Tuesday 28 February 2023

Desert Air: RAF Curtiss Tomahawk IIB

I have been listening to James Holland's War in the West, Volume II recently (not quite finished it yet, as it is a very long audible listen), but one of the things it really emphasised was the importance of the allied Desert Air Force in fighting the DAK. Alongside the Hurricane Mk II tank strafer was the ubiquitous American made Tomahawk (see below, the "shark's teeth" epitomised the gruff ground attack ability to destroy the Axis supply lines and bomb it's armour, a war winning contribution): 

So I am looking forward to making this, plus I class it as another bucket list build, one that I regret not making as a kid! Or rather small kid, as I am still a kid, just a big kid. 

Monday 27 February 2023

Abyss by Max Hastings - Cuban Missile Crisis: Audible

On the back of Nuclear Folly I was recommended to go and also read the Max Hasting's account of the Cuban Missile Crisis in his "Abyss", to hear as it were a slightly more westernised version of events, although still with his keen critical, investigative journalistic integrity (see below, a longer listen but it was well worth it): 

Again he took no prisoners and was at pains to be far reaching in research as well as being balanced. Another epic listen broken up over several weeks. Why the thought of Russian nuclear missiles 90 miles from the US shore created the stir it did in the US was a main theme, whereas Europeans were well accustomed to it. This was the basic error of Khrushchev's thinking that lead to him to make such a mad adventurous gamble was explained. The tangled escalation of events, twisted tortuously in an insane manner that no fictional book would think worthy of a plausible plot-line. The cast of war-minded American Generals who felt goaded into action and belittled by not invading Cuba. The minor comical character that took world stage that became the latter villain of the piece to my mind was Castro. Just when a safe passage was in sight, navigated by others he tried to vaingloriously grab the tiller and cast teh ship onto the rocks. After listening to it, I am not sure how we made it here, As Kennedy himself stated, he thought there had been a one in three chance of nuclear war. 

A lighter read needed next! 

Saturday 25 February 2023

Yes, but WHY? It is those "Big Bang" Style Physicists again!

I had the pleasure of walking round some University Physics Departments late last year with a fresh-faced prospective undergraduate student (my eldest son) who is going through the crucible of the A-Levels bless him. Most of the stuff the staff were talking about went well over my head so I ended up drinking free coffee, eating free cake, then watching the walls and reading the posters as my son toured "the facilities" (see below, one poster that particularly caught my eye): 

Yes, ok .. but "why" would you want to do that in the first place? Plus what about the frog, his-her-its  participation and agency in this? I have ethical questions! You can also bet that the reported result was not in the original remit of the research .. methinks the beastie literally hopped into what it thought was probably a nice little hole to hide in from predators! Ha .. and it ended up floating away! 

Did it live?

Friday 24 February 2023

Worthington's Coral Sea Solitaire Game

I immediately banked this one when it came out as an instant buy, a "must have", partly because I would simply cry buckets if it were not available when I wanted it as I knew I had all the miniatures to take it to tabletop (see below, US CV's are already done [Lady Lex and Yorktown], and I just need to base and varnish the two main force Japanese CVs [Shokaku (Soaring Crane), Zuikaku (Auspicious Crane)]): 

Then there is the third small Japanese CV [Shoho (Auspicious Phoenix)], some cruisers and the Invasion Fleet in 1/3000 to paint. Motivation, that is all I needed!

Thursday 23 February 2023

Floor Tiles: Funny Things You See in a DIY Superstore

Wandering around a DIY store (and a large one at that) is not my most favourite pastime. For me it is like seeing a museum of guilty sins, the ultimate confessional of jobs I should have done. I must confess I am left with a feeling of inadequacy and perturbation at the sheer amount of "choice" available for all the jobs I did not even know needed doing! So within a matter of minutes I naturally get distracted (it is a defence mechanism) when I see something that has a meagre amount of wargaming potential (see below, in this case it was some ceramic tiles, but those hexagon shapes shouted out as potential terrain pieces to me - naval or space?): 

Pretty patterns and shapes can lead to interesting discoveries and off the wall (literally) thoughts (see below, never saw this before, a hexagon is really three trapeziums - there should be something deeply significant to wargaming and board game construction - but fo rthe life of me I cannot see what it is): 

Hmm, gameboard or unit facing or is it useful for both? Who knows where this musing will ultimately lead. Potentially an abstract game or can I get toy soldiers to run all over it?

Wednesday 22 February 2023

The Airfix Bofors Posse - A Bunch of Old 'Part-Kits' Made Good

One of the joys of the Conference of Wargamers (CoW) is the wonderous "bring and buy" stall, wherein a cornucopia of feasts is found: from books, board games to plastic models and the ubiquitous boxes of toy soldiers. More spare 'odds and ends' than full eBay collections, the useful left overs from last night's Indian curry that can make do for another meal (maybe I stretching the analogy there). For example from three separate Airfix boxes marked separately as: almost a Tractor and Bofor, two Bofor Tractors and a final one marked "more than one" Bofors and Tractor there came a veritable "Jock column" of 1/76 light AA guns was made (see below, admittedly two tractors were missing 'bonnets' but leftover plasti-card from other projects made up that shortfall; there was a final missing mudguard [to which I say is just character] which sadly came from when the wife poured out the soapy detergent basin of water in which  they were "soaking in" to de-grease somewhat prematurely - in her defence she had emptied the dregs of a coffee cup into the waters and was actually trying to make good her perceived "damage" to the models [moving on]):   

A final posse of four tractors in total were made which was quite an achievement from all the separate boxes (see below, I am quite proud of the production line effort now ready to be shipped to the front. Somehow I am thinking Western Desert or Mediterranean - although it was a ubiquitous piece of kit used throughout the war so perhaps British Army "Green" would be better 1940, 1943-45): 

Part two of the build, the actual Bofor AA guns, which I made three models of in total so there is a spare tractor which comes in rather handy (see below, all in a WIP state - the two to the right look more "lunar lander" than finished AA guns at the moment): 

The complete battery (see below, three guns and plenty of binoculars scanning the sky, by Holmes like abductive reasoning I think in total there were at least six different original model kits in play to generate my four  complete tractors and three complete guns): 

Bring on those Stukas we are ready for you! And a big thanks to the suppliers of the original raw material from the CoW 2019 Bring and Buy stall, look forward to seeing you for some more in 2023.

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Virtual Online Connections US 2022 - Videos, Including Take That Hill

Virtual Online Conference from last year. Videos to catch up on and watch. Note, respect for the British Army Fight Club and the development "Take That Hill" Ed Farren along with Phil Sabin (see below, so many videos and so little time to watch them all!):  


Monday 20 February 2023

German Recon 20mm Airfix Classic (Vintage) Set

Another Airfix classic, this time a muddled box of confused spares and complete sprues with had two Kubelwagans and two 222 armoured cars. Yes the early war German classic Recon Set (see below, one twist as I left teh turrets off the armoured cars as I will be converting these to a 221 machine gun armed version and a 223 radio car version - wish me luck):   

This would mean that combined with my existing force of 222 armoured cars (good for Russia 1941 onwards to 1943 in grey), or I can either go more early war, and field the machine gun armed 221 and Hortch Kf 13 armoured cars (thinking Poland 1939 and France 1940). Either way the 223 is a good radio Command Car option. 

Sunday 19 February 2023

British Army Chieftain and Berlin Camo Reference Material

Another Airfix build from the loft, this time a Cold War veteran, the BOAR Chieftain or rather a second to keep an earlier Chieftain build company (see below, it was an old kit in the hard plastic [cover picture showing a finished model as opposed to the "crossing the rugged field" artwork - so it was pretty old] and dangerously brittle tracks): 

Thinking of the Berlin garrison with its unique urban camo (see below, nothing like setting yourself a challenge): 

Well I had me some fun running around the Internet seeing various sources and takes on the Berlin Camo pattern: 

Watch this space for the painting description (eventually), but I think it will be a slow process.

Saturday 18 February 2023

Airfix's "Boomerang Bob" Fighter - A Bucket List Build

I eagerly awaited the 2022 "Vintage" re-release of the Australian WWII "Panic Fighter" (the real thing was made from spare parts from aircraft available indigenous in Australia in 1942) as I remember "seeing it" as a kid in the Airfix Catalogue, wondering about it, but never going about getting it. There was always something more 'sexy' with crosses on it that took preference. A bit like the Fairey Battle and Brewster Buffalo, a missed childhood opportunity (see below, the CA-13 with original box art in all its glory, I bought it direct from Airfix when I picked up some resin buildings in their end of year sale):   

All things said it is not a particularly complicated build, not many parts but I took time as I was in no particular rush (see below, it came together quite nicely):  

If there was a scary part about building the Boomerang it was the canopy as it comes in three parts, the main bubble and two 'sliding' side parts (see below, I took time to make sure things fit well, the inside needed painting before the messy "Clearfix" came into use later):   

The decals were very sexy, the Australian RAAF Pacific version of the RAF roundel, with the red bit missing as "anything with a bit of red in it, got a lot of Allied AA fire" regardless of what it actually was. All the Allied countries discovered the universal itchy AA trigger finger of their AA gunners to their own cost (see below, something satisfyingly distinctive with the missing red that says Pacific War we are fighting the Japanese):  

Primed Airfix Acrylic Grey (see below, you may need to do a double take to spot any difference, but trust me there is a layer of grey paint there): 

Because it is the way I do things now, the whole model got a Vallejo Dipping Sepia Brown wash coat (see below, the brown and green colour scheme seemed to lend itself to brown rather than black for leaving the detail "lined in" after putting on the base colour, I guess it is all about "painting less" rather than more):  

Bottoms up, underside first. I wanted to use as close as I could to the original Airfix/Humbrol paint scheme and as luck had it I had Humbrol 65 (Matt Aircraft Blue) in a little penny packet paint pot from another "starter kit" which saved me a trip to the model shop (see below, the brown wash seems to be working nicely for the dark detail):  

Starting the topside camouflage, first the brown (see below, note this is where I had to use the paint matcher site which said Tamiya XF-52 Matt Earth [4.5 stars match] equates to Humbrol Acrylic 98 Matt Chocolate): 


Next the camo green part to complement the brown (see below, Humbrol Acrylic 149 Matt Dark Green gets matched to Vallejo Model 70.894 [4.0 stars but also a bit of confusion here, as the site matcher calls this Camo Olive Green - but my bottle says Russian Green, so I went with my 894 bottle anyway]): 

Next: The white tail (Humbrol Acrylic 34) and black (Humbrol Acrylic 33) propeller - note the tips of the propeller were not painted black, but were left lighter to help the yellow paint stand out better, Alos the flight jacket was given a Vallejo Leather Brown base coat (see below, the little bits count as much as the big bits - I think I have also given the pilot some flat flesh on his face and hands too): 

Next a highlight to the brown by mixing in a little yellow, plus the tips of the propeller are painted yellow (see below, I just wanted it to look a little blocky and weather worn over the panelling): 

Similar yellow mixed with the green for another blocky highlight, I also give the pilot a highlight on his leather flying suit (see below, at this point I think the paint job is starting to come together nicely): 

The tail gets a final white highlight which is just another coat of paint giving it depth to the prominent places, and neglecting the recesses, touching up with a brown wash. The cockpit glass is put into place using ClearFix - my least favourite Humbrol product as I find it very messy and stringy and I am odds to get it in the right places, even carefully dabbing it on with a cocktail stick (see below, fixed in place I leave it to set overnight): 

Fixed in place the plexiglass gets blacklined (see below, by this point I am almost exhausted painting, so I go slow and carefully, absolutely no rushing):  

From black to camo green and then a subtle highlight (see below, begging for the Australian decals to bring it to life):

The decals really make it look the part. However there is a sorry tale to tell here. As the Humbrol product I used, DecalFix reacted badly with the Tamiya and Vallejo paints, as in it stripped them away beautifully .. sadness gripped my heart. Now to worry I carried on and let the decals fix, then when all "well and truly dry" I painted round decals as best I could (see below, I think I got away with it; interestingly the subject of DecalFix melting Tamiya paints is well covered on the forums - I subsequently found out):  

The underside, the only thing to add is the fact that I highlighted the Humbrol Aircraft Blue 65, with a Revel Aqua Colour, Sky Blue, then adding a touch of white for a subtle highlight of a highlight in places that just caught the eye (see below, tickle that tummy, which has a bulbous camera housing in it, dead centre): 

The final act is a matte varnish (see below, Humbrol Matt Cote): 

Bucket list item .. "Done" and I am very proud of it.

Friday 17 February 2023

My "Last" Airfix Churchills

There are Airfix "Vintage" kits and then there is the Airfix Churchill, more challenge than nostalgic joy, but satisfying nevertheless (see below, one look at the picture and old-timers will know where I am coming from - "bogie wheels are us"): 

Apparently there is a clever - "keep it on the sprue until the last moment" - technique I have never been privy to (see below, one done bar the turret, the other WIP, plenty of glue being used to keep everything in place): 

Both ready for their tops, but one will have a twist (see below, when you get as far as this point there is a certain "downhill from here on in" satisfaction as you sip your tea, with the 'hard bit' well behind you):

A standard Normandy 75mm Mk VII turret and a "bridge layer" - yes it is that "add on bit" to the vintage kit model. Airfix seemed to go through a phase of taking an old standard kit then adding a specialist sprue on -  Churchill Crocodile, Churchill Bridge Layer, Sherman Flail, Sherman Calliope and Matilda Hedgehog .. all good stuff (see below, my final Churchills are now made, small question of painting and decals):   

The Airfix Bridge Layer Churchill complements the Matchbox Revell AVRE Bridge Layer. I like the fact that this is a non-fighting specialist AFV. One for the bucket list done!

Thursday 16 February 2023

Airfix Tribute Forum: Military Kits Listing

As of late, basically a spin-off from Xmas activities, I have kept on assembling some of my collected kits concentrating on the Airfix ones (it was basically a case of "do it now, or never"), also the box was getting too big and unwieldy in the loft for its own good. I came to thinking, "How close am I to completing the wheel?" - as in for my Airfix military vehicle collection - one of each kit there is (hands up here - I am talking vehicles only, as I am nowhere near the same kind of collector for the aircraft and ships, for wings and water I just dabble)? 

The Airfix Tribute Forum seems to have the "definitive vehicle" list:


Considering only the [1:72, 1/76. HO/OO] kits I seem to be good on all the WWII (excluding the airfield utility stuff, RAF Emergency, Refuelling, Recovery and the RAF/USAF "bombing up" kit) and with a sense of pride, I have most of the modern stuff too! The exception being the mysterious SAM 2 missile launcher (now a lost mould) and a West German Leopard 1 (although I do have the "very business like" ESCI one). If I include the JB Models stuff as well, I am missing the modern (as in post WW2) British Army 105mm Howitzer, Soft Top Land Rover and again modern Bedford Trucks (but there is little chance of getting them now unless Airfix decides to re-issue them). 

Heller Footnote: I remember that Airfix picked up some [1:72] Heller kits too, Willy's Jeep and the GMC US Truck from off the top of my head, but no mention of the other Heller kits so I presume they didn't buy the right to use those moulds. I know Heller also did a Sherman, Tiger, Somua S-35, AMX-13/105, AMX 13 DCA, Churchill, LCVP, VAB and AMX-30/105. Heller seems to have had it's ups and downs.  I did find this interesting blog post on the web though:


Back to Airfix .. so with the completion of the "build" of the Bedford Trucks (2010) I call this "inner wheel of Airfix" now completed (see below, these Bedford trucks were an absolute joy of engineering to make, the paint and decals still to be done though): 

If I see them again in the shops I would happily buy them in an instant (see below, I love the subtle touch of the AA Bren gun on its casual mount, plus the bicycle slung on the back of the lorry - it would be nice somehow to fill those infantry seats up with infantry though): 

Does this mean I should move onto "other" vehicle manufacturers and completing their 'wheels' - this seems too big a task for my tiny pair of hands. But once the thought has been put into my ting mind smaller ranges might just become a target? As much as I enjoy a cautious "Vintage" Airfix retro-kit build, I am more of a fan of new Airfix, their new tooled kits are masterpieces as they almost fit together by themselves!


Thursday 9 February 2023

Audible: Deep Thinking by Gary Kasparov - Chess

This has been on the wish list to read for a while and as my Audible listening habits have improved (nay become addictive) as of late I managed to sneak it in. It harkens back to the Gary Kasparov experience of Man v Computer in chess competitions that started in the 1980's. It eventually saw a specialist machine called Deep Blue defeat the then World Champion Gary Kasparov in a match of six chess games. A competition of grey matter versus silicon logic circuits (see below, the Audible listing a fascinating and revealing read): 

I certainly discovered some "new things" from it and I don't pretend to be any sort of real Chess aficionado, other than knowing the base rules. Fascinating motivational factors were at play for IBM then went from Chess Experiment (in a sort of partnership with Kasparov to understand teh Chess Problem) to an "out and out" campaign focus to "win at all costs" (as in secretly hiring Grand Masters on NDA agreement [allegedly] for prestige and correlated stock-price benefit. From my programming background I know my Min-Max and Alpha-Beta Pruning - but the constructed "Opening Book" strategy was new (and this is where the Grand Masters really helped Deep Blue) used at the start of the game to gain a strong "middle game" baseline (starting position) .. where the silicon computation attack of the ply (pushing the "horizon effect" as long away as possible) was computed in earnest .. the ne the computational threads of Deep Blue tries to reach out to the end game database. Fascinating that Deep Blue beat Kasparov and then was put out to rest, rather than lead an Artificial Intelligence revolution. Crazy to also think that now, Deep Blue [with all its dedicated Chess hardware] is no longer thought of as impressive Chess Machine, its capacity is now well passed and outplayed by algorithms running on general purpose computers and smart phones.

If anything I earned a greater sense of respect for Gary Kasparov and what he went through. I found it a revealing, frank and humbling read. 

Sunday 5 February 2023

Paint Conversion Site: Humbrol to Other Makes

This site was of great help identifying other paint manufacturers matching to Humbrol colours from Airfix kits (see below, as there is nothing more frustrating as chasing and having duplicate colours in different ranges):  


This helped me greatly with two recent projects (the RAAF Boomerang and Luftwaffe Fiesler Storch from the Airfix Vintage releases).