Hobbies/Model Building



The Cromwell tank was very active in Northwestern Europe from D-Day to the end of the war in 1945. Whatever weaknesses it had against German armour like the Tiger, Panther and King Tiger, the Cromwell acquitted itself well as a cruiser tank, using a relatively low profile, good speed and a gun that could match most of what the enemy could throw at it- save for the vehicles mentioned above and the dreaded 88mm field gun.

And… it could fly!

This is a famous image from the war of a Cromwell taking off from a ramp during trials. It’s posted all over the internet, but if someone could give me the source information, I would like to give it a proper citation. The aerodynamic properties of the Cromwell were demonstrated in the Netherlands in 1944 when three of these machines jumped a Dutch canal to escape enemy fire. The canal was later measured to be over 20 feet wide. For a full account, read TROOP LEADER: A Tank Commander’s Story, by Bill Bellamy.

The kit I built was Tamiya’s 1/35 scale Cromwell, a decent model with easy to follow instructions and a great fit in the parts. I had never built a tank before and was nervous, considering the experience I had with the much smaller Austin K2Y ambulance covered in the last article. (Click here for link.) I needn’t have worried. Considering the build was happening during a stressful period in my life involving illness in the family, I found working on the Cromwell to be relaxing.

I built it in two parts- the hull base with the wheels and tracks and the top of the hull with the turret and assorted bits for engine exhaust, towing and such added on. The two halves were sprayed with a base coat of the colour the British were using on their armour at this stage in the war and then given a deliberately sloppy coat of white on top to simulate the winter camouflage that was often hastily applied in the field using a water based lime wash that wore off as the winter ground on. As the wash only went where brushes or mops could be used to slap it on, the finish was inconsistent at best. I then weathered the two halves before joining them, gunking them up with mud, simulated wetness from watery roads, grime and such to show this machine had seen its share of action.

Decals were really hard to apply in places and the fixative didn’t fix very well. Also, there was a problem with the heavy rivets in the turret making it difficult for some of the markings to sit properly on the surface. Decal solvents were of mixed success, so let’s say the whitewash I used served more than one purpose in a couple of places. I learned it was generally accepted to try and paint around unit markings for identification purposes, but best laid plans, etc. sometimes led to the big white star atop the turret being obliterated under a layer of whitewash.

I only hope I will get better with decals as time passes. Tamiya ones in particular do have some annoying habits about them, although the Airfix decals for the Katy also threw a few curves at me.

So, here is my Cromwell. It has made me a fan of armour, as witnessed by the vast collection that has found its way into my studio in the last couple of years.

One down. Many more to go… except for ones recently donated to a museum for their gift shop.
Hobbies/Model Building



We have all heard about the crazy cat lady. I suppose I might be that crazy kit guy, except for the fact that like that crazy cat lady, I am not alone in my mania for collecting. Others share these passions and some of us are very particular about what comes into our homes.

For me, I see the collection as a kind of bucket list in some areas and a ‘must have for this story or ones I may write in the future’ in others. Very few ‘want’ models. Mostly ‘need’ models. A couple of the ‘need’ models will be featured in this article and before we go any further, I am an enthusiastic amateur and not the kind of builder you read about in modeling magazines, on the web or see in YouTube videos. My stuff is far from perfect and is meant only as reference for the works I am currently creating. As I get back into plastic modeling, I am learning as I go. That means, put nicely, I am making a huge number of mistakes. The first model I will cover in this article is a grand example of that.

The Austin K2Y ambulance- ‘KATY’

This tiny kit took many years to build. It shouldn’t have, but it did. Work, art courses and so many other distractions kept putting it on the back burner. However, I finally got it done after six or seven years and now that frustrating little piece is one of my favourites, even featuring in a new story I am co-developing with a friend right now.

The Austin K2Y model came with a fire engine as part of an Airfix kit of RAF rescue vehicles- an old release that I’d like to see back on the shelves again or better yet, the KATY being released in 1/35 scale instead of 1/76, as it was when first produced. Here is a picture I downloaded of the box art from the kit.

AIRFIX 1/76 scale RAF Emergency Set box art, reproduced from the Airfix site. A vintage but still wonderful model with some good instructions and decent decals. The numerous problems I had with building the KATY were based solely on my own incompetence, and had nothing to do with the model itself. You can find more information about the model online. Check out the Airfix website itself. It’s worth it.

I had not built a model in years and never a wheeled vehicle before. It should have been something bigger to start with. I never imagined how complex the build would be until it was too late. Truly, I cannot count the number of times parts would go together and then have to be pulled apart because I misread the instruction sheet. Eventually, I got through it, though, and then had to paint the piece.

This is the Austin K2Y set on a floppy cushion that eventually may become the dunes of Dunkirk, where many were abandoned by the BEF in 1940 and, where possible, placed in service with the Wehrmacht. It enjoyed much popularity with the many soldiers and airmen in the various Allied and German forces throughout the war.

Here are more images of it, taken after painting, weathering and decals were applied. I will note here that the decals reflect the markings used later in the war. You may notice also that the vehicle serial number is missing from one part of the bonnet on the truck. The official reason is a repaint took place in the field and no one bothered to add the serial number as it was already on the other side. The real reason is that try as I may with decal solvents, adherents and glosscoat sprays to make the decals stick better, that one was sucked away one night into an inter-spatial vortex to join millions of other tiny decals and model parts abducted from the studios of model makers everywhere!