Quickbuild F-35 Lightning II update

Quickbuild F-35 Lightning II update

Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.

As one of the most exciting and capable aircraft in the world today, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II has obviously attracted the attentions of model manufacturers all over the world and Airfix are no exception. Soon to be inducted into our hugely popular Quickbuild model range, our new F-35 is surely destined to become one of our most popular Airfix kits of the modern era and we are delighted to be in a position to bring you a robust update from this project in this edition. With a selection of exclusive pictures featuring the first engineering sample produced from this new model tooling, our headline feature is all about this latest aviation addition to the Quickbuild model range.

With so much new information to update our readers on and so many new model projects fast approaching their release dates, we are afraid this is going to be another bumper edition of Airfix delights to negotiate. We will also be including a trio of impending releases in our 1/35th scale Military Vehicle range and built model sample exclusives featuring both of the stunning scheme options included in our civilian Spitfire Mk.XIV kit, which many readers will no doubt be looking forward to. Our latest ‘classics’ feature will undoubtedly be of interest to a great many readers, especially as we still find ourselves in the 80th Anniversary year of the Battle of Britain. We will be ending this edition with a review of our three 1/24th scale aircraft Vintage Classics, three kits which occupy a prominent position in the history of the modelling hobby.

As we will be ending with Airfix classics, let’s begin with a kit which whilst it may be an exciting new tooling project, is surely destined for classic status before too long, especially amongst some of our most demanding, younger modellers.

F-35 Lightning II – the Harrier’s big brother

Airfix Quickbuild model development of the new F-35B Lightning II model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

We are delighted to be in a position to illustrate this feature by bringing you an exclusive first look at the engineering sample from our new Quickbuild F-35B Lightning II kit. It has been finished in this dark colour to allow Product Designer Adam to better see how all the parts fit and if he will need to make any design alterations

For the British enthusiast who can remember marvelling at the Airshow performances of the BAe Harrier, there really is something rather special about seeing an eleven ton aircraft hovering on a column of hot air, before bowing gracefully in your direction and speeding off into the distance. Perhaps this affection also had something to do with the fact that this was a British invention and in this regard, our nation led the world. In those days, who could have imagined taking all the unique qualities of the Harrier and making everything much better – a faster, more powerful, more agile aeroplane, featuring new technologies and avionics and boasting a devastating array of weapons options? That is exactly what has been achieved with the new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, arguably the world’s most effective fighting aeroplane and one which any air force would love to have available to them. What is more, British Aerospace (OK, BAE Systems) are still involved with this aircraft.

As the new F-35 seems to be an aircraft constantly in the news at this present moment, most people will simply look at the eye-watering costs associated with this project and ask ‘How much? Why do we need such expensive aeroplanes in peace time?’ For those who have been fortunate enough to experience a presentation by a pilot who has actually trained on and flown one of these aircraft, our opinions may be slightly different. For those in the know, it is not a question of how much the F-35 costs, but how many can our air force get hold of! According to pilots with F-35 experience, this is a truly awesome aeroplane and one which is a technological quantum leap ahead of anything else currently in the skies. Rather than describe this as an Air-to-Air fighter, it is probably more accurately described as an Air-to-Everything platform, it really is that good.

With this aircraft now attracting significant sales orders from across the globe, this 5th Generation aircraft is now being seen as essential in allowing its operators to maintain dominance of the air, both now and in the foreseeable future. Described as an extremely low observable stealth aircraft which possesses advanced sensor technology and unrivalled battlefield network connectivity, all this comes in addition to the F-35 being a long range, highly manoeuvrable supersonic fighter. With over 555 aircraft now produced and 14 nations already committing their future air capabilities to one of the F-35 variants, this awesome aeroplane is destined to become a familiar sight in the world’s skies for many years to come.

This F-35 update is quite poignant at the moment, as Britain’s F-35 force has been rather active over the past couple of weeks. Their home base at RAF Marham has welcomed Lightning II visitors from across the Atlantic, in the shape of US Marine Corps VMFA-211 (The Wake Island Avengers) for deployment and training with the Royal Air Force. Of even greater significance, both the F-35B jets of RAF No.617 Squadron and aircraft from VMFA-211 are currently on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, as she takes her place at the head of a UK led NATO Carrier Strike Group, part of a major military exercise. This is the largest concentration of fighter jets to operate at sea from a British carrier since HMS Hermes in 1983 and the largest air group of fifth generation fighters at sea ever seen.

Airfix Quickbuild model development of the new F-35B Lightning II model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

New Quickbuild F-35B walk around. Even though this is an engineering sample, it still shows how impressive the new model is and how our prediction that this is going to be arguably our most popular kit over the coming years has some real validation

Airfix Quickbuild model development of the new F-35B Lightning II model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix Quickbuild model development of the new F-35B Lightning II model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix Quickbuild model development of the new F-35B Lightning II model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Regular Workbench readers will probably recall that we featured the new Quickbuild F-35B Lightning II initial development and rendered CAD images in the 124th edition of our blog, where we also introduced the design talents of the newest member of the Airfix product design team, Adam French. Adam is another product design graduate from Loughborough University and joined the Airfix team in November last year, after a period working with a firm of architects. Clearly, the current world situation and many months working at home, away from the rest of his colleagues cannot have been easy for him, however, he is already beginning to make his mark as an Airfix product designer and we are very much looking forward to bringing our readers details of all the projects he undertakes in the years to come.

The first project Adam was entrusted with following his Airfix appointment, from an iconic contemporary aircraft perspective, it would be difficult to think of a more high profile challenge than tackling an F-35B Lightning II, but that is exactly what Adam was asked to do. Heaping even more pressure on his design shoulders, the new model would be an addition to our growing range of Quickbuild kits, models which have a very specific role to play in the Airfix range and ones which are intended for a particularly demanding target audience. With the need to design a kit which faithfully recreates the iconic exterior appearance of the world’s most capable multi-role stealth jet, Adam needed to engineer it so it could be deconstructed into many individual parts which all go together in a simple, logical manner, without the need for glue or paint. It might actually be an easier design brief to work on the real aeroplane!

In many ways, the design of a Quickbuild kit can be more challenging than working on a traditional Airfix model kit. The moulds themselves can be extremely complicated and incorporate additional side actions to create the unique parts for a Quickbuild kit – this also which means that tooling costs associated with these models can actually be much higher than with other Airfix kits, just heaping a little more pressure on our designers. This is mainly due to the fact that each Quickbuild kit may require four or five separate moulds when creating the parts, as different coloured components all require separate tooling moulds.

As you can see from the exclusive series of images featured above, Adam has now had the opportunity to inspect engineering sample components from the new Quickbuild F-35B tooling and to assemble all the parts, noting any areas where he may need to make design amendments. Having had the opportunity to inspect this model in the plastic so to speak, we have to say that it is hugely impressive and demonstrates the level of detail and accuracy the team have managed to incorporate into the latest Quickbuild models – it is difficult to distinguish this from a built Airfix kit, despite the fact that it can be de-assembled and built again to the owner’s hearts content. This is a truly spectacular future addition to the Quickbuild range.

Airfix Quickbuild model development of the new F-35B Lightning II model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

When we are all finally allowed to enjoy Airshows once more, the RAF’s latest combat jet is surely destined to become the star of the show and have everyone desperate to have a model kit of one. Imagine if you could make that kit without the need for glue and could take it apart and rebuild it to your heart’s content

Airfix Quickbuild model development of the new F-35B Lightning II model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix Quickbuild model development of the new F-35B Lightning II model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Destined to become one of the most popular models in the entire Airfix range, the new F-35B Lightning II Quickbuild model is now in its final stages of development and should be available for a certain time of the year when models are wrapped up for lucky recipients and placed under decorated trees. Just as the F-35 is packed full of the latest technology, so this new kit features design innovations which are appearing in a Quickbuild model for the first time, such as the ability to display it either in flight or in landing configuration and the inclusion of several moving part options. The distinctive swivelling engine nozzle which allows the F-35B to hover is represented, as are the opening auxiliary doors on the spine of the aircraft which reveal the unique and hugely powerful lift fan inside.

A new Quickbuild model which will appeal to a great many people, we look forward to bringing readers one final update and confirmation of its release date in a forthcoming edition of Workbench.

Not every Spitfire needs camouflage

The Supermarine Spitfire looks great in Civilian and racing schemes on the Airfix Workbench blog

Our model making superstar Paramjit has been at it again, this time turning his attentions to the two beautiful scheme options included in the soon to be released 1/48th scale Civilian Spitfire Mk.XIV kit - don’t they look absolutely stunning!

Even though we only included our scheme review of the latest 1/48th scale Civilian Spitfire Mk.XIV kit release at the beginning of last month, we don’t think many readers will mind us making an earlier than expected return to the subject in this latest edition of our blog, particularly when we tell you that we have images of two beautiful built models to show you. The latest products of the Paramjit Sembhi model production line, these spectacular models clearly illustrate why so many modellers are desperate to get their hands on this new kit, even though they will be facing a particularly difficult choice when selecting which of the two beautiful scheme options to finish their model in.

Endowing the cultured Spitfire with a welcome power boost, the Rolls Royce Griffin engine allowed the Spitfire to remain at the forefront of world fighter development, increasing the performance of the aircraft by more than 80mph over the fighters which had contested the Battle of Britain. Whilst the cultured purr of the Merlin had been replaced by the frightening growl of the Griffon, the Spitfire still managed to retain its aesthetic appeal, even though these were very different beasts.

As an Airshow favourite, the Spitfire is unquestionably without equal and since the end of the Second World War, large numbers of former military Spitfires have undergone restoration to airworthy condition, allowing millions of people to experience something of what it must have been like to see these fighters in operation during the 1940s. Whilst most are finished wearing representations of the camouflage markings so familiar with wartime Spitfires, just a handful of owners have been a little more adventurous with their presentation, none more so than the magnificent aircraft owned and operated during the 70s and 80s by British warbird enthusiast Spencer Flack. For many people who were lucky enough to see this aircraft in the flesh, they would probably describe G-FIRE as the most beautiful Spitfire they had ever seen and one which certainly stood out from the historic aviation crowd.

Scheme A – Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk.XIV G-FIRE, Duxford, Cambridgeshire, England, 1988

The Supermarine Spitfire looks great in Civilian and racing schemes on the Airfix Workbench blog

Constructed as a Rolls Royce Griffon 65 powered Spitfire Mk FR.XIVe at RAF Aldermaston in 1945, NH904 would only go on to complete one operational sortie as an RAF aircraft during WWII, before a broken throttle lever resulted in a wheels up landing and a lengthy period in the repair shop. Following repair, the aircraft was allocated to No.610 (County of Chester) Royal Auxiliary Air Force at Hooton Park in Cheshire, where it would remain in service until May 1949. Categorized as non-effective stock the following year, the aircraft was returned to Vickers Armstrong for overhaul, before embarking on a new career in the Belgian Air Force.

After her Belgian service, the Spitfire was later bought by a British car dealer, who brought it back to the UK and displayed it for some time on the forecourt of his garage (wonder if he was selling Triumph Spitfires?). Interestingly, this garage was in Cheshire and not far from where the aircraft had operated during the final months of her RAF career. From here, the Spitfire was acquired by Hamish Mahaddie and earmarked for possible use during the filming of the movie classic ‘Battle of Britain’, although not in a flying capacity. During the 1970s, this Spitfire passed through the hands of several different owners, before ending up as part of the famous Strathallan Collection in 1977, from where it was to make its most significant move since retirement from military service. Bought by warbird enthusiast Spencer Flack in January 1979, the aircraft was moved to his base in Hertfordshire, where it embarked on a restoration programme to flying condition. After the completion of much work and at significant expense, Spitfire NH904, now sporting the new civilian registration G-FIRE, made its first post restoration flight from Elstree Airfield on 14th March 1981, in the capable hands of former Red Arrows leader and warbird pilot extraordinaire Ray Hanna.

The Supermarine Spitfire looks great in Civilian and racing schemes on the Airfix Workbench blog

Has a Spitfire ever looked as good as this? Everyone knows that Spitfires are supposed to wear camouflage, but surely the classic lines of this beautiful aeroplane were meant to draw attention to it - this scheme certainly does that

The Supermarine Spitfire looks great in Civilian and racing schemes on the Airfix Workbench blog
The Supermarine Spitfire looks great in Civilian and racing schemes on the Airfix Workbench blog
The Supermarine Spitfire looks great in Civilian and racing schemes on the Airfix Workbench blog

Later repainted in a striking red livery, G-FIRE would go on to become a firm favourite on the UK Airshow circuit during the 1980s, not only due to its stunning appearance, but also due to the fact that Mr Flack fitted flashing lights in the cannon openings and during a head on pass, it actually appeared as if the Spitfire was firing on the crowds. For those lucky enough to have seen this aircraft up close and in the metal, it will always be remembered as arguably the most attractively presented Spitfire of the post war era – nobody could ever argue that G-FIRE didn’t stand out!

As this was such a radical departure from the usual presentation of a restored Spitfire on the UK display circuit, it will come as no surprise to hear that Mr Flack was always being asked ‘why did you paint it red?’, not only by Airshow enthusiasts, but also by fellow Warbird owners. It has been reported on a number of occasions that his reply would often be along the lines of, “I like it …. when you get a Spitfire, you can paint it any colour you like!” Not content with just owning this beautiful Spitfire, Spencer Flack went on to own several other aircraft, including a P-51D Mustang, and both a Hawker Sea Fury and Hawker Hunter which were painted in similar markings to the Spitfire. It was not uncommon to see the Spitfire either arriving at a show venue, or displaying with one of the other red painted aircraft.

Scheme B – Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk.XIV, CF-GMZ ‘Edmonton Canada, The Crossroads of the World’, Canada, 1949

The Supermarine Spitfire looks great in Civilian and racing schemes on the Airfix Workbench blog

Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk.XIVe TZ138 was another product of the shadow production facility at Aldermaston, making its first flight from the airfield in early 1945. Initially allocated to the RAF, the aircraft was flown to the Rolls Royce airfield at Hucknall in June 1945, where it was prepared for cold weather testing overseas – its immediate future would see it in service with the Royal Canadian Air Force in a test capacity. The Spitfire arrived in Canada by boat at the end of 1945.

After quite a busy few years serving as a test aircraft, TZ138 was put up for disposal by the RCAF and was purchased by one of the airmen who had flown her during her time with the Winter Experimental Establishment, former RAF fighter ‘Ace’ James ‘Butch’ McArthur. In conjunction with his Canadian partner, the former Dambusters pilot Ken Brown, they secured the Spitfire as they were looking for an aircraft with which they could enter the 1949 National Air Races in Cleveland Ohio. In almost ‘as new’ condition, TZ138 was purchased from the Canadian Surplus War Assets Dept for the princely sum of $1250.00.

Later given the civilian registration CF-GMZ, the aircraft’s proud new owners secured sponsorship for their forthcoming racing adventures from Canada’s Imperial Oil Ltd and finished the Spitfire in this smart natural metal livery, sporting the racing number 80. Attracting huge crowds, the 1949 National Air Race would be the last time the event would take place in Cleveland, partly due to an accident that occurred during the race. The Canadian Spitfire was the only aircraft taking part which was basically in standard military configuration and had not been modified for air racing participation. It would perform well during the race and managed to secure third place in this prestigious event, posting an average speed of just under 360mph.

The Supermarine Spitfire looks great in Civilian and racing schemes on the Airfix Workbench blog

Although this magnificent aircraft was entered in a world class air race, it was basically in the same configuration it was during its Canadian Air Force military service

The Supermarine Spitfire looks great in Civilian and racing schemes on the Airfix Workbench blog
The Supermarine Spitfire looks great in Civilian and racing schemes on the Airfix Workbench blog
The Supermarine Spitfire looks great in Civilian and racing schemes on the Airfix Workbench blog

Despite the teams relative success, the Spitfire’s Cleveland Air Race exploits would end in unusual circumstances. Whilst fellow members of the team were still recovering from the celebrations of the night before, Butch McArthur took off in the Spitfire at 6am without filing a flight plan and with the race prize money on board. The aircraft turned up in Miami, where it was sold to a new owner for $1000, with the proceeds allegedly being used to satisfy debts the team had incurred prior to their racing appearance in Cleveland. The aircraft would spend the next 15-20 years in South America, slowly deteriorating and a pale shadow of the aircraft which cut such a dashing profile at the 1949 air race.

If we weren’t already planning to add this stunning new 1/48th scale Spitfire MK.XIV release to your winter build schedule, then surely the sight of these beautiful built examples of the will have now ensured its inclusion – this one is an absolute beauty! Civilian Spitfire A05139 is now scheduled for release within the next few weeks, so its time to double check those orders.

An armoured fascination in scale

New range of Airfix Military Vehicle kits on the Airfix Workbench blog

One of the many joys of the modelling hobby is that it not only gives you an appreciation for the machines you are attempting to produce accurate scale representations of, but in many cases, encourages a little additional research to go along side your current project. If you enjoy delving into the sometimes confusing realms of armoured fighting vehicles when it comes to your modelling, you quickly come to learn that there was quite a variety of vehicle types found on the battlefields of WWII, each one intended to fulfil a different role and each one fascinating in their own right – although arguably the most famous armoured fighting vehicle in the history of warfare, there most definitely is life away from the mighty Tiger I.

Our recently announced range of 1/35th scale Military Vehicles has seen a steady stream of releases since they first appeared in the 2019 range, building up a firm following of modellers who are keen to explore the fascinating subject of WWII armour. It has been quite a while since we featured this popular range in one of our Workbench updates, however, that is something we will address now, with no fewer than three new kits due to arrive over the next few weeks. The first tank is one of the most important Allied machines of the early war years, the second is built on a famous tank chassis, but is a mobile battlefield artillery piece and the third is just an absolute battlefield behemoth.

A1370 – M3 Lee/Grant

Airfix M3 Grant Tank model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

It is difficult to think of a more important tank to the British and Commonwealth war effort during the early years of WWII than the American built M3, a tank which was made available to the British in large numbers and one which would make a telling contribution during the savage desert battles of the North African campaign. A tank which was something of a compromise, the Americans had seen that their existing medium tank was already outclassed by the latest German designs which were marauding through Europe and a new tank designed around a more powerful 75mm gun had to be produced. Unfortunately, no existing turret was capable of housing such a gun and it would take time to produce a new one (this new tank would be the M4 Sherman), so the M3 was an attempt to provide the best of both worlds in a timely manner.

The only way to equip a US built medium tank with a 75mm gun at that time was to fit it in the hull of the tank, much lower on the machine than the commander would think ideal in a combat situation. Existing armoured divisions were not happy about giving up their 37mm gun, which was seen as ideal when used in the infantry support role, so the designers of the M3 incorporated both in their new tank. This meant that the tank had a particularly high profile, something which would not be a problem when operating from a concealed position, but when operating in the flat, wide open deserts of North Africa, it presented a tempting target for Wehrmacht gunners.

Supplied in two basic variants, the British version featured a modified turret with a clearly discernible bulge at the back of the turret which was needed to house the radio equipment and the American version, which did not feature the turret bulge and had the radio equipment installed inside the hull. With two guns to fire during combat, the hull of an M3 could be a busy place, with six men in British tanks (which were known as M3 Grant tanks) and seven in the US M3 Lee tanks (the extra man was needed to operate the radio equipment).

Scheme A – Medium Tank M3 Grant, Robin Hood (or Robin Hood II), HQ Squadron, Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, 8th Armoured Brigade, 10th Armoured Division, North Africa, 1942

Airfix M3 Grant Tank model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

With the British losing much of their armour at Dunkirk, they were desperate to get hold of as many modern tanks as they could, knowing that their procurement could be critical in allowing them to continue fighting the Germans. The M3 Grant tank was the best they were going to get their hands on at that time and despite the fact that it was something of a stop-gap design, it was an exceptionally combat worthy machine. A solid and well-built tank, the M3 was significantly better than most of the British built tanks of that period and as a consequence, was well liked by its crews. During the cut and thrust of operations in the Western Desert, the M3 was found to be an extremely reliable tank and if crews didn’t mistreat their mount, it required minimal maintenance and worked every time you needed it, something which inspired great confidence in the tank.

The only drawback proved to be quite a significant one and that was its high profile, something which could prove fatal in a combat situation. The M3 could never be described as a stealthy vehicle and when operating on the vast open expanses of the North African desert, they could be picked off at long range by German 88mm anti-tank crews, particularly when compared with the extremely low profile of a tank like the Crusader.

Airfix M3 Grant Tank model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

A built sample model wearing the markings of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry

After serving in Palestine during the early months of WWII in its role as a cavalry unit, the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry would go on to take part in actions in the defence of Tobruk and Benghazi, before also serving during the Battle of Crete. In 1941, the Regiment converted to armour and were equipped with the new American built M3 Grant tank, serving with the 8th Armoured Brigade. The Regiment served throughout most of the 8th Army actions during the North African campaign, including the decisive second battle of El Alamein.

During its time in the desert, several British Grant tanks were fitted with a crude steel tube framing over their hulls, over which a canvas sheet would be fixed. At the front of the tank, another tube frame would be fitted at the front of the M3 on the starboard side, obscuring the main 75mm gun and giving the illusion of an unarmed tracked supply vehicle. Whilst providing the crew with some welcome shade from the heat of the desert sun, this disguise could prove a nasty shock to any German unit who didn’t inspect the strange looking vehicle closely enough through their binoculars.

Scheme B – Medium Tank M3 Grant, 1st Armoured Division, Australian Military Forces, Puckapunyal Camp, Australia 1942

Airfix M3 Grant Tank model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Just as the M3 Grant would prove to be an important tank for the British during the North African campaign, it would also be the most important machine used by Australian forces during WWII. Supplied in large numbers to the Australian Army, around 757 M3s were shipped to Australia during 1942, as their own indigenous designs were far from entering service. It is sometimes incorrectly stated that the tanks which were supplied to the Australians were actually surplus British tanks, redirected following the end of the Desert War, however, contemporary research has confirmed that most, if not all of the Australian tanks were supplied straight from American manufacturing plants. The tanks arrived at Australian docks in their standard olive drab paint schemes and were prepared for the voyage by the liberal application of protective materials.

Airfix M3 Grant Tank model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog
Airfix M3 Grant Tank model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Once arrived in the country, Australian crews had to undergo intensive training using the new American tanks before they could even be considered for overseas deployment. One of the purpose built military training camps constructed to undertake this important work, the small, restricted access town of Puckapunyal in central Victoria must have seemed a strange place for tank crews to be training and a million miles away from the tank battles taking place on the other side of the world. When the M3 Grant tanks first arrived, most crews would have initially been expecting to be sent overseas once they had undergone training, however, the explosion of the Pacific War at the start of the year and the very real threat of a possible Japanese amphibious assault on the Australian mainland dictated that most would serve in a home defence role.

An incredibly interesting tank design, this new M3 Grant tank kit makes for an attractive addition to this range and one which marks a really important tank from the early years of the Second World War.

A1372 – M12 Gun Motor Carriage

Airfix M12 GMC Doorknocker 'King Kong' model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Another US Military Vehicle developed in the direct aftermath of seeing footage of German armour rolling through Northern Europe, the M12 GMC was built around the M3 Lee chassis, but using the later, more effective running gear of the M4 Sherman. Incorporating a US copy of a French designed M1917/18 M1 155mm gun, the M12 was intended to support advancing infantry units by providing continuous artillery support and therefore needed to be highly mobile, hence its mounting on a tracked chassis. The vehicle itself had an armoured section at the front for the driver and commander, with the gun firing crew occupying the open fighting compartment at the rear of the vehicle. The rear also featured a large hydraulically operated spade, which when lowered, dug into the ground, making for a more stable firing platform. When this was raised, it made a rather convenient seat for the firing crew.

As an infantry support weapon, the M12 was intended to be used in an indirect firing role, operating from concealed positions behind the front lines, hurling the guns huge shells onto enemy positions which were some way in the distance. This was not always the case and when Allied units were advancing at pace through former German occupied Europe, the M12 was regularly used in a direct firing role, right in the thick of the fighting. The busy fighting compartment only had storage space for around 10 projectiles and their propellant, so the M12 would usually be deployed with additional ammunition available from its concealed firing position, or had the support of a supply vehicle. One such vehicle was the M30, which looked for all the world like an M12 with the gun removed – this vehicle could transport everything the M12 crew needed for a busy day of action and as the pace of the Allied advance in Europe quickened, the services of the M12 crews would definitely be in great demand.

Airfix M12 GMC Doorknocker 'King Kong' model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Built sample models of this most interesting vehicle, which will make a welcome change of subject for those who normally model tanks

Able to penetrate even the most heavily fortified enemy bunkers, the M12 was called upon to obliterate enemy pill boxes and fortifications which were holding up infantry advances and proved devastatingly effective in that role. Indeed, the gun’s effectiveness at persuading the enemy to give up their firing positions earned the M12 nicknames such as ‘The Doorknocker’ and ‘King Kong’, as it turned out to be a real friend to the Allied infantryman.

Surprisingly, despite the effectiveness of this weapon, only 100 units were produced during 1942 and 1943, but they would go on to make a telling contribution to eventual Allied victory.

Scheme A – Gun Motor Carriage M12 ‘The Persuader’, B Battery, 557th Armoured Field Artillery Battalion, US 9th Army, Linnich, Germany, late February 1945

Airfix M12 GMC Doorknocker 'King Kong' model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

When first completed, most of the M12 vehicles were either used for crew training or held in storage, but with the long awaited invasion of occupied Europe looming, 74 of the M12s held in storage were overhauled and prepared for shipping to Britain. During the late summer of 1944, six US Field Artillery Battalions would be equipped with the ‘Doorknocker’, which were the 557th, 558th, 981st, 987th, 989th and 991st units.

After a concerted period of training, the men of the 557th Field Artillery Battalion headed for Europe and the battles which were already raging in Northern France. Only arriving in France on 12th August 1944, the unit were first posted to a field transit area, where their M12s could receive any additional camouflage and be prepared for their first combat assignment. After combat briefings from senior officers, the men were left in no doubt that their main role would be to support infantry units by destroying concrete pillboxes, gun emplacements and fortified firing positions which were holding up their advance, which meant they should prepare for plenty of action and to adopt a highly flexible mindset. Needing to re-supply and re-deploy regularly, there would be very little time for sightseeing, especially as their job was one of destruction.

Airfix M12 GMC Doorknocker 'King Kong' model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

The first salvoes fired by a 557th M12 in Europe came on 23rd August 1944, when enemy positions around the French town of Coat-Meal were targeted. From this point, men of the 557th were kept extremely busy and their training put to good use. Following the fighting through German occupied Europe, right into Germany itself, the unit’s M12s would see plenty of action over the coming eight months.

Scheme B – Gun Motor Carriage M12 ‘Choo-Choo-Bam’, C Battery, 557th Armoured Field Artillery Battalion, US 9th Army, Echternach, Luxembourg, early February 1945

Airfix M12 GMC Doorknocker 'King Kong' model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Underlining the workman-like nature of the task which faced the M12 GMC, almost all of the 74 machines which saw service in Europe were presented in simple markings of all-over olive drab, with Allied stars for identification from both ground and air. A little individuality did creep in as the combat reputation of the M12 began to grow and its role as a bunker buster earned it the respect of the infantry units they were supporting. Names such as ‘Persuader’ and ‘The Punisher’ were noted on some machines, with this one carrying the name ‘Choo-Choo-Bam’ – the definitive origins of this name are unknown, but it is thought that the crew may have been referring to the fact that their ungainly looking vehicle would chug through the French countryside, only to deliver a knock out blow when it reached its assigned firing position. An M12 was certainly an opponent to be reckoned with.

One targeting assignment which would become all too common in the months which followed the 557th’s deployment in Europe, was the unfortunate destruction of a great many of the beautiful churches dotted around the landscape. With their high steeples affording the enemy excellent observation posts for their own artillery spotters and snipers, M12 crews were often required to remove these advantageous positions, before the infantry assault on the town could take place. Although clearly still strategic military targets, crews would have been much happier when taking out enemy pillboxes and defensive fortifications, which seemed to be much more appropriate structures for destruction.

Airfix M12 GMC Doorknocker 'King Kong' model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Fortification targets would have been aplenty when the 557th were involved in action against the Siegfried Line from the end of August 1944, a job for which the vehicle was specifically designed to excel. German propaganda had reassured its people that this line of fortification was impregnable, but just as the Germans had done with the Maginot Line at the start of WWII, the Allies found a way of punching through the German defences. Christmas 1944 witnessed the final German roll of the armoured dice, as they threw everything they had into their Ardennes Offensive and whilst they initially caused confusion and disarray in amongst Allied units, they quickly reorganised and nullified the German counterattack. With the Germans now in full retreat, the ‘Doorknocker’ would ply its trade on German soil, as the Allies surged forward towards an inevitable victory.

Although not a tank, the M12 has to be considered one of the most interesting military vehicles of the Second World War and as so few were actually produced, this kit tells the fascinating story of a vehicle which excelled in the role which it was designed to do, supporting the infantry as they advanced against the enemy. As it uses the same basic chassis, it also makes an ideal build companion for the M3 Grant we featured earlier.

The mighty Königstiger

Airfix German Tiger II King Tiger Konigstiger model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Arguably the ultimate development of the tank during WWII, the massive German Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B Tiger II or Royal Tiger was developed under the direction of Hitler himself and his desire to see Germany introducing ever bigger, ever more powerful tanks as the war progressed. Taking the already impressive credentials of the Tiger I, this new tank was to be designed around the massive Rheinmetall L-71 8.8cm Flak 41 high velocity anti-tank gun, with the major issue being how could they get this huge gun onto a tank. As with the original Tiger project, Porsche and Henschel would compete against each other for the hull contract, whilst the turret would be developed and manufactured by Krupp – indeed, Krupp were not too enamoured at the prospect of fitting a rival manufacturer’s gun into their new turret, so they designed their own version of the Rheinmetall L-71 gun, the 8.8cm PaK 43 Kampfwagenkanone.

In order to accommodate the gun, the newly designed Krupp turret was long and relatively narrow in appearance, with two different versions entering service – the first 50 machines had a turret which was more curved, with a less pronounced gun mantlet, however, these were found to offer a ‘shot trap’ to Allied gunners and were therefore quickly replaced. The majority of Tiger IIs were fitted with the later ‘production turret’, which was much more angular and incorporated a far more pronounced mantlet at the base of the gun. All this additional weight had to be carried by the hull of the new Tiger II, with Henschel winning the production contract. Again building on the design of the original Tiger, the new hull was longer and with greater armour protection than featured on its predecessor, again using a development of the distinctive interleaved road wheel arrangement to carry the immense weight of the tank – the Tiger II weighed in at just under 70 tons.

Despite having to cope with the significantly greater weight of the new tank, the Tiger II was still powered by a derivative of the same V-12 Maybach engine which was used in the original Tiger, something which would always hinder the performance of this battlefield behemoth. Something which most certainly would not be hindered was the performance of the new gun. Although it could use the same shells as used by the fearsome Tiger I, the cartridge case was doubled in size, meaning that the projectile was fired at a much higher velocity. With the gun barrel being 1.3 metres longer than on the Tiger I, this new tank could take out Allied armour at even greater ranges than that of is already proficient predecessor. The original contract was for Henschel to produce 1500 Tiger IIs, however, with the Allies now very much in the ascendancy at this stage of the war, only 492 of these monsters would actually be built.

Scheme A - Panzerkamfwagen VI Ausf B Tiger II / Königstiger, Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 509, Hungary, early 1945

Airfix German Tiger II King Tiger Konigstiger model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Formed in September 1943, the 509th Heavy Tank Battalion were initially equipped with forty-five Tiger I tanks and were sent to fight in the Ukraine as part of Army Group South. Although equipped with arguably the most fearsome tank of WWII, the Soviets were becoming increasingly organised and determined in maintaining their offensives and by May 1944, the 509th were so depleted that they were withdrawn for refitting. Receiving a further full complement of Tiger Is, the unit was thrust back into action at the beginning of June, where they would take part in actions to repel the Red Army’s Operation Bagration.

September would prove to be a disastrous month for the 509th as they lost 16 Tigers in under 24 hours during actions near Kieice, Poland, as the Red Army continued to score victories against the Germans, who by now were in full retreat. In need of re-equipping once more, the unit received forty-five of the latest Tiger II tanks in December 1944 and were this time sent to Hungary to attempt to relieve the encircled Wehrmacht garrison at Budapest. The operation was ultimately to prove a failure and all but five of the unit’s Tiger IIs were lost, ten being completely destroyed. A clear indication of the dire state of war for German ground units, the 509th would fight constant retreating skirmishes with Allied forces until finally surrendering to the Americans on 9th May 1945.

Despite the fact that the Tiger II was a fearsome opponent, the fact that it still used the same engine which powered its lighter predecessors posed significant problems for their crews. If the engine and transmission were not handled with extreme care, even in a combat situation, the tank could easily break down and with little hope of recovery, the only option was to destroy their own vehicle, so that it couldn’t be captured by the enemy. Also, the sheer cost of a tank which was beautifully manufactured, but over-engineered for a weapon of war, was simply staggering and ensured that there were never enough Tiger IIs to go around. Indeed, nowhere near the originally ordered 1500 tanks were produced, at a time when every single one was desperately needed. To add some perspective to this, for the price of one Tiger II, you could have two Tiger Is, or nine US Sherman tanks - which option would you choose?

Scheme B - Panzerkamfwagen VI Ausf B Tiger II / Königstiger, Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, Berlin, 1945

Airfix German Tiger II King Tiger Konigstiger model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Another heavy tank battalion which had seen extensive combat on the Eastern Front using the famous Tiger I, the 503rd re-equipped with the more powerful Tiger II just weeks before the Allies launched Operation Overlord. As the first Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, there were actually only a handful of Tiger tanks stationed in the whole of France and had significant numbers been deployed in the immediate aftermath of the Allied onslaught, the outcome could have been very different. As it was, the first German unit to operate the new Tiger II tank in combat was the 1st Company of the 503rd Schwere Panzer-Abteilung on 18th July 1944, long after the Allied beachheads had been secured.

Despite their late entry into combat during the Normandy campaign, the Tiger II proved to be a fearsome adversary, capable of taking out any Allied tank at extreme range and almost impervious to tank attack themselves. Indeed, the armour on this new beast was so thick that it was only vulnerable to air attack, naval bombardment, or if outflanked and attacked at close quarters from the side. In one unusual occurrence, a command Tiger II fell into a huge shell crater caused by a naval gun during combat in Normandy and was unable to extricate itself - the engine was just not powerful enough to haul the tank out of the hole, so the crew destroyed the tank and commandeered another vehicle.

It is also interesting to note that most Tiger IIs were supplied to combat units just wearing a factory applied coat of dark yellow paint applied, with individual commanders given the autonomy to apply camouflage markings at their discretion, with the local fighting terrain in mind. Field units would have supplies of dark green and red brown paint available to them, which would usually be applied in addition to some natural foliage commandeered from the surrounding area. Whilst this does make a great deal of sense from a combat perspective, it also provides the modeller a little latitude when it comes to painting scale versions of late war German armour.

The 503rd and their Tiger IIs would go on to play a significant role during the Ardennes Offensive, but as losses mounted and replacement tanks became more difficult to come by, the mighty Königstiger was never allowed to show its true combat potential, with the huge numerical advantage enjoyed by Allied armoured units simply strangling them into submission and turning the story of Germany’s fearsome heavy tanks into something of a WWII sideshow. As it is, this magnificent vehicle must still be regarded as the most powerful German tank of the Second World War and just another example of military technology which appeared a little too late and in insufficient quantities.

This latest trio of 1/35th scale Armour kits are due for imminent release and should be in model shops over the next couple of weeks. With each one telling its own fascinating story of the armoured struggles during WWII, it will be difficult to decide which one to go for, even though we will all no doubt have our particular favourite - could this even be a case for an Autumnal triple build project?

Battle of Britain 1/24th scale Super Kits

Airfix 1/24th scale aircraft Super Kits on the Airfix Workbench blog

We end this latest bumper Airfix model update by featuring a trio of impending model releases which many Airfix devotes have been waiting patiently to see re-issued - those same modellers will probably also proclaim that in historic aircraft kit terms, we have definitely saved the best until last. For those modellers who have quite a number of years invested in the delights of building Airfix kits, the 1/24th ‘Super Kits’ models first introduced back in 1970 represent not only a nostalgic trip down modelling memory lane, but also something of a modelling rite of passage, as they allowed the improving modeller to demonstrate his increasing proficiency. With the original Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I, Messerschmitt Bf109E and Hawker Hurricane Mk.I incorporating levels of detail which took everyone’s modelling to a different level, it seemed as if every new release in this impressive scale was irresistible to anyone who had ever pitted their wits against these impressive large scale kits and the ultimate scale representations of the aircraft modelled.

In this 80th Anniversary year of the Battle of Britain, we are proud to be bringing these magnificent kits back to the Airfix range, in Vintage Classic form, using the same original moulds from the 1970s and featuring the same iconic artwork which graced the box tops of the very first releases. Each kit builds into a beautiful 1/24th scale representation of these classic Battle of Britain fighters, incorporating enough detail to keep even the most decerning of modellers happy. Although not incorporating the same levels of detail as featured on our latest Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat, which was developed with the benefit of almost half a century of design and manufacturing technology advancements, these models still represent something very special in the world of modelling and projects worth getting a little excited about.

Let’s now take a closer look at each of the kits individually and the two scheme options which will be included with each - we will take them chronologically from a tooling development perspective.

A12001V - Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Ia

Airfix 1/24th scale aircraft Super Kits Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I on the Airfix Workbench blog

Without doubt the names Airfix and Spitfire are inextricably linked and for 65 years, we have had a Spitfire kit in our range, with this aircraft always maintaining its position as one of the most popular subjects in any Airfix catalogue. Viewed by the British public as the aircraft which won the Battle of Britain, there is no doubt that the dogfights which raged in the skies above southern England during the summer of 1940 secured the legacy of an aircraft which must be considered one of the most famous in the history of flight, even though they were outnumbered in squadron strength by the Hawker Hurricane. Despite this, the Luftwaffe learned to respect the fighting qualities of this graceful looking aeroplane, to a point were every aircraft they lost was usually (and in most cases incorrectly) attributed to the much vaunted Spitfire.

Scheme A - Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Ia, P9390 KL-B, flown by Pilot Officer Edward Jack Coleman, RAF No.54 Squadron, Hornchurch, Essex, July 7th 1940

Airfix 1/24th scale aircraft Super Kits Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I on the Airfix Workbench blog

Wearing the classic RAF day fighter scheme of the Battle of Britain era, this beautiful Spitfire was first flown on 4th March 1940 and delivered to the Royal Air Force just a few days later. Allocated to No.54 Squadron at the end of April, it is interesting to note that this unit would serve throughout the entire war flying only different marks of Spitfire. Based at Hornchurch during 1940, No.54 Squadron Spitfires would fly operations in support of the Dunkirk evacuations, before playing a significant role before and during the Battle of Britain, initially tasked with flying combat air patrols over the Dover area.

This aircraft was reputedly flown on several occasions by No.54 Squadron’s famous New Zealand ‘Ace’ pilot Alan Deere and as such, would more than likely have been adorned with his distinctive ‘Kiwi’ emblem on the port fuselage, near the cockpit windscreen framing. Leaving this option open to modellers, the kit does include this decal for KL-B.

On 7th July 1940, just three days before the Battle of Britain started, Spitfire P9390 was one of six 54 Squadron aircraft sent to patrol the skies above Dover. Piloted by P.O Edward Jack Coleman, the formation was bounced by a flight of Messerschmitt Bf109 fighters and during the ensuing dogfight, Coleman’s Spitfire was shot down. Managing to make a forced landing on clear ground near Deal, the pilot escaped the incident with relatively minor injuries, however, the Spitfire was not so lucky - P9390 had flown its last sortie.

Scheme A - Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Ia, LO-B, RAF No.602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron, Drem Airfield, East Lothian, Scotland, November 1939

Airfix 1/24th scale aircraft Super Kits Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I on the Airfix Workbench blog

On 14th January 1939, RAF No.602 Squadron was re-designated as a fighter squadron and initially equipped with Gloster Gauntlet biplane fighters. These were traded for the latest Spitfire fighters less than five months later and during the early months of WWII, these aircraft would fly numerous patrols and interceptions from their base at Drem, as Luftwaffe bombers either conducted reconnaissance flights, or attempted to bomb installations around the naval base at Scapa Flow. Indeed, Spitfires of No 602 Squadron shot down the first German aircraft to crash on British territory at the start of the Second World War.

In mid August 1940, the Squadron was ordered south to RAF Westhampnett, a satellite station for Tangmere, where it was to shore up losses suffered during this critical stage of the Battle of Britain. Returning to Scotland by the end of the year, the pilots of No.602 Squadron would rarely have the opportunity to get attached to any particular station during WWII, as they would be tasked with operating from around forty different airfields both in the UK and on the continent, before being disbanded in July 1945. They would also fly variants of the Spitfire ranging from the original Mk.I, to the Mk.XVI, but only Rolls Royce Merlin powered machines.

This scheme is representative of the day fighter camouflage worn by the RAF’s latest fighter at around the outbreak of the Second World War. With their black and white undersides aiding recognition from the ground in an attempt to prevent anti-aircraft defences firing on friendly aircraft, Spitfires from this period do tend to look a little scruffy, probably due to the incessant training sorties they were tasked to fly at that time. They certainly look quite different from the aircraft which fought the Battle of Britain just a few months later. This particular Spitfire appeared to have had its serial number painted over with the application of camouflage, but does carry the name ‘BOGUS’ on the port side fuselage, underneath its canopy.

A12002V - Messerschmitt Bf 109E

Airfix 1/24th scale aircraft Super Kits Messerschmitt Bf109E on the Airfix Workbench blog

One of the truly great fighter aircraft of the Second World War few aircraft in the history of flight can claim to have the notoriety or aviation credentials of the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the most heavily produced fighter the world has ever seen and one of the most important aircraft in the history of warfare. This highly advanced monoplane fighter made its first flight in May 1935 and unusually, due to the delayed development of its intended Jumo engine, this first flight was made under the power of a British Rolls Royce Kestrel Vl engine. Entering Luftwaffe service at the beginning of 1937, the fighter was first blooded in action during the Spanish Civil War, but by the opening day of WWII, was now the mainstay of the Luftwaffe fighter force. As Germany swept through Poland and on through Western Europe, the seemingly invincible Bf 109 appeared to have mastery of the air, earning a fearsome reputation for ruthless effectiveness as it went.

By the time the Germans reached the French channel coast, they would be pitted against the organised and well trained airmen of the Royal Air Force, flying their Spitfires and Hurricanes in defence of their homeland. For the first time, the much vaunted Messerschmitt would be at a tactical disadvantage and despite possessing greater numbers, Luftwaffe fighter pilots would soon see that their fighter was not quite as invincible as they had previously thought.

Scheme A - Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3, 9/Jagdgeschwader 26 ‘Schlageter’, France, Summer 1940

Airfix 1/24th scale aircraft Super Kits Messerschmitt Bf109E on the Airfix Workbench blog

One of the most famous fighter units of the Luftwaffe, Jagdgeschwader 26 was given the name ‘Schlageter’ on 1st May 1939 mainly for propaganda reasons, as it referred to a German national hero. As one of their highest profile fighter squadrons, JG26 could usually expect to be amongst the first to receive the latest variant of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter, which certainly proved to be the case at the beginning of 1939, when they began training with the Bf 109E-1 variant.

Claiming its first victory of the Second World War on 28th September 1939, JG26 would go on to see extensive service throughout the French campaign, where records show that the unit accounted for at least 160 French and British aircraft. Now battle hardened and supremely confident, they looked towards Britain and expected a swift victory over the Royal Air Force. Flying from bases in the Pas-de-Calais area, the fighters of JG26 would be kept extremely busy during the Battle of Britain, with their pilots earning the respect of their RAF adversaries. With the more experienced pilots ordered to fly three and sometimes four combat sorties each day, it was not long before morale and fighting effectiveness began to suffer, as mounting losses and the fatigue of combat began to take their toll. Nevertheless, by the end of the Battle, the Geschwader claimed 285 British fighters shot down for the loss of 56 of their own pilots. Notable JG26 aces were Adolf Galland, Gerhard Schopfel and Joachim Muncheberg.

The aircraft scheme presented here was one of the more distinctive aircraft to represent the squadron and one which failed to return to its base in France, during the Battle of Britain. Featuring classic German fighter camouflage of the period and the large red Höllenhund (Hell Hound) emblem of 9./JG26 on its fuselage, this aircraft was the mount of Lt. Wilhelm ‘Willy’ Fronhofer and on the afternoon of 31st August 1940, he flew his final mission of the Battle of Britain. Caught in a hail of bullets from a British Hurricane fighter, Fronhofer was forced to crash land his Messerschmitt in a field on Jubilee Hall Farm, Ulcombe near Maidstone. Luckily for the pilot, he escaped unharmed and was taken prisoner, but his fighter was just one of many Luftwaffe aircraft which fell in the county of Kent during the Battle of Britain.

Scheme B - Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4, Aircraft flown by Oberleutnant Helmut Paul Emil Wick, 1/Jagdgeschwader 2 ‘Richthofen’, France/Belgium, October 1940

Airfix 1/24th scale aircraft Super Kits Messerschmitt Bf109E on the Airfix Workbench blog

At a time when the Luftwaffe appeared to be almost invincible, Helmut Wick was already making a name for himself as an expert fighter ace. Recording his first victory and that of his parent unit Jagdgeschwader 2 on 22nd November 1939, this French Air Force Hawk 75 would be the first of many to fall to his guns over the next few months. The Battle of France would underline Wick’s prowess as a fighter pilot and as the Luftwaffe prepared for their onslaught against Britain, he was already an ‘Ace’ with at least 12 confirmed victories to his name - this number included the incredible feat of downing four aircraft on the same day.

If his successes attracted attention during the Battle of France, the Battle of Britain would turn him into a national hero and one of the world’s most prolific fighter aces. By the end of November 1940, Wick’s tally stood at an incredible 56 victories, a figure which included five RAF fighters shot down over the Isle of Wight on 5th November and another five on the 6th November. On 28th November, Wick scored his 55th aerial victory, which at that time made him the leading fighter ace in the world - a second sortie the same day would result in another victory, but this would be his last and he would never return to his squadron mates. Caught in vicious combat with the Spitfires of No.609 Squadron, Wick managed to shoot one RAF fighter down, before he was shot down by Spitfire ace John Dundas. Wick was seen to have baled out of his fighter over the English Channel, but he was never seen again and his body never recovered. Tragically, Dundas shared the same fate, as he himself was shot down almost immediately by Wick’s wingman.

Credited with 56 victories from just 168 combat sorties flown, Wick’s impressive victory tally included no fewer than 24 Spitfires.

A14002V - Hawker Hurricane Mk.I

Airfix 1/24th scale aircraft Super Kits Hawker Hurricane Mk.I on the Airfix Workbench blog

At the outset of the Battle of Britain, the Hawker Hurricane was the most numerous Royal Air Force Fighter in service and despite the fact that it was seen as being inferior in capability to the Spitfire, it would prove to be Britain’s most effective weapon during the coming struggle. A reliable and extremely capable fighter, the Hurricane was a stable gun platform which was preferred by many pilots and could make short work of any Luftwaffe aircraft which strayed into its sights. With construction methods which allowed battle damage to be patched up much quicker than on the duralumin skinned Spitfire, the Hurricane was where it was needed most during the summer of 1940, in the air fighting the Luftwaffe.

Scheme A - Hawker Hurricane Mk.I, Aircraft flown by Flt. Lt. Ian Richard (Widge) Gleed, RAF No.87 Squadron, Exeter, Devon, August 1940

Airfix 1/24th scale aircraft Super Kits Hawker Hurricane Mk.I on the Airfix Workbench blog

Having already gained a pilot’s licence as a civilian, Ian Richard Gleed successfully applied for an RAF commission in 1936 and on completion of his training, was posted to No.46 Squadron at Kenley, to fly Gloster Gauntlet fighters. Later transferring to No.266 Squadron as a Flight Commander, Gleed was fortunate to survive an incident in early 1940 when the Spitfire he was flying broke up in mid-air. Whilst he was able to get out of the aircraft safely, the incident did resulting in him requiring a period of hospitalisation.

On his return to flying duties, Gleed was posted to the Hawker Hurricanes of No.87 Squadron, who were flying in France as part of the Royal Air Force component of the British Expeditionary Force. He would immediately make his mark on the fighting, not only showing great courage in the face of the enemy, but also taking a heavy toll of Luftwaffe aircraft in the process. It is thought that Flt. Lt. Gleed became the fastest RAF pilot to achieve ‘Ace’ status, taking just two days to dispatch 2 Bf 110s, a Bf 109 and two Do17 bombers, in addition to further aircraft either shared or claimed probables. Despite this, the inexorable advance of the Germans could not be stopped and the Hurricanes of No.87 Squadron soon returned to England.

Once back in Britain, 87 Squadron were initially based at Church Fenton in Yorkshire, but were soon transferred to Exeter. Unusually, the Squadron refused the opportunity to trade their Hurricanes for Spitfires, as it was reported that Gleed and fellow pilot Roland Beamont were able to easily outmanoeuvre Spitfires during mock dogfight trials. Seeing service throughout the Battle of Britain, once the Luftwaffe’s raids moved to night bombing attacks, No.87 Squadron were given the task of providing nightfighter protection for Bristol and whilst this force was still very much in its infancy, Gleed was able to add a further two Luftwaffe aircraft to his growing tally.

Perhaps one of the most famous Hurricanes of the Battle of Britain period, Ian Gleed’s Hurricane P2798 was the subject of several famous wartime photoshoots, ones which show the aircraft in a number of different guises. Featuring its distinctive red spinner and in some cases, a very unusual red painted area on the engine cowling behind the propeller, the aircraft also sports unique ‘Figaro the Cat’ artwork on the starboard side of the fuselage, under the cockpit – he appears to be enthusiastically smashing a swastika. This aircraft would also be used during the transfer to night operations, with the standard day camouflage overpainted in black, with some reference photographs showing the rudder still retaining its camouflage. This is a beautifully presented Hurricane and one which will make a fitting modelling tribute to the hero pilots of the Battle of Britain, irrespective of their nationality.

Scheme B - Hawker Hurricane Mk.I, Aircraft flown by Sqn. Ldr. Peter Townsend, Commanding Officer RAF No.85 Squadron, Church Fenton, North Yorkshire, October 1940

Airfix 1/24th scale aircraft Super Kits Hawker Hurricane Mk.I on the Airfix Workbench blog

Many people with associate the name Peter Townsend with a rather high profile romance with the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret during the 1950s, however, his position as equerry to the Royal Household was secured by virtue of his reputation as an RAF war hero. Joining the Royal Air Force in 1933, Townsend became a fighter pilot with No.43 Squadron at Acklington and during the first skirmishes with the Luftwaffe following the declaration of war, he was involved in shooting down the first enemy aircraft to be brought down on English soil.

By the summer of 1940, Townsend was considered one of the most capable fighter pilots in the RAF and was given command of No.85 Squadron, flying Hawker Hurricane fighters from Debden. The squadron’s pilots had just returned from deployment in France, where they formed part of the Air Component of the BEF and their experiences during this time left them in need of guidance and support for the battles which lay ahead - Townsend was seen as being the ideal man for the job. With his previous combat experience and lengthy service, he knew exactly what his men had endured in France and helped them to discuss the tactics they had used and how effective they had been - this would prove vital to the RAF in advance of the Battle of Britain.

Flying combat mission throughout most of the Battle of Britain, Townsend would claim six aerial victories during the summer of 1940, but would himself be shot down on two separate occasions. Suffering injury during the second incident, he would only re-join his Squadron towards the end of September 1940 and after the unit had relocated to Church Fenton, in North Yorkshire. Once there, the squadron was tasked with converting to the role of night fighters, as the Luftwaffe had already established their night bombing campaign against British targets. Retiring from the RAF as Group Captain in 1956, Townsend had enjoyed a distinguished flying career and had 11 confirmed victories to his name.

During his time with No.85 Squadron, Townsend flew several Hurricanes, including the two which were lost during air combat. On his return to the Squadron at Church Fenton, he was allocated Hawker Hurricane Mk.I P3854 as his personal aircraft and period photographs show it wearing this standard RAF day fighter scheme and also after it had been repainted in an all-over ‘Night Black’ scheme in support of its new role.

It has been reported that after the war had ended, Townsend made the acquaintance of the Dornier Do17 gunner who had shot him down during the Battle of Britain and the two went on to become good friends.

With each model having fascinating histories not only behind their inclusion in the Airfix model range, but also the aircraft represented by the scheme options included, it is going to be difficult to decide which one of these ‘Super Kits’ to choose. Having said that, as this 80th Anniversary year of the Battle of Britain draws to a close, could their possibly be a better modelling project to head into the winter months with than one of these 1/24th scale beauties? All three of these magnificent kits are scheduled to be available by early November.

Wow, there turned out to be an awful lot of update information to fit in there - you will be pleased to hear that that’s it for another edition of Workbench, however, we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with a further selection of Airfix modelling delights for your enjoyment. If you have any suggestions for subjects you would like to see covered in a future edition, please use this workbench@airfix.com link to contact us.

In between new editions of our blog, the Airfix conversation continues over on our Airfix Forum Worbench thread, with further discussions taking place on both the official Airfix Facebook page and the Airfix Twitter channel please do get involved in the discussions and let us know what you think about Workbench.

Whenever you decide to visit, the Airfix website is always the place to be for all the latest model availability information, previous editions of our blog, a selection of modelling tips and much more.

The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 16th October, when we will have more interesting features from the world of modelling.

On behalf of the entire Workbench team, thank you for your continued support our Airfix blog.

The Airfix Workbench Team

 

Return to Workbench homepage

 

© Hornby Hobbies Ltd. All rights reserved.

Share this post

This site uses cookies to provide users with the best experience possible, to find out more about them or how to remove cookies from your browser please view our Privacy Policy Or accept cookies to continue to use the website.
Membership Restricted Product