Copper State Models 1/48 British Aviator

Model, Photos &Text: by Ned B. Ricks IPMS #36013

The "Great War" of 1914-1918 was a testing cauldron of many new, and some unforeseen, weapons and tactics. Among these weapons being used in large scale for the first time was the airplane. The British created the Royal Flying Corps, or RFC, in 1912, which would later evolve into the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Fleet Air Arm for naval aviation. At the outbreak of WWI, the Army sent almost its entire strength of operational aircraft Ė four squadrons of the RFC. This aerial force increased by much greater numbers as the world conflict grew.

This wonderful figure from Copper State Models represents one of those early combat aviators. If you are making a 1/48 scale Sopwith Camel or other British WWI machine, this is the guy for you. The flyers of the RFC came from many diverse parent units, bringing with them the variety of regimental uniforms. He is wearing a khaki colored uniform under a warm flying coat and leather flying helmet with goggles. The winter type coat is not really surprising when you consider that the combat aircraft of the time were open cockpit and made of wood and doped cloth without any heat other than the drafts from the engine. (Editors note: Sometimes not even that heat was available when flying a pusher type aircraft such as a DH-2.) Even in summer, it gets quite cool as you climb in altitude cooling about 5° Centigrade per thousand feet. So, it could be in the high 70s where you take off and at freezing just a few thousand feet up! This officer is also wearing knee high boots, which carries over the British tradition that many officers at least dressed as if they rode horses.

When I first picked up the clear plastic bag that holds the parts and a piece of paper with the text painting guide, I had scale-shock. My project before this one was in white metal cast in 90mm scale, so the difference was significant. However, I must go on record as saying this figure was a delight to work on. Clean up was minor, especially compared to figures of larger scale! The figure is a kit comprised of a torso, booted feet, an arm and hand holding a cigarette, and a head. These have been cast in a pale cream-colored resin in amazing detail. There was some flash, but it amounted to nothing. The seams were well concealed in the folds and texture of the figure and took only minimal effort with the back of a #11 blade to clear away. Note that the flying boots were of a style made up of a high shoe and clam-shell halved tops to the knees. The actual boots had a seam in the front that have been accurately molded on this figure, so donít scrape the seam away in your eagerness.

I started by cleaning up the seams and flash as mentioned above. A few dabs of super glue assembles the parts into a very finely detailed character. A quick wash with dish detergent will remove any residue from the manufacturing process, and you are ready to paint. Some people like to use a temporary holder (such as a pin through the feet) until they finish the painting, but I went ahead and mounted the flyer on a wooden base using Milliput epoxy to form the groundwork and anchor the boots. The base is from a craft store and meant, I think, to be a bell for Christmas ornaments. An application of Burnt Sienna oil paints and a wipe of a clean T-shirt results in whatever shade you prefer for the base.

My undercoat on this figure was Humbrol enamels in the colors I thought might be the same as the final coat. This does two things: first, I get to try out my color ideas, and second, it acts as a primer and a double check on my clean up job. As it was, I had missed a spot on the side of the jacket that needed scraping and re-painting. The face and hands got Humbrol 61 Flesh on this first go-around. For the flying jacket and helmet I tried Humbrol 62 as a base, and the trousers, collar and jacket cuffs were all primed in Humbrol 26. The riding boots turned flying boots were primed in Humbrol #186, a deep brown.

The small scale of the facial features and the warming concealment of the helmet made painting this part of the figure a test in steady hands. First, I made a weak wash of Burnt Umber and thinner. (This actually resembles more of a dirty thinner than a thin paint.) I touched the face area with a little of this until I was pleased with the effect. Unlike many castings of the smaller size, this one was fully sculpted with a character face, including a moustache! The wash picked up the lines and recesses, and I had to set the piece aside for several hours lest I ruin it in my eagerness to move ahead. My next step was to lightly brush the cheekbones and the nose with a very dry brush of Burnt Sienna to give a slight wind-burn hue to the face. Then, I gave him whites in his eyes using Humbrol #196 and a very sharpened toothpick end.

The boots had sufficient detail to standout nicely after a Burnt Umber wash. The fingers of the hands did likewise. The shadows and highlights of the leather flying gear were brought out by varying combinations of Burnt Umber and Ochre Yellow artists oils blended and shaded to bring out the excellent sculpting of the basic figure. The lenses of the goggles were first painted the same 162 as the helmet (they are clear glass, after all) and then lightly brushed with a bit of Humbrol #11 Silver for the shine and a touch of Future floor polish. Use a little Humbrol #147 on the cigarette paper and bit of dark gray on the ash end to finish up.

CSM bills themselves as "The Cutting Edge in Military Details", and, if all the figures produced by Copper States are as good as this example was, I may have to change my favorite scale. Besides, think of the paint I will save!