I'm not sure it's quite proper to have two picks at a time, but like "Cold War Shield" this kit was inevitably going to be a candidate before it was formally announced. You may remember the considerable enjoyment I had with the "Vickers Giant Bomber" when Fantastic Plastic put out the kit a year ago. partly because of the quality of the Anigrand castings but also because I'd really liked the aircraft when illustrations and details appeared in Tony Buttler's "British Jet Bombers"; I was equally attracted to a subject in the fighter volume and I did try to kitbash one, which Dominic - who knows my habits - recalls as involving bits of Starfighter, Vigilante, Viggen and Lightning. I've been describing it recently as the ugliest British jet fighter ever designed and you can understand my delight when the California/Hong Kong team announced the kit of the Supermarine 559, especially in 1:72nd.
It is a big beast; the two little "Shrews" flanking it on the Welcolme page are only the size of Spitfires. It's only recently that I've realised that it was two be a two-seater and it's rather longer, if not quite as wide, as a Javelin; with the two Gyrons and two Spectres with which it was designed this would have been amazingly unharmonious with or without the pair of Red Hebe missiles producing serious drag. In spite of its size there are not many pieces; two hollow fuselage halves, two wing halves each with an endplate vertical tail and a brace of canard fore planes comprise the list of major parts. The long "radome" is accompanied by undercarriage parts and doors, two rather small bang seats and an instrument panel, to which I've added some trimmed Modeldecal dials. The fit is incredibly good - I've found no better resin caster than Anigrand - and while I've been using Loctite gel for many years I've just come across their "pen" applicator and found that it fits my fingers and needs very well. The tabs on the flying surfaces are cunningly designed to make sure they fit correctly to port and starboard; when I did my first test fit I got it wrong because I assumed wrongly that the actuator fairings would be below the wings rather on top, but reference to the relevant Tony Buttler book put me right. This also showed that the two canard surfaces had very slight dihedral.
From the first announcement I was pretty sure that I'd go for a "multi-buy" - of which HMRC took shameless advantage - and absolutely sure that the first would be 74 Squadron's contribution to the 1977 Tiger Meet sponsored by the 79th and with the participants assembled at Greenham Common for the IAT; to quote Max Boyce, I know because because I was there! The decoration was as so often by courtesy of Modeldecal, with contributions from Xtradecal, but the serials were from the decals in the kit. The "wings" on the Red Hebe, an enormous device that might have been one of the design features that Their Airships found unconvincing, seemed a good place to put the feline striping given that I wanted to put the tiger's head on the fin. I much prefer to name my What Ifs? - or perhaps What should have beens - and I'm not really convinced about "Spearpoint" though it does sound more bellicose than "Shrew" ( but then that wasn't my suggestion). Its arrival following my run of Supermarine 327s is sheer coincidence and as you can see there's no family resemblance.
As with so many of my kit choices it's sent me back to the book; as with the crew and the foreplanes I've added to what I discovered I needed to know, and it's always a pleasure to read Tony Buttler. There will of course be more; the second is almost ready for it's chosen markings and I've found suitable decals for the third. Well I think they're suitable anyway, and you can disagree with me at Telford. The design of the kit, and the aircraft though this may not have been Vickers' priority, make it simple to assemble in a short time, especially for the modeller with eroding capabilities; I'm very grateful for those who have made it possible for me to get this far, and hopefully further, without overfeeding the carpet monster.
There is inevitably something af a series about most of my selections for this page, with their subjects being those close to my heart in both my personal and modelling interests; this is the third of Roger Lindsay's masterworks on the RAF's fighters and their units of the days of what has now become my somewhat distant youth, and if I had to reduce my reference library drastically they would form one of its two remaining, and well-thumbed, cores. As with the first two volumes the cover tells you exactly what to expect both verbally and pictorially; the four principal subjects are listed, and the flight of three are 43 Squadron Hunter F.1s. It gives me great personal pleasure to see their straight leading edges, even if at this time they were still having problems firing their Adens and flying for more than thirty-five minutes was pushing it a bit! We are fortunate in having aviation enthusiasts, several of whom belonged to the Roal Observer Corps, who having pursued their/our collective hobby through the 'fifties and 'sixties recording and absorbing their observations have been able to draw on and collate these memories from when "spotting" was to some extent at least respectable, and of these Roger Lindsay is a foremost example.
A brief scene-setting introduction includes maps of the Fighter Command and 2TAF airfields of the period, and a few photos of some of the opposition; there's a brief section on the camouflage and markings of the four types covered helping to reassure modelling readers before beginning the individual detail sections - and I do mean detail! - of the aircraft and their unit, leading with the Swift. Each type is covered by command, squadron and chronology with profuse illustration in black and white (colour comes later) and with very detailed histories of unit, its people and its markings, with tables of its commanders - alright, bosses - and individual aircraft with code and serial. Many of the photos are of squadron groups, with an astonishing number of the aircrew named. This meticulous attention to individuals is reflected in the accounts of the events in which the units were involved .
The Hunter coverage is, not surprisingly, as big as a book on its own and shows the comparitively lage number of units that flew the early "non-dogtooth" marks before the bigger Avons came along. Yes, of course I'm prejudiced, and I'm very appreciativee - smug? - of the comments on 67 and XF317. This section, and that on the Javelin, are illustrative both literally and metaphorically of how our air defence assets shrank by the mid-sixties (Lightning coverage goes as far as the F.3/T.4 era), and this is emphasised by the Orders of Battle for April 1957 and December 1960. Support and second line units such as Central Fighter Establishment and Fighter Weapons School are included, and there's a list of Hunters "owned" and suitably marked by Squadron Leaders and Wing Commanders.
As with Volumes One and Two the colour is gathered together at the end of the book, showing the increasingly widespread use of colour film during ths period; these are followed by nine pages of colour profiles by Mark Gauntlett and I'm very pleased to see by Dave Howley, another who worked and recorded all through this era. The period covered by the three volumes has shown the re-intrduction of "fighter bars", the increasing colourful markings that were an instant identification of unit identity and treasured by observers and modellers alike, and now appear to be lost to "stealth"; Alan Carlaw has contributed fifty-four of these in colour on the last two pages, in themselves an invaluable reference.
If these were a single volume it would be my immediate choice for my desert island exile; they period and subject that they cover are integral to many memories of the time, and the subsequent backbone of my major interest and hobby. The research and compilation that Roger Lindsay has put in to this series illustrates his own profound personal interest, as well as the astonishing ability to put it all together, and while it's nearly ten years since the first of the volumes appeared its genesis at least must have been right back st the genesis of the period they cover. The length of his list of acknowledgements is an indication of the breadth of his ability to gather and marshal the vast amout on information that those of us who are "historical nitpickers" - Roger Bacon's splendid and very accurate expression - expect and rely on. Every one of us who picks this up will read and make use of it in our own way, and to each of us it will give enormous pleasure, and regret. My thanks, Roger, and admiration.
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