Big Red

One of the attractions in writing for Airfix Model World, is not knowing quite what might be heading down the ‘next project pipe’ that points in my direction. When you’ve just dressed up the big Tamiya Mosquito with a selection of brass and resin, why would Airfix’s 1/72 Autocar and F1 fuel trailer in civilian ‘Esso’ guise, seem a likely choice?

And therein lies the joy – a sharp change of pace, a departure (at least in part) from weathering and the chance to re-visit a kit previously built in US military service and refine it some.

The results are out now in the September edition of AMW.

 

AMW Sept 17

 

 

 

Bad Wolf

 

 

Airfix 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I

Mask-meister Mal Mayfield joins the guest list today with his diminutive Spitfire Mk.I from the Airfix revised tooling. Mal has championed the cause of masks over decals for many years and can be rightly considered the hobby’s number one choice for custom masks.

His top drawer skills are married to his preferred choice of masking material, a closely guarded secret for its ability to be cut in fine, intricate patterns, without shrinkage (a common problem with other vinyl options). Mal has created many bespoke masking sets for modellers that appreciate being able to apply the finishing markings just as they were created on the full size originals. Of course, it’s one thing to have the mask creation aspect sorted, you also need instructions…and Mal’s must be among the most explicitly clear and comprehensive you’ll find anywhere.

I’ve used home spun masks myself in 1/72 and am long since sold on the inherent superiority of paint over decals. With several of Mal’s sets in the bunker, I can’t wait to re-visit the pleasure they provide, when you sit back and enjoy the results.

In Mal’s own words.

“Spitfire Mk I, K9998 QJ-K, the 211th Spitfire built out of the first order for 212. Pilot was Geoffrey Wellum, the youngest pilot to fly spitfires during the Battle of Britain and this was the first Spitfire that he flew. All markings are painted on (of course).

Geoffrey Wellum lives just up the road from me and I have had a conversation with him about this spitfire and I am currently building a 1/32 scale version which will incorporate the details that he has told me about. Actually it will be the second one that I have built as the first one is wrong; that one resides in the Mullion heritage centre.

This aircraft still had the pole type antenna, so this model is wrong in that respect, it also still retained the pump up undercarriage mechanism. Geoffrey Wellum mentions this in his book, “First Light” which is a great read and I have a signed copy.”

 

Bad Wolf

Airfix 1/24 ‘Car Door’ Hawker Typhoon

From an entirely personal perspective, it was a real pleasure, some two years on from 2014, to have witnessed modellers around the globe produce numerous beautiful builds of Airfix’s epic Typhoon, while in tandem with this, the aftermarket industry had diligently added more and more goodies to augment and enhance an already ground breaking kit.

There was little surprise in 2016 therefore, when the long expected news finally broke from the Airfix camp – their astonishing ‘bubble top’ Hawker Typhoon was to be revamped as a ‘car door’ production and added to their 1/24 range. This was great news to me for three reasons; the ‘car door’ configuration allowed vastly better visual access to the cockpit than the ‘slider’ version, rewarding any and all extra time spent further detailing this area. Then there was the quirky, quintessentially British design and appearance of the early Tiffie, particularly around the driver’s part of the airframe. Finally, I was hoping Chris would offer the pre-production sample to Castle Croydon, as my appetite for another Typhoon banquet was fairly raging! Happily he did, when we spoke at Scale Model World in 2015.

The subject of schemes naturally arose and I mentioned that for me, there was only one game in town – it really had to be one of the three aircraft sent to North Africa for filter trials in 1943. The notion of that wide expanse of plastic, smothered in Dark Earth, Middle Stone and Azure Blue was compelling, particularly as a contrast to the European scheme on the test shot I’d built in 2014. Xtradecal cemented things with their lovely sheet, X24002, that included ‘DN323’, one of three airframes I was considering. As was the case with the ‘bubble top’ Typhoon, Chris Thomas (‘Mr Typhoon’) was once again a huge and pivotal help in this project and sent me over the following images of DN323.

At Boscombe Down, 1943 – immediately before being crated up for Africa.

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Before application of the individual aircraft letter.

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After application of the individual aircraft letter.

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The three trials aircraft garaged outside in North Africa, 1943.

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When the trials ended in October 1943, DN323 was repainted in what looks like the standard European scheme, before being repatriated back to Britain.

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The sprues included a new turtle deck and other parts specific to the ‘car door’. The original fuselage needs the appropriate plastic removed to allow the new deck in and the amount of plastic to eliminate is clearly delineated. Subsequent fit of the replacement deck was nigh on perfect.

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The lower wing is a fine, purpose made jig for the dry alignment of the spars, cockpit tubing and bulkhead / firewall before resorting to glue. This way, the core structure can be assembled accurately, preventing fit issues further down the build.

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The cockpit tubing was ‘beaten up’ via dry-sponging in Humbrol 66 Dark Grey, with random Humbrol lighter greys and a little of their silver. This broke up the finish suitably but in truth, the lower tubes become barely visible even with a cockpit door open.

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Eduard’s interior etch and Airscale’s lovely decal set were used en masse, together with some wiring to the column.

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The early style pilot’s seat was undercoated in Tamiya Black, then protected with Johnson’s Klear. Once overcoated with Tamiya Sky Grey and then AK Interactive’s Worn Effects, the paint was attacked with a quarter inch chisel brush with fairly stiff bristles. This chipped the paint some but the range of tones was deemed insufficient, so a further quick application of Tamiya Sky Grey and Worn Effects was laid over, obscuring the existing chips some 50% – it was NOT re-applied as a solid colour coat. More wet scrubbing left the seat exactly as I wanted it.

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Radu Brinzan etch and Roy Sutherland resin carb cone adorn the radiator.

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With careful preparation, your new turtle deck will fit exactly. Please be aware that most car doors had the anti-collision beacon (clear part 06) fitted. Check your references; there is a hole under Z22 (the new turtle deck) to be drilled out for the beacon to fit through – the item was missed out of the instructions and it seems there is no errata slip in the production kits. 45.jpg

Despite queries to Chris Thomas and extensive personal scrutiny of records at the National Archives in Kew, England, no photographs of the ‘wet type’ under fuselage air filter ultimately used in the North African trials were found. I believe the ‘dry type’ filters readily caught fire through fuel running back down the inlet system. The ‘wet type’ somehow obviated this, although I have no information to explain how. The actual filter was likely longer than that seen here (which was confiscated from the ‘bubble top’ kit), as an easy expedient for readers as well as myself!

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Who could resist ‘winding down’ one of the windows, when you’re on a tight ten week build schedule, realise the clear plastic is brittle and only have one set of clear parts? Taking a deep breath, it was a tweak too inviting to resist and just looks so cool. Airfix don’t provide door winders, so these were cobbled together from a punch and die set and plastic strip.

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Both uppers and lowers were ‘scribbled’ with the airbrush, in the wake of laying in the base colours. This simple technique was first advertised by the author in early 2008, in an article published on Hyperscale. It has since been dubbed ‘mottling’ and other terms but the principles are the same – one to three lightened mixes of the base colour at 20% colour to 80% thinner are ‘scribbled’ over the base.

Imagine trying to get an errant biro working again, as you scribble it randomly on paper – this is the basic action. It’s important to let go of conscious control; you can even write names, words, phrases as you go; the paint is so thin you will (or should) only get trace marks where lines intersect. Scribble in 10-20 second bursts. If marks are too prominent, simply drift a 20% mix of the base colour over the top, to knock it back. Once the lightened tones are on, apply one to three darker mixes as above.

You can also use other colours of course but application remains the same. Work in layers, building up the effects slowly. Above all, avoid following geometric structures, panel lines and so forth – be ‘organic’. By all means follow rules of sun and weather exposure, as well as gravity and so forth but don’t wind up with any geometric symmetry.

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The uppers ‘scribbled’ in three stages.

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Decals in full swing.

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The only thing I had no access to at the point I reached this stage, was any imaging of the door limiter. There is now a dedicated ‘car door’ Eduard set that includes the guide rail I believe.

The second photo below was passed to me after all was signed, sealed and delivered!

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Some useful details – note the ‘edged’ window glass.

Car door window

This was another Tiffie that swallowed the whole ten weeks I had to expend on it. The pleasure on its completion was even greater than that of the ‘bubble top’. I guess the advantage of knowing what the kit required, made dealing with the parts that differed easy. It was also great to go full tilt at the cockpit and be able to appreciate it through the open door.

On the bench, immediately following completion.

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Out on the flight line. The model now resides with my earlier ‘bubble top’ build at the Airfix Visitor Centre, in Margate.

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Issue 70 of AMW – available through the Key Publishing Shop or Airfix Model World links in the sidebar on the right.

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Airfix 1/24 Hawker Typhoon ‘bubble top’

I think I’d completed three prior builds for Airfix Model World, when Chris Clifford rang me in the Autumn of 2013 to say he had something that he thought would be ‘right up my street’ and ‘would I be interested’. I asked what it was and was told it was a secret that he was unable to divulge at that time, so I did what you never do in the army and volunteered.

As Scale Model World at Telford approached, I was climbing out of my own skin not knowing what the deal was, until finally Chris was able to divulge that Airfix were set to release a brand new ‘super kit’ of the Hawker Typhoon in 1/24. The significance of the kit was two-fold; it was to mark Airfix’s 75th year in business and as a tribute to the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Chris added that the kit’s detail broke new ground and set new standards of production; most significantly, he added that test builds would be on show at Telford.

That clinched the trip to SMW that year and I met the kit and numerous sprues in person, together with the crowds who thronged round the Airfix stand in open mouthed amazement at the complexity and detail on show. I was staggered too. I’d not seen anything like it. I had a bit of a chat to Simon Owen, the designer, a disconcertingly youthful guy, full of charm and brimming with enthusiasm for ‘his’ baby, displayed in various stages of undress around the Airfix stand. “Can’t wait to see the first one fully painted up!” he said to me at the close of our chat. ‘You and me both’ I thought as I wondered how long I’d have to build it. The following January I found out.

Two complete kits turned up at Castle Croydon (in case of mishap – they were clearly warned about me in advance). Chris asked for a ‘flight line’ ready model in ten weeks. I looked at the 230 odd construction steps. I looked at the calendar. It seemed impossible to fit the one into the other but Chris made it clear that ten weeks was all there was, so I added that pressure to the expectations of the Airfix management and design team that I’d do justice to their 75th anniversary baby. I told Chris I felt like I was atop a pyramid. Below me was Chris and the AMW production team, beneath them was the whole of Airfix and Hornby and at the base, the thousands of modellers world wide who were panting to see the Tiffie finished, published and released as a full production kit. I’ve never felt more alone but I nonetheless knuckled down, chopped up my time and set way points where I knew I had to be to complete the thing on schedule.

Typhoon supplement cover

I grew up on Airfix kits – the bagged ones with the card headers. I remember I would literally run to the shop on the green every Friday, pocket money tightly gripped in hand.
I’d then trot home with my prize and rapidly translate the parts into a Beaufighter that did sterling duty over the channel or a Mk IX Spitfire that knocked lumps off the 109G-6, that it routinely shot down innumerable times or anyone of more kits than memory can now recall. Happy days, steeped for the most part in Airfix plastic; although Frog, Revell and Monogram all made cameo appearances from time to time.

As I sat at the bench, the sprues hung from pins in the wall shelving, I smiled to think of what the small boy would have said to be told that one day he’d get to play with the biggest Airfix gig in their 75 year history.

The amazing ‘oil canning’ achieved in the moulding.

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The key to Typhoon happiness is to use the the lower wing section as a jig to align the spars, which in turn brings everything else into line. At that point, with everything dry fitted, you can set it all with glue.

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Airscale decals were a life saver, given that no kit decals were available. I was happy to ‘loan’ the spare IP bits to Peter Castle at Airscale, so he could finalise a dedicated set to coincide with the kit’s production release.

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Heavy metal. Michael Harding black oil paint was used in thin washes to patina the metal. The MH oils have hand ground pigments – much superior to other brands.

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The gun bays do not contain any variant of ‘zinc chromate yellow’ – something I can attest to, having seen inside unrestored bays on the real machine.

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The build consumed industrial quantities of masking tape. The long, thin strips ensured square application of the fuselage D-Day stripes.

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With the main paint and D-Day stripes in place on the model, it was time for decals.

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The model was finished on the last day of the ten week schedule and it was a source of huge pleasure to see it done.

The model was requested by Airfix for display at the Visitor Centre in Margate. I was happy to deliver it to its new home in exchange for a production kit. The model had an appearance on tv, When Simon Owen was interviewed about it.

Sam and my Tiffie

On the flight line.

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The kit was greeted with wild enthusiasm around the globe and with the parts breakdown clearly indicating a ‘car door’ version was in the offing, I crossed my fingers and waited…

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Nicolson’s ‘Red Devil’

NICHOLSON-VC

Among aviation enthusiasts the account of James Nicolson’s Victoria Cross action on August 16, 1940, is both well known and greatly admired. His Mk.I Hawker Hurricane ‘GN-A’ has been modelled in the popular scales on innumerable occasions and debate about the starboard orientation of the squadron code and individual aircraft letter has bounced back and forth for many years and even today remains contentious for many (more on that latter).

I was approached by editor Chris Clifford in the latter part of 2014, who advised in confidence that Airfix would mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain the following year with brand new 1/48 kits of several RAF airfield support vehicles, along with a Spitfire Mk.I and Hurricane Mk.I. For a lifetime student of the conflict, raised on a diet of mainly Airfix plastic, to be asked to take on the project was a great privilege and I felt a keen sense of excited anticipation in starting them for the intended supplement scheduled for the March 2015 issue of Airfix Model World (AMW).

Chris asked my intentions in respect of markings for the two aircraft and when I broached the Hurricane I explained there was only one game in town for me – Nick’s VC winning Hurricane. So, when the test shots turned up at Castle Croydon the decal bank was rapidly raided for Aviaeology’s ‘Vital Storm’ sheet part 2 (AOD 48007.2), followed up with some research to make a decision in respect of that thorny starboard codes question and suitably armed, I ploughed into the plastic…

GN-A

With the dust settled on the five builds and the images and text safely with Chris, I naturally assumed that that was the end of it and turned my attention to pastures new. I couldn’t have been more mistaken or pleasantly surprised when Chris unexpectedly rang me and said ‘You’ll never guess who I’ve had an email from?!’ – he was right; I didn’t and was sincerely taken aback when Chris revealed he’d been contacted by Jim Nicolson, nephew of James Nicolson VC, who’d kindly expressed pleasure to have discovered his uncle’s exploits were in the (then) current edition of AMW he’d picked up and read, while waiting for a flight out of Luton airport.

Jim’s email to Chris, February 23, 2015 is reproduced here –

“Dear Chris,

As I modeller who has been bashing kits for over fifty years, I wanted to say how much I really enjoyed the March edition, especially the Battle of Britain Supplement. It was one of the best editions I can remember, even better that the edition in 1965 when I had a letter published!

I especially enjoyed Steve Budd’s excellent article describing his build of the Hurricane flown by my uncle James Nicolson,VC. I am very much looking forward to building the new Airfix Hurricane using the same Aviaeology’s decals. I also have the same sheet in 1/24th to do the same with the larger scale Airfix kit I have in the loft.

I thought you and Steve might be interested to know that, according to his widow, my uncle apparently had a red devil figure painted on the nose of P3576. I spoke at length to her prior to her passing a few years ago and sadly have no further details of what it looked like. As Steve rightly says, there are no photographs of his particular machine. You may also know that the uniform he was wearing is displayed at the Tangmere Air Museum? On the display case there is a red devil figure, but it looks suspiciously like the image I have seen used by a bomber Geschwader!?

The last reissue of the old Gladiator model, prior to the excellent version now available, was issued as K6142, a plane he flew often when in 72 Squadron, as well as K6140. There is a phot of both aircraft in close formation in Peter Mason’s book “Nicolson VC”.

Also, that he flew K9942, the oldest surviving Spitfire, now displayed at RAF Cosford. You may know his medals are on display in the Battle of Britain Museum at RAF Hendon? They are a bit tucked away on the mezzanine floor.

Lastly, I also enjoyed Steve’s Spitfire build and noticed it had the same codes as another machine which tragically crashed in bad weather in the foothills of Ben Nevis. I attach a photo of the memorial at the site of the crash.

Sorry to have gone on so long! I would be grateful if you could please forward this email to Steve to thank him for such inspiring articles,

With best wishes,

Jim Nicolson”

I was simultaneously thankful for the kind endorsement of Jim and at the same time, deeply intrigued by his mention of ‘Red Devil’ artwork on ‘GN-A’ during the action on August 16, 1940, when his uncle won the VC. I resolved then to try and uncover whatever facts might still be extant about the ‘Red Devil’ revelation, knowing that I had seen many renditions of ‘GN-A’ in model form over the years but never with such artwork. The hunt was very much on…

The search objectives were straightforward – was there such an emblem on Nicolson’s Hurricane on and prior to August 16, 1940 and what did it actually look like?

Given the absence of the ‘Red Devil’ emblem on the Aviaeology decal sheet I’d used in the Hurricane build, I contacted Terry Higgins at the company, who confirmed that he had no knowledge of such a thing either.

Dialogue with Jim (a really lovely guy) revealed that he’d visited JBN’s widow, Muriel many times before she died, who had told him of a letter JBN had written to her in 1940, prior to the VC engagement on August 16, 1940 in which ‘Nick’ mentioned that he’d had a ‘red devil’ emblem painted on his Hurricane. Jim confirmed that Muriel’s mind was sharp as a tack and that he regarded her recollection as entirely accurate.

Jim also disclosed to me during our initial contact, that JBN’s uniform and Mae West were on display at the Tangmere Museum of Aviation and that there was a red devil emblem to one side of the display case, which he speculated, was possibly a German bomber Geschwader symbol. I was curious about that, as JBN’s only known ‘kill’ was the Bf110 he took down over Southampton. Given that the ‘110’ was not a ‘bomber’ per se, I couldn’t personally see what relevance to the Tangmere display might lay in an arbitrary German symbol, so with that in mind, ‘parked’ those thoughts temporarily.

In essence, I guess I’d reached ‘critical mass’ at this point and was doubly determined to ‘chase down’ this elusive red devil that I’d never previously seen appear on any decal sheet or any finished model that I was aware of. First order of business then, was to Google it to a standstill and happily a particular enquiry phrase threw up a comment by one Andy Saunders, on Key Publishing’s aviation forum way back in 2009, that the emblem was ‘…a detail often overlooked’.

Next up, was some background checking on Andy (who, to my everlasting shame, I had never heard of before) that quickly revealed him as a respected aviation historian, who had worked on some very notable restoration projects, among them ‘Guy Martin’s Spitfire’, so I did the next logical thing and emailed him to ascertain the source of his assertion in 2009. He was just off on a project for three weeks, so there it rested. I picked up threads with Andy on his return and a short while later he dropped back to me and attached to his email was a scan of an IPMS article drawn up by the late Doris Reeves and illustrated by Gary Davidson both from the Souders-Earhart chapter of the IPMS in the USA – the piece having appeared in ‘Wings and Wheels’ sometime before Doris passed away in 2000. Entitled “Heroic Hurricane”, it included a port side profile drawing of ‘GN-A’ and a detail illustration of the red devil emblem. The narrative made mention of having been derived from the November 30, 1940 article in the now defunct Illustrated London News (ILN).

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The ILN piece, it turned out, was a double page centre spread, dominated by a painting by noted war artist, Bryan De Grineau and endorsed with the statement “Specially drawn for the Illustrated London News by our special artist Bryan De Grineau from details personally supplied by Flight Lieut. Nicolson VC”.

The narrative itself included “On the side of his ‘Hurricane’ he carries as a symbol a little devil making a defiant gesture”. This material, together with Muriel’s personal testimony eradicated any doubt that there was indeed, such a symbol in Nick’s Hurricane on August 16, 1940. What remained, was to establish, as far as might be possible without photographs, what the emblem actually looked like.

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It’s perhaps useful to add here that my discussions with Jim Nicolson revealed that Tom Neil advised him that ‘Nick’ caused some degree of irritation on 249 due to his ‘fastidious’ approach to things and always wanting them to be ‘right’.

According to Jim, (who has the actual telegram and one ‘Nick’ sent to Muriel, his wife, on being told he would receive the VC) Nicolson dictated a telegram to a policeman by the roadside immediately after being shot down (as well as having been shot twice in the backside and legs by the Home Guard, who mistook him for a German airman as he hung under his parachute!). He is reported as having given the police officer ‘a rocket’ for adding an ‘h’ erroneously to his surname. Fastidious indeed – badly burnt, with shotgun injuries, he was still intent on ensuring his name was recorded accurately. I mention this, as ‘Nick’ would not have ‘signed off’ on the ILN material without first checking its veracity.

So, back in research mode, the emblem on the cabinet at Tangmere clearly matched that in the Souders-Earhart article and further background checks then revealed that Andy Saunders was actually the founder of the Tangmere Museum (something else I wasn’t aware of). It was clear therefore that the origin of the Tangmere painting had to be established and so I picked up with Andy again. He kindly verified that he had indeed commissioned his friend, the now late Michael Payne, to paint the emblem and that the Souders-Earhart article was indeed the source of it.

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I then felt compelled to examine the ILN edition myself and lashed £33.50 (putting my money where my mouth is) for an original example from the publishing date. It tallied with the Souders-Earhart article and the outcome was shared with Terry Higgins at Aviaeology. I asked if he would in consequence revise his decal presentation to include the red devil and happily, he kindly agreed to do so, in 1/72, 1/48 and 1/24, crediting the new sheets by mentioning Andy Saunders, Jim Nicolson and myself in the new print run. That then represented what I thought was the conclusion of my investigations and enquiries, that were obviously driven from a modelling perspective. As you might imagine, I was pretty content at the fact that I’d taken Jim’s email ‘aside’ and reunited in my mind, the pieces of an aspect of aviation history that had become separated and ‘lost’ (and had zero cognisance among the world wide modelling community, despite the IPMS article) and that it all pertained to one of my great heroes…but there was more to come and it really was truly unexpected.

I was touring Facebook a little over a month later when I tripped over a three quarter frontal shot of a Eurofighter Typhoon in dark earth and dark green. On its flank was what looked like ‘GN-A’.

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I emailed Jim to ask if he knew about it – he didn’t and as someone who regularly gives illustrated talks about Nick, was very excited by this and keen to know more, so I lapsed back into research mode again and traced the Tiffie to Coningsby. After a couple of transfers I ended up with Yvonne Masters in their Media Comms Office. I explained my Airfix Model World role and my contact with Jim and asked if they had a Nicolson tribute aircraft. Yvonne confirmed that they did and we spoke about it for quite a while, during which (surprise, surprise) I mentioned the matter of the red devil emblem and that I would share the material more particularly mentioned above with them. As the conversation wound down, Yvonne added that there was going to be an official press unveiling on Thursday 21 May. I suggested they’d benefit from having Jim and his Nicolson artefacts present on the day and gently added the only way of avoiding listening to a grown man cry was to consent to my attending too and happily ‘The Angel of Coningsby’ gave it her blessing.

I duly forwarded my evidence to Yvonne and formally requested that the RAF place Nicolson’s emblem (as depicted on the painting at Tangmere) on their Tiffie as a further mark of respect to Nicolson. This, I was advised, initially went to the SEngO of 29® Squadron, who I now know to be Bryn Kirby, who helped begin the process of examining my application. Well, the correspondence naturally flowed between Coningsby, me, Jim, Andy and Chris, until I spoke to Yvonne again and pressed her about the status, to which she replied that it was looking ‘98.5% certain that the emblem would be applied’. Late in the afternoon, on Wednesday of that week, the day before the unveiling, I received an email from Coningsby verifying that some 75 years after Nicolson’s emblem had last appeared in the skies over Southampton, it would once again take flight. It was an emotional moment – more so when Jim and I were escorted to the aircraft on the Thursday, ahead of the press pack and saw his symbol emblazoned on the sleek Tiffie. Next to it, was stencilled “Flt. Lt. James Nicolson VC”.

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Jim Nicolson with ‘GINA’.

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I’ll never forget what that moment engendered in me. A conversation with Bryn on the apron revealed that the sign off within the RAF to my request was “…second in overall command”. Jim and I were later invited to lunch with Ben Westoby-Brooks, the synchro pair display pilot and Bryn Kirby in the officers mess and later had a very pleasant chat with Andy ‘Milli’ Millikin, current boss of the BBMF, before a tour of the hanger. A truly epic day and it was very evident to me, that Jim’s presence on the day gave a depth and focus to the event that greatly benefitted the RAF and the media in consequence. He was actually invited back for a gala dinner with senior RAF personnel and to give his famous talk about ‘Nick’ to the squadrons and personnel on base.

As I recall the details of that day, I was invited by Coningsby to write a ‘Red Devil’ press release for inclusion in the press pack given out at the official unveiling of ‘GINA’, another great honour I was happy to accept.

‘Red Devil’ press release – JBN – Word 2

Ben Westoby-Brooks

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And now, some thanks and recognition from me. First up and most definitely foremost, has to be Jim Nicolson, without whose email and ‘aside’ about the red devil, I’d never have gone galavanting off on all this in the first place or ended up at Coningsby and that leads me naturally on to Andy Saunders, who’s very kind co-operation in providing the Souders-Earhart scan and answering my many questions with patience and consummate professionalism, led me to Tangmere and the painting he commissioned. Thanks also goes to Tangmere Museum for ‘minding’ me so closely and attentively while I was on-site and for co-operating with my photography request.

So, in our own ways we all played a part in a piece of Battle of Britain aviation history but in truth, it’s not actually about Jim, Andy, Tangmere or me – it’s about James Nicolson VC and his astonishing act of bravery over Southampton in those dark days of 1940, when the Germans stood on the North French coast and planned their invasion of Britain.

In Memorium

With the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in mind, I regularly navigate the Purley Way near to where I live, either by car or motorcycle as the need dictates. Heading south, the road ascends through playing fields, past an area that once was Croydon Aerodrome, the busiest international airport in Europe in the 1920s and 30s and later a front line fighter station when the Germans stood on the French coast in that hot summer of 1940 and contemplated an invasion of Britain. A large RAF Battle of Britain memorial now stands by the road in commemoration of the events and sacrifices connected with the area. I often wonder, as I motor past, one of the hundreds of thousands who do so every year, just how many are consciously aware of what the memorial and others like it actually stand for. How many hear the sound of Merlins in their mind, imagine Hurricanes bumping across the grass at full throttle and their twisting pursuits of an enemy bent on our wholesale destruction, punctuated by the rattle of .303 machine guns. A minority I suspect.

With that thought in mind, my AMW Hurricane is dedicated to the memory of all those RAF pilots, wherever they hailed from, who fought and died selflessly in the skies above my home.

This modeller will never forget them…

From a modelling perspective and as was mentioned earlier, Aviaeology have since revised their excellent Hurricane decals to include the ‘Red Devil’ in 1/72, 1/48 and 1/24. Happy days. Aviaeology have an Ebay shop outlet, so if you want to (finally) model an accurate ‘GN-A’ here are direct links but given the print run is a finite thing, you’re urged to get that order in sooner rather than later.

1/72  1/48  1/24

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If you fancy rendering ‘GINA’, then Caracal Decals have what you need in 1/48.

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And what of James Nicolson VC after his heroics in 1940? He went on to attain the rank of Wing Commander and was killed on May 2, 1945 when the RAF B-24 Liberator of 355 Squadron, he was flying as an observer in, caught fire and crashed into the Bay of Bengal. Despite an extensive air sea rescue search, his body was never found. He is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial.

Postscript – In the light of all this, Chris Clifford, AMW’s editor handed me the chair for the July 2015 issue, a huge honour that gives me as much pleasure and satisfaction today, as it did then and to cap it all, I’ve been privileged to enjoy Jim’s friendship right through to this day.

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