Friday, 1 May 2015

1/72 RAF Tomahawk IIA Diorama - Part 1

As my Airfix Tomahawk and 'Tilly' utility vehicle models near completion my attention turns to the diorama I plan to make for them. My idea was to create a pretty simple - and small - airfield scene with the 26 (recce) Squadron Tomahawk being serviced by ground crew...Which begged the question, where do I get the 1/72 RAF ground crew figures from?

Annoyingly the Airfix 'Tilly' vehicle doesn't come with any crew - not even a driver. So I had to start from scratch - luckily Airfix makes it's own 1/72 'WWII RAF Personnel' figure set (which explains why their vehicles don't come with a crew - they want you to buy this set).

I did look around for alternatives and there are some individual white metal figures and some very plastic expensive Czech 3-figure sets, but neither were right for me. Revell, on the other hand, do a very nice hard plastic set, similar to the Airfix one in theme, but it focuses more on the pilots than it does the ground crew.

Left: One of the optional figure sets I looked at was some lovely figure models by the Czech Master company. But at £8.50 for just 3 figures this was a bit too expensive for me. The photo shown is, however, two of their excellent WAAFs, which would make terrific subjects for a diorama.

To be honest I would have preferred to have used the Revell set, aside from being he right price and the right number and variety of figures it was also made in hard plastic. The Airfix set is the same soft plastic they use for their other 1/72 military figure sets. Catch 22 - but in the end it was ground crew I was after and the Airfix set had a greater variety (if you need pilots, however, do try the Revell set).

The Airfix 'WWII RAF Personnel' set has great variety of ground crew in a number of poses.
Another reason I went for the Airfix set is that it had two particularly nice and unique figures; a WAAF (female RAF personnel) and - importantly for my diorama theme - a ground crewman who was posed with the sort of reconnaissance camera that my army co-operation Tomahawk would have been equipped with.

Despite it's issues the Airfix set does contain some very nicely posed figures. The detail and
sculpting is very lifelike - if somewhat stiff - and so it's worth persevering with.
Plastic not-so-fantastic!
Now, the reason I prefer to avoid soft plastic figures is because they can be a nightmare to 'clean up'. Even the better quality ones - and the Airfix figures counts among these - suffer from a varying degree of flash and moulding seams. Trimming off this extraneous plastic is a bit of a pain as you cannot simply sand soft plastic parts smooth.

Soft plastic tends to 'fray' if sanded or filed, so any superflous plastic left over from the moulding process has to be very carefully shaved off with your sharpest craft-knife blade. But even then seam-lines can be left behind so the problem becomes one of how to get rid of these pesky blemishes.

I have decided to experiment with heat. Either by using a heated needle or by using liquid poly cement I hope to carefully melt the soft plastic and so smooth out and seams and plastic remnants.

Next: I pick my crew and experiment with different ways to get rid of soft plastic flash.

Useful links:

- Plastic Soldier Review: Airfix, Set 0174 - R.A.F. Personnel

Plastic Soldier Review: Revell, Set 02401 - Pilots and Ground Crew: Royal Air Force


  1. I agree with your assessment of this set but things used to be much worse. The original sets were moulded in yellow plastic!

  2. Replies
    1. Do you know Paul - it could be (obviously not the saucily dressed bit from the film 'Battle of Britain' though)! ;)

  3. Lindsey Brooks11 May 2015 at 21:33

    In my experience liquid poly doesn't have much (if any) effect on these sort of soft plastic figures. It isn't possible to glue them together with it because the plastic doesn't "melt" like that of a kit. I have found a sharp knife is the best tool, as heat can have very unpredictable results. On my first time around modelling, many decades ago, there used to be a tool called a pyrogravure which those much more skilful than I used to carefully melt detail into their plastic figures. I don't know how easy it is to buy one however. Google is probably worth a try. As I said, I use a sharp knife and then try to disguise any seams left visible with liquid plastic. I'll be interested to see how the diorama turns out. It sounds like a fun way to display the finished model. I'm working on a French Curtiss Hawk 75 and Citroen 11CV diorama at the moment.

  4. Hi Stephen, a belated thanks for your Tomahawk posts:) I am building the kit currently, really helpful to read of your experience (and damn that gloss varnish!)