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sroubos

A Memorial - Consolidated B-24H Liberator 'Hookem Cow' - Academy 72nd

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On April 14 1945, on a dark and foggy morning, a Consolidated B-24H Liberator named the 'Hookem Cow' took off from Horsham St. Faith in Norfolk and headed for France. Shortly after take-off the number 2 engine caught fire and the plane struggled to maintain altitude. Near the village of Hainford it hit a power line and crashed, killing 5 of the crew and injuring the remaining two. The 'Hookem Cow' belonged to the 458th Bomb Group, 754th squadron of the USAAF. The men killed in action were the last of their unit to lose their lives in the air war over Europe.

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During the past two years I have lived in Hainford, unaware of the fate of the 'Hookem Cow'. I did know that East Anglia used to be home to what the locals still call 'the friendly invasion', the deployment of thousands of Americans to quiet Norfolk and Suffolk to risk their lives over occupied Europe. Many of the airfields are still around. I've used the basis of the ‘Hookem Cow’ many times myself; it’s now known as Norwich International Airport. Many of the concrete bomber dispersals are still there, and you see them passing by your airliner window on your way to or from the runway. The place must have looked quite different all those years ago. Being a modeller, I often thought about building some of the planes that used to be based here, but somehow I didn’t get round to it.

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So when I read in the parish news that there was to be a memorial erected in the village hall to remember the crew of this plane, it all came together. This was a great opportunity to do something for the village my wife and I love so much, to share my enthusiasm for model building with others, to build something with a story behind it and to make a contribution to a memorial which honors some of the men that paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

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I wrote to the editor, offering to build a model of the 'Hookem Cow' to be displayed next to the memorial. She kindly put me in touch with Ed and Kevin, the chairman and treasurer of the village hall, and we discussed the project. They were very enthusiastic and in turn pointed me toward the man whose initiative this was, Trevor Hewitt. It turned out that I lived not a mile away from one of the most wonderful aviation museums I've ever visited, the New Farm Aviation Heritage Collection, which Trevor runs. I met him at the museum and I was stunned to see the vast collection of items he had collected over the years from aircraft that had crashed in the area, as well as many other great memorabilia and aviation items. If you are ever in the area, please visit!

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Trevor provided me with lots of information on the 'Hookem Cow', and combined with my own internet research and some really useful comments from the folks here on Britmodeller in a number of B-24 topics that I temporarily hijacked, the project was underway.

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As is often the case when you start doing research, you find out that things are not as clear cut as you'd hoped. First of all, there were of course no decal sets available that covered the 'Hookem Cow'. The plane had nose art on both sides, but luckily, some good photographic material was available. I sent this off to my father, who has expanded his modelling hobby by creating his own custom decals. Being as enthusiastic about the project as I was, he wasted no time to reproduce the nose art and other 'Cow'-specific decals for me.

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The second challenge was that the 'Hookem Cow' was a Ford-built B-24H, and the nose section is not available in model form as far as I could determine. I was going to use the Academy B-24J kit, which I already had in my stash, but this kit omitted the bulged navigator windows, the slanted bombardiers window and the correct A-15 front turret. Since I had the kit earmarked for another build anyway, I decided to shell out the cash for the Hasegawa B-24 as its replacement in the stash - this kit has the bulged windows and an additional A-15 turret, which I both pilfered from the box. This solved two out of three issues. The most difficult one was the slanted window. I decided to try plunge moulding for the first time to make this, using the standard vertical-ending window as the mould, so this was faired in using some filler and superglue, and I made about a dozen casts using some clear plastic sheet from Squadron intended for this purpose. The results were a bit mixed, most of the casts came out rather cloudy, but I selected the best one and cut it to shape.

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To make the Hasegawa turret fit the kit, a lot of excess material from both the turret and the nose area needed to be removed, in fact almost all of it without actually cutting it away completely. The Ford 'S curve' in the nose I made with a file in about two minutes - though this was after I made it in the wrong place first and had to fill the hole with plastic card, CA glue and sand it back to normal!

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The rest of the kit is a relatively straightforward build; wings benefit from some thinning at the trailing edges, and the nacelle areas on the wing parts require some filler. The panel lines at the top of the fuselage don't line up at all and require rescribing. The horizontal tail surface has major gaps with the fuselage on the underside, but it's easily filled. I used Eduard masks for the Academy glazing and Montex masks for the Hasegawa clear parts.

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After priming the kit with Tamiya fine primer, I sprayed it with Humbrol Metalcote Polished Aluminum from a rattle can. I like the finish this gives but it does require a coat of Future before masking it and doing other areas like the anti-glare, de-icer boots and moving surfaces. I used a combination of the printed Cow-specific decals, which worked great, and the generic Hasegawa decals which, though they are the newer kind, didn’t budge even after applying DACO medium setting solution. A coat of Future sealed everything in.

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Before I fit the fuselage halves together, I had filed out two holes in the bottom and glued in two nuts; Trevor had told me the kit was to be presented in a wooden display case, and would have to hang on the wall vertically. I drilled holes in the base plate, and used two long bolts to secure the plane to it, adding pieces of dark green-sprayed plastic tubing to hide the threads. This worked out very well and it is invisible due to the way the kit is presented.

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I managed to finish the kit the night before the unveiling of the memorial. We fitted it into a very nice and solid display case and it was installed between the two main cases of the memorial; one containing parts of the plane and metal items from the crew's equipment, and the other containing photographs of the crew. I really like the way Trevor designed the memorial; the parts are carefully selected and despite their small size bring the plane and its crew back to life.

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The ceremony itself was quite impressive; there was a huge turnout and the village hall was full. After a reading of accounts of the accident from surviving crew members, a letter was read from one of their family members back in the States. The names of the crew were read out, followed by the poem 'Epic of the 458th'. After the memorial was blessed and prayers were said, a number of floral tributes were laid, followed by The Exhortation and the Kohima Address. I had not experienced a ceremony such as this before, and I found it quite moving.

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I think it’s very important to remember the loss of these men’s lives, who fought for our liberty so long ago. We should never forget what happened, and memorials such as this in places that are used by everyone and are seen daily help us doing that. I’m very grateful to Trevor, Kevin and Ed to allow me to be a part of this. I hope I'll have another opportunity to do it again somewhere.

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Great model and a fabulous memorial,.....well done to you all!

Cheers

Tony

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Wonderful build and tribute.

Excellent work on getting a Ford 'H' out of the Academy kit. I hope to do a similar conversion some day, but I don't have the skill to build the angled bombardier's window yet.

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A fine and fitting tribute, well done.

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Excellent, love the background history that brings the project to life. Good modelling too, a fitting memorial to these brave men.

FF

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A fantastic tribute, and always nice to hear the story behind the model as well. A hearty well done, you

should be very proud with what you've achieved,

Sean

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Superb work and a great memorial peice, looks gre amongst the pictures and do like the way you have displayed the kit

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Superb model and a wonderful story. Well done indeed sir.

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A tragic story, but a very nice gesture on your part to contribute to the memorial. Very nicely built model too!

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great build and very fitting tribute

I currently have a 1/48 revell b-24 monster on the bench which I am doing a full nose conversion and ball turret conv to produce another plane local to Norwich,the still flying survivor 'witchcraft',hope it turns out as good as yours.

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A brilliant job on this fine model ! The great B-24 Liberator is beautifully replicated here and is a wonderful tribute to young men who courageously fought and many times died, in places far from their homes, to protect freedom and liberty.

Mike

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Excellent model, and a fine tribute.

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Well done, very nice work

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That's a great model and an awesome tribute. We've got a lot of interesting airfield history around Norfolk, always good to learn more:)

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Superb B-24, great back story, and a fitting tribute. Well done!

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