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Heather's Workbench - the French connection, 1940 style

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I have mentioned in previous threads that I have something of a 1940 obsession. It started out innocently enough, with a plan to build at least one example of the aircraft that took part in the Battle of Britain, the Battle itself being another obsession in its own right.


With the models I build I wanted to try to tell a wider story than the typical "brave boys in their Spitfires against the mighty Luftwaffe" kind. I began to add aircraft of Bomber, Coastal, Army Co-Operation commands, Fleet Air Arm and sundry others to the UK side in an attempt to even up the odds. When you realise more Bomber Command crew members died during the Battle period than Fighter Command losses, you begin to realise there is an untold story behind the myths of the Battle of Britain.


Inevitably, the Battle of Britain edges started to blur. Interest started to shift backwards from the official July to October Battle period. The numbers of aircraft also grew, and it eventually became a plan to build at least one example of every type of aircraft that flew in the Western European theatre during the whole of 1940, from all sides of the conflict: Norway campaign, Phoney War, Blitzkrieg (France, Belgium, Holland), Operation Dynamo, Battle of Britain, Night Blitz, the beginnings of the Battle of the Atlantic, and the new types just coming into service at the end of 1940. So far, numerous models have been built and kits are in the stash, and steadily being acquired, which cover the types flown by the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, and Italy. I know: I’m a little bit mad.


This work in progress thread will be about the French planes of 1940. Rather than start threads for each type, I’m lumping them all together in one place, though I’m not going to build them all at once. I’ll try and do the same for the other air forces as I get round to them. The bulk of the British and German protagonists have been built already, with only the oddities and strays to round up. I expect I’ll run individual threads for those.


This particular thread will also be a bit about my journey of discovery, as I learn about the Armée de l'Air, the various aircraft the force could muster, and something about the pilots who flew them to try and stem the German invasion in the spring of 1940.


I suspect there are some excellent references out there from France, but the language barrier is raised. While expanding my reference library is always a welcome, if sometimes expensive, pastime, I’m trying to rely on the World Wide Web, supplemented with some printed material, in order to move a little beyond what I find in the boxes. I suspect these builds, however, will mostly be straight "out of the box" builds. Honestly, most of the kits I’ve so far acquired seem sufficiently accurate to be able to do just that. I hope fellow BMers with be forthcoming to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, as I know there’s more than a few also interested in the events of 1940.


So, what’s first on the agenda?

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1/72nd RS Models Bloch MB-152




Out of the two MB-152 boxings in the stash, the RS kit is the most recent. The other is a Smer repop of the venerable Heller kit. While the Smer kit looks like an MB-152, it lacks some of the finesse of the modern limited run kit. There is no cockpit detail, and the wheel wells are open to the sky. With some extra modelling - with some ideas already forming after putting together the RS kit - the older version might still get built. Who can say?


Anyway, let’s look at the RS kit.




Four decal options are provided, all of planes that flew during May and June 1940.




The instruction booklet is poorly printed, with some of the finer text being hard to make out. I make a point of going through it, identifying colour call-outs.




The decal sheet is neatly printed. The power plant is a cast resin block, with RT antennae and the control column also in resin - an odd choice to my mind, when equally fine parts have been moulded in plastic. One clear sprue contains the single piece canopy, alternative gun sights and the landing light.






Two sprues of light brown plastic contain the main parts, including alternates to suit variations in the real planes.






There’s some nice detail evident in the cockpit sidewalls and basic instrument panel - more than enough for what can usually seen with the canopy in place. No PE in this kit, so I planned to use masking tape to create seat belts.




Not having a lot of Armée de l'Air reference material, I sourced this Squadron publication, which has a fair number of reasonable photos and detail information for the main French fighters of the period. Hoping the kit information and markings are more or less right, aided by a little internet research, I’m confident a reasonably accurate model can be made with little effort.




I found there can be conflicting opinions about the actual colours used for interiors, so I elected to follow the instructions. I chose Humbrol Hu96 RAF Blue/Grey. Camouflage colours will come from the Colour Coats enamels range.




The basic cockpit tub went together quickly. I fitted the parts into one fuselage half to align them, with the other half taped on to make sure they stayed in place while the glue set.






For a so-called limited run kit, the major components fitted well. The fuselage needed a little sanding along the seams. The wings (single part lower wings and fuselage, with separate upper wings) required just a little tidying and a pass with the sanding stick to remove ejector marks inside. I liked the way the undercarriage bay is built up, only I forgot to take its picture!



The wing and fuselage assemblies mated pretty well. A little sanding of the front and rear of the fuselage insert resulted in a satisfying fit. I used some PPP filler on the upper wing roots and the small gaps elsewhere. I have to say I’ve used more filler on current big name kits!




I think other variants of this kit have different engine blocks, and there are alternate parts for the cowling front and rear. It took a moment to ensure I selected the correct parts for this version. The resin engine plugs into the fuselage front, and I think the intention is you should build the cowling up around it. I felt, with half an eye on painting, it would be better if I could make up the cowling as a sub-assembly that fitted over the engine later. I took my time cleaning up and assembling the cowling parts. When the glue had set, I carefully sanded off the engine cylinder tops until I could slide it into the cowling easily.


I spotted a massive ejector mark on one prop blade, which I filled. I’ll sand that later, when I’m ready to paint it.




I carefully masked the canopy, and made sure it settled neatly on the fuselage. I used Kristal Klear to hold it in place, followed by a coat of the interior colour. With some sponge to bung up the fuselage hole and prop the cowling in place, I’m ready for some primer and painting to commence. I just need to wait for a little warmer weather so I can begin painting, and that gap in proceedings might tempt me to start another kit. We'll see.


Edited by Heather Kay
Sub edits for grammatical faux pas.
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This could be a great theme build Heather, good choice, and your first subject is certainly a colourful one! Will watch with interest.


Although towards the end of 1940, one of the most memorable actions of that year has to be the FAA attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto. The FAA generally and the Swordfish specifically are of immense interest to me. The venerable Swordfish has to be somewhere on your agenda I hope?



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18 minutes ago, Terry1954 said:

The venerable Swordfish has to be somewhere on your agenda I hope?

But of course! I believe the current Airfix kit is to be recommended. I need to acquire one, then it can go into the stash. There are currently seven biplanes there, waiting for the days when I feel up to plenty of rigging! 


I openly admit I’ve been trying to ignore the Mediterranean theatre. My problem with it is it’s just a short hop and a step into North Africa, and I’m generally very hazy about that aspect of the war. Mind you, it would give me an excuse for more Blenheims and Wellesley!


15 minutes ago, AdrianMF said:

Looks like a very good kit and nice work too.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the kit, I have to say. Like many of the so-called limited run kits, it’s best to approach them with care. This one has gone together really well and needed very little filler.

Edited by Heather Kay
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2 minutes ago, Heather Kay said:

Like many of the so-called limited run kits, it’s best to approach them with care.

Totally agree about that, but then you will be rewarded by some superbly delicate surface detail which a lot of these limited run kits exhibit, and this one is no exception. They can be little gems if constructed with care.



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2 hours ago, Heather Kay said:

edges started to blur

I can fully understand that. My own fighter stash started with RAF WW2 BoB and now has spiralled out of control and now I'm on the way to get most British flown fighters from WW1 to present, world wide...and it hasn't stopped there either!

I have never built the Manufacturer before so will be interesting to hear your thoughts on them.

As for the subject, a good start and looking very nice so far, nice to see something different on BM.



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53 minutes ago, Courageous said:

I have never built the Manufacturer before so will be interesting to hear your thoughts on them.

This is my third RS kit. As a rule, they go together fairly well, with care. Attention needs to be paid to joining fuselage halves, where there can occasionally be a mild discrepancy in dimensions. Some of the finer mouldings - the tail stabiliser struts in this case - are not terribly clever and might be better replaced. (I plan to use scratchbuilt metal items for the guns, pitot tube and radio masts, for example.) There are the occasional moulding errors, mismoulds, misalignments, that kind of thing, but even the big boys get those. The decals are pretty good, but the instructions are bit basic and unclear at times. Let’s just say a competent modeller won’t have any worries, but they’re not really recommended for absolute beginners. 

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4 hours ago, Heather Kay said:


This particular thread will also be a bit about my journey of discovery, as I learn about the Armée de l'Air, the various aircraft the force could muster, and something about the pilots who flew them to try and stem the German invasion in the spring of 1940. I suspect there are some excellent references out there from France, but the language barrier is raised. While expanding my reference library is always a welcome, if sometimes expensive, pastime, I’m trying to rely on the World Wide Web, supplemented with some printed material, in order to move a little beyond what I find in the boxes.

Hi Heather


great idea for a thread...Armée de l'Air 39-40 is an interest of mine too so I'll be dropping in here!

my good friend 'Drix' at the "Flashback" blog has compiled plenty of interesting pieces on the period Flashback blog by Drix 

Lela Presse at avions-bateaux.com are the leading French publishers. They publish the bi-monthly "Avions" magazine and produced Serge Joanne's 500-page tome on the Bloch 150-2 series. Various issues of the magazine have in-depth features on the Bloch and of course all the other French types of the period..




Some twelve squadrons had Bloch fighters on 10 May 1940, and six more became operational with them during the battle.  The Blochs shot down +/- 156 German machines and 59 Bloch pilots were lost (Drix gives the Blochs 188 vics including 50+ Bf 109s). The average squadron pilot apparently regarded the Bloch favourably enough as outlined by André Deniau (GC II / 6):


 " The Bloch 152 was of course different from the Morane 406 : heavier at low-level, but excellent at altitude, very pleasant to fly and very maneuverable. It was better armed than the Ms 406 with two wing-mounted cannon and twin machine guns. One major drawback was the amount of vibration when firing the cannon. .."


capitaine Germain Coutaud commanded the 1st escadrille of GC I/1 in October 1939 when the first 14 N-25 powered Bloch 152s were taken on strength;


 "..Nous savions que le Bloch 152 était surclassé par le Bf 109 (…) :..we knew that the Me 109 outclassed the Bloch  -with its overall superior performance, higher top speed, superior rate of climb and maneuverability the enemy enjoyed a considerable advantage. Our adversary could take the initiative, joining or breaking off combat at will. However in the Bloch the pilot enjoyed good visibility, the airframe was strong and sturdy and the armament relatively powerful.."


 Coutaud finished the campaign as an ace so his comments are perhaps slightly more favorable than otherwise would be the case. As CO in flight the remainder of his escadrille were tasked with protecting him while he achieved his kills thus dispersing the defensive fire from German bombers. The 'solidity' of the machine was proven by an apparent 'ramming' during the campaign when one pilot, Louveau, brought down a Bf 109 after colliding with it, an incident related in Icare magazine.  


Henri Gille (II/10) on the Bloch 152's manoeuvrability at low altitude :


 ".. The Messerschmitt 109s had worked out a method - they knew we could nail them in a turning fight  ( '..on pouvait les avoir..'). They couldn't turn as tightly and in our Blochs we could turn inside them and get on their tails, and if we could, bring them down to almost roof-top height. Here they couldn't touch us. The Bloch 152 was a very good aeroplane, we were happy with it and preferred it to the MS 406. It was very solid and robust. Once I saw Diétrich get home with his crate completely riddled with impacts.."


highest-scoring MB 152 pilot was sous-lieutenant Robert Thollon of GC I/8 with 8 confirmed aerial victories (four were shared). Perhaps the best 'known' ace on the Bloch was Louis Delfino  of GC II/9 who later commanded the Normandie Niemen on the Russian Front..







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Hi Heather it's nice to see that I'm not the only one with a fascination for this early period of WW2, I just wish that there was more kits from this time period available, mind you I build in 1/32 scale which does not help, AZUR do some really nice kits in my scale and I have already built a D520, Ms 406 and of course a Bloch 152. Waiting in the wings are a Caudron C714 and a Fokker DXX1.

Keep up the good work.




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Smart work on the Bloch Heather. :thumbsup2:

I understand your fascination with the pre-July 1940 period. It's something that gets me too, that uncertain period of vast historical forces sliding into place more apparently each day.

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12 hours ago, Terry1954 said:

This could be a great theme build Heather, good choice, and your first subject is certainly a colourful one! Will watch with interest


I agree with Terry. Very interesting. ;)



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Thanks everyone. It's great to see the level of interest in the period I'm covering, and I hope I can keep some kind of momentum up. I tend to reward myself with some aeroplane modelling when I feel I've earned it from sufficient wrestling with client models in the railway side of things. I often feel a bit guilty about snatching some quality time with a plastic kit, though why that should be I don't know.


Anyway, all that to say this thread might be a bit protracted, but then that doesn't seem to be particularly unusual for Britmodeller!


To keep some level of anticipation going, I thought I might post images of what's to come...




A pretty simple kit, but I found someone who spent a lot of time making a truly spectacular model from this very kit. I shall probably fall in between building from the box and a museum quality model. Life can be too short sometimes, don't you think?




As with the Mureaux, the Amiot 143 is a good blank canvas onto which the modeller can lavish plenty of time, especially the interior.




You might laugh, but after attempting to build a decent model from a former Heller kit - I may share that Mister Craft misadventure one day, or perhaps not - I searched about to find which Dewoitine kit was the best one. The Hobby Boss one came up time and again as about the most accurate modern kit. It doesn't have many parts, and won't take long to build at all from what's in the box! The decals supplied are for post-Armistice/Vichy France planes. I might decide to stick with those rather than source correct Battle of France markings, as it would still count toward my 1940 period interest, after all.




You will have noted, I hope, that I have so far managed to mostly find kit boxings that cover the particular period of interest. I haven't tackled an AZ Model kit yet, but I notice I have two more kits from that company in the stash.




Not a lot to say, really. The MS-406 was the most numerous French fighter at the time. An odd looking critter, but it appears it was quite capable.




The Potez 63 series is difficult to pin down. There are several variants of this twin-engined machine, all of which seem to have been assigned slightly different roles. I ponder whether I should seek kits that cover the other variants or not. The question, I suppose, is whether it helps to tell the story or not.




This kit is about to reappear from the Special Hobby brand, I believe. I'm not going to buy it again!


There are one or two other aircraft that have been flagged up for my wish list, but this is the current French Air Force 1940 collection. It ought to keep me busy for a while. :drunk:



Edited by Heather Kay
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I'm definitely in for this one, I also have an interest in that specific period. I built the Heller Bloch 152 as a kid and that helped spark the interest. The one thing I remember about it was that I had to drastically shave down the wheels to fit them in the retracted position (it was hung from the ceiling!).



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I concur with the comments on this period of the war, especially the French designed fighters. They look somehow almost there, but not quite, compared to the German, British and perhaps even the Italian monowing fighters.


Like several others I have several of these kits in the stash,  perhaps some "challenging" models - the Novo MS 406, Smer D520 and MB 152 and the RS Models Caudron C 714.


I've also got the Frog D-21 (spatted), so will be following your builds with interest, Heather!

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There are some blanks in my collection. I’ve started a wish list with likely kits to include Liore 45, Potez 540, Caudron CR.714, Bloch 210, and Martin Maryland.


I stand to be corrected, but I’m pretty sure all those were in France in May and June 1940.

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Lots of potential for fun in that little lot, Heather; you have to love any aircraft like the Amiot 143 - a bomber that looks as though it has a Smoking Lounge downstairs.  Complete with Gitanes, obviously.

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A very interesting collection, Heather.

Am I the only one to see that the Hobby Boss D.520 windscreen doesn't fit on the boxtop model?

The Potez 63 and Breguet 693 were trim looking twin engined machines.

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