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1:32 Tamiya Spitfire IX, 81 Sqn, Tunisia, Summer 1943


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Hi all, back again after a bit of a hiatus on this board as I've not been building LSP but Routemaster buses and Gerry Anderson models the last few months :) However, just before Xmas I began the next stage in my series of builds of "Aircraft my Father Fixed". 
Up to now I've built mostly the aircraft my Father worked on while in Burma in the latter half of WWII while attached to 5 Squadron. So far thats been a Hurricane IIc in 1:32 along with 2 P47 D Thunderbolts in bubbletop and razorback configurations in 1:48 (hence why they havn't appeared here!)  I did begin a conversion of the Hobbyboss Spitfire Vb Trop to a Vc Trop using Grey Matter Figures resin wings, but managed to ruin them beyond recovery so gave that up earlier in the year.
Before 5 Sqn in Burma, my Dad was with 81 Squadron from their entry into Operation Torch at Gibraltar Oct '42 up until Sicily had been pacified in Oct-Nov1943 whereupon he was transferred to Cairo en-route to India and 5 Squadron. Funnily enough, 81 Squadron followed his his wake a couple of weeks later and ended up based 5 miles down the road in India, re-equipping with Spitfire VIII, hence why I have a Christmas dinner menu from 81 Sqn in 1943:
Anyway, back to Tunisia in the spring/summer of 1943. Up to that point, the squadron had been equipped with Spitfire Vb Trop and Vc Trop (hence my earlier abortive attempt to convert the Hobbyboss Vb Trop to a Vc Trop), however these were beginnign to be outmatched by the German aircraft. The Tropical filters used on the V series had an unfortunate side-effect of reducing overall performance of the engine. So in May '43 81 Sqn started receiving Spitfire IXs. At this point they were based in Tunisia at Souk-el-Khemis airfield and subsequently moved to other airfields in the general vicinity.
From reading Alan Peart's book "From North Africa to the Arakan" you get to see that conditions on these airfields were basic to say the least. So I want to try to capture a snapshot of the activity of the groundcrew in these conditions in my diorama.
So to begin with, the model - you've all seen plenty of sprue shots so I won't bother here, but at least here is the box:
For the base I'm using a 300x300 wooden base supplied by one of my IPMS Farnborough colleagues from his website: http://www.ema-heritage.com/displaybases.html
That should give enough space for the aircraft and some activity around it. Speaking of which, the donor kits for figures, materials etc include this lot:
Yes I know there is 1:35 scale figures in there but my Dad was only 5' 5" tall, so they'll be okay :) On th eleft you can see some of the ValueGear stuff that I used in my Hurricane diorama earlier in the year. This stuff is superb, huge variety and excellent casting and detail. I picked up a set of crates as well which you can see in the glass ashtray in the top left. Above that is the IconAir accumulator trolley I built originally for the Hobbyboss build. I've added a small engine on the top of it to represent the generator that was fitted to many of them. This was sourced from the US Maintenance Yard kit from the compressor you can see at the bottom right of the box top picture.
For the Spitfire I've got a collection of Decals for the inside and outside that will allow me to represent EN204 FL-L:
(from the Osprey book "Spitfire Aces of North Africa and Italy)
Note how the original "E" lettering has been badly overpainted to turn it into a "L" :)
Here are the decals I'll use:
There is a huge amount of aftermarket stuff for this kit and here is a selection of what I may or may not be using:
There are wheels, seat, large cannon wing covers, cockpit door with seperate crowbar (not to be painted red!!), Cockpit upgrade set, cockpit stbd sidewall, "cloth" seatbelts PE Toolbox by Aber (just like the one I have in the Hurricane dio) and finally the PE set for the Hobbyboss Vb, but which contains some very useful bits for this build, eg the PE radio hatch door which will be used elsewhere on this build!

Edited by KallistiUK
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I actually started this build a couple of weeks ago but haven't got very far because in the weather we've been having the man-cave shed is to sodding cold!! So I've come up with a cunning plan... Part of the delay was waiting for all the parts to arrive and also to do the research for the various things I want to do. Here is a sample of some of the reference material I've collected:




This of course doesn't show the e-book PDF of Monforton's book or the other reference photos, sites etc that I've used and will be using. I've printed some of the engine photos and stuck them up:




which gives away my cunning plan to get around the cold weather situation... move a lot of the modelling stuff into a temporary table in the lounge! All the airbrushing will still have to be done in the shed, but at least I can build and brush paint in comfort!


I began on the figures as I was waiting. I picke dout two from the 8th army set and one form the Tank riders set:




The Tank rider figure in grey had to have the top of his head rebuilt as I won't be putting a steel helmet on him, instead he'll get an RAF side cap at a suitably rakish angle!


I began work on the engine and my aim is to add as much detail as I can bear to. The inspiration for that is the amazing Hornet build being undertaken by airscale in another thread here Truly magnificent stuff and if I can get anything approaching this, I'll be very happy!


Progress so far:




Its all a bit bland and OOB so far - well apart from the replacement resin rocker covers with the Rolls Royce logo on them. This will change as time progresses I hope.


Now since I've got an accumulator trolley in The diorama, there should be somewhere for it to plug into:





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So of course there is also the question of the starboard rear panel I've been pestering people about... this one:




As you can see I've successfully cut it out without causing damage to the surrounds and next to it is the PE Radio access panel from the VB PE set which is near enough the same size (its about 1.75 inches too tall, but that won't be noticeable when its hanging open. Here is the inside of it:




which has superb fine detail. One of the things that my researches show for this access hatch is that the inner frame is very visible, with all its lightening holes present. So I'm going to have to scratch build that so that means removing the existing rib detail in the kit:




I then got some work done on Xmas Eve, working on the rear fuselage panel considering the information I've been able to gather. So here is the open panel:




Here is what you would see inside - I've added horizontal ribs to the far side of the inner fuselage plus 4 sets of control wires and supports for them:




I may need to strip the paint off the wires as it looks like the spray primer had gone all blobby without me noticing before I sprayed XF 16 over it. Problem I face currently is the shed is too damn cold to spend any length of time in and I think the cold is affecting the paint drying so it went a bit blobby :(


The inside of the starboard fuselage has had some surgery to dig out plastic from the beack side of the moulded ribs either side of the hatch:




This allowed me to drill out the lightening holes in the ribs:






which looks pretty authentic to me! I've also scratch built the tray for the battery and the battery itself plus its cover to prevent shorts. This needs a pair of tie-downs either side that connect to the lower tray, but they'll be added later as the tray and battery will have to be inserted into the fuselage through the hatch panel once the fuselage is closed up. Not sure of the colour of the cover as I've only ever seen diagrams of it, not a picture. I suspect it might have been wooden, but still need more info about that detail...

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This has captured MY attention... Burma, India, Tunisia ...well what a history..


Will be quite a tribute to your Dad... Looking forward to seeing more.


Where in India did your Father end up in...just curious as I was born in that wonderful country...{ MY MOM has told ME how as a young lady She watched troops walk into India , weary and tired, all the way from Burma as the Opposition advanced into Burma}.


Keep us posted with your amazing work .


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When he arrived in India in December 43 he was in Calcutta while 81 Sqn were just on the outskirts at Alipore, then very soon 5 Sqn was transferred to an airfield near Imphal. He ended his time in India in Vizagapatam in 1945 but the Squdron moved into and around Burma inbetween.


Begun work on the cockpit now, but sadly I appear to have misplaced the PE that came with the kit. I know I had it last week as I cut off the metal tabs that are used by the magnets in the engine covers, but now I can't find it anywhere so can't fold up the compass bracket :( goign to have to turn the house upside down I think... I can't imagine that I would have accidentally thrown it away...

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Well I solved the missing PE problem by robbing the 1:32 Tamiya Spitfire VIII I have in the stash and writing to Tamiya to try to get hold of a replacement set of PE for that kit. It will get built eventually as an 81 Sqn Spitfire VIII when they were in Burma.


Had a fun couple of days watching old movies on TV and modelling - its nice having the modelling workbench in the lounge at Christmas. Rocky Horror Pitcure show was on Channel 5 late last night so there were of course moments where the modelling had to be put aside for some Time Warp dancing, ahem! (Its just a jump to the left...)


So attention has moved to the cockpit which out of the box from this kit looks superb anyway, but with a few additions can be pretty impressive. To that end, I picked up the Barracuda Starboard cockpit wall accessory as I've never seen this before. Wow its a work of art! Scaping the area from the inside of the fuselage was a PITA, but the resin insert looks great - check it out yourself...




I've added a few extra wires from lead wire and mild steel wire. Then the instrument panel has been enhanced with some cockpit placard decals that came with the Baraccuda cockpit enhancement set. This is the second time I've used this as I used it originally in my aborted Hobbyboss Vb -> Vc conversion earier in the year.




The joystick is from this set and has wires added to the column. next, the seat is the Barracuda replacement with the padded back. here I've tried to show some wear on the leather backing as this is a hard-working aircraft. You can also see the cloth seatbelts from HGW which took virtually the whole of this afternoon to put together this some very tiny bugles, eyelets and fastenings, but looks superb.




Here you can see some sand wash added to weather them down...




Then attention turned to the port wall which uses mostly kit parts, apart from a resin replacement throttle assembly. Here I added lots of extra wires and details, most of which will not be visible when the fuselage is closed up lol. Of course I then forgot to take a photo of it before attaching it to the rest of the cockpit - sigh


So here are the best photos I can get of the port cockpit wall






Here you can see under the seat the black/yellow twisted wire I made up from painted lead wire. SDly it won't be seen from above :(


and here things have been dirtied up a bit more




One final photo which shows the compass, stick and instrument panel.




Tomorrow should see the fuselage closed up which will mean I can insert the battery tray and battery itself!

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  • 2 weeks later...

So on 31st December I posted this update in the wrong thread... sigh, must have started the celebrations a bit to early! So I've copying it here just for compeleteness' sake...


Fuselage was closed up yesterday which meant adding the battery and tray...




Its dofficult to know if this is accurate as I've never seen a photo with the hatch open and the battery in place. All the photos I've seen so far have been of an empty compartment. Then again I suppose if I've never been able to find a photo, will anyone else viewing the model know better? :)


You can also see the hole I've already drilled for the IFF wires that will be added later. I've made sure these were drilled at a oblique angle to the line of the wire right.


Here is the cockpit again now its closed up - I'm very pleased with this cockpit, I'm just hoping that the engine detailing will turn out as good!




I've been working on the wings but there isn't much special here, they are pretty much out of the box. However, I did end up using the kit canon covers on the top wing as the Barracuda resin replacement were too small and to be brutally honest I didn't fee like trying to sort out the gap!


Today the wings and fuselage will be joined...

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So this post is the first PROPER update of 2014...


Just in time, before I used the kit parts, these turned up:




These are the PE radiator covers and when installed look like this:




Now, being very critical, I'm not sure these things add all that much - they are virtually invisible inside the radiators and I suspect that when I build my Mk VIII I'll not bother with them. That said, they are nice bits of PE.


So I now have the wings on and the tail sorted with the appropriate amount of droop for the elevators when sitting on the ground. I've left the tail actuator arm on the plastic, ignoring the instructions to cut it off. I've used the kit supplied canon covers, even though they are acknowledged to be a little bit too square. I had resin replacements but they were a very bad fit, leaving a 1-2 mm gap either at the front or the rear. I wrote to the guys at Barracuda and they said it was most likely due to natural resin shrinkage, but they'll check their moulds just in case.




I've started work on the undercarriage - more on that in another update.but its also got me started on the base. Now, you know me well enough and I like to have a nice base. So since this is Tunisia in the summer, it will be sandy and dusty. In the rainy season (ie winter-time) it was described as a quagmire, but in the summer it dried out and was very dusty. Facilities were very basic - there were next to no buildings, so the ground crew lived in tents, mostly in ditches near to the work areas to give them some protection from bombing raids. So this gives me the basic structure...


A 300x300mm base, with a square of about 1.5"  thick polystyrene left over from the insulation of the shed walls in the summer, then give a coat of my old favourite claycrete, coloured with artist acrylic paints...




The lower right corner has had a trench dug out with the spoil heaped either side of the trench. 




Its not so easy to see in the trench in these photos. I've added grass clumps, small stones and given it all a generous coating of crushed pastel chalks of thee different colour mixes. One is a yellow ochre which closely matches the colour of the claycrete, another is yellow ochre mixed with white chalk to lighten it and a third is yellow ochre mixed with dark grey which makes it darker. You can pick up sticks of artists chalk at Hobbycraft for about £1.60 per stick and using a small pestel and moarter, this will grind down to a significant amount of chalk - about half a pot of MiG pigment, and so mixing sticks together is a very economical way to get lots of pastel chalk! I still use MiG stuff for specific colours and effects, but for large areas such as this where I am in control of the colour scheme, making the stuff yourself is much cheaper!


You can see at the far left the tracks "left" by the Spitfire wheels.


I've worked out where the accumulator trolley will sit, plus the workmen, crates and assorted gear. I'll be putting some crates into the ditch and putting up a canvas tent to cover the ditch to provide some sort of shelter... Its beginning to come together!!!


The next main job is to return to the engine and start superdetailing it...

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