Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary

Published: January 14th, 2016     
Product Image
Box Top
Reviewed by: Chris Smith - IPMS# 39182
Scale: 1/72
Company: Airfix
Price: $49.99
Product / Stock #: A50173
Product provided by: Hornby America

"Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, this was their finest hour". These words, spoken by Winston Churchill on June 18, 1940, braced his island nation for the German aerial onslaught awaiting them just a few short miles across the English Channel. The outcome is, of course, well known as the Royal Air Force repelled the Luftwaffe, but at a terrible cost in lives, mainly from the German bombing campaign that the battle turned into. This same island would become the launching point for the allied bombing raids and the D-day invasion across that same channel four years later. 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of this epic battle and Airfix has boxed some of the most famous aircraft involved in the battle to commemorate it.

The Kit

When I requested this kit off the review list I was expecting the old Airfix models complete with multitudinous rivets and canopy frames that are virtually impossible to mask. My anticipated trip down memory lane ended when the kit arrived at my door. First off the kit(s) are packaged in a big box with a beautiful rendering of the two air forces battling it out over the famous white cliffs of Dover. The back of the box has full color side views of the four kits and a photo of the finished set mounted on the stand that's also in the box. My real surprise came upon opening the box to find four new tool aircraft kits inside! Also included is a 24 page instruction booklet, 12 acrylic paints, two brushes and two tubes of cement. A decal sheet rounds out the set but you only have one marking option for each aircraft. Speaking of aircraft included in the set are: Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3, Supermarine Spitfire Mk 1A, Hawker Hurricane Mk 1 and a Heinkel 111 P-2. The high points of each are: Spitfire, excellent surface detail and detailed cockpit for the scale, Hurricane, again nice cockpit and main landing gear bay, Bf 109, fine surface details and dropped flap option, He 111 (my favorite in the set) detailed interior and all moveable control surfaces with scale hinges. The paint brushes are of good quality but I had reservations about the paint and glue provided that turned out to be warranted.

The Build

A few notes on how I approached this kit before we dig in. Since this is a set geared toward modelers who would open the box and start building without a lot of supplies, I tried to follow that philosophy in this build. I used the paints and brushes provided to finish these models but didn't use the glue. The fit of these kits was so good, I used liquid cement with a few exceptions and no putty. I did try the provided glue but it didn't have the bite I'm accustomed too. So how do you build four models at the same time without losing anything in the process? Its not easy. My solution was to get the airframes together quickly and store the details in labeled zip lock bags. One place I cheated on my out of the box philosophy was by using an airbrush in lieu of hand painting everything. There's a lot of surface area to cover on four models and the larger of the two brushes is only a #1. I cut the paint with alcohol and it seemed to work fine for interior painting. The fit of these kits was very good. The most any joints needed was a few sanding stick passes. By far the most impressive of these kits was the He 111. Airfix has really captured all the contours and lines of the original including the impressive green house like cockpit glass. I had difficulty with two steps. First, make when installing the main landing gear wells in the nacelles (step 22) make sure you flush the front of the gear well with the nacelle. I got lucky because the gear was going to be up so when the engine cowling wouldn't fit I removed the gear well section that interfered. Second, the cockpit greenhouse is installed in sections per the instructions. If I had to do again I would assemble the glasing as a unit before mounting it on the airframe. I ended up with a small step in the joint that I couldn't fix. Airfix includes extended and retracted gear for the fighter and the He 111 gear is enclosed. All those parts are well done. One of my favorite parts of the old Airfix kits were the pilot figures. That's one thing I'm glad they kept in these new releases, especially with a set that displays the aircraft in flight. Another old Airfix standard was movable separate control surfaces with hinges not quite to scale. In those places where they chose to include them on these kits (Bf 109, Hurricane, He 111) they are in scale and very well done. In the course of about two days I had four aircraft ready for paint.

Paint/Details

My first reaction to the paints provided was one of apprehension. I'm not generally a fan of water based paints. I'd committed to using them at the start so here is what I experienced. For the British subjects I thinned the paint with alcohol sprayed the "sky" color on the undersides. Next up was the "dark earth" which I also ran through an airbrush. Instead of masking the for the "dark green" I decided to use one of the provided brushes and hand paint the camouflage pattern. The paints are very flat and the pigment is coarse and dries that way. It was so rough when dry that I had to soften the surface with with micromesh for fear of the decals not laying over it. If I had it do again I would have masked and sprayed.

The German subjects were a bit easier. The base "light blue", is the same for both. Both aircraft use a "splinter" pattern common to German aircraft this early in the war. Since it's all straight lines, I masked everything. Be careful as the top colors are not the same for both. The He 111 uses "black green" and "US light green, while the Bf 109 uses "US light green" and "Slate Grey". Again these paints produced a rough finish that I had to smooth with micro mesh. In addition, I found this paint didn't tolerate a lot of handling. Here's where I had to vary from my plan of building from the box (again). The surface was so flat and rough I was paranoid about decal adhesion so I clear coated with Alclad gloss coat.

Decals

You get one option for each aircraft. They came off the paper in lukewarm water and laid down over surface details fairly well. I decided to help the process with some solvaset and it really helped. I had a little trouble with adhesion on a few of them and some silvering but overall they get the job done. The details were up next and there were a few challenges as some of the parts involved are very tiny like the mass balance weights on the 109. The windows on the HE 111 needed some coaxing into their openings. I suspect the engineering was so tight that paint caused the trouble. Veering once again from my plan I used some fishing line for antennas. The stand provided is a nice way to display these kits together. The mounting system is a little fiddly but allows you to pose your aircraft before you fix them in place with cement.

Conclusion

I've always wanted to try one of these Airfix sets with the supplies included. On the plus side you get four aircraft models that rank in quality with the best out there. The packaging and instructions are well presented and clear. On the down side, I wouldn't recommend the glue or the paints in this kit. Both make the process more difficult. You could probably paint the fighters by hand with the provided materials but I'd question the sanity of anyone that attempts to paint the He 111 with the brushes and paints provided! For the price this set is a bargain and I'm considering another so I can do justice to them with some good paint. Airfix assigns this a skill level 3 (or 8 years and up) and I think that would be a real challenge but doable with some help. Thank you so much to Airfix for putting this great set together and to IPMS for letting me give you my impressions of it. I put the completed kit on the fireplace mantle and its already sparked a few conversations about "the few" who saved western Europe in the summer of 1940. In retrospect, it truly was Britain's "finest hour".

  • 4 Kits Finished 1
    4 Kits Finished 1
  • Bf 109
    Bf 109
  • Hurricane
    Hurricane
  • He 111
    He 111
  • 4 Kits Finished 2
    4 Kits Finished 2

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