Marauding No More

This is a model of a Martin B-26C Marauder. Yes, it's broken. It's been languishing in a drawer for some years, I've transported it from house to house, and I can't remember when it was last on display. I made it while at school, so that makes it... very old. There's an absent propeller, which I doubt I can find, even if I still have it. But the bottom line is that the general level of deterioration makes it not worth any remedial work. Writing a post about it is a sentimental gesture, and will 'allow' me to dispose of it.

However, it's a significant kit, in the story of my model making. Here was the first time I deviated from the options in the kit, in other words, I made a model of something other than what the kit offered. It was a Frog model. Frog were a company almost as prominent as Airfix in the Sixties in the U.K. These days you can still find some of their kits on the market, under the branding of labels like Eastern Express. The molds show their age, and the kits aren't up to modern standards, but they're often the only kits of their subjects available. You won't find this kit, though, because there have been many more detailed and generally better kits of the Marauder produced since this one. The basic kit represented an R.A.F. machine as used in the Western Desert in WWII. It wasn't a bad scheme in its desert camouflage. But I had been collecting issues from the once essential Profile Publications series. They were pamphlets really, pages barely into double figures, but they were unequaled at the time, and along with lots of photos contained full colour profiles and three view illustrations. In their slim volume on the B-26B & C Marauder I was drawn to the pictures of the all-metal American machines in Normandy invasion stripes, one of which was shown not only in a dramatic photo but in side on and overhead colour profiles at the back.
There was enough there to attempt an accurate model, and it required only minor alterations from the R.A.F. plane depicted by the Frog model. As far as I can see I simply had to fill in or paint over some windows, and add a nose machine gun. I must admit I'm baffled as to why I left the large slot in the underside; all aircraft models in those days had them, to allow them to be posed on the stand which the kit also provided. But I never used to do that. I was always going to stand it on its undercarriage, which leads me to talk about what occupied most of my time while building it.

The Marauder had a tricycle undercarriage, which was rare in the WWII era. Most aircraft had tailwheels, and therefore would come to rest tail down. Fitting a nosewheel was mechanically more ambitious, and entailed a weight penalty, but a tricycle undercarriage permitted horizontal attitude at all times, highly desirable during take off and landing. Almost all planes have them nowadays. The thing is, a model of such an aircraft presents a problem for the model maker. A model doesn't have any engines, which are the heaviest components of the real thing. This means that a model will fall back on its tail unless you weight it appropriately. How easy this is to do depends on the particular plane design. The Marauder is tricky, because it has a glazed nose. And if you can't pack your lead pellets into the extreme nose, leverage means you have to pack even more inside the fuselage behind it, and in this case also into the engine nacelles. Have you picked up on the further problem which crops up now? Which explains why I never actually posed it on its wheels for very long? The model was now quite heavy, and those plastic undercarriage legs are quite spindly. I could see that as time passed they'd weaken. So it's a little ironic that while bits have broken off, the legs are still intact and bear the model up well.

The most visible differences from the original kit's R.A.F. scheme are those U.S. markings. Considering how demanding it was to execute all those stripes and unit and serial markings, I'm very impressed by what teenage me achieved. My hands wouldn't be nearly steady enough now. That's right, it was all done by hand. The only shortcuts were the U.S. national markings ie. the blue stars and stripes. I vaguely remember hunting around for spares from other kits. They're in a right state aren't they, yellow with age. Never mind. As for the invasion stripes, doing the wing ones wasn't too bad, they look impressively straight. But the fuselage ones look like they must have had me using up all my lexicon of swear words. And then there is the lettering. Not too bad, provided you don't look too closely! I don't know if anyone made their own decals in those days. Letraset transfers sometimes offered a solution - remember Letraset? What's changed everything is the personal computer and connected printer. I've made decals myself and will probably present some examples in another post some time. The other glaring question relates to the stripes: why didn't I use masking tape? Well, I doubt if there was anything available like the excellent modern Tamiya masking tape. Anyone using masking tape in the old days would have been to the DIY store, and had to be careful not to lift delicate paintwork when they removed it.

The Marauder was a fast plane, by some distance from most other American bombers. This came at the cost of a high landing speed and it became known as the Widowmaker before crews got used to the demands of flying it. It was first sent to the Pacific but was eventually withdrawn and sent to Europe where it excelled. In the Pacific it compared badly with the B-25 Mitchell which coped much better with the roughly prepared landing strips frequently found there, and it had less range. For teenage me, eyeing up its sleek shark-like shape, it was much the sexiest of the war's larger bombers. Well, my tastes have changed somewhat when it comes to military subjects, but I can still admire basic design. And this little model will find itself in a bag down at the tip before too long, but I'm glad to have been able to wallow in a bit of nostalgia, and to have made a record of it.