AIRFIX 1/35 Cruiser Mk.VIII A27M Cromwell Mk.IV A1373 + Cruiser Mk.VIII A27M Cromwell Mk.IV A1374

An exclusive first look at built sample models featuring both of the impending new 1/35th scale Cruiser Mk.VIII A27M Cromwell Tank kits, due to arrive in our warehouse over the next few days 

For the millions of people who are fascinated by the various armoured fighting vehicles which have roamed the world’s battlefields over the past 104 years, we all manage to find a real aesthetic appeal in these massive ‘ships of the land’, which are basically not much more than mobile lumps of metal, with a plethora of offensive armament. With each machine possessing its own unique list of impressive qualities, along with an equally long list of manufacturing/operational deficiencies, these powerful machines transformed the way ground warfare has been conducted over the past century, with the machines which contested the Second World War possessing an enduring fascination which shows absolutely no sign of abating. With the inspirational stories of the brave men who took these machines to war only serving to strengthen our interest, the shape, markings and colour schemes used on the world’s tank legion are as fascinating as they are sometimes confusing, however, in scale form, these metal monsters are irresistible to the modelling hobbyist.

With an impressive new selection of 1/35th scale military vehicles joining the Airfix kit range back at the start of 2019, the following year’s range announcement included news of a completely new tooling addition to this popular range and one which certainly seemed to appeal to many Workbench readers, as well as the wider modelling community. In fact, just like the actual tank on which the project was based, the new model would allow a number of variations of the same basic tank design to be modelled, a tank which would see its combat introduction in the Normandy countryside, following the successful Allied D-Day landings in June 1944, the British Cromwell cruiser tank. Marking the latest in a long line of Workbench exclusives for our readers, thanks to the prestigious modelling talents of our Product Designer Paramjit Sembhi, we can now bring you the first built models from this impressive new Cromwell kit, showcasing what we all have to look forward to in just a few weeks’ time – this Cromwell pair are already in our modelling sights.

This dramatic box artwork will announce the arrival of these two new additions to our 1/35th scale Military Vehicles range

Tracing its origins back to the early armoured skirmishes between British and German units at the start of WWII, the Cromwell was a development of the famous line of cruiser tanks which served the British Army with distinction throughout the Second World War. At first glance, you could be forgiven for dismissing the Cromwell as not possessing the same visual impact of many of the tanks in service around the time of the D-Day landings, specifically the German heavy panzers, but also arguably the Allied Churchill and Sherman Firefly, but in its own way, the story of this relatively small British tank is more interesting than all of its contemporaries. The Cromwell suffered from such a painfully protracted development that it was almost obsolete by the time it made its combat debut during the Battle of Normandy in the summer of 1944, however, the new tank possessed two essential qualities which would ensure its success – speed and reliability. Operated by brave and well trained crews, these extremely effective new tanks were available in large numbers as the Allies broke out of their Normandy beachheads and once in open country, their stealth and speed allowed them to really show the impressive fighting qualities of the Cromwell.
 
Understanding the lineage of Cromwell production and variant details is definitely a headache inducing process, with so many differences in engines, components, hull and turret designs to negotiate, in some cases, what appears to be a Cromwell may not actually be so. The most heavily produced version of the new Cruiser Tank Mk.VIII A27M, the Cromwell Mk.IV matched the Centaur hull with the highly effective Rolls Royce Meteor engine (A27Meteor), a development of the Merlin engine which famously powered the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Battle of Britain to victory. This powerful and extremely reliable engine allowed the tank to travel at impressively high speeds, which is just as well, as in operation, these relatively lightly armed tanks would be required to get rather close to their targets, using stealth and speed to outflank them.

The tank also featured a quick firing 75mm gun, which was a re-bored version of the ubiquitous British 6 pounder gun and allowed the commander to have the option of using American produced armour piercing or high explosive rounds. Further underlining the strategic effectiveness of the tank, its turret could traverse through 360 degrees in just 15 seconds, thanks to the impressive hydraulic system it employed.

During the savage fighting in the narrow hedgerow lined lanes of the Normandy battlefield, the excellent mobility of the Cromwell was somewhat nullified, even though its low profile would allow it to pass relatively unnoticed by watching German armour. When a situation required a Cromwell commander to move from the protection of the narrow lanes and into the surrounding fields, the initial climb up the steeply banked hedgerows could prove fatal. Exposing the lightly armoured lower hull of the vehicle during the manoeuvre, they were at risk of being destroyed by either an enemy tank, or by Wehrmacht infantry troops equipped with one of the plentiful Panzerfaust hand-held anti-tank weapons they were equipped with. An ingenious and rather simple solution to this problem was to attach a steel ‘hedge cutter’ blade to the front of the tank, which allowed the commander to scythe through the foliage obstacle, keeping his tank level and still able to bring his guns to bear on any potential target. This addition even provided some welcome natural foliage camouflage for the tank as it passed through the hedgerows, just so long as the trees and bushes it collected didn’t obstruct his gun aiming sights – if this did happen, it would require a crew member to leave the safety of his armoured chariot to clear it.

The armoured units of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry would also see heavy action following the Allied landings in Normandy, but as their role was to provide armoured support for infantry units engaged in combat, they would usually be deployed in smaller numbers and spread across several locations at the same time. A gunner from the Northamptonshire Yeomanry was thought to have been responsible for firing the shot which ended the fearsome reign of German Tiger tank commander Michael Wittmann on 8th August 1944, although he was assigned to an up-gunned Sherman Firefly at the time.

The majority of the 11th Armoured Division landed on Juno Beach on 13th June 1944, but would be thrust straight into the action, where they would be involved heavily with most of the British Second Army operations in northern France. They would continue fighting as the push moved to Belgium, Holland and eventually into Germany itself. It is interesting to note that like many other British Army tanks of the period, other than the single Allied star on the rear of its turret, this Cromwell has very little decoration or markings on its hull, other than its relatively inconspicuous unit markings.

Even though the new British A27M Cromwell Tank would not make its combat introduction until the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the speed and mobility of this excellent new tank would soon earn it an enviable reputation amongst Allied troops, who came to rely on the support they provided. The majority of Cromwell Tanks were armed with the standard 75mm ROQF gun, however, the less numerous Mk.VI variant would provide specialist infantry close support with its 95mm Howitzer and were consequently never too far away from the action. Firing a high explosive hollow charge shell, the tank was used to overcome fortified positions, such as concrete bunkers and pillboxes which stood in the way of the infantry’s advance and could even lay smoke-screens if required. 

With its distinctively short barrel, the Mk.VI also featured a large counterweight on its main armament, which was necessary in helping to balance the gun. Approximately 340 of these specialist tanks were eventually produced, which would prove to be extremely effective as Allied ground units pushed German forces back towards their homeland. Despite their impressive speed, the Cromwells were no match for the firepower of the German heavy tanks and would have to rely on speed and stealth for their battlefield survival.

An army unit made up of expatriate Czechoslovak troops equipped and under the command of the British Army, the 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade landed in Normandy during August 1944 and would be handed the essential task of containing and weakening the beleaguered German garrison occupying the port town of Dunkirk. Allowing the Allies to concentrate on operations across wider Normandy without fear of a German breakout, the Czech unit would actually be involved in heavy fighting, as both sides repelled enemy advances, before launching their own counter offensives. The brigade were equipped mainly with Sherman and Cromwell tanks, including a number of the specialist Cromwell Mk.VI variants with their 95mm Mk.I Howitzers, tanks which were ideally suited to dislodging particularly stubborn areas of enemy troop resistance. A real asset to troops fighting these aggressive skirmishes, often at close quarters, the support nature of these tanks dictated that they would never be found too far from the action, with their legendary speed allowing them to confuse and outflank the enemy. 

AIRFIX de Havilland Chipmunk T.10 1/48 a04105 Expected Summer 2021

We are pleased to bring you the latest edition of our Workbench blog, with all the news, updates and modelling exclusives from the fascinating world of Airfix. 

After the frenetic activity of range launch week, it can be quite therapeutic to get back to the comfort zone of a standard edition of Workbench, even though we have a busy schedule of content to get through over the coming months. With new tooling projects, kits benefiting from the addition of new parts and a host of re-issued models featuring new schemes and box artwork to get through, it’s already clear that every edition is going to be packed full of exclusives, but that’s just the way our readers like it. There are also lots of plans afoot at Airfix HQ for modellers and blog regulars alike and we are very much looking forward to bringing you all these details as soon as we are in a position to do so – these are exciting times!

For this first standard edition of Workbench for 2021, we start with a real new tooling bang, as we take a detailed look at one of the new projects announced with the launch of the 2021 model range, the hugely popular de Havilland Chipmunk T.10. This latest addition to our 1/48th scale kit range caught many people off guard when it took its place as one of the headline releases in the new range, but from the order numbers which have come flooding in over the past two weeks, we are already fully aware of how popular this famous training aeroplane is with modellers. Appearing in a Workbench blog for the very first time, we have been lucky enough to speak with the designer responsible for this project and have been given an exclusive selection of development images to share with our readers. Matt has also kindly given us an insight into the project and allowed us to ask one or two questions on behalf of our readers, as we find out how he went about incorporating this extremely famous aeroplane into the Airfix kit range. Proudly taking its place as our first major subject of the new year, strap yourself in for a first flight with the new Airfix de Havilland Chipmunk T.10.

There can be absolutely no doubting the aviation pedigree of the de Havilland Tiger Moth and just as the de Havilland designers had to come up with a replacement for this aviation classic back in the 1940s, so did one of our product designers, when he took on a similar task in a scale modelling sense 

Now already a hugely popular model in the Airfix 1/48th scale kit range, it could be argued that the de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane is perhaps the most famous training aeroplane type in the world, familiar to many millions of people and responsible for training many tens of thousands of pilots all over the world. An absolutely crucial component in the Allied wartime elementary flying training of so many young men destined to contest the war in the air during WWII and the men and women who ferried aircraft between factories and active stations during the Second World War, the Tiger Moth may not have sported any guns or bombs (we will overlook Operation Banquet Light in 1940), but it was still very much a war winner nonetheless.

After becoming such a famous aircraft the world over and generally regarded as being exceptional in the role for which it was intended, it must have been quite a headache for various former Allied air forces, as the aviation world headed towards the jet age and they were faced with accepting the fact that they were in need of a modern replacement for the venerable old Tiger Moth. How do you replace an aviation classic of such magnitude? With another classic, of course! To that end, the de Havilland Aircraft Company were ideally placed to begin work on developing the new aircraft, but as they were heavily engaged in producing new jet powered aircraft designs in the UK, this new trainer was not going to be a Hatfield designed aircraft.

With huge pressure being placed on de Havilland’s manufacturing capacity during the final few years of the Second World War and with a desire to support increasing numbers of Allied airmen being trained across the Atlantic and away from the rigors of war, de Havilland established an overseas subsidiary in Canada, the de Havilland Aircraft Company of Canada. Following the end of WWII, the company began design work on a new aircraft, one intended as a replacement for the ageing Tiger Moths still in RCAF service. A tandem two seat monoplane, the new trainer incorporated many advances over its predecessor, but shared many of its design philosophies, in that it was intended to be both simple to maintain and relatively forgiving to fly – these aircraft needed to be in the air, earning their keep.

Having the distinction of being the first aircraft type designed and built by de Havilland Canada, the first Chipmunk took to the skies in May 1946 and almost immediately gained interest from the military. By April 1948, the Royal Canadian Air Force had taken delivery of their first Chipmunk, but they were not the only ones admiring the qualities of this extremely capable aeroplane. The vast majority of the 1,283 de Havilland Chipmunks built would be manufactured under licence in the UK, in factories at Hatfield and Chester, with around 735 of these going on to see service with the Royal Air Force, again as the direct replacement for the venerable old Tiger Moth. In RAF service, the British built machines were known as the de Havilland Chipmunk Mk.10 and they would go on to provide basic flight training support for many thousands of future military aviators, in addition to providing air experience opportunities for many more as part of the University Air Squadron organisation.

An appealing 3d rendered image produced from the CAD files during the design of the new de Havilland Chipmunk T.10, giving us all an idea of what we have to look forward to a little later in the year

Despite being a Canadian design, the Chipmunk has become one of the most recognisable Royal Air Force aircraft of the post war era and has enjoyed a military career which began in the early 1950s and continues to this day. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight still operate two Chipmunks regularly, providing currency training for aircrew assigned to fly the unit’s historic ‘taildraggers’ and also to allow crews to reconnoitre new display venues in advance of their show appearance. In other situations, the aircraft can be used to deliver replacement aircrew or spare parts, whilst the Flight’s Spitfires and Hurricanes are out on display duties during the Airshow season. These two Chipmunks have ensured that the aircraft must now be regarded as one of the longest serving types in Royal Air Force History.

With such an impressive military pedigree as this, it is also interesting to note that the Chipmunk has gone on to become one of the most popular aircraft types on the civilian aviation scene and it is estimated that well over 300 aircraft are still in airworthy condition worldwide. Sometimes unfairly described as ‘The poor man’s Spitfire’, the Chipmunk surely now has to be regarded as a historic aircraft in its own right and one which continues to underline the effectiveness of its design. With aircraft formerly serving with the RAF, Army Air Corps, Royal Navy and the mount of several RAF display teams, there is no shortage of attractive schemes available for you to present your Chipmunk in if you are lucky enough to own one, not to mention the fact that the aircraft would also be operated by several overseas air forces all over the world.

As a training aeroplane, it is obvious that more people would have had personal experiences with the de Havilland Chipmunk as opposed to perhaps the more glamourous front line aircraft types which are so popular with enthusiasts. Indeed, the greatly increased possibility of actually flying in one of these equally historic aeroplanes has ensured that the Chipmunk is held in great affection by owners and enthusiasts alike and as we have already discussed, is an aircraft type which is not out of the reach of prospective pilot/owners. Significantly, the Chipmunk is still fulfilling the aviation role for which it was originally designed when making its first flight 74 years ago, training new pilots and allowing people to experience the thrill of flying for the first time.

Another 3d rendered image of the new 1/48th scale Chipmunk tooling, which clearly shows why this pretty little training aircraft is going to be a popular addition to the Airfix model range  

With aviation credentials such as these, surely the task of producing a scale model kit representation of this magnificent aeroplane is enough to daunt even our most experienced product designer, knowing that many thousands of modellers are going to be scrutinizing his work in the years to come. In a strange scale model design sort of way, he would be doing in modelling terms what the de Havilland Company of Canada had done back in the 1940s, as his new Chipmunk tooling project would be the follow up to our successful 1/48th scale Tiger Moth tooling of 2019. Add to this the fact that this coming May will mark the 75th anniversary of the first flight of the de Havilland Chipmunk and it was clear that Senior Product Designer Matt W had a significant new model project on his hands.

Over the course of the past five and a half years producing the Workbench blog, we have been fortunate enough to feature Matt’s design talents on a number of review features in previous blogs and he is always really generous in giving up his time to discuss some of the finer points of his highly specialised work. Although we don’t intend to cover exactly the same areas Matt has already covered for us, in these rather unusual times, we asked a few questions we thought Workbench readers might ask if they were given the opportunity to quiz Matt directly, as well as asking one or two specific Chipmunk related questions. We are also delighted to say that Matt took time out from working on his current design project to supply us with an exclusive series of images to illustrate this feature. Let’s now spend a little time with Matt and his Chipmunk. 

The obvious first question to ask one of our designers at the start of any newly announced tooling project is “When did you start work on the Chipmunk and how was the job allocated?” 

You might think that this answer would be pretty similar in the majority of cases when discussing new tooling projects with one of our designers, however, that doesn’t necessarily appear to always be the case. Anyway, as far as the modelling enthusiasts is concerned, we are always interested to learn such facts. Matt told us how he took on the 1/48th scale Chipmunk in October 2019 and how sometimes, seniority and experience can influence the allocation of various projects within the team. As an extremely close knit team, younger designers are always encouraged to push themselves when it comes to learning new skills and taking on challenging projects, however, they can always count on the support of more senior designers at any stage of any project. Having said that, there are definitely some occasions when greater experience means certain projects have to be placed with more senior designers. This could be for reasons of design complexity, or for the simple fact that they are working to a tight deadline. When costing a new tooling project, many factors have to be taken into account before it can be deemed viable, which has to include a designers salary. Sometimes, the certainty that a project will be completed on time can make the difference between a project being signed off, or not. In such cases, a senior designer will usually take on the project. 

The result of our scan trip to Vintage Fabrics at Audley End, but just the start of our work in bringing the Chipmunk into the Airfix model kit range  

Specifically talking Chipmunk, Matt started work on the project by building an information base, looking at what research the company already had in our extensive archives and scouring the internet for any additional books, plans and information he felt he was going to need. Completely immersing himself in the project, Matt also worked closely with the Lead Researcher to find where preserved examples of the aircraft were available for them inspect and potentially secure for scanning purposes. This is not as straight forward as it sounds, because the team will have already discussed what they wanted to achieve with the tooling and which variants of the aircraft they intended to model. All these specifics would have to be incorporated in the subject aircraft to be scanned, but they also had to be aware of any non-standard modifications a particular aircraft may exhibit, any damage which had been repaired and generally anything on the aircraft which would not have appeared on the aircraft for the time period the team were intending to model. Even if the aircraft to be scanned does exhibit some of these features, as long as the designer is aware of it, he can account for this during the design process.

For the new de Havilland Chipmunk T.10 project, Matt and the team were fortunate enough to have access to a machine which was more than suitable as a scan subject and we were once again incredibly grateful to Clive Denney and the support of his Vintage Fabrics business. Heading for their facility at Audley End, near Saffron Walden in Essex, de Havilland Chipmunk T.10 WB585 had been specially positioned within the hangar to allow a detailed LIDAR scan to be completed, something when once cleaned up and sent to Matt in a format he could use, would form the basis of this interesting new project. It would be used alongside all the other research materials Matt had amassed in preparation for taking on the famous Chipmunk.

“Have the pandemic restrictions had an impact on the way you work and indeed, on the timescales associated with new tooling projects?”

Most of us would assume that just like every other business around the world, Airfix and specifically the design of new model tooling projects, would have been adversely affected by the different way we have all been required to go about our lives over the past year or so, something which seems likely to continue into the coming year. Matt told us that they have clearly had to go about things in a slightly different way, but from a design and team dynamics perspective, there have not really been any issues and in some areas, have actually made them more effective. We all know that the Airfix design team possess a unique set of skills and abilities which are not shared by any other people outside of the business and whilst this close knit group meet regularly to discuss projects, seek advice and to share information, the actual design work itself is quite a solitary process and will see each designer spending many hours ‘in the zone’, just them and their computer. With that in mind, it didn’t really matter if their work computer was situated in the office, or at home and with the availability of accessible and easy to use on-line meeting tools, staying in contact with the rest of the team has been absolutely no problem. Holding design update meetings as regularly and effectively as required, everything has carried on more or less as normal.

Another powerful software tool available to our product designers is the ability to produce these attractive computer rendered 3D images of the new model, images which often appear in the Airfix catalogue at the start of the year and on our stand at the annual Scale Modelworld show. They help to give an idea of what new models still in development might look like once they are released and certainly highlight the impressive levels of detail the designer has captured 

Working remotely has actually brought about some beneficial changes to the way the team works, as it has probably resulted in a more formal structure to the meetings, giving each member of the team the opportunity to discuss and record the status of their individual projects and everyone able to see exactly where their colleagues are with regard to existing projects. As a senior designer, Matt has also found the changes really positive when it comes to supporting less experienced members of the team if they require advice, or just simply giving them a one-to-one opportunity to talk about anything that may be on their mind. Ultimately, from Matt’s perspective, he doesn’t think the changes have been detrimental to the design team at all.

“How different is it working on a famous training aircraft, as opposed to something like a Spitfire or Mustang?”

From the perspective of wanting to produce the most accurate representation of the subject aircraft you are working on and continuing to develop your skills, Matt told us that there is absolutely no difference whether your aircraft is a trainer or a famous WWII fighter, both are equally rewarding. Clearly, you could argue that more people will be familiar with the Spitfire than they would with a de Havilland Chipmunk, but it would be equally true to say that more people have been close to, or flown in a Chipmunk than they would have a Spitfire. This brings its own pressures for a designer taking on such a project, as he knows that more people will have a personal connection with the Chipmunk that they would a WWII fighter and he will have to prepare himself for plenty of modeller feedback once the kit is unleashed on the modelling world. Importantly, as more people will have experienced the delights of the de Havilland Chipmunk, this new kit could actually prove to be a more popular subject than many other kits in the range.

Even though Matt knew his Chipmunk design work would not require him to incorporate guns or bombs into the tooling, he also knew that there would be plenty of opportunities to add real character and detail into the new kit, details which would be familiar to a great many people. The cockpit was an area of the design where Matt knew he wanted to pay particular attention to, incorporating plenty of the fine detail into the new kit, so that anyone who had ever flown in a Chipmunk would find this detail reassuringly familiar. It could be argued that most people would probably be more familiar with the rear seat of the aircraft, as their time in the Chippie was spent undergoing flight training or enjoying an air experience flight, but as the Chipmunk also has the rather unfairly title as the ‘Poor man’s Spitfire’, this also suggests the aircraft is popular with private individuals looking to own a former military aircraft, so the ‘front office’ will need to be similarly detailed.

The result of many hours of painstaking work, this impressive image shows some of the detail which Matt has incorporated into his latest design, details which will be extremely familiar to anyone who has spent time in the company of a de Havilland Chipmunk

With the Chipmunk featuring a rather distinctive ‘fixed’ main undercarriage, Matt knew that this was one area of the design work where things would be a little less complicated than on other projects and therefore would save him a little time. He also knew that there were plenty of other areas where he intended devoting a little extra time, to ensure as much details as possible could be replicated. Of particular interest to him was the de Havilland Gipsy Major engine and the ability to allow the modeller to build their kit with the engine cowling panels displayed in the open position, revealing the engine detail in all its glory. Another significant area of the Chipmunk’s design where Matt was able to devote more time was the representation of the fabric covered wings and how they contrasted with the rivetted metal leading edge sections. Hopefully, this is another feature of the new model’s design he hopes will appeal to the modeller, once the Chipmunk is released.

“Did you encounter any particular challenges whilst designing the new Chipmunk?”

Although Matt would definitely not tell you so himself, he is our most experienced product designer and whilst he is always looking to further enhance his already impressive design CV, there will be few occasions when he his daunted by anything he is asked to work on. He told us that he was really looking forward to working on the Chipmunk, but one thing which became apparent to him quite early in the information gathering phase of the project is that there is not much technical literature available for the Chipmunk, which certainly made periods of the design work a little more challenging. Quite a number of modifications were incorporated into the design of the aircraft throughout its service life, with late model Chipmunks displaying quite a number of differences from earlier aircraft. The challenge for Matt was trying to work out when all these changes were applied to the aircraft and whether they would need to feature on the variants of the Chipmunk kit he was working on.

It is interesting for us modelling enthusiasts to learn that whilst the Chipmunk project is breaking news as far as we are concerned, Matt has spent over a year working on this new model and has already moved onto a new project, one which for the time being must remain in the Top Secret area of the Airfix office.

“Clearly you will be proud of every Airfix kit you were involved in designing, but is there anything in the new Chipmunk’s design which you are particularly pleased with?”

This seemed to be quite an easy question for Matt to answer, as he quickly responded with the word – “Engine!” He was really pleased with how much detail he was able to incorporate not only into the design of the de Havilland Gipsy Major engine parts themselves, but also how everything around the engine supported the inclusion of impressive detail. From the modellers perspective, the ability to construct the kit with engine access panels open to reveal all this detail will be a real benefit and an appealing option which will hopefully see many deciding to go down this route.

This ‘Scan Detail Positioning’ image allows us to see all the detail areas of the Chipmunk’s wing Matt has plotted for his future design attentions

The image which shows the Chipmunk wing with a series of purple blocked protrusions on it is described as ‘Scan Detail Positioning’ and is just another extension of the process described above. This time, as well as showing the frame section overlay lines on the scanned wing section, this image shows where the designer is looking to clarify the scanned data information, tracing over the scan to plot where all the surface detail should be positioned. The unusual raised areas you can see on the screen grab mark all the positions of wing surface detail which the designer will have to work on when accurately representing things like fuel filler caps, bolts, rivets and hatches. This important work reassures him of accurate positioning, with all this information imported into the cad design software, where he can begin working on individual components. Highlighting why the design of a new model tooling can take so long, it is interesting to note that each and every one of the purple boxes and tubes you can see on the image are individual items of detail which will require the design engineers attention at some point in the future.

The images above show some of the various stages of the wing’s design and how Matt took the basic shape and gradually built up the surface detail in stages. If you refer back to the ‘Scan Detail Positioning’ image and all those purple boxes, you can begin to see how Matt used all those individual positioning plots to locate the areas which were going to require further attention and how they are going to look on the finished model. It is still important to stress that these are all development images, but this Chipmunk wing design walk-through shows how Matt expertly replicated the rib structure and fabric covering surface detail, right through to the final image, where all the wing detail has been added. Knowing that each detail had to be designed separately, it is easy to see why our product designers become so familiar with the subjects they have worked on and how they must become quite attached to them.

The de Havilland Chipmunk is a magnificent little aeroplane and one which is definitely worthy of being inducted into the Airfix model kit hall of fame. With this year marking the 75th anniversary of the first flight of the prototype and the fact that the aircraft was used by the RAF, Royal Navy and Army Air Corps and is still being used by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the availability of attractive scheme options for the aircraft is almost endless, not to mention the people who have gone on to operate the aircraft in a civilian capacity. We really hope that modellers are looking forward to spending a little quality workbench time with our 1/48th scale Chipmunk T.10 once it is released and are especially looking forward to seeing all the colourful and imaginative ways in which you will be finishing your model builds.

NEW FROM AIRFIX A1373 1/35 Cruiser Tank Mk.VIII A27M Cromwell Mk.IV-Expected: Winter 2020-2021

With our popular range of 1/35th scale armoured fighting vehicles now boasting an impressive selection of many of the most iconic tanks, tank destroyers and mobile artillery pieces from the Second World War, any new addition to this range is obviously going to receive quite a bit of attention from military modellers. That certainly proved to be the case at the beginning of the year, when the launch of our 2020 model range included details of a newly tooled British Cruiser Tank Mk.VIII A27M Cromwell kit to join the range later in the year. As we are now unveiling of the dramatic box artwork which will grace the release of A1373 Cromwell Mk.IV (featured above), we are pleased to report that these two kit variations on the Cromwell theme are well on the way towards their early 2021 release date.

One of a series of fast and relatively well armed cruiser tanks developed by the British during the Second World War, the Cromwell can trace its history back to late 1940 and the decision to find a replacement for the widely used Crusader tank. Unfortunately, a relatively protracted development has dictated that there is generally some confusion with different variants of these tanks, as similar looking machines could both be named Centaur or various marks of Cromwell. They were all derived from the A24 Cruiser Mark VII Cavalier, the name given to the original intended Crusader replacement programme. The main reason for the different names revolves around three different engine types used to power the different vehicles, different manufacturers and several different hull types.

The A27M Cromwell Mk.IV was the most heavily produced version of the new Cruiser Tank Mk.VIII and matched the Centaur hull with the highly effective Rolls Royce Meteor engine (A27Meteor), a development of the Merlin engine which famously powered the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Battle of Britain to victory. This powerful and extremely reliable engine allowed the tank to travel at impressively high speeds, which is just as well, as in operation, these relatively lightly armed tanks would be required to get rather close to their targets, using stealth and speed to outflank them.

The tank also featured a quick firing 75mm gun, which was a re-bored version of the ubiquitous British 6 pounder gun and allowed the commander to have the option of using American produced armour piercing or high explosive rounds. Further underlining the strategic effectiveness of the tank, its turret could traverse through 360 degrees in just 15 seconds, thanks to the impressive hydraulic system it employed.

During the final few months of the Second World War, when the Allies were slowly pushing German forces back towards their homeland and their enemy were finding it increasingly difficult to mount strong, sustainable counter offensives, the speed and agility of the British Cromwell tank would come into its own. Deployed in large numbers in the wake of the Normandy landings, the Cromwell was perhaps not as numerous as the ubiquitous Sherman and certainly didn’t possess the hitting power of the new Firefly, but when situations required the speed and initiative of an armoured cavalry thrust, the Cromwell was ideally suited to this dangerous task. As with all armoured units involved in combat throughout the European Theatre, tank crews were allowed a certain amount of discretion when it came to applying camouflage to their machines and were free to utilise foliage and netting to give them as much protection as possible in the combat locations in which they were operating. The addition of field applied paint was a different matter and in most cases, only the use of a water based whitewash during periods of heavy snowfall would be allowed.

Compared to the Sherman tanks which fought along side the Cromwell in Europe, the British tank had a much lower profile, something which may have sometimes been a disadvantage for the commander when attempting to assess the battlefield situation, but something which could prove extremely beneficial when units were being targeted by Wehrmacht guns. It appears as if the crew of this particular Cromwell only elected to whitewash the turret of their tank, presumably deciding not to bother spending time painting the hull due to its extremely low profile. The 7th Armoured Division ‘The Desert Rats’ would be heavy users of the Cromwell and following the Normandy landings, would use the tank during many actions throughout France, then into Belgium and Germany itself.

During the savage fighting in the narrow hedgerow lined lanes of the Normandy battlefield, the excellent mobility of the Cromwell was somewhat nullified, even though its low profile would allow it to pass relatively unnoticed by watching German armour. When a situation required a Cromwell commander to move from the protection of the narrow lanes and into the surrounding fields, the initial climb up the steeply banked hedgerows could prove fatal. Exposing the lightly armoured lower hull of the vehicle during the manoeuvre , they were at risk of being destroyed by either an enemy tank of by Wehrmacht infantry equipped with one of the plentiful Panzerfaust hand-held anti-tank weapons. An ingenious and rather simple solution to this problem was to attach a steel ‘hedge cutter’ blade to the front of the tank, which allowed the commander to scythe through the foliage obstacle, keeping his tank level and still able to bring his guns to bear on any potential target. This addition even provided some welcome natural foliage camouflage for the tank as it passed through the hedgerows, just so long as the trees and bushes it collected didn’t obstruct his gun aiming sights – if this did happen, it would require a crew member to leave the safety of his armoured chariot to clear it.

The armoured units of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry would also see heavy action following the Allied landings in Normandy, but as their role was to provide armoured support for infantry units engaged in combat, they would usually be deployed in smaller numbers and spread across several locations at the same time. A gunner from the Northamptonshire Yeomanry was thought to have been responsible for firing the shot which ended the fearsome reign of German Tiger tank commander Michael Wittmann on 8th August 1944, although he was assigned to an up-gunned Sherman Firefly at the time.

The majority of the 11th Armoured Division landed on Juno Beach on 13th June 1944, but would be thrust straight into the action, where they would be involved heavily with most of the British Second Army operations in northern France. They would continue fighting as the push moved to Belgium, Holland and eventually into Germany itself. It is interesting to note that like many other British Army tanks of the period, other than the single Allied star on the rear of its turret, this Cromwell has very little decoration or markings on its hull, other than its relatively inconspicuous unit markings.

NEW FROM AIRFIX A1374 1/35 Cruiser Tank Mk.VIII A27M Cromwell Mk.VI-Expected: Winter 2020-2021

As with the Polish airmen who fought during the Battle of Britain, Polish infantry and armoured units during the Second World War proved to be extremely proficient fighters and would earn the respect of their enemies. With troops fighting their way across Europe in the wake of the German invasion of their homeland at the start of the Second World War, it would be four long years before they would return to Europe and help to finally defeat their enemy. The well trained 1st Polish Armoured Division arrived on the Normandy beachheads at the beginning of August 1944, they would be pressed into service during the savage fighting around Falaise, With significant German units trapped by a massive Allied onslaught, the troops of the 1st Polish Armoured Division were asked to close the pocket, containing the concentrated German attempts to break out. In 48 hours of savage fighting, the unit repelled multiple German breakout attempts, inflicting heavy casualties and destroying large numbers of tanks and armoured vehicles in the process. Despite facing incessant assaults and running low on ammunition, the Polish troops held firm and were eventually relieved, but not before earning the admiration of General Montgomery and all their Allied comrades.

Proud fighters, Polish troops would happily describe how they were ‘fighting for the freedom of all nations, but would only give their lives for Poland’. Following rest and refitting, the 1st Polish Armoured Division pursued the retreating Germans along the French coast, through Belgium and into Holland, liberating many towns as they went. The fighting moved into Germany during the spring of 1945, with the division famously taking the naval town of Wilhelmshaven, where Polish General Stanislaw Maczek accepted the surrender of this significant prize.

As a Cromwell Mk.VI operated by the 1st Polish Armoured Division, this tank displays the famous winged helmet adopted by the unit, something enemy forces would come to fear, following their combat introduction during the battles of Normandy.

These two new 1/35th scale kit versions of the Cruiser Tank Mk.VIII, Cromwell Mk.IV (A1373) and Cruiser Tank Mk.VIII, Cromwell Mk.VI (A1374) are now advancing ominously towards their early 2021 release date and will certainly be popular additions to this growing range of WWII armour kits – we will have fully decorated samples to show you next!

Even though the new British A27M Cromwell Tank would not make its combat introduction until the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the speed and mobility of this excellent new tank would soon earn it an enviable reputation amongst Allied troops, who came to rely on the support they provided. The majority of Cromwell Tanks were armed with the standard 75mm ROQF gun, however, the less numerous Mk.VI variant would provide specialist infantry close support with its 95mm Howitzer and were consequently never too far away from the action. Firing a high explosive hollow charge shell, the tank was used to overcome fortified positions, such as concrete bunkers and pillboxes which stood in the way of the infantry’s advance and could even lay smoke-screens if required.

With its distinctively short barrel, the Mk.VI also featured a large counterweight on its main armament, which was necessary in helping to balance the gun. Approximately 340 of these specialist tanks were eventually produced, which would prove to be extremely effective as Allied ground units pushed German forces back towards their homeland. Despite their impressive speed, the Cromwells were no match for the firepower of the German heavy tanks and would have to rely on speed and stealth for their battlefield survival.

An army unit made up of expatriate Czechoslovak troops equipped and under the command of the British Army, the 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade landed in Normandy during August 1944 and would be handed the essential task of containing and weakening the beleaguered German garrison occupying the port town of Dunkirk. Allowing the Allies to concentrate on operations across wider Normandy without fear of a German breakout, the Czech unit would actually be involved in heavy fighting, as both sides repelled enemy advances, before launching their own counter offensives. The brigade were equipped mainly with Sherman and Cromwell tanks, including a number of the specialist Cromwell Mk.VI variants with their 95mm Mk.I Howitzers, tanks which were ideally suited to dislodging particularly stubborn areas of enemy troop resistance. A real asset to troops fighting these aggressive skirmishes, often at close quarters, the support nature of these tanks dictated that they would never be found too far from the action, with their legendary speed allowing them to confuse and outflank the enemy.

Without doubt, the most impressive attributes of the Cromwell were within its hull, all of which endowed the tank with excellent battlefield performance. The powerful Meteor engine combined with the tried and trusted Christie suspension allowed the Cromwell to travel at speeds in excess of 40mph on roads and not much slower than this when operating cross-country. It also had a much lower profile than the Sherman and possessed an impressive turret traverse rate which outclassed most of its opponents on the battlefield – adopting a shoot and scoot approach to armoured engagements, the Cromwell was an effective addition to the Allied inventory, especially when they eventually had Wehrmacht units on the run.

NEW FROM AIRFIX 1/48 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb A05125A – Expected: Winter 2020-2021

Throughout the air battles which raged across the world’s skies during the Second World War, the desire to gain air superiority was something of a preoccupation for military planners and when one side gained an advantage with a new upgraded aircraft variant or introduction of a completely new type, their adversaries would undoubtedly counter the move before too long. Perhaps the most enduring wartime aerial duels were fought between the British Supermarine Spitfire and the German Messerschmitt Bf 109, each a classic fighting aeroplanes in its own right and both relatively evenly matched for the majority of the war. That was especially true throughout the Battle of Britain and during the first tentative fighter sweeps over occupied northern France in the months which followed. The RAF needed a more capable Spitfire to clear the skies of Messerschmitts and they had an idea what it would take.

Their preferred option was to radically redevelop the existing Spitfire airframe, incorporating a new wing design and harnessing the power of the new Rolls Royce Merlin XX powerplant. Known as the Spitfire III, this new aircraft would take some time to develop and manufacture, but they desperately needed better Spitfires now, so whilst the development of the new fighter continued, Rolls Royce were asked to produce a ‘stop-gap Spitfire’, one powered by their new Merlin 45 engine – thank goodness they had this foresight.

The new interim Spitfire was known as the Mk.V and combined the additional power of the Rolls Royce Merlin 45 engine with the original Mk.I/II airframe, whilst at the same time including a number of design improvements already developed for the proposed future Mk.III. This new Spitfire was an excellent performer and proved to be more than a match for the latest Luftwaffe fighters in service. With the much increased production capacity offered by the new Castle Bromwich shadow factory in the Midlands, Spitfire Mk.V fighters would be produced at a spectacular rate, with this interim variant actually going on to be the most produced version of this famous fighter, with almost 6,500 aircraft manufactured. Seeing service in every theatre the Allies contested the war, the Spitfire Mk.V fought in the home defence and offensive fighter sweep roles, above the deserts of North Africa and over the jungles of the Far East. What started as a temporary measure produced the most effective ‘stop-gap’ aircraft the RAF would ever introduce – one aircraft they didn’t go on to introduce was the proposed Mk.III!

The magnificent box artwork featured above is being exclusively revealed to Workbench readers and has been produced in support of the forthcoming release from our 1/48th scale Spitfire Mk.Vb tooling. The kit will be supplied with two appealing scheme options, which we will take a closer look at now.

Initially joining the Royal Air Force in 1936, Eric Hugh Thomas was initially posted to No.19 Squadron Duxford, flying the beautiful Gloster Gauntlet fighter. After a short stint as a flight instructor at Cranwell, he would later to squadron flying with his parent unit, only to be posted away again, this time to No.222 Squadron at Hornchurch during the height of the Battle of Britain. September 1940 would prove to be a productive month for Thomas, as he managed to destroy three Bf 109 fighters and damage or share in the destruction of a further two Luftwaffe aircraft.

On 17th November 1941, he took command of No.133 ‘Eagle Squadron’ at Eglinton, where he would help to oversee the ongoing integration of American pilots into Royal Air Force service, following the unit’s establishment just four months earlier. He would personally lead the squadron’s first fighter sweep over France in April 1942 and oversee their conversion to the Spitfire Mk.Vb, before changing base ones more, this time moving to Biggin Hill. Now promoted to Wing Commander, he would take part in air operations in support of Operation Jubilee and the Dieppe raid, a maximum effort which would involve all three of the RAF Eagle Squadrons in providing air cover for the landing forces. He would relinquish his command of No 133 Squadron in September 1942 when all three of the RAF ‘Eagle Squadrons’ transferred to USAAF control, with his former No.133 Squadron becoming the 336th Fighter Squadron, part of the 4th Fighter Group based at Debden.

Supermarine Spitfire Vb BM260 was built at the Castle Bromwich factory and delivered to the Royal Air Force in March 1942. It was allocated to No.133 ‘Eagle Squadron’ the following month, becoming the personal aircraft of Squadron Leader Eric Hugh Thomas and later benefitting from some rather distinctive note artwork – at a time when few RAF fighters carried personal markings, Thomas decorated his aircraft with a jousting knight on the port side fuselage, just in front of the cockpit. It is also interesting to note that this Spitfire wears the revised RAF day fighter scheme adopted from mid-August 1941, a scheme which just very different from the aircraft which fought during the Battle of Britain.

Possessing an exemplary service record and having been awarded several decorations for his flying skill, Eric Hugh Thomas eventually left the Royal Air Force in September 1944 due to continuing health problems, with at least five aerial victories to his name and officially an ‘Ace’ pilot.

With the Spitfire continuing to prove such a popular modelling subject, the two fascinating scheme options included with this impending kit release will not only help to tell the story of this heavily produced ‘stop-gap’ variant of Britain’s most famous fighting aeroplane, but also how it was used by two airmen connected with one of America’s celebrated ‘Eagle Squadrons’. Scheduled for release early in the new year, this 1/48th scale kit (A05125A) is something that little bit different for your latest Spitfire build project.

The young Dominic Salvatore Gentile had always been fascinated by flight, but as he did not have the necessary college requirements for entry into the US military, he headed to Canada to undergo his military flying training. On successfully gaining his wings, he was posted to Britain, where he would join No.133 ‘Eagle Squadron’, the third and last of the famed US manned squadrons in the Royal Air Force. Flying the Supermarine Spitfire Mk.V out of RAF Biggin Hill, Gentile would score his first aerial victories on 19th August 1942, when he claimed a Ju88 and Focke Wulf Fw190 whilst flying operations covering the unsuccessful Dieppe Raid. It is also interesting to note that Operation Jubilee (the Dieppe Raid) was the only time that all three of the RAF’s Eagle Squadrons saw action on the same operation.

In September 1942, the pilots of the three RAF Eagle Squadrons transferred to the USAAF, with the former RAF No.133 Squadron becoming the 336th Fighter Squadron, part of the 4th Fighter Group based at Debden. Initially retaining their Spitfires, Gentile’s machine was called ‘Buckeye Don’ and featured rather distinctive nose artwork (based on the 4th FG badge), something which clearly illustrated his confident attitude to aerial combat. After only retaining their Spitfires for a few weeks, the pilots of the 4th FG were required to convert to the mighty P-47 Thunderbolt, a massive aeroplane in comparison to their diminutive Spitfires. Initially having serious misgivings about a fighter they referred to as the ‘Juggernaut’, the Thunderbolt may have been a bit of a heavyweight when compared to the Spitfire, but certainly possessed many impressive fighting qualities of its own.

Gentile would go on to be a celebrated aviation hero and became the leading USAAF ace in the ETO after scoring a ‘triple victory’ on 8th April 1944. Amongst his fellow pilots, he would also be known as the ‘Ace of Aces’, by virtue of the fact his victory tally had overtaken that of Great War US Ace Eddie Rickenbacker (ground victories were also counted). Ultimately though, his tour of duty would end in inglorious fashion, as he simply could not suppress his urge to show off. Whilst performing a demonstration flight at Debden for a crowd of dignitaries and members of the press, Gentile flew his Mustang ‘Shangri-La’ in a series of ever faster and ever lower passes and it was almost inevitable what was going to happen. Striking the ground, the fighter came to rest in a heap, but thankfully with the pilot miraculously emerging unhurt, other than his bruised ego. Furious, his commanding officer grounded him and sent him back stateside to work the war bond circuit.

NEW FROM AIRFIX 1/72 Avro Lancaster BII A08001-New Arrival

Looking at wartime pictures of this particular aircraft, it can be rather confusing to see the unmistakable nose and gaping bomb bay of an Avro Lancaster, only to look across to the engines and see the four strange radial engines which power it. Although something doesn’t seem quite right, there is definitely something rather appealing about this unusual Lancaster and one which is worthy of further investigation. The radial engined Lancaster Mk.II entered RAF service in late 1942, where it was welcomed with open arms by squadrons converting from twin engined Wellingtons. With only 300 aircraft of this type being produced, operational losses would invariably be replaced with standard Merlin engined Lancasters, which meant that by the time of D-Day, only two squadrons were still operating the type, No.514 Squadron and No.408 (Goose) Squadron RCAF.

No.408 (Goose) Squadron RCAF began the war operating Handley Page Hampden bombers from RAF Lindholme, but would later convert to the Halifax and then the Lancaster B.II. Whilst based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, it is unusual to note that whilst they began the summer flying the radial engined variant of the Avro Lancaster, they would go back to flying the Halifax before the summer was out. Making a significant contribution to Bomber Command’s war effort, the squadron would mount 4,610 sorties during WWII, tragically losing 170 aircraft during that time – the squadron’s code letters were EQ.

This particular Lancaster certainly lived up to its nickname and sported some rather spectacular nose artwork to advertise the fact – known as Avro Lancaster B.II LL725 ‘Z for Zombie’, this Lancaster carried a rather imaginative representation of a bomb carrying ghoul on its port side nose, along with a meticulously applied mission scoreboard. Unfortunately, the aircraft would be lost over Hamburg on the night of 28th/29th July 1944, just before No.408 Squadron reverted back to operating Halifax bombers.

n interesting feature of some of the early Lancaster Mk.I and Mk.II aircraft was the inclusion of a rear facing FN-64 ventral turret, an attempt to provide the aircraft with better defensive armament against attack from behind and below. In operation, the gun proved difficult to use and was largely ineffective, other than providing reassurance for bomber crews and was subsequently removed, however modifications required to install the turret would result in the radial engined B.II variant of the Lancaster featuring no fewer than three different versions of the aircraft’s iconic bomb bay.

Avro Lancaster B.II DS842 ‘Fanny Ferkin II’ was delivered to RAF No.514 Squadron in December 1943 and would spend its entire service career with this unit. Another aircraft which benefitted from rather elaborate nose artwork, this Lancaster is worthy of particular note as it embarked on a lecture tour of USAAF bases in Britain during May 1944, allowing American air and ground crews to take a closer look at Britain’s most famous bomber and to find out what it was like to operate. It would be interesting to find out if any of these American onlookers thought that this particular Lancaster appeared a little strange to their eyes as well and why it was different. The aircraft would eventually be scrapped in March 1945, although this is not known if it was as a result of combat damage sustained, an accident or being cannibalised to keep other aircraft flying.

With the Avro Lancaster B.II occupying such an unusual and fascinating position in the story of Britain’s most famous wartime bomber, every time this particular kit is released, it always disappears almost immediately, as modellers stock up on this rather odd looking variant. As the kit also includes the two appealing nose art schemes detailed above, it makes this an almost irresistible Bomber Command build project for the dark winter months ahead. Importantly, we are pleased to report that this fabulous kit is now available once more.

new from airfix A02342 – Tiger I 1/72

When the mighty German Tiger I entered service during the Autumn of 1942, it was the most advanced tank in the world and one designed specifically to dominate the battlefield. Capable of destroying anything the Allies had in service, the Tiger possessed a stand-off advantage where it could ‘kill without being killed’, picking off enemy tanks before they could even think about returning fire. Unfortunately for the Wehrmacht, the awesome potential of the Tiger was never fully realised, as it was over engineered, extremely complex and expensive to produce, ensuring that there were never enough Tigers on the battlefield at any one time. Between 1942 and 1944, only 1,347 Tiger 1s were manufactured and whilst it was undoubtedly one of the finest tanks ever produced, it could not hold back the ever increasing numbers of Allied armour. Highlighting this numerical disparity, American factories were able to produce over 49,000 Sherman Tanks during WWII.

A celebrated panzer ace with reputedly around 135 tank victories to his name, Michael Wittman combined his undoubted tactical skill with the awesome power of the mighty Tiger I tank to devastating effect on the battlefields of Europe. Perhaps his most famous action was the ambush of elements of the British 7th Armoured Division at Villers-Bocage on 13th June 1944, when during the space of a frenetic 15 minutes of combat, he destroyed 14 tanks and at least the same number of armoured personnel carriers. Unfortunately for Wittmann and the rest of Schwere Panzer Abteilung 101, the Allies were now flooding Normandy with troops and armour and his undoubted skills would be required in multiple locations at the same time. Wherever he found himself in combat, he would usually be at a significant numerical disadvantage.

On the morning of 8th August 1944, the Germans were coming to terms with strategic losses as a result of a massive Allied offensive ‘Operation Totalize’ in and around the Caen area. With his Tiger concealed in a wood, Wittmann was attempting to assess the situation and plan where best to direct a counterattack. Knowing he would be facing much greater numbers of Allied armour, he still had great faith in the fighting qualities of the Tiger I and backed himself to better any armoured unit who dared to oppose him. The Germans were still coming to terms with news of the combat introduction of a powerful new Allied tank, the Sherman Firefly, however, reports were that they were in very short supply and were being deployed sparingly.

On that fateful day, Wittmann was unable to use his own assigned Tiger I (Turret number 205), so he and his crew were using the machine belonging to Battalion Commander Heinz von Westerhagen, a machine which had the turret number 007 and one which would soon be forever linked with Germany’s most famous panzer ace. The plan was to attack and destroy Allied units occupying high ground near the town of Cintheaux, south of Caen, claiming the position for themselves and holding it until support units could arrive. Wittmann led a force of 4 Tigers across the perilous Normandy countryside, concealing their progress from air attack wherever possible. As they passed an orchard on the way to their objective, near the town of Saint-Aignan-de-Cramesnil, the battle group were completely unaware that their progress was being watched and that they were heading into a planned armoured killing zone.

Amongst the Allied tanks concealed in the orchard was a single Sherman Firefly, with its crew including a young gunner who was gaining a reputation as being something of a crack shot. Waiting until the Tigers were at relatively close range, the Firefly opened fire at the last Tiger, getting off two quick rounds before the enemy tank could react, knocking it out. Withdrawing to take up a new firing position and to avoid being fired upon by the remaining Tigers, the Sherman next targeted a Tiger displaying the turret number 007, letting off a round before they themselves could be fired upon. The round penetrated the hull of the German tank, setting off an explosive chain reaction which ignited its stored ammunition with such force that it blew the turret off the tank.

Clearly, the explosion would have instantly killed the Tiger’s crew, including Germany’s famous Tiger ‘Ace’ Michael Wittmann, although this was unknown at the time. Even the mighty Tiger tank could not hold back the overwhelming armoured superiority enjoyed by Allied armoured units in the wake of the D-Day landings.

Expected: Autumn 2020

new from airfix A02341 – Sherman Firefly VC 1/72

In the 134th edition of Workbench, we looked at an exciting pair of new tooling projects which pitted the talents of two of our most recent product design recruits with two of the Second World War’s most famous armoured fighting vehicles. We are delighted to now be in a position to quickly provide an update on both projects, but with something of a difference – once again looking at each project in turn, we will see how each kit has been developed with an unusual twist, presenting the modeller with a simple, or more complex build option. With the benefit of yet another selection of exclusive images for your viewing pleasure, we can now take a first look at the model part frames themselves, marvel at the beautiful box artwork produced for each model and review the two scheme options which will accompany the release of both kits.

As his third new tooling project since joining Airfix as a product designer, Tom had already built up a wealth of experience by the time he embarked on his Sherman Firefly VC project and was determined that he was going to do this iconic tank justice. Based on the ubiquitous American M4A(4) hull, the Firefly was a British attempt to ‘up gun’ the Sherman, making it much more capable when facing the heavy German armour it would be facing during the battles for Normandy, whilst using existing gun and ammunition technology. Redesigning the tank’s turret to reposition the radio gear, the Firefly equipped the Sherman with the powerful British 17 pounder anti-tank gun, turning it through 90 degrees so that it could be loaded from the side. Although the tank retained the relatively weak armour protection of the Sherman series, the new gun was at least capable of taking on and destroying the feared German Tiger and Panther tanks which were roaming the battlefields of Europe.

An exclusive first look at the part frames produced by the new 1/72nd scale Sherman Firefly VC tooling, clearly showing how this highly detailed new kit will have two options when it comes to modelling the tracks and running gear

As one of the most capable Allied tanks of the Second World War, Tom was determined to make this new kit a much loved addition to the Airfix armour range and embraced the opportunity to innovate with his design. When looking at the part frame image above, we can certainly see that he managed to achieve his aim on both counts. As well as incorporating plenty of detail into the kit and replicating the iconic turret shape of the Sherman Firefly, Tom has also managed to incorporate two track options into his design. For those looking for an easier build, the new kit includes a single running gear option where the wheels, bogies and track come as a single unit, locating in to the same position on the hull as the alternative option. This second option is the more usual kit representation of tank running gear, where the bogies wheels and tracks all come as separate parts and require construction by the modeller. The tank tracks are also a break away from the rubberised parts from years past and will allow for a much more accurate representation of these distinctive, and in real life extremely heavy items – it was always difficult to get the rubber tracks to sit correctly.

At the same time as Tom was perfecting his Sherman masterpiece, his colleague across the Airfix design office was tackling arguably the most famous tank in the history of warfare. Having only recently joined the company, Paramjit was handed the iconic German Tiger I as his first Airfix new tooling project, something which must have been a daunting undertaking for him. As iconic to military vehicles as the Spitfire is to aircraft, the Tiger may be quite an angular, almost box like design, but it is so familiar to so many people that there is absolutely no margin for error.

With the same ‘be innovative’ design brief as Tom was handed, Paramjit thought long and hard before actually making a start on his first Airfix project, already knowing from his own extensive modelling experience that he wanted to try something a little different with the kit’s track representation. He designed a system which allowed the sprocket and road wheel assembly to be constructed separately from the hull and joined together as a completed unit later in the build. This definitely helps when it comes to painting the model, whilst at the same time improving the overall appearance of the finished model. In addition to this, innovative plastic track sections are not only a significant improvement from earlier tank model designs, but also allow the correct ‘track sink’ to be represented.

Expected: Autumn 2020

new from airfix A02108 Spitfire MkVc 1/72

Expected: Autumn 2020

Scheme A – Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc, 307th Fighter Squadron, Twelfth Air Force, USAAF, La Sénia, Algeria, November/December 1942

Scheme B – Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc, No.2 Squadron, South African Air Force, Gioia del Colle, Italy, October 1943

new from airfix 1/72 Bristol Beaufighter TF.X A04019A

For many modellers, the sight of the magnificent box artwork which graces the packaging of our latest model releases has become almost as iconic as the model kits themselves and looking at the exclusive Beaufighter artwork reveal above, it is not difficult to see why. In many cases, the appeal of this artwork is the only encouragement we need in selecting our next build project and it certainly acts as inspiration throughout the process. Effectively bringing to life the stories and poor quality black and white pictures we all find in our reference books, modellers know that if we manage to make our models look something like the image on the front of the box, we will have another successful build under our belts.

The subject of this latest artwork reveal is one of the most successful twin engined strike aircraft of the Second World War and one which would excel in the role of long range maritime strike fighter, the magnificent Bristol Beaufighter. It is strange to think that an aircraft which possesses such WWII pedigree and is so familiar with aviation enthusiasts actually started its development as a private venture, with Britain’s Air Ministry not seeing a need for such an aircraft. The concept of a ‘Heavy Fighter’ was not seen as a priority for the Royal Air Force as the clouds of war gathered at the end of the 1930s, with the production of Spitfires and Hurricanes being their most pressing priority. Thankfully, designers at the Bristol Aeroplane Company had a little more foresight and pressed ahead with the development of a heavy fighter variant of the Beaufort torpedo bomber already in production for the RAF.

The prototype Beaufighter started life as a partially built Beaufort fuselage, which was taken straight from the production line, with the intention being that the new aircraft would utilise many of the same components produced for this existing design. As it was, it soon became apparent that the fuselage would have to be completely re-designed for the new fighter, something which inevitably caused delays – thankfully, these delays also brought about a change of heart in British military thinking. With war in Europe now looking increasingly certain, the Air Ministry placed an order for the new Beaufighter even before the prototype aircraft had flown, a decision which was fully vindicated in the years which followed.

Although the first Beaufighter’s would actually enter Royal Air Force service in the late summer of 1940, perhaps the most famous variant of this aircraft and certainly the most familiar to enthusiasts was the TF Mk.X, the final major production variant of this magnificent aeroplane. Armed with a combination of rockets, cannon and often an air launched torpedo, the Beaufighters TF Mk.X strike fighters of Coastal Command took a heavy toll of Axis shipping from the summer of 1943. Operating in large formations and developing aggressive tactics which proved so effective, that enemy shipping movements were restricted to night sailings only, as they hoped to avoid the attentions of the RAF’s Beaufighters.

An aircraft type which has always been popular with Airfix modellers, the current Beaufighter tooling was introduced back in 2015 and has proved to be a stunning success. With this latest release from the tooling due to arrive later this year and in celebration of the spectacular box artwork featured above, let’s take a closer look at the two scheme options which will be included with the kit.