Our two cats, Tristan and Isolde, were born on 1 August last year. Here are a couple of photos taken of them on their first birthday (not that they seemed to notice).
Our two cats, Tristan and Isolde, were born on 1 August last year. Here are a couple of photos taken of them on their first birthday (not that they seemed to notice).
In 1932 Marcel Bloch founded the Sociétê des Avions Marcel Bloch which produced its first aircraft in 1930. In 1934 the company began work on a new and modern fighter that would compete for adoption by the Armee de l’Air and construction of the first Bloch 150 began in September 1935. In the competition it lost to a rival design, the Morane Saulnier 406, but the Bloch 150 showed enough promise that development continued. However, when the prototype was first tested it would not leave the ground so significant changes were made and test flying began in 1937.
The prototype showed promise and the French defense forces were so desperate for modern fighters by that time that the government decided to put the 150 into production with an initial order for 300 aircraft. At this point it turned out that, as designed, the fighter was unsuitable for mass production and the structure of the airframe had to be redesigned to suit mass production. In April 1938 the French government decided to order three further prototypes with more powerful engines and so the design effort led to the production of the Bloch 151 and the 152 that were developed and produced in parallel.
The Bloch 152 had a more powerful engine 1,000hp Gnome-Rhone engine and improved armament. The prototype first flew on 15 December 1938 but it experienced engine overheating problems so a larger cowling was fitted which increased drag and reduced its performance. The first pre-production aircraft were completed in December 1939 and the first production aircraft was delivered to the air force on 7 March 1939. By mid May 1939 only 22 aircraft, a combination of 151s and 152s had been completed but only 10 had been accepted by the air force. By the eve of war 249 aircraft had been manufactured and about 123 had been accepted by the air force, but few were considered flyable, the majority missing their gun sights and propellers.
Increasing numbers of 151s were delivered to squadrons for training purposed in advance of their anticipated conversion to the 152 and during the Battle of France a mixture of 151s and 152s equipped nine Groupes de Chasse. They were tough aircraft, able to withstand considerable battled damage but, in comparison with its other French contemporaries, the 152 was the least successful in combat and the one that suffered the heaviest losses. Its shortcomings included poor agility, unreliable guns, being underpowered and a relatively low range. It was, however, the most numerous fighter type remaining in service when the Armistice was signed and it equipped six groups of the Vichy air force until it was disbanded in December 1942 and the aircraft were taken over by the Germans.With the Bloch 151 and 152 in production developments continued and two models, the 153 and 154 were planned to be fitted with more powerful American engines . One was the Bloch 153 which was fitted with a 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp engine but it crashed a few days after its first flight and this line of development was abandoned, so the Bloch 154 was never made.
Development of the Bloch 155 from the 152 began in late 1939 to give the basic design improved range and improved manoeuverability. It’s Gnome-Rhone engine delivered 1,180 hp, the cockpit was moved back a little to allow a larger fuel tank and the armament was slightly upgraded. Ten Bloch 155s had been delivered by the end of the Battle of France and the Germans authorised the production of 20 more for the Vichy air force. When Germany occupied all of France they were taken over by the Luftwaffe.
A final development of the Bloch 150 was the Bloch 157 which began with the proposal to install the more powerful Gnome-Rhone 14R-4 engine of 1,590 hp. Designers soon discovered that that engine needed an almost new airframe that retained the structural principles of the Bloch 152. Construction of the prototype began in December 1939 but had not been completed by the time of the German invasion. Completion was authorized by the Germans and it flew for the first time in March 1942, minus armament. The trials were extremely successful, showing the Bloch 157 to be potentially one of the most powerful fighters of World War II. It was later destroyed in an allied air raid.
The Bloch 150 series of fighters showed that Marcel Bloch knew how to build a good fighter (after a bit or trial and error). After the war he changed his name to Marcel Dassault and his company is still making outstanding fighters.
There have been a few kits of these fighters but none of the original Bloch 150 that I could find. I did give some thought to trying to convert a 152 kit back to one but it had a smaller wing and other details that I could not readily find details for, so I decided to pass on making one.
There have been a few kits of the Bloch 151 and it is not much different visually from a 152 so making one is not very difficult. One could be made by converting the venerable Heller kit but much better options would be the Azur & TMA kit or the more recent RS Models kit. There is also the old Dujin kit which apparently has parts for both the 151 and 152 but it is as rare as hen’s teeth. In any event, I thought that the RS Models kit looked easier than the Azur kit to make and so used it. In fact, the kit has parts for both the 151 and 152 but is the best source of 151 decals.
When it comes to the Bloch 152 there are plenty of possibilities. There is the ancient Heller kit which was first released in 1965 and has had more boxings than most people have had hot breakfasts, including a Hasegawa boxing in 1996. It is not one of Heller’s better offerings, I made one years ago but there are now much better offerings. There is the fairly good Azur kit which was first released in 2000, but I don’t know how readily available it would be these days. A better and simpler option is the RS Models Bloch 152 which has been released in four or five different boxings since 2014 and should still be around. It is a limited run kit but pretty good in most respected despite that.
The Bloch 153 represents more of a problem. There was, apparently, a VAMI Models kit that I haven’t seen and know nothing about, and there was a HR Model full resin kit released some time in the 1990s. I managed to get one of these but it was fairly dreadful and did not look too much like the RS Models 152. The only part of the kit that was worth keeping was the engine and propeller, and since the 153 was simply a 152 with a new engine I did the same thing and attached the HR Model resin engine to a RS Models 152 fuselage. This took a bit of doing, but it looks reasonable.
There was apparently a resin Airkit of the Bloch 155 which I know nothing about. The other two options are the Azur and RS Models kits which are basically their 152 kits with new fuselage parts. I thought the RS Models kit looked nicer and easier to build and used it.
The only basic kit of the Bloch 177 was the Dujin kit that Jean Pierre made some time in the 1990s. After his death his molds seem to ave gone to some people who are re-releasing some of them. Their boxing has the basic Dujin kit but with useful instructions, a small etch set and a good decal sheet. It is recommended, if you can find it.
Making the kits
The FGM Master Dujin resin kit is not one of those highly sophisticated resin kits that come out of the Czech republic but is one of Dujin’s better creations and can be made into a nice little replica of a Bloch 177 if you know what you are doing with resin. The only disadvantage of this model is that it only comes with German markings, but since that is how it probably only appeared in real life, there’s not much we can do about that.
With the others you could use either the Azur or RS Models kits. I chose the RS Models kits because, being more recently released, they were fairly easy to find. The real reason, however, is that in the Azur kits you get a nice little engine crank case and then a multitude of little cylinders to stick into it and in the RS Models you get only a very nicely resin engine molded in one piece. Really the detail of both is unnecessary because the engines are hidden deep in their cowlings behind bit propeller spinners.
The RS Models kit has a nice little cockpit and a fuel tank behind it so you’ve got something to look at through the rear windows. There are a few fit issues that a few dabs of filler will fix and the fit between the engines and the cowlings and propellers is imprecise, to put it mildly, so you need some care there. The cockpit windows are not a good fit and were the most troublesome part of the kit to deal with, I would have tried the Peewit cockpit canopies I see are now available instead, had I known about them.
My real gripe about making these models was in finishing them. There is no problem with the Bloch 157 because there are enough Luftwaffe paints available to sink a battleship. French colours are another matter. Modelmaster did a very nice set of World War II French colours that I used happily for many years, but they are now not available in Australia. Strangely none of the modern day fashionable paint makers have shown much interest in releasing French colours until recently when Hataka released sets of the major colours in both acrylic and lacquer dropper bottle sets. The upper and lower main colours, Gris Bleu Fonce and Gris Blue Clair look pretty good to me, and their Brun Fonce and Terre de Sienna colours look reasonable, but I’m not at all happy with their Vert and Khaki Francais which look dreadfully washed out to me. Instead, I’ve substituted the AK Real Color FS30492 Dull Dark Green for the Hataka Vert, but I’m still not entirely certain about it. Nobody makes that unique interior dark blue grey colour but fortunately I have a couple of bottles of the very rare Aeromaster paints that does the job very nicely.
Let’s begin this month with the odd one, a little French tank. Many decades ago I was a keen modeller of armour but then decided that life was too short to make tanks and aeroplanes when my main interest is in aeroplanes, so I stopped making tank models. The one exception I allowed myself French tanks in the mistaken impression that there weren’t many of them. I was wrong.
This is the Flyhawk 1/72 model of the Renault FT 75 BS, which was a gun mounted on the Renault FT chassis. The plan was to include one of these in Renault FT units to take care of any fortifications they came across, but they were not ready by the end of the war and only about 40 were made. This is the nicest Renault FT kit I’ve made in this scale and I’d make one with the turret too, except that I already have two and don’t need another. The box comes with two kits for this little tank but I don’t know that many people will need two models of this and I gave my duplicate to another club member (who had already ordered this kit and will now end up with three).
This RS Models 1/72 Bloch 155 completes my set of this French fighter. It is a nice little kit that goes together with relative ease, although not with Tamigawa precision. This version of the Bloch fighter would have been the standard production version rather then the Bloch 152 had the war not started when it did and only a handful were ready by the time of the Battle of France. My main trouble with this model is the Hataka French air force paint set and my own inability to read properly. I am almost certain that the vert in the set is not the right shade and substituted a darker green from the AK Real Color range which is probably not perfect either but makes me feel happier about the whole thing. The other problem was that I started off applying the light rather than the dark blue-grey to the top surface and things went downhill after that. Still, it’s a nice looking little fighter.
My recommendation to you is to not buy the Eastern Express 1/144 Boeing 757-200. The word is that it is a copy of the Minicraft kit and has all of its faults – with more thrown in – and none of its virtues. So, if you want to make a 757, Minicraft is a better choice. I’m told that a better choice again is the Accurate Airliners 757 but they are expensive and not always readily available. But if I’d gone straight to one of them I wouldn’t have had to buy aftermarket engines for this kit (because the kit ones are truly awful) which probably brought the total cost of this model up to the cost of an Accurate Airlines kit anyhow. However, I had the nice Wic Warcup decals for the Air Niugini 757-200 and didn’t want to waste them, so if you scrunch up your face and squint as these pictures you might just think this looks a bit like a 757.
Here’s three I made earlier
This LaGG3 is the old Red Star kit, a very minimalist kit but at one time the only one available to make a reasonably accurate model of a LaGG. The story I heard was that this, and the three other kits that came in the Red Star box, were the last gasp of the venerable Frog company and they certainly had that feel about them. This is not a bad little kit but I was in the grip of an advanced case of AMS when I made this so it had a lot of additional work done to it before it was completed.
This strange looking little thing is the Huma 1/72 kit of the Flettner F1282, one of the prototypes I believe. You might perhaps call this the first operational helicopter, though the idea of intermeshed rotor blades to overcome rotor torque did not take off in a big way. If I had still been in the grip of AMS when I made this I would have replaced all the kit struts with plastic rod, which would have helped make it a little more fragile.
Like the other two pre-made models this time, this Crown 1/144 Boeing B-17G was made over a decade ago. I would not be surprised if the same molds are still in use for the Minicraft B-17 that you can buy in the shops today. If I had been a bit more serious about this model I would at least have replaced the gun barrel with some thinner plastic rod or stretched sprue. Maybe next time.
This month’s offerings begin with another two venerable Airfix 1/144 Airbus A.300s, part of a series of five A.300s, all the same airliner but in different liveries. If you want more details about making these, go back and have a look at my offering for June. These are both fairly straight forward models, the only difficulties being filling all the gaps and sink marks you find in kits that were made in the mid 1970s.
First is VH-TAA as it appeared in Australian Airlines livery after it came back from flying with Air Nuigini in 1989. It wore this livery until Qantas took over Australian in 1993. The decals for this model are from Hawkeye, with the corogard panels provided by Liveries Unlimited.
Next is VH-TAA as it appeared after Qantas took over Australian in 1993. It continued to fly with Qantas until it was sold to an American air freight company in 1998. It’s history becomes a bit confusing after that and it was observed as a derelict at Adu Dhabi in 2011. I haven’t seen any photos of it after it left Qantas service so I’m not going to concern myself with making models of that airliner in post Qantas service (besides there’s only so many A.300s one can make before going bananas).
Another series I’m making is that of the Bloch 150 series fighters. So far I’ve made the 151 and 152, straight from the RS Models 1/72 box. The Block 153 is not so easy to make, it was an experiment in the hope of improving the qualities of the Bloch 152 by fitting it with an American Pratt & Whitney Twin Row Wasp engine. The experiment did not go so well, the only 153 constructed crashed in testing and no further attempts of this kind were made, development moving on to the Bloch 155 instead.
I had the old HR Models resin kit of the Bloch 153 that dates from some time in the 1990s but it looked to be a very difficult kit to make look as good as the RS Models Bloch 152 so I decided to do what the French did and took the engine off the HR Models kit and stuck it on the RS Models Block 152 kit. The grafting is not entirely successful, but it gives a fair impression of what the Bloch 153 looked like and is interesting to view alongside a Bloch 152. The decals come out of my spared box, the HR Models kit does include them but they blew up as I tried to apply them and, anyhow, the blue and red were far too deep in intensify for a French aircraft of this period.
Here’s two I made earlier:
There never was such as thing as a French English Electric Lightning but I had one of the very old Airfix 1/72 Lightning F.1A kits and lots of spare French decals. So here is a flight of fancy supposing that the French acquired one Lightning F.1 (I’ve done the conversion from the F.1A back to the F.1) for test purposes. At the time I made this I was using various shades of Alclad II through an airbrush nozzle far too big for it, which is the reason for such a strange looking metallic finish.
Finally, here’s the Matchbox Hawker Tempest that I made back in 1976. It looks as though I had an airbrush by then and was using Micro Sol and Set, and a matt varnish of some sort. Things haven’t really progressed much more since then when you come down to the basics.
David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss do a fine podcast called Two Chairmen Talking which is about what they’ve been reading and watching recently, mostly science fiction or stuff related to it. Back in Episode 5 there is about half an hour of me being interviewed about history and the history of Australian sf fandom I’ll get back to next year. So if you want to listen to it, try here:
Our annual expedition to Expo has become something of a tradition. I suppose I could find out when it started if I were to go back through MoB newsletters but, as a guess I’d say it was some time in the 19th Century, it seems to be so long ago.
It always happens the same way for me. Master Mark pulls up outside my place, I put a bag of kits that I’ve fallen out of love with into the car and climb in. Master Mark is always the driver, Master Wayne is his navigator (or interested observer when things don’t go right), Master Mick sits behind Wayne and I fill the vacant space. And away we go. Mark has always picked something interesting for us to listen to, most memorably was the year we had old American radio serials including The Shadow (who knows). Customarily Mark also provides me with a book on the life and saying of the great Greek philosopher Pythagoras because he feels I need that kind of help as I am going to Expo with the intention of buying and selling. Thus equipped we seem to reach Sandown in a only a few minutes.
Things did not go that way this year and discombobulated me right from the start and where I stayed for the rest of the day. Having sold off quite a lot of my unwanted stuff at our display day I didn’t have much of interest to put on our sellers table at the Expo swap n smell but, nevertheless, I had a bag to go into the car. But when I got in there was no Master Mick who had called in sick at the last minute. This was disturbing enough but then I discovered there was no Pythagoras to read to put me in the right frame of mind for the day. Instead, I had to gaze out the window at the world outside. It was wet and miserable, and even more miserable when we got to Melbourne. ‘How do people live here happily?’, I asked myself. The answer is, of course, that we keep Ballarat a closely guarded secret.
The trip became even more disturbing when Master Mark announced that he had devised a new route to get to Expo, more direct apparently without the optional extras of visiting unsuspecting car parks in the middle of suburbia. And this was so. We got off the freeway and headed up one of the suburban main roads until, without any confusion or drama, we arrived at the turn off to the Sandown racecourse.
It was raining when we got there. Usually there is a long queue of sellers with their bags and boxes lined up across the car park, chatting and comparing their wares. This year we all headed for a covered area upstairs and huddled in a state of semi-confusion waiting to be let into the hall. As a result there was less of the usual convivial banter that sets the tone for the day. Then, the biggest blow to my equilibrium, the swap n smell had been moved into a different hall – a bigger and more commodious one with plenty of space for people to walk around without the overcrowding we experienced in the previous room.
It is a step in the right direction as far as Expo is concerned, really, but it put me right off my game. It had been a morning devoted to confronting me with the unexpected, one or two changes can be invigorating but not a cascade of them!
This year Wayne and I put our small collection of surplus kits on our table and set off in search of new kits to fall in love with. I had a short list of things I might be interested in and saw none of them. I did manage to pick up another Revell A.310 for a mere $10, and a couple of other things, but overall the kits on offer seemed to be all the usual stuff that we’ve seen at swap and sells these past decade. Either I’m a jaded old modeller or the events of the previous couple of hours had disabled my enthusiasm, I looked over pile after pile of pre-loved kits with little of the interest and excitement I’ve had in previous years. I hope I’m not jaded, I’d like to think that the events of the day had just put me off my game.
Perhaps the prices that sellers are asking for their kits has something to do with it. Master Wayne, who is a student of such things, tells me that these days many of the prices he saw were comparable with the prices of new kits. All I know is that I was so desperate enough to buy something that I was tempted by a kit of a Citroen CV2 but when I looked at the selling price I put the kit back on the pile again. True, I did pay about the same price for a kit of the Boeing Stratoliner that I found later on, but one was the kit of an interesting airliner, and the other wasn’t.
Eventually the hall was thrown open to the great unwashed masses and they swarmed in. In this new, bigger hall, it took a while for them to work their way up to our far end, but eventually they made it to our area. Boy, there was a lot of them. It was crowded, not as thickly as in previous years but still enough that you had to barge your way through the crowd if you wanted to get anywhere. I’m told that the reduced population density also reduced the offense caused by some modeller’s lack of experience with hygiene products, it certainly wasn’t as pungent on our side of the table as it has been on some earlier visits.
Also evident was a lack of interest in most of the stuff on our table. Buyers would come to our table, fumble listlessly through our piles and move on. We both sold a few things but it seemed to us that most buyers didn’t know what they wanted and were just looking for some inspiration. I thought some of our kits were bargains and I reckon that if you can’t find inspiration in a nice resin kit of an A.310 you are having difficulties with life. There were some people wandering around with piles of kits under their arms or in bags they had thoughtfully brought with them. Some had wives or girlfriends with them who looked intensely uninterested in proceedings (perhaps they were there to supervise their male’s spending).
After about an hour and a half of this listlessness we packed up our stuff. This is the first time in years that the volume of what I purchased was more than the volume of what I sold so my bag was bigger on the way out than on the way in. Well, the Stratoliner and A.310 did come in big boxes. (You may have noted that I had an A.310 for sale and bought another one, which is an interesting tale I might get around to one of these days.)
Expo downstairs was pretty much as it has been every other time we’ve been there. There are people selling stuff around the edges of the hall and models on display in the centre, some of them in the competition and some of them in club displays. I heard later that there had been over 800 models entered in competitions and there were, as usual, over 100 trophies to be handed out, so a lot of people were to go home happy, if you like that kind of things. I personally enjoy the club displays more than the competition models. True, all of the work put into making models makes we wonder if we could not instead achieve world peace if we put as much effort into that project as we do into making models. On the other hand, perhaps making models is a kind of contribution to world peace, in its own way.
One of the club displays was on the theme of flying boats and there were some beauties, including the Amodel 1/72 Martin Mars which confirmed me in my desire to acquire one. On the other side of the aisle was another club display which included an immense 1/72 kit of a Saro Princess (1950s flying boat airliner), partly stuck together with tape which captivated me. Had there been a kit of it available then and there I would have whipped out my credit card. Fortunately it was not, and I have since calmed down a little and a modicum of reason has returned. Still, I did order a kit of the Martin Mars on the interweb and that is quite big, so I might have scratched that itch enough for the moment.
In my wanders around Expo I said hello to a few people, Wayne and I chatted to Frank Morgan and I had a talk with Peter of Hawkeye Models who sold me some more decal sheets of Australian airliners. Somehow, however, I felt overwhelmed by Expo, it was either too big to take in or lacking something to attract my distracted frame of mind. So, when Wayne and Mark and I decided it was time to head back to the civilization that is Ballarat, I was happy to leave.
Another tradition of our trip has been to stop for a late lunch at a large service station and eatorama on the highway near Rockbank. We did it again, and discovered that it had been invaded by hoards of leather lunged school children. The noise was deafening. ‘So, what did we think of the day?’ asked Master Mark, yelling to make himself heard. I thought about it. As usual I had enjoyed spending the day with good friends, but I had not felt any of the enjoyment at what we had seen or done that I had in earlier years. ‘Discombulated’, was all I could think of to say.
I reckon it might be fifty years or more since I went to the MCG to watch a game of footy. Not that footy isn’t interesting, just that there were other more interesting things to do on the weekend during that time or we weren’t living in Melbourne or the Melbourne Football Club team was doing so poorly that it would be painful to go and watch.
My sister’s son-in-law, Mick, and I have chatted idly about going to see a Carlton (his team) and Melbourne (my team) match one day and eventually we got around to arranging it. Since both teams are languishing towards the bottom of the league ladder it seemed likely to be a fairly even, if untidy, game.
The first part of the trip to the MCG was from Ballarat to Melbourne. As part of the government’s policy of making things uncomfortable as possible the train service was replaced by road coaches for the day, which made the trip to Melbourne more cramped and uncomfortable than usual. There were a lot of people on the coach wearing Carlton colours, which seemed ominous. We met at one of the foodaramas near the station and had bite to eat. There were even more people in Carlton colours there, and a few in Melbourne colours, so I guess that a lot of people travel down from regional Victoria for the footy and meet there before going to the ground.
If the match is at the Docklands stadium then it would only be a short stroll to the ground, but since it was at the MCG it meant going back to the station and catching a suburban train to Richmond, the closest station to the ground. I’m not a great fan of crowds these days so seeing all those people headed en-masse to the ground was somewhat startling, and while there was a large crowd milling around the entrances the staff handled the security checks with admirable efficiency. (Towards the end of the match they announced the crowd attendance of over 55,000, about half the population of Ballarat.)
It was a Carlton home match, I discovered, so I found myself at the end of the ground where Carlton supporters had gathered. Not that it seemed to matter much, there was a goodly supply of Melbourne fans in the crowd too. There has been a lot of chatter in the press of late about bad crowd behavior but I saw none of that as we sat and waited for the game to commence, just a lot of chatter among supporters on both sides.
The game itself was not of the highest quality, both teams are low on the premiership league ladder and the skills on display reflected this. The current habit of teams like this is to kick the ball across the ground in the hope of getting towards a scoring position rather than going right up the center of the ground, and it is a very annoying habit, as some barrackers in the crowd reminded the players.
I didn’t mind this for the first three quarters as the Melbourne team gradually built up a very useful lead of 38 points. But in the final quarter they seemed to have forgotten how to play the game and almost all the quarter was played in the Carlton scoring half of the ground with the result that that team hit the front with only a few minutes left to play. Fortunately Melbourne scored one goad in the quarter which was enough to see the team fall over the line at the end of the game.
There was a great deal of yelling and screaming as Carlton surged in that final quarter, if the MCG had a roof it would have been lifted. At the end of the game, however, Carlton supporters, who have become used to their team losing my small margins, and Melbourne supporters, who have become used to seeing their team play poorly, began chatting again and everyone filed out, if not happily at least content that they had seen what proved to be a fairly even match.
What did I think? I thought it interesting and diverting, but not something that I would want to do every weekend for half a year, as hundreds of thousands of fans seem to do. I might go again in the coming fifty years too.