euro-Militaire the very next day!

And at the show itself, I found that - whilst there was tons to gawp at in admiration - most the traders weren't selling stuff geared to my particular and quite narrow current interests. Indeed, there were only three stalls that had the sort of things I was after. One of these had tons of stuff that I liked the look of, and I promptly spent all my remaining cash on a stash of mostly German WWII aeroplanes.

One of only two vehicle purchases of the show!

One of the other stalls (Mr. Models, I think?), from whom I'd made my first purchases of the day - more WWII German planes! - would've had a lot more of my money, if their card-machine had worked. Perhaps I ought to be grateful it didn't?

In the end I only bought two vehicles, and both of those were a bit off my usual map, being as one was a Russian fuel-tanker truck (see above pic.), and the other a German bus. Figure-wise I got a pack of Zvezda 1/72 German HQ figures, plus a big box of Airfix soft-plastic Luftwaffe figures, inc. both pilots and ground crew, and another Zvezda set, also of Luftwaffe ground-crew.

Very nice figures. Just a shame there aren't a lot more of them.

Plenty of figures. But not so nicely posed, and poses are repeated too much for my liking.

I had hoped someone at the show might stock the Preiser 1/72 Luftwaffe ground crew figures. But I couldn't find anyone selling their ranges. Of the two sets I purchased, the Zvezda are much better sculpted, and being hard plastic are also easier to work with if converting (not that they need it!). But they are also a lot more expensive.

The Airfix Luftwaffe groundcrew, although described on the box as 1/72, are much smaller than the Zvezda figures. Are they actually 1/76, simply re-boxed/-branded as 1/72? The repeated poses mean many figures are either going to be redundant, or will require some conversion. 

I have converted soft plastic figures before, with what appeared at the time (to me!) to be both ease and success. This set is going to tax those skill rather more, methinks!

My 1st conversion attempt with the Airfix LW figs:

Paul advised me to 'pin' my conversion parts. [3]

The toolbox carried at a more realistic angle.


[1] I was told that on a clear day you can see France. When I was told this, the far horizon was shrouded in a heat-haze. But when Paul took this pic, it looked a lot clearer. Somewhat to my chagrin, however, I still couldn't quite make out the French coast.

[2] I only took my iPhone, camera-wise, and that wouldn't let me take many pics (even with me deleting loads!). So I only got two or three pretty poor pics. This one is one of them.

[3] Last time I did plastic figure conversions I just cut and superglued, and it seems to have worked OK. Pinning is a lot more fiddly. I hope it also proves to be sturdy!?

Book Review: Battle of Britain - Len Deighton

What a great picture! [1] (Source: RAF Museum)

Note: the pics used in this review - aside from the cover - are not from the book!

Deighton and Michael Caine on the set of the Ipcress Files, 1965

Len Deighton, now in his 80s, is best known as an author of spy fiction, and is ranked alongside contemporaries like Ian Fleming and John Le Carré in terms of his appeal and success. I bought a cheap used paperback of his book SS Great Britain a while back, during a period of fascination with Operation Sealion, but I have yet to read that. 

Now I'm in the middle of a new phase, and getting quite interested in the Battle of Britain. I got this book on the subject by Deighton for £1.50 in a local charity shop, and read it in two days, whenever I could snatch a moment between working and decorating our new home. I didn't used to like books of this sort - picture heavy surveys or 'digests' - but I'm starting to come round to liking them.

Heinkel He-111.

Dornier Do-17.

Junkers Ju 87, AKA the famous screaming dive-bombing Stuka.

I was intrigued to find out that Deighton had trained in the arts, and worked as an illustrator and designer in his youth. And, according to the Deighton Dossier, some of the illustrations in this book (which ones, I don't know) are by him.

A squadron of Hurricanes over Blighty.

Douglas Bader poses with fellow pilots of 242 (Canadian) Squadron, at Duxford. [2]

The book examines the Battle of Britain from numerous angles, with a core part of the text being in a a kind of 'diary' format. There are also sections on all kinds of related topics, from the evolution of air warfare in WWI and the inter-war years, to diagrams of planes, maps of attacks, and substantial use of quotes from both combatants and civilians.

The contributions of the WAAF and others is covered. Here they help deploy barrage balloons.

The role of Radar and similar technology is discussed, as is the breaking of the Engima code.

It's pleasingly easy and compelling read. I was mildly irritated by the need to jump around a bit page-wise, when a piece of text I was reading was interrupted by some sub-section or other. But that's a very minor niggle. 

It seems also that it's nothing new for writers to claim, as Deighton does here (and as both Ben Shepherd and James Holland do in their more recent books that I've just read), that they're exploding all kinds of popular myths.

This is far from being an in-depth study, although it is impressively comprehensive for a large-type, picture-heavy book of its kind. But if you're looking for an entry point into this subject - a relatively small battle, but of great significance nonetheless - as I was when I got it, it's really pretty good.

Deighton credits Hugh Dowding's careful conservatism with winning the battle.

But, as Deighton tells it here, Leigh Mallory intrigued against his boss; Dowding was duly axed, and Leigh Mallory ultimately took over his job.

In the end Britain wins the battle simply by surviving it. Park and Dowding are portrayed as courageously and stoically following a successful policy of carefully husbanding their scant resources, only to be stabbed in the back by Leigh-Mallory and Douglas Bader, with their 'Big Wing' ideas. 

Women building Hurricanes. [3]

The fact that Britain outproduced the Germans, in their manufacture and replacement of materiel, was also a key factor. So to was the German mismanagement of the whole campaign, with Goering proving himself - despite being a former WWI fighter ace himself - a poor leader, strategically speaking. The Luftwaffe changed focus too many times, and Goering loved his Me110s, or Zerstörer (Destroyer!), even in the face of the evidence that showed they were not as effective as he liked to believe.


So, all in all, a fun book, filled with great pictures and other visual reference material, with all the maps and illustrations being specially commissioned for the book, making for both a good read and a good introduction to the topic.

You can see why Goering like the Me110. It does look damnably cool!


[1] Flak was very inaccurate and inefficient, and could cause 'collateral damage' when spent munitions or unexploded rounds returned to earth. But it had psychological value in helping people feel they were being defended, and it unnerved attacking aircraft, making their job harder.

[2] I like this picture for several reasons, two of which are: my grandfather was a Canadian servicemen, over here during (and after!) WWII; Duxford is local to me, and I've been there many, many times. The text describing this image at Wikipedia says: 'Three decorated fighter pilots of No. 242 (Canadian) Squadron RAF, standing outside the Officers' Mess at Duxford, Cambridgeshire. They are (left to right): Pilot Officer W L McKnight, Acting Squadron Leader D R S Bader (Commanding Officer), and Acting Flight Lieutenant G E Ball. By the date this photograph was taken these pilots had, between them, shot down over thirty enemy aircraft.'

[3] This pic is from 1942, after the Battle of Britain, but it gets the idea across!

Saturday 10 September 2016

Kit Build & Review: Airfix 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire

Teresa and I have been enjoying 'late-summer-break' part II, in the impossibly picturesque setting of Robin Hood's Bay.

Once again, I can't bear not to be a-hobbyin', so to speak. This time I decided to embark upon a Spitfire build, having purchased an Spitfire from a shop in March (the town, not the month!).

The timing of these Me109 and Spitfire builds is poifeck, as I'm currently mid Battle of Britain in James Holland's excellent War In The West.

This time I bought my portable modelling kit with me. So I was much better prepared for the neskassary pre-build cockpit painting stages. The Spitfire cockpit proves to be a fun and interesting one, with all the frame detail, and whatnot.

I didn't go overboard, as I'm guessing this'll mostly be invisible once built. Espesh as I'm using the pilot figure in't cockpit. 

One major flaw with this particular Airfix kit is that the pilot doesn't fit into the cockpit. He's too broad of shoulder, for one thing. As well as paring back his shoulders, I also had to lop of most of his feet, to allow him to sit right.

The internal cockpit detail also seemed too wide for the two halves of the fuselage, resulting in the need for me to manually hold the central part of the body together whilst applying serious amounts of glue and pressure.

My final pic for this post shows the tail nearing completion and the cockpit canopy positioned (sans glue!). The latter step required some jiggery-pokery, and a wee bit of brute force, in order to get it sitting correctly.

So, whilst its far from finished, I can report that, some hassly stages aside, this is a fun and good-looking kit. The issues of fit, partic. re the pilot and cockpit, do need sorting. But otherwise this model goes together pretty well, and pretty straightforwardly.

Not a perfect model, but not too bad either. Certainly fun to build. And, at just £5.99 (what I paid for it), good value.


Sunday - Finished off the construction of this fun if flawed little kit today. Just have to transport it to the home-base without damage, and get her painted.

Tuesday - Did some touching up of paint damage in the cockpit and pilot areas of both the Me109 and the Supermarine Spitfire, and then glued the cockpit 'glass' in place. Spitfire was easy, due to snug fir and one-piece construction; Me109 was damn tricky, owing to three 'glass' parts and one opaque bit (pilot headrest).

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Kit build/review: Airfix 1/72 Me109

My wife and I went on a later than normal summer break a short while back, the delay being occasioned by our getting a new home that's in need of substantial work. Whilst the short break was welcome respite from toil, both domestic and professional, I discovered I was in no mood to take any further time out from my military interests. 

My small port glass looks positively Floydian (Keith, not Pink), next to the pilot and prop!

So, I took James Holland's superb War In The West (pt. 1), and began chomping through that voraciously. I even successfully persuaded Teresa to watch Robert Shaw as Custer of the West (a film I saw and loved as a kid!). And, coming to the point of this post, somewhat to my own surprise, I even bought a model - with a view to building it whilst we were away as well - in a shop near where we were staying!

The pilot figure is rather nice, to my eyes.

The model in question is the 1/72 Airfix Me109 (E-7/Trop variant). This and another older Airfix Me109 kit were the only German WWII kits the shop had. I was forced to buy a knife, glue, and some paints and brushes as well. [1] 

The kit is - and this is especially noticeable after recently working on the old Airfix 1/76 'Katy' ambulance - wonderfully crisply moulded, requiring minimal tidying. And the fit of parts is also, by and large, excellent. 

I bought two Vallejo acrylics and a can of car undercoat. The latter was both more expensive than usual, and seemed coarser, leaving a textured 'bubbly' coat.

Decals were applied at the wrong point! The darker flying helmet was painted using a home-made black!! [2]

I made my task tougher by having such a minimal toolkit, some of which - the £1.49 knife, for example - was plain awful. I also did a few dumb things, construction-wise, such as gluing the pilot and cockpit to one half of the fuselage before adding the control panel decals! My attempts at fabricating home-made paint weren't too successful either!

We popped in to the 'office', mid-vacation, enabling me to get some more painted detail onto the pilot/cockpit. My goal is to finish this plane and the 'Katy' ambulance before I resume work at the coalface. In the meantime, this post shows how far I got during late-summer-vacation, pt. I.

How the pilot/cockpit look at the time of posting.


Did a bit more this evening. Only the canopy and aerial left now, and then painting/decals, of course. Some of the detail under the wings (little aerial like things) is very fine/fragile. Indeed, I broke several parts separating them from the sprues. 


[1] This impulse purchase has convinced me that I need to sort out a portable modelling toolkit!

[2]  Made with some of Teresa's mascara! Bic biro ink didn't work.