I spend a great deal of time building science-fiction and fantasy kits: evocative models of things which resonate powerfully in my own thoughts, but which are still little more than ‘shadows out of mind’, if you will.
There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but every time I attempt a historical model – especially a war-themed kit – I am constantly drawn to remembering the folks who fought, suffered and even died in association such ‘things’ in reality.
It gives me real pause, and an awareness of the gravity of such things – reminding me that a modeler is doing more than simply ‘playing around’…
If you will permit the indulgence, I’d like to draw out an allusion from my own professional work here.
In Japan, the native faith, now known as Shinto holds that all things in the world are bound to spirits which define them, animate them, and give them purpose. These kami are legion, and on all levels. However, though one might imagine that this would apply to obvious things, such as people, animals, plants or sacred/elemental objects, ANY thing may be possessed of kami.
This is especially true of objects made with a purpose. Swords are imbued with spirits of war, houses are associated with various domestic kami and even models might have their own sacred elements.
Now, I might seem to be on the verge of trivializing the matter here, but I can see the point of view of the matter here. Purely on a personal level, when building historical kits, I find myself trying to become more aware of some of the little ghosts who might be attached to such ‘memento mori’.
In this case that process was made all the more potent by the fact that Wingnut Wings has included a number of known plane liveries, and some details of the associated pilot.
With that in mind, allow me to introduce you to Thomas C. R. Baker, No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (1897-1918).
When Britain was dragged into the expanding conflict which would become the First World War, her Dominions, including Australia, answered the call of the Old Country.
From the deadly sands of Gallipoli, to the bleaching heat of Egypt and the rain-sodden trenches of France, the Sons of the Far Island gave their all for the cause.
Thomas enlisted in 1915 as a member of a field artillery unit, fighting in Egypt and France, where his heroism secured him several citations and medals for courage. His dash and bravery brought him to the notice of his senior officers and eventually gave the young fan of model aircraft an opportunity to join the Australian Flying Corps – initially as an engineer.
However, owing perhaps to the hideous casualty rate in aerial combat, the forward-thinking Thomas was put forward for fighter training and moved to an active command in early 1918, where he became the pilot of a number of planes, including the Sopwith Snipe, which has been the subject of this build – Ref. E8069.
Though not the fastest aircraft in the skies, Thomas fell in love with the nippy and nimble little Snipe, and went on to score the last 5 of his 12 total kills in it, against dangerous Fokker Dr. VIIs of the day.
However, as with so many young men caught up in that conflict, Thomas was called to account.
On the 4th of November 1918, barely a week before the end of the war, he was deployed in a massive aerial wing to help keep the demoralized Germans from rallying and holding during the general retreat of that month. As part of this mission, No 4, Squadron, AFC were escorting a bomber formation home when they were jumped by a pack of Dr.VII. In the ensuing tussle to protect the retreating bombers, the Snipes of No. 4 scattered or destroyed the German craft but at the cost of three planes – in the case of Baker, probably shot down and killed by German ace, Karl Bolle.
In recognition of Thomas’ gallantry, he was posthumously awarded Distinguished Flying Cross, and remains to this day one of the most inspirational Knights of the Sky for all who have regard for flying. Those brave men, on both sides jousted in canvas and string, and perhaps with yet greater panache than their predecessors, who mounted up with horse and lance.
This was a magnificent build… Still is, in fact, as the model still needs stringing (it will be some time before I get the ‘right’ material in, and I will update the review once it has been done).
All of Wingnut Wings’ kits are crowded with interior detail. Indeed, as far as I can see, all of the cockpit details present in the original planes are reproduced in the kits offered by the company. To me, it matters not that much of this detail will, once painted and built-in, never be seen. I know…. 🙂
The level of detail on the molds in the kit is outstanding. I stress again that every spar, knot, rivet and trim seem to have been reproduced here. This level of detail plays a role in making these kits seem daunting.
That detail can also make the kit rather fragile. Indeed, in assembling this fuselage, I managed to break a couple of spars in the cockpit. I put this down to inexperience, but it is something to be aware of.
You can see here the fuselage ‘hump’ which made the Snipe such an excellent platform for a fighter. Short but stubby, and giving the pilot unrivaled visibility – the pilot could easily view across the top wings if needed.
Build-wise, I am back to pre-shading on this one. I wanted to give the effect of ribbing under the wings, so picked out the ribs with black over white, and trusted Tamiya not to turn it out a flying zebra by the end of the build.
4: Power Plant
The motor deserves special mention. If there was any doubt about the accuracy and detail in the model, it has been dispelled by this beauty of a radial plant.
5: Shading and Spraying
Using Tamiya XF series paints here, mixed half and half with X20 thinner. It took several coats to get the look I wanted, but that’s the beauty of pre-shading: building up layers of thin paint helps create depth in the final coat and turns the underlying black lines into the ‘shadows’ which I hoped they would be.
Doing a little top shading on the grey of the fuselage. Getting it all set for proper weathering.
I tried a little hand painting on the underside of the wings. I wanted to see if I could draw lines of wear in, using oils and hand brushes. Overall I am pleased with the result, but am also aware that I need more practice.
The final coat goes down on the wings. Now it is time for detailing.
I’ve been going for a worn look on this build… Well. An oily one.
It may surprise you to know how leaky and mucky these warbirds were. Early aero engines sucked up castor oil by the barrel as a lubricant and the craft quickly became slick with this material. especially around the nose.
And, yes…. I do realize that the propeller trim is anachronistic. I have no idea what I was thinking there. It has since been corrected. 😀
8: Decals and the Finished Article
The build is not far off being done, but I will not get around to it for a while. I want to get just the right stringing material, especially as this will certainly not be my last Wingnut Wings kit. As a result, I’ve not glued the wings and some other details in place, and have left off some of the other elements as well. I will update the review once completed, but this far gives you a very clear notion of the kit as a whole.
Do not be mistaken. If you like aircraft models, I’d go as far as suggesting you need at least one of these kits under your belt at some point.