Tailpiece x 3
This next was written as part of a Tailpiece many months ago, I think as part of a strongly held view on the importance of squadrons as constituant parts of an air force, and with their distinguishing emblems a necessary thread in my modelling. I hear a rumour from a Usually Reliable Source that there's a Plan for an air display later in the year Marking the fiftieth anniversay of the Tiger Meet, possibly in Belgium. For that I would isolate for fourteen days on return.
There are, as you probably know by now, a positive plethora of nooks and crannies - no spoonerisms, please - around our house into which various mementoes and souveniers have sidled over the years and from which they show a determined reluctance to emerge in spite of my pleading (as in, no pleading likely). One of these miscreants is a colour slide that I took in August or September 1955 of a sizeable painted cartoon sign outside the crewroom of D Flight (yellow tank tips) of 2 AFS at Portage le Prairie; the principal figure is that of an veteran tiger in an RCAF Wing Commander's uniform overseeing with obvious paternal, or perhaps even grandpaternal, pride a squabbling pack of black and yellow striped flight cadets. This was an obvious blatant attempt to instill in us the "Tiger Spirit", traces at least of which at least we were expected to demonstrate by the time we reached our passing-out parade. This of course was long before the Right Stuff became a desireable attribute, dating as far as aviation is concerned at least back to 1917.
The best-known in this country at least is of course 74 Squadron - hence the selection of 1917 - whose tiger's head was in use in World War I according to John Rawlings' seminal work on British fighter squadrons, always within arm's length of my workbench (oddly enough the squadron's title according to "Jeff" Jefford's RAF Squadrons, a reference of equal infallibility, is given as "Trinidad" Squadron). Given the nature of the stripey beast its reputed speed and ferocity make it an obvious symbol for a fighter, or even a pursuit, unit and many - perhaps all - major air forces have featured one over the years both figuratively and literally (it's equally applicable of course to the selected jet jockeys). The first Tiger Meet was in 1961, an informal get-together of the 79th Fighter Squadron of the USAF, who hosted the event at Woodbridge with their F-100s, the Super Mystere B2s of the Armee de l'Air's Escadrille 1/12 and 74 Squadron with their Lightning F.1s wearing the "tiger skin" markings that had dated back to 1937 when they appeared on their Gloster Gauntlets. From this beginning the basic idea snowballed into an annual event with increasing numbers of participants; gradually added to the distinctive social occasions, which included mixed formation flybys of varying success, were operational tasks not least to help persuade Authority that the Tiger Meets were relevant to the squadrons' real life functions.
In 1969, with the Meet returning to Woodbridge and the 79th, the tradition begun of a fully-decorated aircraft. I am indebted to the 2011 volume of the NATO Tiger Meet "scrapbook" for the story of how this came about, courtesy of 439 Squadron of the RCAF at Lahr; given the number of models that have appeared on show table since, it appears that the original pattern was tried out on a model before being transferred to one of their Starfighters. Something not mentioned in the year's account is the arrival of a Fiat G.91R of the Luftwaffe's LeKG.43 with a stylised fox's head - the unit's emblem - on the fin. accompanied by the words "Would you believe this is a Tiger?". this impressed the squadron sufficiently for the Germans to be "adopted" by the Tigers; I know it's true because I read it on a Modeldecal instruction sheet (13) and Dick Ward is at least as infallible as Messrs Rawlings and Jefford.
How many Tailpieces?
One of the essential talents of my - indeed our - life that I'm very good at exercising is procrastination; at a time when Older Son was taking his MBA it was suggested that I should attempt one myself with that as its principal subject, but of course I put it off. Sometimes though events conspire to make me take on a task which I know I really should have tackled all those years go - and probably several times! - and I'm now, in a period of inactivity that always seems to follow Telford no matter what goodies I've returned with, trying to to bring some sort of order to the area on and around my workbench.
As well as putting probable disposables in to large plastic trugs or, if they're on their way to peek out from under a show table, in a green Waitrose bag there's the neverending fun of deciding what should be in the long term stash sharing the far end of the garage with some of the completed models for which I've managed to find brown cardboard boxes after they've been on an outing on a What If? SIG table. An integral part of the whole process is to crystal-ball what I'm keeping for building, if not immediately at least notionally, for which I've recently managed to clear enough shelving reasonably close enough to the door to extract a box or two if and when the whim takes me. This sometimes gives me room for magazines, and although many have been consigned to The Great Oval File - and there will be more now that the nearby tip has re-opened - I have sorted some SAMs for preservation, or at least those that I can find to which I have contributed though for for an unexplained reason most of Volume 14 has gone in to hiding. In a sort of random sampling procedure I've taken an infrequent opportunity to look through a dozen or more Tailpieces of mixed vintage, where unsurprisingly a considerable number of my hobby horses have been given a fairly energetic gallop. I realised how often I repeated my themes some more than once, particularly on modelling as a communal and shared activity, and there are several expressions lifted shamelessly from my favourite authors and particularly lyric writers; for this I've always followed rigidly Tom Lehrer's precept to steal only from the best.
All together, now; well, some of us!
Many years ago, when I was in gainful employment, my immediate boss didn't like to think something had slipped his memory, and I used to open many of our briefings "You will recall...". It's always possible that some reader or two may remember that when SAM started my function was to contribute an IPMS column; my position having recently joined the committee was that of Branch Liason Officer, and therefore I thought a good use of my time and Alan Hall's offer of space was to encourage the formation of further branches. A fair amount of modelling at that period was solitary, and my theme for those who rarely got together was that enjoyment could be had in small geographic groups; at the time my memory says that there were about sixteen, fairly well spread across the country, and I'd recently formed a Berkshire branch with a core of those of us who had been meeting on a regular basis at a London pub, the highlight being a briefing by editor Bob Jones on what was expected on shelves soon, notably from Airfix. My tenure, both of the position and the IPMS column that drove it, passed as these things do, but I persuaded Alan that I should continue writing a column with a chance to express my views; principal among these were that it was possible to continue modelling when surround by cats and family, and that sharing it with other plastically-inclined modellers - this was before resin became widespread and when wood raised bushy eyebrows - should still be an integral part of the hobby.
I'm not sure how long it's been since I finished with Tailpiece in SAM, but the thoughts and feelings behind it persist, even though the family have left - although one is still modelling - and we're down to one cat, who shares my propensity for dozing in the afternoon. The number of IPMS Branches and their offspring the Special Interest Groups have incresed immeasurably as can be seen any year, given the chance, at the National Championships, - oh all right, ScaleModelWorld - though this year the opportunity seems increasingly unlikely. The inability to meet others during the lockdown has has become incresingly frustrating, as it must have been for anyone whose hobbies or pursuits are improved with people contact, and from a selfish view this has been increased for me by an April made up of four weeks without e-mail service, not the least the continuing sagas of SIG144!. Fortunately this particular blight did not effect the link with the website - any lack of contact through that was totally self-inflicted but shreds of my act are gradually coming together. There are even fragments of my mojo which are starting to cling together for mutual support.
If you have any household gods, in whatever material and shape, please encourage them to use their arts to bring ScaleModelWorld to pass this year!
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