On the bench: Shake n' bake Beau

Episode 1: We're all at sea with a Bristol Beaufighter and a rather fetching, yet obscure Coastal Command scheme

If you've been following this blog you'll know I've been wrestling with several issues for quite some time, not least is a complete and utter lack of modelling motivation. My mojo has yo yo'd and 'spirit bombed'. (What is a mojo? and why is yo-yo terminology as silly as skateboardering).

"This ain't no technological breakdown. . ."

As the skewed proverb and Chris Rea says, the road to hell is . . .well, apparently littered with badly fitting part-baked kits resulting from iffy modelling skills and attention deficit spectrum disorders. So the chance online encounter with a canny lad called Simon on Twitter who started a fundraising competition for the Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman hospital in Newcastle on Tyne in the UK, was uncanny and has rekindled my interests.

So what could I get for the equivalent of twenty pounds, ($40.00NZD) to enter the fray?

I know, a Tamiya Beaufighter Mk VI nightfighter.

The inspiration for this came from my well thumbed first edition copy of C.F. Rawnsley and Robert Wright's book 'Night Fighter.' It's a ripping yarn of 'Jimmy' Rawnsley's journey from air gunner in the back seat of John Cunningham's 604 (Auxiliary) Squadron Hawker Demon, to the right-hand seat of a DH Mosquito, the deadliest of hunters roaming the night skies over Europe.

Its writing is typical of post-war non-fiction literature, the language reflects an England which now exists only in celluloid and is reimagined via You Tube. The book is redolent of a hierarchical class system where people were supposed to know their place and role, and if they didn't, someone would jolly well put them in it. Several incidents leave the reader in no doubt that there was an uneasy class system going on in the cockpit and Rawnsley often alludes to being made to feel a little foolish for speaking out of turn.

The yellowing, musty pages contain a typically reserved slightly stiff upper account of blunt, visceral and often fatal events. The grisly, incandescent end of unseen foes or the shocking deaths of diffident young friends who were touched, as Jimmy alludes to, by the "invisible hand of Sir Isaac".

In recounting feats of airmanship on both sides, the writing hails from an era where politically correct mindfulness held no place in the struggle for survival against a brutalised enemy, the limiting forces of aerodynamics, fickle unreliable machinery and the weather. Sir Isaac or gremlins, the odds were definitely stacked.

Yet despite its lost world of stiff upper stoicism, the book provides great twin-engined dollops of inspiration. . . or, so I thought.

The reluctant builder

I keep harping on about how I'm 'a painter, not a builder', and that I tend to recoil from the kit building process. I'm that model maker who has two left thumbs and cannot read instruction sheets, but the Tamiya Beaufighter VI is the living embodiment of the hackneyed 'shake and bake' phrase when describing sublimely well engineered model kits. Unlike the Beau which was a stone cold killer of so many crews, the Tamiya small scale replica is literally vice-less. For this hapless butcherer of sprue gates, the thing is a joy.

I don't have many in-progress images as it literally went together so quickly and to be frank, there's not much to see anyway. The inside of the Beau is cavernous but largely invisible once the halves are stuck together, so in line with the competition 'rules', I kept the paintwork to some basic diffuse shading, dry-brushing and chipping.

One thing that does stick out like the proverbial on the Tamiya kit are the twin intake pipes ahead of the Hercules' hedgehog exhausts.

These are depicted as little more than lumps on the Tamiya kit. To be a little kinder to a kit which so far has gone together with no filler, no swearing or gratutious acts of flinging failed sub-assemblies across the room, it is getting on a bit, and the details are a little vague, so I mustn't grumble.

In fact the cockpit, when compared to the recent new Revell TFX shows its age too, and the Hercules' are also rough guesstimates, but hey, it was ok in 1990 something. Anyway I started off by trying to drill these pipes out, gave up and ended up removing, drilling and adding some slightly oversize Slater's tube (which I must have had kicking around for at least 20 years).

I'm quite chuffed. Mostly with the effect but also with managing to not totally mess it up.

It was just barrelling along at this point, and still meant to be one of those matt black creatures of the night resplendent in a coat of RDM2a 'special night' over the standard satin finish. (The description of RDM2a apparently causes fist fights in the modelling forums).

But as luck would have it, I was wandering around Pinterest and started seeing Coastal Command aeroplanes decked out in a natty white and grey/green scheme. Of which if I'm being honest, even the horrible ungainly ones look rather cool in. I remembered a poor image of an all white sea-going Beau probably from the long out of print and hard to find 'Beaufighter At War' book and got to thinking. . .I started to think that maybe the black night stalker was really a bit passé and clumsy. And anyway, The Tamiya kit is a MkVI, so I couldn't replicate Rawnsley and Cunningham's 604 flat tailed aircraft out of teh box. Flip, didn't think of that. What's the alternatives? Well this maybe?

Boy, did searching for this image on the internet take some effort. Now yes, it's not strictly a MKVI and yes it has additional stuff on it like the Yagi ASV aerial, but the night fighter kit comes with rocket rails, the clear DF loop blister and assorted other day fighter bits.

Anyhow forget awkward kit stuff, there's other interesting things in the over exposed low resolution (grainy) image. The two wing .303 ports either side of the rocket rails for starters, and what appears to be (red?) primer or some gunk sealer around the wing root. A bit of greyscale sleuthing/colour presumption (colour guessing monotone - not to be recommended, see my other posts about colour) says it's the same tonal value as the red of the wing roundels and the 303 port covers, so it could be red oxide primer or sealer?

Why it's there who knows, is it waterproofing, are they draughty, do they leak, do the wings come off? If you know of other Beau's with this bizarre and randomly applied stuff, do please let me know. Other oddities are the bronze/copper exhaust collector rings which appear to have been overpainted white.

Anyway i'm just about ready for primer and making the call on going black (to match my cold heart) or white (to match the bleached carcass that is my bank account).

As for the kit, do get one, they are most excellent, and even ham fingered clots like myself can make a decent fist of things. if you've got one in the stash then crack on and build it. Simples, and good for the mojo.


Updated - Wellington - September 2021.

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