World War 2 plastic models part 2

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World War 2 plastic models part 2

This page continues from World War 2 plastic models part 1.

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

Airfix 1/48th scale Spitfire Vb in simulated flight

Desert Spitfire

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

Tamiya 1/48th scale 'birdcage' Chance Vought F4U Corsair view from above


Tamiya 1/48th scale 'birdcage' Chance Vought F4U Corsair view from in front below


See Early Corsair: Tamiya 1/48th scale Chance Vought F4U Corsair.

Scale model plastic kit Lockheed Lightning completed

Academy 1/48th scale P-38 (F-5)

This Academy 1/48th scale kit is a photo-reconnaissance variant (F-5) of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. It has a span of more than 12 inches in this scale. As is often the case with modern kits, it does not include a pilot, which I had to source separately. The one part with a poor fit is where the nose joins on to the main fuselage at an angle; just on the port side, you can see where I used some filler (not very well finished).

Plastic kit model airplane

Academy 1/48th scale P-38 (F-5)

The fighter version was flown in World War 2 by Robin Olds, who later commanded the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing flying F-4 Phantoms over Vietnam.

My first combat was anticlimactic. I saw a few halfhearted puffs of flak but sure loved the hot-metal smell of my new P-38, the odors of oil, hydraulic fluid, ozone from the radio tubes, leather from the seat, and the faint whiff of residual perfume from the WASP pilot who had delivered it.

— from Fighter Pilot, the Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds, 2010

RS Models 1/72nd scale Lockheed F5A Lightning

P-38/F5 Lightning in 1/72nd scale

See Lightning fit for a little prince, building Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Lockheed P-38/F5 Lightning in 1/72nd scale.

Cockpit heat from the engine manifolds was nonexistent. When you were at thirty thousand feet on bomber escort and the air temperature was –55° F outside the cockpit, it was –55° F inside the cockpit. After thirty minutes or so at such a temperature, a pilot became so numb that he was too miserable to be of any real value; to make matters worse, he did not particularly care. Only his head and neck, exposed to the direct rays of the sun, retained any warmth.

— Royal Frey quoted in Little Friends, the Fighter Pilot Experience in World War II England by Philip Kaplan and Andy Saunders, 1991

The British single-engine Hawker Hurricane fighter had a similar problem according to Battle of Britain pilot Tom Neil. See under London’s burning in Adolf versus Adolph, my review of the 1968 movie The Battle of Britain.

The P-38 suffered from another problem that the Hurricane did not. Several failed to recover from high-speed dives because of shock waves resulting from airflow reaching the speed of sound. Although private company records remain largely hidden, Lockheed engineer Irv Culver is credited by some with providing the solution: Automatically deployed spoiler-like slabs below the wings, resembling dive brakes, which moved the aerodynamic center. Incidentally, Culver’s aerodynamic expertise and his gliding experience came together in a dramatic early 1970s hang glider development. See under External links later on this page for more about that.

Photo of a 1/48th scale Curtiss P-40N

1/48th scale Curtiss P-40N

This 1/48th scale Curtiss P-40N is the Hasegawa kit. The green jacket is the wrong color. I will get round to repainting it one day.

Photo of a 1/48th scale P-51 'red tail'

I finished this 1/48th scale P-51 as a ‘red tail’ of the 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

The accuracy of the artwork on the fuselage by the tail is questionable. One surviving pilot of the ‘Tuskegee airmen’ said they modified the ‘Chinaman’ figure, which some of these aircraft already had painted on them when they received them from a previous squadron, to resemble a black man (in self deprecating humour).

The figures are an inch and a half tall.

1/72nd scale Spitfire PR XI

1/72nd scale Spitfire PR XI

This 1/72nd scale (the gentlemen’s scale, apparently!) Spitfire PR XI has a six inch span and is five inches long. It is a ‘resin’ kit that I made in about 1996 and refurbished in 2019.

The PR XI, which the Americans also used, was the only Spitfire that could fly from its base in England to Berlin and back. It was a Mk.IX modified by removing the guns and installing fuel tanks in the wings instead. They installed cameras in the fuselage, took out the armour plating, and replaced the armoured windscreen with a smoothly curved one. The oil tank was also enlarged and it was housed at the front underside at the nose, resulting in a different curve there from that of the Mk.IX.

Allied photo reconnaissance aircraft were usually painted in this fairly dark grey with a blue tint, referred to as PR blue.

Glider riders

Photo of a 1/72nd scale Airspeed 51 assault glider

My 1/72nd scale Airspeed 51 assault glider

According to a section about the Airspeed 51 in British designed and built Military Gliders (see the link farther on) by Glyn Bradney:

The overall number of Horsas built is not known. It’s certainly a minimum of 3800 and some sources say as many as 5000. Just under 700 were built by Airspeed at their Christchurch factory…

Christchurch is where I have lived (mostly) since about 1964. I even worked in what was the Airspeed factory, which later became a ‘machine shop’ making cast iron wheels for railway station trolleys and the like. A system in which people with degrees in software engineering are employed to sweep factory floors at the national minimum wage in a time of a ‘critical software skills shortage’ is surely broken. (To be fair, everyone had to sweep up at the end of the day.) I digress…

Airspeed 51 Horsa at Middle Wallop by Everard Cunion in 1997

I took this photo of a real Airspeed 51 at the army aviation museum, Middle Wallop, Hampshire, in 1997

Mannequin at army aviation museum, Middle Wallop, Hampshire, England, in 1997

Another photo I took at the army aviation museum, Middle Wallop, Hampshire

I so wanted one of these. They say to be careful what you wish for. See War to end all wars part 2 for some of my life-size dolls in uniform.

Airfix 1/72 scale Airspeed 51 photographed in 1994

Airfix 1/72 scale Airspeed 51 photographed in 1994

This is the 1/72nd scale Italeri kit of the Airspeed 51 Horsa assault glider. It has a span of more than 14 inches. The figures are one inch tall.

Photo of a 1/72nd scale Waco CG-4A assault glider

1/72nd scale Waco CG-4A assault glider

The US equivalent of the Airspeed 51 troop-carrying glider (note the absence of engines and propellers) was the Waco CG-4A.

The ‘glider rider’ paratroops who rode them to the D-Day landing grounds on and after June 6th, 1944, suffered a high casualty rate. According to one history I read, that was only because the landings were made at night, for which no training or other preparation had been made. To land a glider you have to be able to see. (That definitely is one of many things worse than sweeping factory floors at the national minimum wage.)

Italeri 1/72nd scale Waco CG-4A

Waco sunset

I read that Waco was originally the Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio. It was renamed the Waco Aircraft Company in either 1928 or 1929.

The cockpit details of this Italeri 1/72nd scale kit are fictional, so it needs a lot of work if you want that detail. Apart from that, it is a good kit. It has a 14 inch span.

It was remarkably sobering to see the hundreds of American and British gliders littering the fields and orchards. Some were intact, but many had run head-on into the hedgerows bordering every open space and lay there smashed in crunched-up heaps. Their invasion stripes stood out starkly against the green of the fields, and I felt a pang at the thought of the men on board those wrecks.

— from Fighter Pilot, the Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds, 2010

William Le Mer was an American combat glider pilot in World War 2. He took up hang gliding in the early 1970s and won the first competition he entered. See Hang gliding 1973 part 1.

The helicopter replaced the aerotowed glider as the preferred method of inserting troops behind enemy lines after World War II.

Lysander and Barracuda

My 1/32nd scale Westland Lysander, which I think is a Revell kit, is fairly large because it was a surprisingly large airplane.

1/32nd scale Westland Lysander

1/32nd scale Westland Lysander

About 1942 or 43 the RAF changed from green and ‘dark earth’ on the upper surfaces of most aircraft to green and ‘dark sea grey’. Bombers, however, continued with green and dark earth uppers.

Photo of a 1/48th scale Fairy Barracuda torpedo and dive bomber

1/48th scale Fairy Barracuda torpedo and dive bomber

Dr Dunston Hadley, long time medical advisor to the British Hang Gliding Association, flew Barracudas in World War II. This 1/48th scale model had a lot of resin parts, as distinct from the normal polystyrene. The hard resin parts are much harder to finish and assemble. They included a torpedo, bombs, and aft machine gun, all of which I omitted from this model. (It is so large and plain it would look better in 1/72nd scale I think.)

Several World War 2 fighter aircraft in 1/48 scale

Several World War 2 fighter aircraft in 1/48 scale

I finished the Hawker Typhoon (nearest) as one of those that shot down a Ju188 on the edge of the New Forest in May 1944. For some of the consequences of that event, see Shooting a line—my review of Requiem for a Wren, by Nevil Shute and Requiem for an aircrew, my review of a book about the mystery of the Exbury Ju-188. This is the Hasegawa kit. They also make a version with the earlier ‘car door’ style framed canopy.

Internal links

Clive James on the North American P-51 Mustang and Other Aircraft

Italeri 1/35 scale DUKW

Right side at ground level

Plastic DUKW, my Italeri 1/35th scale General Motors DUKW

Wooden wûnder — my Airfix 1/24th scale De Havilland Mosquito (in service after World War 2)

Airfix 1/24th scale De Havilland Mosquito

Below treetop height

External links

British designed and built Military Gliders by Glyn Bradney (Acrobat document)

Irv Culver: Sticks and rudders in Hang gliding before 1973 on Hang Gliding History