Tag Archives: Airfix Model Kits

A Life in a Year – 31st December, Top Ten Blogs of 2011 (1)

At the end of another year of blogging in which I have managed a posting every day I was interested to see which blog posts received the highest number of hits:

No. 1

1957 – a Sister, Spaghetti, Scouting, Sputnik and Stanley Matthews

4,183 hits.  It seems that people have a continuing curiosity and interest in Robert Baden-Powell and the Boy Scout Movement which is what seems to bring visitors to this particular blog entry.

No. 2

Travel Journal

1,900 hits.  This is a simple link to my Travel Blog ‘Have Bag, Will Travel’

No 3

1955 – Polio, McDonalds and Disneyland

1,900 hits.  There is a lot of interest in the restaurant chain McDonalds and I think that is what brings people here.

No 4

A Life in a Year – 14th January, Henry Ford invents the Hamburger

1,860 hits.  This is another post about the McDonald brothers who started the restaurant chain in San Bernadino in California.

No. 5

A Life in a Year – 4th June, Naturism and Health and Efficiency Magazine

1,775 hits.  It would appear that a lot of people have a healthy interest in taking their clothes off on the beach and trying some natural sun bathing! I removed the pictures of the naked people because that is not the reason that I want people to visit the blog.

No. 6

1966 – Pickles the Dog and the Football World Cup

1,670 hits.  One of my favourites and a nice but rather bizarre story about how Pickles the dog discovered the stolen World Cup Trophy in 1966.

No. 7

A Life in a Year – 26th May, The European Flag

1,660 hits.  I can offer no explanation as to why this post has had so many visits.

No. 8

1956 – Suez, The Cold War, Airfix and Clean Air

1,520 hits. My story of 1956 seen through World news items. I think web surfers get to this page when reminiscing about Airfix model kits.

No. 9

A Life in a Year – 7th February, Monopoly and other Board (or Bored) Games

1,370 hits.  My recollections about the board (bored) game Monopoly which some enthusiasts did not appreciate!

No. 10

1967 – Che Guevara, Torrey Canyon and Francis Chichester

1,360 hits. A bit of a mystery to me, maybe the myth of Che Guevara just refuses to go away?

The Spitfire, The Hurricane and Airfix Model Kits

Although the Spitfire is probably the most famous and the most recognisable of all the British planes used by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War the Hurricane was in fact the principal fighter in the Battle of Britain and not the Spitfire as most people think.  In 1940 there were thirty-two squadrons with Hurricanes and only nineteen squadrons of Spitfires.  They looked similar but there were differences between them and they complimented each other and worked closely together to shoot down enemy aircraft.   The quicker Spitfires were best for engaging the Luftwaffe’s fighter planes, like the Messerschmitt, whilst the Hurricanes took on the fleets of bombers like the Junkers and Heinkels.

I can tell the difference between them because when I was a boy I used to like making model aircraft from Airfix self-assembly kits.  The Spitfire was much better looking with sleek elliptical wings, a slim body and a long raking nose.  The Hurricane was chunkier with a higher cockpit and stumpy little wings.  My first Airfix kit was the Hawker Hurricane and I have to say that after that it was always my favourite of the two.

In the beginning Airfix was sold in F.W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd.  for two shillings (that’s 10p today) and the first in the range, in 1952, was a very small scale model of Francis Drake’s ship the Golden Hind.  It was so successful that Woolworths than began to ask for additions to the range and soon Airfix began to produce more polybagged model kits.   The famous duck-egg blue Spitfire model appeared in 1953.

An Airfix kit was notoriously difficult to assemble and the only absolute certainty was that once it was finished it definitely wouldn’t look anything like the picture on the box.  Getting the fuselage and the wings snapped together was usually a fairly straightforward procedure but things quickly became increasingly complicated after that, with fiddly little bits and pieces that required huge dexterity, great precision and unnatural amounts of patience to position into exactly the right place.  I was often a bit over eager at this stage and would prematurely glue the obvious parts together without reading the instructions properly and then realise that some of the fiddly bits needed to be planned for and carried out before the larger bits were put together.  Two good examples of this were the propeller on the Spitfire and the tail gunner’s position on the back of the Lancaster bomber which would only turn or swivel as intended if placed in position before permanently attaching the fuselage section together.

What made things especially difficult was the Humbrol plastic cement glue with its curious smell and a habit of exuding the tube nozzle in far greater quantities of stringy ooze than you could ever possibly need for such a delicate operation and it would end up in sticky white flakes on the end of your fingers or big dollops on the dining room table that would strip the varnish off and end up in a telling off.   I always found the gluing together part of the operation especially tricky when finally putting the cock-pit window into position at the end and my model was always left with smears on the plexi-glass that if this was a real plane would have made it virtually impossible for the pilot to see where he was flying.  And thinking about the pilot, one of the most irritating things was to discover that I had got the cockpit in place and the whole thing finished before I had placed the pilot into his seat and there he was rattling around in the bottom of the box along with all of the bits of discarded plastic and the double sided page of incomprehensible assembly instructions.

After the gluing together stage came the painting and this was an equally messy affair with paint dribbling down the fuselage, bits of wool and hair getting stuck on the model and fingerprints in various places where I had tried in vain to rectify the damage.  Most of the damage was done because I was naturally impatient.  Paint came in little tins and it was sensible to let one colour dry before applying the second but I rarely had enough time for that which mostly led to disastrous results.  Finally there was the delicate process of applying the decals which had to be separated from the backing paper by soaking in water and then requiring a most delicate touch to manoeuver them carefully into position on the fuselage and the wings.  Sometimes if I was lucky they could be used to cover up the dodgy paintwork but mostly they would end up on first contact in the wrong place and crease and tear as I tried to correct the error.

I finished the Hurricane and the Lancaster to some sort of messy sub-standard but I can recall making such a catastrophe of a bright red Westland Lysander that as soon as it was completed I was so ashamed of it that I immediately consigned it to the bin.

Airfix was also popular in the United States, France and Germany, but here the swastika transfers on Heinkels and Messerschmitts were banned.

Airfix model aircraft were an important part of my childhood in the days before computer games and a really significant thing about Airfix was that it taught important life skills like reading assembly instructions that were as deeply impenetrable as the Amazon rainforest and which were useful later in life for dealing with flat-pack furniture assembly.