Friday 29 November 2019

Book Review: Glasgow Museums, The Ship Models

Wow... What an incredible book!

This chunky near square deluxe hardback coffee-table type book is a thing of incredible beauty. Both as an object in itself - chock-full of richly coloured beautifully crisp photographs of stunning models - and for what it documents. Since this arrived a couple of days ago I've lost myself repeatedly in awe and wonder, simply perusing the fabulous images. I've only skimmed small portions of the text, so I won't say anything for now about that aspect. Visually this deserves ten stars. It's simply jaw-droppingly stunning.

According to the books subtitle, A History and Complete Illustrated Catalogue, it covers the entire collection, making it not only enchantingly seductive, but fabulously complete and comprehensive. The ship models in the collection cover an impressive range: from models depicting the 'age of sail', including some amazing creations crafted by prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars, through all manner of vessels, from the enormous and/or ornate, to the small, simple and humble. From skiffs and tugs to Noah's Ark (!?) and huge models of modern vessels. From rudimentary half-hulls, to staggeringly detailed ships.

If you love ship models, which to me encapsulate so many things, from the strange but compelling desire we have to make miniature representations of our inventions, to the almost fairytale romance and sublime/terrifying awe of our relationships with the elemental seas, this is an essential publication. Beautifully produced, an honourable homage to the vast expenditure of skill and passion that the objects it depicts represents. Awesome is a much overused and devalued term nowadays. But it really does fit the bill here.

A lot of books of this ilk are shamefully overpriced. At £35 this is actually fair, and good value. Highly recommended.

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Book Review: Early Jet Bombers, 1944-1954, Leo Marriott (Images of War)

If I'm completely honest it's only the German part of this that really interests me. They lead the way, and had the funkiest ideas and gear. But here you also get info and pics on British, French, US and Russian stuff. 

Because the Germans were in a too little too late scenario, that's kind of reflected here: after brief mention of prop powered bombers such as the Do-17, He-111 and the rarer He-177, there's just a few pics each and basic info on the Arado 234, the better known Me-262, and the Ju-287. 

It's a pity there isn't more on the Ar-234 (which stars on the cover). And some mention of the myriad unrealised German ideas would've been nice, in particular the Ho-229, which was at least being built. These latter projects would feed into postwar jet work for other nations, the US and Russia in particular. 

The text is minimal, but clear and informative, the pictures, all black and white, are fairly interesting. A useful reference book depicting the shift from the prop to the jet age in warfare.

Saturday 16 November 2019

Show Report: Scale Model World, Telford, 2019

Under cover of buying opportunities for xmas and birthday goodies, I was able to persuade Teresa to accompany me to Scale Model World in Telford. I first learned of the show, IPMS' flagship event, via model-making pals at the Wisbech IPMS branch. 

I booked us a night in an AirBnB place, near Wenlock Edge, in a very beautiful spot (and at a bargain price!), which turned out, having just had the car washed, to be down a muddy potholed lane. The weather, which had started sunny and turned rainy, had been an almost biblical deluge for most if the latter half of the journey.

We didn't get to see the countryside, or the local historical attraction - the world's first Iron Bridge, built by Abraham Darby III  - due to the poor weather and lack of sufficient spare time. The first day we barely saw anything through the heavy rains and eerie mists! The view across the valleys from the picture window of our B&B, on waking on Sunday, was magnificent in the sunshine. My photos don't really convey the splendour, alas.

The view from our AirB&B bed.

And up by the window itself.

Day One

Having dropped our gear at our accommodation, we headed to the show for the last hour or two of the opening Saturday. A fairly rapid tour of the three enormous main rooms at the Telford International Centre revealed the enormity of the event. Apparently it's the largest model show of its type in Europe, possibly even the world? And there's a strong International presence that tends to back that idea up.

In the end I didn't even look around either the competition area, or the 'kit swap' room. Doh! Nor did I take many, or in fact any, photos of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of models on display. I did briefly say hi to the Peterborough IPMS group, who are local (but I haven't visited), and the Wisbech group, who are even more local, and who I regularly attend.

One item I was very interested in beforehand was the Horton Ho-229, in 1/72 (also available in 1/144, 1/48 and 1/35), by Japanese co. Zoukei-Mura. Sadly for me, at £40 this was way too dear. It's a splendid looking kit, however, and a fascinating modelling subject. But I reckon I'll get a Revell one for now! Some pictures from the show follow.

Two 1/72 examples, and the dinky 1/144 version.

A very funky 1/35 version of the model.

Also available in 1/48! Note very cool wood textures (decals?).

Another view of the 1/72 kit: in both skeletal and skinned form.

The stall that stood out for me on my first dash around was Collect-a-Kit, on account of their vast stock of 1/76 and 1/72 kits, including lots of old Esci, which I feel peculiarly nostalgic about. Almost all of these kits were priced up at £8, which seemed quite reasonable and attractive. In the end I bought quite a few. But, and rather strangely, no Esci kits.

We rounded off our first day at SMW with a delicious Italian meal at Wildwood, followed by a trip to the pictures to see Roland Enmerich's Midway movie, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. After the ordeal of the overly long and foot to the floor oddysey of getting there, this was a great way to complete our first day.

Day Two

The Sunday allowed me to spend more time checking the entire show out more thoroughly. Sometimes I was accompanied by Teresa. But more often she was off doing her own thing. She showed most interest in bigger shinier models, and even suggested I buy her a lunar lander kit as we perused the very impressive NASA SIG stand.

Fool that I am I overspent on both days. And what with fuel, food, cinema and accommodation this proved to be a very expensive weekend. I'm going to have to find some stuff I can flog, to get money back into my haemorrhaging bank account. Pictured below, my haul from the show; all 1/72 or 1/76, except for the 1/35 Tamiya 88mm. The latter, something I always lusted after as skid, Teresa bought me as a b'day or Xmas gift. Bless her!

I do love these old kits; beautiful box art paintings!

More 88mm guns for a battery, and some IBG models (new to me).

Preiser figures, IBG mags (!), and the Tamiya 88mm.

I really love Preiser's 1/72 WWII German figures. I don't often see them on sale anywhere in the UK. A pity, as they're amongst the best for WWII Germans in 1/72. . The set I acquired at the show, whilst rather pricey, are beautifully sculpted. And come in kit form on numerous sprues, giving many assembly options. The Preiser boxes are also jam packed with info, inc 'Gestaltung- und Bemalvorschläge', or design and painting suggestions!

These figures, the IBG Stug, and the Hasegawa Mercedes G4 (inc. saluting Hitler and entourage!) were the first things from the show I unboxed and started working on. I'll be posting on these soon..

Monday 11 November 2019

Film Review: Midway, 2019

Teresa and I went to see this new epic WWII movie whilst attending Scale Model World in Telford. The Odeon where we saw it has fantastically luxurious reclining chairs. Very nice! The small screening theatre we were in was practically empty. Perhaps 20 odd viewers in a room that might take 80-100. A pity, really, as a full house generates its own excitement.

Never mind that, however... I absolutely loved this film. Every time a modern movie on WWII comes out I have high hopes for it. Hopes that I fully expect will be dashed on viewing. Such was the case with Dunkirk, which I loathed with a passion. So much modern cinema is nowt more than dumb spectacle. I was worried this might fall into that trap.

The attack on Pearl Harbour...

... is briefly, brutally and excitingly depicted.

Well, in a way it does. It's a massive dose of schlockbusting CGI action, with an overly reverential approach to its square-jawed hypermasculine heroes. In many ways, whilst it professes earnestly to be a true story, however closely it may sail to the facts of events, it is a Hollywood fantasy of sorts. But, and here's the key thing for me, this is both enormous fun, and highly exciting drama. Emmerich also gets quite a lot in: we start before the war, jump to Pearl Harbour, and get to Midway itself via The Coral Sea, the Doolittle Raids and so on.

Dick Best (Ed Skrein) at left.

Doolittle (Aaron Eckhardt), in peril in Jap occupied China.

Murray (Keean Johnson), Best and fellow personnel.

An ensemble film, with a host of characters, events unfold at numerous levels, including both the domestic and the military (with the accent heavily on the latter!), depicting all involved, from top brass to lowly rankers. The group of characters we follow through these events are sufficiently engaging to keep us interested in the bigger picture as it develops.

All the actors acquit themselves well. Characters like Layton (Patrick Wilson), the intelligence guy, pilots lieutenants McClusky and Best (Ed Skrein and Luke Evans), and man at the top Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) are solid in the chief roles. But, offhand, I might pick out Dennis Quaid as Admiral Halsey and Nick Jonas as Machinist's Mate Bruno as two particularly engaging characters. In that respect this resembles old fashioned WWII epics like The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far. And it actually trumps these old movies thanks to ever improving CGI.

Japanese attack...

U.S. ships at Pearl Harbour...

Bombs straddle a Carrier.

Epic scenes such as this are the meat and potatoes of this movie.

CGI was once a pet hate of mine, and occasionally still is: when a film looks like a PlayStation promo, or the CGI is simply unconvincing, I detest it. But in this film it makes for some truly epic and yet credible shots/scenes. Whilst we're on the technical side; the sound design of Dunkirk irritated and even appalled me. This, which when seen on the big screen is a veritable assault on the ears as much as the eyes, succeeds. The battle scenes - especially the aerial assaults on the ships - are incredibly intense.

I enjoyed this so much I'm sorely tempted to get back to the cinema in short order, and watch it again.  I don't think it's a truly great film. The characterisations are pretty thin, and it's all a bit chest-thumpingly manly. But I loved it, and enjoyed it enormously. If you think you might enjoy seeing Midway and the events leading up to it depicted in a fun action packed and yet epic but believable manner, I'd recommend Midway wholeheartedly.

This image is a fair representation of the excitement the film achieves.

Emmerich, beside TA-127, a North American Aviation T-6 Texan.

It was also interesting, as a kind of footnote, to find out (after watching the movie) that Emmerich had to finance this very Hollywood style production - the big studios were chary of another lavish WWII epic, many of which over the years have cost a lot and then flopped - outside the normal fiscal channels, including taking a cut in his own fee. I really hope this makes Emmerich and everyone involved a healthy profit!

Sunday 3 November 2019

Book Review: Bren Gun Carrier, Robert Jackson

Fantastic! I'm a little surprised at how I've grown to love, or perhaps rather become fascinated by the 'umble Universal Carrier. I can't deny that seeing YouTuber Lindybiege choose it as his second favourite tank (!?)* has been an influence. Prior to that I'd always rather cocked a snook at this little vehicle.

2/7th Middlesex Regt, Anzio, 21 February 1944. [1]

In this, the third of the Land Craft series from Pen & Sword, Robert Jackson elucidates the history in brief of this funny little runt of a vehicle. The story starts in WWI, with the fabulously Frenchified sounding British Major Giffard le Quesne Martel. I won't recapitulate what Jackson imparts very well here. But it's an interesting subject, covered in a brief but comprehensive and highly enjoyable way.

As well as black and white photos of old and current surviving examples, there are eight 3-D renderings and eight pages of colour profiles. The latter aren't the best of their type in the Land Craft/Tank Craft series, but they convey the necessary info. Within all this the book covers numerous variants. There are also the usual segments, Model Showcase and Model Products. Three of the four showcased models are 1/35, the fourth (presented first) is 1/72, my own favoured scale.

Timothy Neate's amazing 1/72 RA OP Mk II.

All four showcased builds are stunning examples of the modelmakers arts. I'm particularly in awe of Timothy Neate's splendid 1/72 Mk II Royal Artillery OP (observation post vehicle), a heavily modified IBG models kit. I've included an image of Neate's model above. I'll be getting/building some of these IBG kits as soon as the occasion presents itself. I may also try adapting some of the chunkier PSC kits as well.

There's quite a bit of useful info on model products in various scales as well. But the book as a whole returns to narrative text and images about the service history of these highly useful and adaptable vehicles, ending with a brief look at a selection of Contemporary Light Tracked Vehicles of the 'tankette' type, such as were based on or influenced by the UC, such as the Polish TK-3, the Russian T-37 and the Japanese Type 94.

A great view into the interior spaces of a UC.

For my money this is an example of this often very useful series at its tip-top best. Reading it and perusing the images is inspiring me to build some more of these interesting little vehicles (I recently built the re-issued Airfix 1/76 kit, with 6pdr gun), whilst simultaneously inspiring and informing on the subject. Highly recommended.

* Okay, so it's not a tank and he knows it, nevertheless, the charmingly manic Lindybiege chooses the Universal Carrier as his #2 'tank' in his very entertaining 'Top 5 Tanks' video for The Tank Museum on YouTube. The whole thing is worth watching. But if you want to get to the Bren Gun Carrier segment, it's about 17 minutes in.


[1] Photo by Sgt. Dawson, No 2 Army Film & Photographic Unit (source, IWM).