All of my commissions are special. Each one takes a little piece of my personality with it and hopefully they are special to my clients and friends who now enjoy having them in their home, study or office.
Then there are the once in a lifetime builds, the ones that are so special, so important that they just have to be utter perfection or as close as I can get to it.
This is one of those projects, a commission that was one of the most important I have ever embarked on.
This was Wing Commander’s Tom Neil’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. I. The one he flew during the Battle of Britain and I was building it for his friend.
No pressure then!
So when my friend author and warbird photographer Jonny Cracknell got in touch to commission this work I immediately said yes. How could I refuse? A 1/32 Hurricane Mk. I in Tom Neil’s markings and could I possibly re-create this famous photograph?
This and other photographs were taken in 1940 by famous photographer Cecil Beaton. He was taking photos of a frontline RAF squadron and on the day he photographed 249 Squadron and he met Pilot Officer Tom Neil.
Tom Neil flew 141 combat missions during the Battle of Britain and shot down 13 Luftwaffe aircraft. He also flew during the siege of Malta in 1942 and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and later awarded a bar to his DFC.
He was epitome of an Officer and a Gentleman and his career in the Royal Air Force saw him rise from Pilot Officer to Wing Commander. He wrote about his experience’s and became a very successful author after the war.
One of his books “Scramble!” in which he writes about his experience’s during the Battle of Britain and Malta is a particular favourite of mine. It’s a superb account of being a RAF fighter pilot during World War II and Wing Commander Neil was kind enough to sign my copy of his book with his dedication. It is and shall forever be one of my most treasured possessions.
Here is Wing Commander Neil signing my book:
I hold this gentleman in the highest regard and he was in words and deeds an inspiration to us all.
Now you know with what strength of feeling that this model was completed. So with that, said let’s see how I went about completing this project…..
THE KIT and THE AFTERMARKET:
At the time of the project the best 1/32 kit of a Hawker Hurricane Mk. I mixed media kit from Fly Models.
To portray Tom Neil’s 249 Squadron Hurricane, I needed markings but there were no decal sheets in 1/32 scale, so I turned to Top Notch Masks, with these vinyl cut masks I could paint the markings on, this would add another level of authenticity to the model.
I also bought a HGW Fabric Harness, a UHU Instrument Panel , plus two figures to resemble Tom Neil and the other Officer in the photograph.
Here are the figures after assembly and modifications:
Fly’s 1/32 Hurricane is a limited run, multi media kit. So here we are dealing with Plastic, Resin and Brass. A lot of modellers have bought this kit but few have ever finished it. In fact one chap at my local model club informed me that I would never finish it as it was “unbuildable”!
So it’s fair to say that this model is challenging at best and a workbench nightmare at its worst! As this was the most accurate Mark I Hurricane in 1/32 scale at the time, I just had to crack on with the job in hand.
Work commenced on the cockpit and it’s tubular tub framing was the “glue” that had to hold it together. I took the kit parts and enhanced them with the UHU instrument panel and the HGW fabric seat harness. With some careful detail painting and weathering, the finished cockpit took on a well used look:
When I had finished working on the cockpit I was glad to be installing it into the fuselage and moving forward to airframe assembly. Lining up the fuselage halves was easy enough, but the curse of multi media kits raised its head when I began mating the resin undercarriage well to the plastic wing and fuselage.
In short, the fit is awful. What followed was hours of sanding and test fitting. There were too many hours!
Eventually I was able to knock the airframe into shape and re-scribe the details lost during sanding. I was very relieved to get the model this far as I was able to move onto the paint phase.
The early war Hurricane Mk. I’s had a tight camouflage pattern and some were more beaten up than others do I needed to do some research- Wing Leaders book on Battle of Britain Hurricanes is superb reference for modellers.
Painting this scheme was carried out by applying Top Notch camouflage masks and airbrushing Gunze Acrylics for the RAF colours of Dark Earth, Dark Green and Sky.
I was also painting the markings on this model so all colours for the RAF insignia, Squadron codes and serials were mixed from Tamiya acrylics and applied using the Top Notch mask set specifically cut for Tom Neil’s Hurricane.
I was very happy with how the paint work turned out!
Now the “hard work” of the building and painting was behind me it was time to move over to my favourite part of scale modelling-The weathering!
This is where Fly’s kit really shines, it’s superb surface detailing just cries out for a good weathering job. Add to that the fact this was a 249 Sqn machine at the height of the Battle of Britain meant that I could really get stuck in! Battle of Britain Hurricane’s were flown day in, day out and soon racked up hundreds of operational flying hours. They got dirty, scratched and faded so that is the look I wanted for this model.
I used a combination of Mig Ammo panel line washes, oils , powder and weathering pencils to achieve the look I wanted:
SETTING THE SCENE:
Now I had to paint and finish the figures and pose them to set the scene as seen in Cecil Barton’s photograph. Although the photos were taken on a hard surface Jonny asked me to set the aircraft on a grassy field as I did with my previous work “First Light”
The figures were a chalk and cheese affair: The Tom Neil figure was an excellent resin sculpt from Ultracast, the other was a white metal casting that, well let’s say took more more work than I’d have liked to modify. That said, they both looked the part in the end. I made a display base using a Paul Thompson display case that I modified to portray a wartime airfield and the scene was set and the project completed!
I was very happy with the finished work and when I met up with Jonny to deliver his finished display model he was delighted with the finished piece. It was most humbling that he asked me to produce this tribute to his friend and it shall be one of my favourite builds of all time.
I normally sign off with a cheery goodbye at this point but this time I’ll leave the last word to Wing Commander Tom Neil.
Blue Skies Sir.