Modelling accolade for Airfix Walrus

Modelling accolade for Airfix Walrus

We are pleased to be bringing you this sixty-seventh edition of Workbench and all the latest news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. Since the turn of the year, we have been in a position to bring readers the exclusive project details from the new 1/48th scale Hawker Hunter F.6, the very latest build pictures from the new Vickers Wellington Mk.IC tooling and announce the new Airfix kit range for 2018 - it has been quite a start to 2018. With so much information to bring you in a relatively short space of time, we have been in danger of allowing some really fantastic model releases arrive in model stores all over the world without giving them the exposure they deserve. In something of a re-positioning of the current Workbench situation, we are going to devote this edition to catching up on all the latest news and release developments, whilst also bringing you some of the interesting stories behind some of these models.

We begin by acknowledging an extremely busy start to the year for both our development and sales/marketing teams, as they have been engaged in showcasing our new model range at a series of events at home and in Europe, including exciting news of a prestigious modelling award for one of last year's most impressive new tooling releases. With a number of new 2018 kit releases already lining the shelves of model stores across the world, we will be focusing on some of the latest box artwork announcements and new decal options which go with them and why these latest incarnations of existing toolings are already proving popular with modellers. Finally, we will be introducing Workbench readers to another committed group of modellers who we were fortunate enough to spend time with at the recent Scale ModelWorld Show at Telford. We will be finding out a little more about the people behind the Airfix Modelling SIG and how 2018 is destined to be a significant landmark year for this group. Another busy edition, so we had better make a start.

Supermarine Success in Nuremberg

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Well travelled models. Part of the Airfix display returning from the Nuremberg International Toy Fair

Now recognised as the largest toy and hobby exhibition in the world, the Nuremberg International Toy Fair held within the first few weeks of each year has now become an extremely important event for the Airfix team. With an opportunity to display our latest product ranges to both a worldwide industry audience and the chance to meet some of the most influential and progressive retail professionals in our field, the Hornby Hobbies group take this opportunity to display products across all our brand ranges. The event has now also become something of the 'Oscars' for the Toy and Hobby industry with a number of prestigious awards being presented to manufacturers and individual products deemed to be exceptional in their field. We are proud to announce that a recent Airfix new tooling release was the recipient of such an award, continuing a proud tradition of success for the Airfix design team.

Workbench readers will probably recall that our 1/72nd scale Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress emerged from the 2017 Nuremberg show with a model of the year award, underlining the enduring international appeal of Airfix products and the skill our talented designers - well, we are pleased to report that they have been at it again. Confirming its status as one of the most interesting and highly detailed new model kits on the market, our 1/48th scale Supermarine Walrus Mk.I was the proud recipient of the 'Model des Jahres' for aircraft 2018, presented by ModellFan Magazine, the largest and most influential modelling magazine in Germany. This is a real accolade for the Walrus kit and further recognition for our talented development team, who continue striving to bring exceptional products to the hobby and advancing the reputation of the Airfix brand - well done chaps, this award is fully deserved and you should be proud of your achievement.

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The Walrus award is a proud achievement for the Airfix Development Team

Despite its undeniable aviation pedigree, the Supermarine Walrus may have seemed a rather unusual choice for the Airfix team to incorporate into their growing range of 1/48th scale models, however it proved to be a big hit with modellers from the very first day it was announced. Perhaps the clearest indication of its appeal came during the prototype sample model's first public outing at Telford 2016 - despite the fact that it was sharing the Airfix stage with such aviation heavyweights as the Phantom, Sea Fury and Me 262, this rather ungainly looking biplane spotter/rescue amphibian really seemed to capture everyone's imagination. Working on the Airfix stand and listening to the many comments from enthusiasts flocking to see the latest model announcements, almost every conversation ended with people saying, 'and of course, I will have to have a Walrus'. As the first built examples of the Walrus are beginning to appear on enthusiast websites and at model shows up and down the country, there can be no doubt that Supermarine's 'other aircraft' has proved to be a popular addition to the range and a welcome inclusion in many a build schedule. The Walrus is also a great conversation starter when displayed next to a 1/48th scale Spitfire - is it possible for two aircraft from the same designer to look so different?

Walrus continues to woo

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The Walrus needed to be an exceptionally rugged aircraft for the roles it was required to perform

With the Supermarine Walrus proving to be such a popular addition to the Airfix inventory, modellers would have been interested to see that the recently announced 2018 kit range included the second release from this impressive tooling, which presents us with decal options to produce any one of three rather colourful machines. Before we take a closer look at these new finish options, let's take a look at why the Walrus proved to be such a successful aircraft and is deserving of the modelling recognition it is now receiving.

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A huge expanse of ocean awaits a Supermarine Walrus following catapult launch from its home ship

Although many people can be forgiven for thinking that the name 'Supermarine' is only connected with one classic British wartime aeroplane, the company was actually founded on its earlier successes in the design and production of rugged seaplane and amphibious aircraft. The Seagull/Walrus was the culmination of many years of excellence in this field and resulted in an aircraft which despite its ungainly appearance, was required to operate in conditions which most other aircraft would simply be incapable of doing. Providing some of the world's largest ships with the invaluable capability to observe the surrounding oceans from the air, spotting for enemy warships and affording ranging support for the ships gunners, the Walrus was anything but the frail and almost obsolete biplane it may have looked like and was actually an extremely rugged performer, capable of absorbing significant punishment in this demanding role. Often required to be catapult launched from its home Battleship or Cruiser, this complicated procedure would require the use of specially designed equipment and a large number of men trained in this complex process. Attaching the walrus to its catapult cradle and preparing for launch, the pilot would be instructed to run his engines up to take-off power, which would result in the tail and horizontal stabilisers vibrating at an alarming rate, before the ship was turned into wind in the seconds prior to lunch. Once in position, the Walrus was hurled into the air under great force, using an explosive charge to provide enough power for the catapult.

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Hauling the Walrus back on board ship was rather an undignified operation for this rugged performer 

Having completed its mission, getting the aircraft back aboard the ship was an equally complex procedure and once again called on the strength of the Walrus design. With the pilot having to land the aircraft relatively close to the ship, usually in the open ocean and often in rather choppy waters, the crew would have to attempt to catch a winch from the ship and attach it to cables anchored to the top wing of the aircraft, before aircraft and crew were hauled back onto the ship. Once this was successfully completed, the aircraft would need to be placed back on its manoeuvring bogie, checked and prepared for its next flight and safely stowed in the cramped confines of its deck hangar. It is clear that there was much more to the Walrus than initially meets the eye and rather than being the poor relation of the Supermarine family, it proved to be exceptional in the roles for which it was designed and more than capable of fulfilling several additional tasks it was required to perform.

The new Airfix Walrus has brought a renewed interest in the capabilities of this unusual looking amphibian and recognition to many aircraft types which were required to perform some of the less glamorous, though equally essential aviation roles during WWII. From a modelling perspective, the Walrus is proving to be one of those models that simply has to be attempted, if only to show the design differences between this and its more famous fighting stablemate. Let's take a closer look at the new scheme options included with Walrus A09187 'Silver Wings'.

Scheme A - Supermarine Walrus Mk.I K5780, No.715 Flight, HMS Cumberland, 1937.

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Trading their Hawker Osprey III float planes for the more capable Supermarine Walrus, No.715 flight was a catapult unit of the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force, with a responsibility to supply aircraft to the County Class heavy cruisers, Cornwall, Cumberland and Suffolk. This particular Walrus was built at the famous Supermarine factory at Woolston, Southampton, before being transported to Eastleigh aerodrome to undertake its first test flight. This Mk.I carried the hull codes 'Black WM' and was one of three aircraft assigned to HMS Cumberland in the years prior to the start of WWII and is wearing the striking all-over aluminium dope and natural metal finish associated with this period. The aircraft would provide the heavy cruiser with spotter and reconnaissance support, whilst also possessing the ability to perform air-sea rescue and light attack duties.

Launching from the ship's single catapult, Cumberland had the capacity to take up to three Walrus aircraft, which would all be required to operate in some of the most demanding conditions imaginable for an aeroplane. The decal option includes the distinctive walkway markings on the leading edge of the top and bottom wings, which were essential when the crew were engaged in securing the aircraft for winching back aboard HMS Cumberland. The ship saw service in South Atlantic, Far East and South African waters, before going on to serve with distinction protecting Arctic convoys, as part of the 1st Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet.

Scheme B - Supermarine Walrus Mk.I 53.S.16, Flotille 53S, Aeronavale, Hortin, France, 1945.

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The rugged qualities of the Walrus did not go unnoticed by other air arms, including the French Navy. They were to acquire twelve examples of the aircraft in 1943, a number of which went on to be used operationally, however the transition to the British amphibian was not without its problems. Training on an unfamiliar aircraft, required to operate in demanding environments and during wartime conditions proved to be rather eventful and half of the originally supplied aircraft were to be destroyed in a series of unfortunate training accidents.

Flotille 53S was a French Navy seaplane flying school, based at Hortin on the west coast of France, flying an eclectic mix of aircraft types including the indigenous Latecoere 298, the British Walrus amphibian and captured Luftwaffe Dornier Do.24 aircraft. These aircraft were operated until around 1951, when attrition and more advanced types saw the withdrawal of all the units remaining original aircraft. This unusual scheme includes the elaborate unit badge of 53.S, which was carried on the front fuselage of the Walrus, under the forward hatch opening.

Scheme C - Supermarine Walrus Mk.I 'N19', Irish Air Corps (An tAerchor), Erie, 1939/40.

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Aircraft operated in the colours of the Irish Air Corps always make interesting subjects for the modeller and this beautiful Walrus is certainly no exception. In the months leading up to the start of the Second World War, the Irish Government purchased a number of aircraft from Britain, including three Supermarine Walrus amphibians, which were given the codes N18, N19 and N20. This aircraft, N19, was delivered to Baldonnel aerodrome in March 1939 and assigned to No.1 Coastal Patrol Squadron. It crash landed at the airfield in September 1940, damaging the hull to such an extent that parts were later used to keep the remaining two aircraft flying - its wings were later fitted to its sister aircraft N18.

Interestingly, Walrus N18 was the aircraft which was involved in an infamous attempt by four IAC pilots to defect to the Luftwaffe in January 1942. Their unauthorised flight had been reported to authorities and the Walrus was intercepted by a flight of RAF Spitfires over Cornwall, who escorted the aircraft to St. Eval airfield, where the crew were arrested and the Walrus eventually returned to Ireland. It survived the rest of the war, passed into civilian hands and is now presented as FAA Walrus L2301 in the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton.

This latest release from the new 1/48th scale Supermarine Walrus Mk.I tooling is due to arrive in model shops during August and will surely prove just as popular as the previous kit.

Birth of the fighter aircraft

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Evocative product artwork which accompanied the release of the latest Fokker E.III Eindecker

Throughout the history of flight, the fighter aircraft has captured the imagination of the general public more than any other aircraft type and as a consequence, has also become extremely popular as subjects for modelling projects. Since the announcement of the 2018 model range, we have already seen the arrival of two classic fighter aircraft kits representing very different eras of combat and it is worth taking a closer look at both of these fighting classics.

The rather slender and fragile looking Fokker E.III Eindecker has to be considered one of the most significant aircraft in the development of aerial warfare and one which heralded a new era of fighting in the air. From the outset, this aircraft, although based on earlier scout designs, was intended to be an airborne killing machine, allowing Imperial German Flying Corps pilots to deny the enemy the ability to fly in the same airspace, reducing their effectiveness in obtaining vital battlefield reconnaissance. The introduction of an effective interrupter gear mechanism allowed German pilots to fire their guns through the arc of the propeller and crucially, for the first time, allowing the bullets to follow the line of sight of the attacking pilot. German airmen quickly learned new combat techniques in the Eindecker and now attacking from the rear of their adversaries, where they were less vulnerable to return fire, they began to take a heavy toll of Allied aircraft, gaining a period of air superiority for the Germans which became known as the 'Fokker Scourge'. Allied pilots were forced to endure months of flying operations where their aircraft were simply no match for those they engaged in combat, resulting in their life expectancy statistics worsening significantly.

A01087 - Fokker E.III Eindecker 105/15, Ernst Udet, Kampfeinsitzerkommando Habsheim, France, March 1916.

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Ernst Udet would survive an inauspicious start to his flying career to become a celebrated member of von Richthofen's 'Flying Circus' and one of the most accomplished fighter pilots of the Great War. Initially implicated in the loss of several aircraft due to accidents (thought to be attributed to pilot error) Udet arrived on the Western Front under something of a cloud, but slowly began to display his flying prowess and begin scoring victories. At first flying a rather aged Fokker E.I due to crashing his newly delivered machine during his first take off, Udet began to display a real flair for aerial combat, possessing an aggressive style which saw him seize the initiative at every opportunity and display a talent for aerial marksmanship. Taking delivery of Fokker E.III Eindecker 105/15 in March 1916, Udet would use the aircraft to increase his victory tally steadily and come to the attention of his superiors and successful peers - indeed, he would use the Eindecker until converting to the new Albatros D.III with Jasta 15 the following January, using his Fokker for a much longer period than most pilots.

With 20 victories already to his name, Udet received a visit from Manfred von Richthofen, who proclaimed "with a score like that, it would seem that you are ripe for us - would you like to join us?" How could he possibly refuse such an advance - joining the Flying Circus, Udet was quickly given command of Jasta 11 and became a loyal follower of the Red Baron, once more displaying his combat skills, but also taking time to instruct inexperienced replacement pilots in the art of successful aerial combat. Udet was on medical leave when von Richthofen was killed, but soon returned to JG.1 to continue the fight against the ever stronger Allied air forces. In August 1918, he was to score no fewer than 20 aerial victories, mostly against British pilots, but also seeing many of his comrades falling in what was becoming an increasingly futile struggle. Ernst Udet survived the war to become a national hero his 62 aerial victories made him the most successful German fighter pilot to survive the conflict and second only to the great Manfred von Richthofen, his former friend and leader.

Spitfires over Calais

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Combat in the skies above Northern France, in the days prior to the 'Miracle of Dunkirk'

The success of the recent Christopher Nolan movie 'Dunkirk' highlighted the fact that RAF Spitfires were in action against the Luftwaffe over enemy occupied territory in advance of the Battle of Britain, even though they had not been used as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force sent to help defend France from attack. The successful German advance towards the French Channel coast brought their aircraft within range of RAF Spitfire bases in the south of England for the first time, which had previously been held in protected reserve whilst the battles raged on the continent. Britain's latest fighter was now unleashed against the Luftwaffe, as the RAF began flying offensive patrols over northern France, immediately displaying its combat prowess and beginning to forge the reputation of this superb aircraft.

Spitfire operations over enemy occupied territory posed some significant problems for the RAF and their pilots, who found themselves at a distinct tactical disadvantage. With the English Channel between them and a safe return home, the pilots would only have sufficient fuel for limited combat time over France, meaning they would have to carefully monitor fuel levels and positioning, often during the melee of a dogfight. Failure to do so could mean death or capture by the Germans and the loss of valuable aircraft and pilots to the British war effort, already beginning to show signs of vulnerability. As Britain prepared to face the German onslaught in the months to come, this tactical disadvantage would reverse and prove a crucial factor in determining the outcome of the Battle of Britain.

A01071B - Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IA N3290/GR-U, F/O John Gilles, RAF No.92 Squadron, France 1940.

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As the Spitfire pilots of the RAF engaged the Luftwaffe for the first time during the early summer of 1940, it was essential that they learned the art of combat flying quickly, if Britain was to successfully repel the most feared air force in the world. In the early evening of 23rd May 1940, the Spifires of No.92 Squadron were flying a patrol over the French coast above Calais when they sighted a large formation of German aircraft, with a number already launching a bombing attack on the town below. The formation included a large number of Messerschmitt Me 110 Destroyers and as the Spitfires climbed to engage them, a savage dogfight ensued. With the slower Me 110s manoeuvring in tight turns allowing their gunners to target the Spitfires, many of the British aircraft were reported to have taken hits during the engagement, but their combat reports also claim as many as seven Luftwaffe aircraft definitely destroyed and a further seven probably destroyed. Spitfire Mk.IA N3290 was one of three 92 Squadron aircraft shot down by Me 110s during the engagement, with the aircraft crashing on open farmland near St. Martin les Boulogne and the pilot John Gilles suffering capture by German forces - he would spend the rest of the war as a POW.

The interesting scheme applied to this aircraft has the standard RAF day camouflage on the upper surfaces and a black, white and silver combination on the under surfaces, which was typical for a fighter on this date. It also allows the modeller to produce an example of an RAF Spitfire engaged in combat with the Luftwaffe in the days just prior to the famous Dunkirk evacuation, even though this particular machine would not survive to take part in Operation Dynamo itself. Spitfire Mk.1A A01071B is available now on the Airfix website and in all good model stores.

10 year Anniversary for the Airfix Modelling SIG

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One of the most enjoyable aspects of attending model shows up and down the country is the opportunity to meet people who are not only proficient and committed modellers, but who are also extremely passionate about the hobby. Not content with spending many hours lavishing time and attention on their latest modelling masterpiece, they also devote long periods of their remaining free time travelling the country, displaying their latest models for other enthusiasts to enjoy. This year's Telford Scale ModelWorld showcased the modelling talents of a great many groups and societies, many of whom we intend to include within forthcoming editions of Workbench, but for this feature, we are going to be looking at a group who chose a particularly impressive title by which to go by, the Airfix Modelling Special Interest Group.

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The Airfix Modelling SIG had a strong turn out at Scale ModelWorld 2018

As the name would suggest, an interest in building Airfix model kits was a significant factor in the eventual establishment of this group, which was created by several modellers who initially met on-line as members of the Airfix Tribute Forum in 2008. Following a visit to the 2008 Telford show, discussions took place about potentially having their own display table at the following year's event. These initial ideas were to quickly bear fruit, with the group proudly displaying for the first time at the Shropshire Model Show at RAF Cosford in 2009, initially as the Airfix Tribute Forum. A number of other successful shows quickly followed and plans were drawn up for the group to attend their first Scale ModelWorld Show. The group applied to IPMS (UK) in order to form the Airfix Modelling Special Interest Group and were successful in displaying at the 2009 Telford show and every Scale ModelWorld event since that date. 

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One of the early model displays arranged by the group under their original name

Speaking to Deputy SIG Leader Colin Marrow recently, he was keen to tell us that although the group are passionate about building Airfix models past and present, they have no affiliation with the Airfix company and like most modellers also regularly build kits from other manufacturers and display some of them on their stand and with other groups. Having said that, their members have a huge stash of unmade Airfix kits between them and their display will always include an impressive collection of both classic and contemporary Airfix model kits across all ranges and a visit to their stand is a nostalgic trip back into the formative years of many a British modeller.

If you are lucky enough to attend a show where the AMSIG are displaying, you will instantly feel welcome when talking to any member of the team, who are extremely approachable and actively encourage conversation about their group and the models on display. Membership of the group is open to modellers of all ages and abilities and there are absolutely no entry requirements other than a shared enjoyment of the Airfix brand - indeed if your modelling inspiration has started to wane, members who enjoy collecting kits, engaging in research or simply enjoy talking about Airfix models are more than welcome to join. The group does not have a regular meeting schedule, specifically because members are spread all over the country, but they do have access to a forum and private messaging facility for members via their website and have a vibrant Facebook page.

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There were plenty of classic Airfix kits to admire on the group's latest Telford display

The AMSIG have always been active on the model show circuit and usually attend around twenty events each year, with the Telford show being the highlight of their display season. With members and shows scattered all over the country, members volunteer for the shows they can attend, with at least 3 or 4 members being available for each show. On the rare occasion where two shows are taking place on the same day, the group have two complete sets of display cloths and banners and assuming they can muster enough manpower, both events can be attended. There are also no particular rules regarding the types of models which can be displayed, although certain members do have specific interests, such as Star Wars models, or military vehicles, which can always be accommodated at any show. With 2018 being such a significant year for the Royal Air Force, we asked Colin if there was a possibility that the group would be displaying to a theme at this year's Telford show and he told us that whilst nothing had been decided yet, these discussions would take place with other members face to face at events throughout the course of the year - we certainly look forward to seeing what they come up with.

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Despite the modelling threat, the AMSIG team are extremely approachable and full of modelling expertise 

The Airfix Modelling SIG are a friendly and knowledgeable bunch, who are only too keen to chat to anyone about the history of Airfix models and some of the fantastic kits that have been produced over the years. With a display which is certain to bring back many happy memories, look for the group at your next model show and pop round to share some Airfix memories with the team. We will have more modelling delights from the members of this group in a future edition of Workbench but would like to thank Colin Marrow for his help in producing this initial feature.

That's all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, but we look forward to seeing you all here again in two weeks' time, when we will have another collection of Airfix news, features and updates. As you know, we are always keen to gauge the thoughts of our readers and there are several ways in which you can contact us, which include our dedicated e-mail address at and of course the Workbench thread over on the Airfix Forum. If social media is more your style, you could access either the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench where you will find plenty of modelling news, views and discussion. Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch, as it is always interesting to hear from fellow modelling enthusiasts and the projects you have on the go at the moment.

As always, the Airfix website is the place to go for all the latest model release information, with our New Arrivals, Coming Soon and Last Chance to Buy sections all accessed by clicking on the above links. As updating the website is a constant process, a quick search through each section of the Airfix web pages will reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections and this is always an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend a few minutes.

The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 2nd March, when we look forward to bringing you all the latest news, updates and exclusives from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.

The Airfix Workbench Team


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