World War 2 plastic models part 1

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World War 2 plastic models part 1

World War 2 spanned five years, from 1939 to 1945. This page covers (broadly) the first half of that war.

Battle of Britain and before

Photo of a 1/48th scale Brewster Buffalo

My 1/48th scale Brewster Buffalo in USMC colors

Looks like he has just hosed down my garden hose with his machine guns…

Eduard 1/48th scale Spitfire 1A

Climb on full power

See Escort to Le Bourget: Eduard 1/48th scale Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1a.

The 1/48th scale Spitfire has a nine-inch span.

Tamiya Spitfire 1 (after upper surfaces repaint in 2019)

Tamiya Spitfire 1 (after upper surfaces repaint in 2019)

Model girl and model airplane

Two models… The Tamiya 48th scale Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1 is on a transparent Airfix stand.

Standard RAF fighter camouflage during the summer of 1940 was this pattern of ‘RAF dark green’ and ‘dark earth’ on the upper surfaces and fuselage, and a ‘sky’ (often described as ‘duck egg green’) underside.

1/48th scale Spitfire Mk. 1


Propeller spinners were either sky or black. After November 1940, a sky band was painted round the aft fuselage, as here, and one wing underside was painted black.

Roundels were the ‘A type’ with a large amount of white (and, where applicable, yellow) and the small central red disc. The fin flash was equal red, white, and blue (in horizontal division). The gray squadron codes on the fuselage sides were, in my opinion, normally a lighter shade than those supplied with this Tamiya kit. The under-belly oil stain was a hallmark of the Spitfire.

The Tamiya Spitfire Mk.1 includes decals for this dramatic colour scheme

The Tamiya Spitfire Mk.1 includes decals for this dramatic colour scheme

I made the propeller disc by cutting it out of transparent plastic sheet. Cutting the central hole so it fits the spinner is the most difficult part. I filled the holes in the spinner (for the omitted propeller blades) with plastic putty filler.

After upper surfaces repaint in 2019

After upper surfaces repaint in 2019 (complete with ‘invisible thread’ still draped around it after I took the outdoors photos)

Other than the fake spinning propeller, I made this Tamiya kit exactly as supplied. However, Humbrol ‘dark earth’ has drifted from specification over the years. (It is too dark and too red, which struck me when I first painted this model in 2012, and my suspicion was confirmed on the Britmodeller forum.) Therefore, in 2019, I repainted the upper surfaces in Valejo acrylics. I then added replacement decals, which I found on eBay after about a year of waiting for a set to come up for sale.

Tamiya 1/48th scale Spitfire Mk.1 after repaint

Flying low

Tamiya Spitfire 1 on display again after the repaint of upper surfaces in Valejo acrylics

Back on display after the repaint of upper surfaces in Valejo acrylics

See the English Channel section of this page for my Airfix 1/48th scale Spitfire Vb of a year later than the Battle of Britain, by which time RAF day fighters had changed to a different colour scheme.

After the French and British forces withdrew from France to England in the spring of 1940, the RAF fought the Luftwaffe over southern England. That air battle, fought during the summer and a warm and largely cloudless early autumn, prevented the armed forces of Germany from invading Britain.

Photo of a 1/72nd scale Messerschmitt 109

My 1/48th scale Messerschmitt 109 of the Battle of Britain

Even in 1/48th scale, the Bf109 is a small model. This is the Tamiya kit.

‘We were sitting on the terrace at Mereworth [Castle in Kent] having tea one sunny afternoon, with the butler in white gloves serving us,’ said Lorna Harmsworth, ‘And above us a dogfight was raging.’

— Anne de Courcy, Debs at War, 2005

The Pacific

Photo of a 1/48th scale Curtiss P-40 at the time of Pearl Harbor

1/48th scale Curtiss P-40 at the time of Pearl Harbor

This is an early P-40, before the red disc was deleted from the US star after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

For an account of the Pearl Harbor attack by one who was there, see under External links later on this page.

Tamiya 1/48th scale Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero

Tamiya 1/48th scale Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero

My Tamiya 1/48th scale Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero was on my modeling table for three years! Nevertheless, I think that the result is good, by my own rough-and-ready standards.

Tamiya 1/48th scale Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero

Tamiya 1/48th scale Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero

I finished this example, as flown by ace Saburō Sakai, in a moderately ‘weathered’ state, so it is a while after Pearl Harbour.

Tamiya 1/48 Mitsubishi Zero

Tamiya 1/48 Mitsubishi Zero

Partly completed Tamiya 1/48 Mitsubishi Zero

Partly completed Tamiya 1/48 Mitsubishi Zero

Tamiya 1/48 Mitsubishi Zero under construction

Tamiya 1/48 Mitsubishi Zero under construction

English Channel

Airfix 1/48th scale Spitfire Vb

Airfix 1/48th scale Spitfire Vb

In the summer of 1941 (the year following the Battle of Britain) recognising that RAF fighters spent more time over the English Channel than over land, standard RAF day fighter camouflage was changed accordingly: ‘Ocean grey’ replaced ‘dark earth’ on the upper surfaces while ‘medium sea grey’ replaced ‘sky’ (duck-egg green) on the undersides. I finished this Airfix 1/48th Scale Spitfire Vb in those colours. It was, arguably, an interim scheme before they additionally changed to the C-type roundels and fin flash with thinner white and yellow bands the following year (1942).

Airfix 1/48th scale Spitfire Vb


Fortunately for modellers like me who like to complete their aircraft kits in ‘flying’ configuration, this one includes a pilot figure. The common absence of crew in such kits likely indicates that creating solid representations of such flexible entities — to fit properly inside the model — is particularly difficult. More often than not, I have to cut a pilot’s legs off and cut down his backside to get him to fit, but not in this case. Bizarrely, I had the opposite problem in that he sat too low and I had to add a couple of shavings of wood for him to sit on. (Runner/sprue would have been better than wood.)

Airfix 1/48th scale Spitfire Vb wing under construction

Wing under construction

This kit is engineered so that the essential and characteristic dihedral angle emerges from its construction.

Two versions are provided for in the kit. One, based on the Mediterranean island of Malta, has the tropical air intake filter under the nose and the other does not. However, the latter is not strictly a World War 2 Spitfire. It is a restoration, still flying in 2019, and it has a later front canopy/windscreen as well as other differences. I built mine as a non-tropical example, but I used the canopy and other parts of the tropical variant because those are the correct ones for the period as far as I could determine from contemporary photos. I also bought a set of decals (transfers) by Xtradecal (Hannants) that includes markings for a UK-based Spitfire Vb based at Biggin Hill in October 1941.

Different parts for wheels-down and wheels-up are provided. (For wheels down, precise angles are specified.) Two different canopy types are included, and two of each of those: Open and closed. Some cutting/shaving of the fuselage sides is required for the closed canopy, so this is not a beginner kit.

There is a great amount of cockpit detail. I omitted much of it because I built it in ‘flying’ configuration, so you would not see it anyway either because it is out of view when the canopy is closed and/or it is obscured by the pilot.

Airfix 1/48th scale Spitfire Vb cutting and filing

Cut, file, and melt

I needed to cut, file, and melt down (with a soldering iron) the base of the cockpit tub to get the wings to fit. In the process, I did a small amount of damage to the rear edge of the recess where the wings attach, which I repaired only partially with filler. I noticed no others on the forum reporting a similar problem, so I suspect that it resulted from a mistake I made positioning the cockpit tub inside the fuselage.

Airfix 1/48th scale Spitfire Vb

The 1/48th scale Spitfire has a nine-inch span.

Another problem I encountered is with the cutting down of the fuselage sides to accommodate the closed canopy. That cutting is done before you glue the two halves of the fuselage together with the cockpit and pilot in place. When I test-fitted the canopy, I found that I had not cut the cockpit sides down enough. (We are talking fractions of a millimetre.) I found it too tricky to use a knife or file to cut it down further, so I used a soldering iron to melt it down. After I cleaned it up, it was not too bad.

I was unable to attach the mirror on the top of the canopy. It is just too tiny and the fifth time I dropped it from my tweezers, I stopped looking for it. No sense in risking mucking up the canopy just for that.

Spitfire Vb AA926 YO-E

The real thing

As always with propeller-driven aircraft in flight, I made a ‘spinning’ propeller as best I could by using a disc of transparent plastic.

All paints I used are acrylics except the copper tint on the exhaust pipes (enamel). I used satin varnish to obtain a semi-gloss appearance as if the paintwork is damp from having just emerged from cloud, which the grey-green scheme suits — the ‘Indian summer’ of the Battle of Britain being a year in the past by the time of this aircraft.

See also the Battle of Britain and before section of this page (at the top) for my Tamiya 1/48th scale Spitfire Mk.1 in the brown, green, and ‘sky’ colour scheme of the previous year; 1940.

Postscript: Unfortunately, I have broken a personal record with this kit: The day after I finished it, I moved it to my remote storage location because the propeller spinner fell to the floor. I broke a long-standing promise to myself never to look for a dropped part unless I follow it down with my eyes and can see it straight away. Nevertheless, frustrated beyond imagining, I spent time grovelling on the floor with a bright flashlight to no avail. (A couple of weeks ago I found the missing tailplane of my 1/48th scale BAC Lightning, which vanished nearly ten years ago!)

I do many difficult things, from flying hang gliders to computer programming and serious mountain biking, but plastic modelling is I think most difficult of all.

Update: After moving much furniture and using a portable lamp, I found the spinner in hidden a place where it was not visible prior to moving the furniture. Moreover, I do not understand how it got there just by dropping and bouncing. It is almost as if these parts behave like sub-atomic particles, ‘tunneling’ wave-like through other objects, to re-emerge solid in the new location.

Spitfire Vb in flight

The real thing in flight

Airfix 1/24th scale Spitfire Vb in black-and-white

In black-and-white

The real thing here is without the strakes on the upper wing surfaces and also without yellow strips on the outer leading edges, which led me to believe that it might be one of the small number of Mk.1s fitted with 20 millimetre cannon experimentally in 1940. However, according to one expert on the Britmodeller forum, it is Spitfire Vb RK6923 of 92 Squadron on 19 May 1941. The yellow outer leading edges were added after August 15th, 1941.


This topic continues in World War 2 plastic models part 2.

Adolf versus Adolph, my review of the 1968 movie The Battle of Britain

Desert Spitfire, my second Airfix 1/48th scale Spitfire Mk Vb

Hero to Zero, my review of the anime The Wind Rises, which depicts a version of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi Zero. The anime also constitutes a history of Japan in the first half of the 20th Century.

I was a kamikaze, my review of Ryuji Nagatsuka’s 1973 book

External links

Honoring those at Pearl Harbor 12-7-1941 by Frank Colver on the US Hawks hang gliding forum: Margaret Huey’s account of that “day that will live in infamy.”

Supermarine Spitfire Camouflage & Markings on the Boxart Den reference gallery

2 Responses to World War 2 plastic models part 1

  1. jonevo3 says:

    The Zero designer had one of those perfect design eyes. Aesthetically it is one of those rare designs where every line is flawless. The Hawker designer, Sydney Camm had a similar skill. In this age of CAD it is increasingly rare which is why I always design with a very soft pencil prior to going anywhere near a CAD screen.

    • Similarly, a pencil and several blank pieces of paper on a big board are some of the most valuable tools when starting to design a computer program. I like to think my outline plan for automated NOTAMs on this page is an example. (Not that it could ever result in anything as impressive looking as the Zero.)

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