Mentioned in dispatches

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Mentioned in dispatches

Italeri 1/9th scale Triumph 3HW built and painted by Everard Cunion in 2017

Italeri 1/9 scale Triumph 3HW

Dispatch rider and bike

The real Triumph 3HW of World War 2 was one of the lighter motorcycles available (by the standards of the time) and was used by lady dispatch riders (WRNS at least). Fortuitously, this kit is the same scale as my ‘tank girl.’

Italeri 1/9 scale Triumph 3HW

Motorcycle girl

This kit is for experienced modellers. There are lots of parts, some really tiny, but the fit is good. The runners and parts are not numbered, so you have to refer to the diagrams on the first page of the instructions often. I sometimes placed parts and sub-assemblies on the instruction sheet before gluing them in place, which often precluded me from turning the pages back to the part number diagrams.

Tip: Tear off the first page with its numbered part diagrams so you can refer to it regardless of what page of the instructions you are on.

Italeri 9th scale Triumph 3HW Assemblies and parts laid out on plans

Assemblies and parts laid out on plans

That is a real spring in the photo. The saddle spring is real too and there is even a spring for the main rectangular stand. I should really have painted the nuts and bolts in a bare metal colour first, but it was not a problem to retouch it after assembly.

The only fault I found – assuming I did not cause it somehow – is that the front curved section of the exhaust pipe did not quite reach from the cylinder port to where it attaches to the silencer segment. I filed away some plastic from the inside of its curve where it goes under the crank case, which mostly solved the problem.

The chain is a ring of flexible PVC or a similar material. You put it over the rear sprocket, and then fit the back wheel to the frame using the (plastic) axle. Then you extend the chain out of its natural circular shape and fit it over the small front chain-wheel on the inside of the left engine cover before gluing that cover in place, which stretches the chain into its realistic tensioned shape. Not easy!

Tip: Lubricate the axles with soap or similar. They are a push fit and you might need to pull the rear one out if, for example, you insert the wheel into the frame without first putting the chain on.

Resin Tank Girl And Italeri 9th Scale Triumph 3HW

Dispatch rider extraordinaire

The rectangular stand – attached to the bike – has a real spring with an over-centre effect that actually works – in principle… In other words, with the bike on its wheels, the spring holds the stand in its retracted position. With the bike on the stand, the spring holds the stand down and the rear wheel off the ground. However, I found that the stops are inadequate (possibly I misaligned something) as a result of which it does not work as a stand. Fortunately, the side stand does work. It is not spring loaded, but it has a tiny clip to hold it to the seat stay and its stops restrict its rotation in two dimensions, so it actually works exactly like the real thing.

Army motorcyclists patrolling Sussex Downs in about 1940

The real thing during the Battle of Britain, 1940

I suspect that, if you only glue the nuts in place when assembling the fork, the front suspension would work too. However, I found it taxing enough just to assemble it with everything glued.

Some of the cable length, colour, and routing instructions are comprehensive, while a few involve guesswork or some knowledge of motorcycle hardware of the era. (You would not believe how many little levers there are on the handlebar, all connected via cables to – somewhere…) Some are reasonably guessable, such as the cable from the battery to the headlight.

Italeri 9th Scale Triumph 3HW and resin tank girl

From the ground up

The bike kit comes with a Sten gun, complete with flexible strap (PVC, I think). It complements the tank girl’s side-arm in case she has to dispatch a whole gang trying to take advantage of her.


For painting the bike, I used mostly acrylics. Exceptions are small things like the copper pipes on the right side from the oil tank to the bottom of the crank case, for which I resorted to my larger collection of enamel paints.

Italeri 1/9 scale Triumph 3HW left side front

Left side front

The kit comes with decals for several machines at various stages of the war.

The dense plastic is much the same colour as my chosen finish, so I do not notice where I forgot to paint the olive drab bits.

Motorcycle engineering

Italeri 1/9 scale Triumph 3HW

Motorcycle engineering

Building this kit taught me something that I sort of knew already and I find it a bit disturbing. It is that there was something radically primitive about the engineering design of motorcycles of this era. (Even my first trials bike, a 250cc Greeves of the 1960s, incorporated design elements that no rational mind would include on a trials bike.) It is not just that this or that component shows signs of being added as an afterthought. It is as if everything, from the bottom up, has been added as an afterthought. (See Engineering development then and now by guest contributor Jonathan H for more on that subject.)

As some experts on pointed out, the cables (flexible black vinyl tube) are overly large diameter. Nevertheless, although it has lots of parts to assemble, this kit represents about the most bang for the buck of any kit I have built to date, perhaps along with the Glencoe Models 1/76th scale Vanguard research rocket (see mine).

Doll on a Italeri 1/9th scale Triumph 3HW motorcycle

Tessa normally rides a bike 30 years more modern.

Internal links

Engineering development then and now by guest contributor Jonathan H.

Motocross in miniature: Building Joël Robert’s Suzuki motocross bike of 1970 in 1/12th scale

Mr Moto Cross — my second Revell 1/12th scale Husqvarna motocross bike; built in 2017

Plastic models

Plastic models — land vehicles

Tank girl — the resin 1/9th scale lady dispatch rider

Viva Protar — my Protar 1/9th scale Montesa Cota 247 trials bike