VINTAGE KITS ANNEX 5
A trilogy of events led to this web chronicle which celebrates the work and craftsmanship of Victor Woodason (1904-1964). Over more than a three decade span, half his lifetime, this master British model-maker created miniature aircraft models for the aviation industry, airlines, movies, the Air Ministry and other government agencies, merchandisers, advertising, aircraft owners, and collectors; he generously shared his creative techniques, philosophy and methods with professionals and hobbyists alike worldwide by writing an in-depth book which detailed the intricacies of building successful wood models - a work which remains to this day as being the most exhaustive exposition of this subject that has ever been printed.
I was first introduced to the work of this outstanding man by my friend and wood artist, Doug Emmons, at Doxaerie, who provided me with a copy of Watch And Make, Scale Model Aircraft - the Art of Scale Model Aircraft Building by V.J.G. Woodason, printed in 1943 at the height of the Second World War. This book is quite rare. Concurrently, I was writing a short history of the WW2 British recognition program for the Friend or Foe? Museum of Aircraft Recognition page on this website. Woodason, through his company at Heston, Woodason Aircraft Models, built many models for the Air Ministry during WW2 which were used for still photographic and film purposes associated with recognition. His book has sections which cover recognition models and their use. I incorporated some of Woodason's comments in the museum page along with mentions of Woodason's involvement with recognition models as printed in British publications during the war. It was this brief referral of Woodason material on this website that led to the second event of the trilogy.
I was contacted by a Southern California lady who miraculously had two pristine examples of models made by Woodason Aircraft Models during WW2; she had been searching for information on Woodason and ran across my museum page. This introduction led to a lengthy negotiation and my eventual purchase of the two models from this unlikely but fortunate source. The models, a Spitfire Vb and a Heinkel He 100d-1 in 1:32 scale, were originally purchased from Woodason by a Lockheed employee based at Liverpool during WW2. The models, still in their original wooden box with carefully padded string ties, were returned to the U.S. following the war and were sold to a Lockheed test pilot who displayed the models in a small mining museum in which he had an interest. The owner died in the 1990s and his widow kept the boxed models stored away until recent times when she remarried and elected to dispose of the treasure. Examples of Woodason's models are rare and particlularly scarce in the U.S. Details of these models will be included in this treatise. I also contacted the Science Museum in South Kensington for information that they might have on three Woodason models that they have in their collection.
Aside from Woodason's book and some magazine and newspaper mentions, there isn't a lot of information available on Woodason in print or on the web. The acquisition of the two models wetted my appetite for more background material so I could do justice to any descriptions that I might make of the outstanding pair of aircraft and the history of the Woodason company. The third event was a bonanza of information as I was contacted by David Brown, of Maidenhead, a grandson of Victor James George Woodason; he saw several photos of my Woodason models on Doug Emmons' website. David informed me that his grandmother, Betty Woodason, was still living and that he would be willing to assist in gathering information from her for an article on his late grandfather. This completed the tripartite needed for this page. I was chagrined, however, by some information passed on by David who said that his grandmother informed him that she had e-mailed me several years ago concerning a mistake in my British recognition article that she had run across - I had mis-typed V.J.G. initials and she let me know. I had no idea at the time that she was Mrs. Woodason!
Information, photos and recollections from Betty Woodason, as relayed by David Brown, are the original bases for this article. Subsequently, historical information on WAM and additional information on the Woodason family have been submitted by Victor Woodason's youngest son, Brian Woodason (born in 1935 by Victor's first wife) and by Howard Furness, a WAM employee from April 1948 through most of 1949, up to the time that WAM moved off of the Heston Airport for the last time. Also, a postwar recollection by employee Denys Bowring, as printed in Aeroplane Monthly, is presented. Many unpublished photos have been submitted by these correspondents and are shown in this exposition. Coupled with this valuable first-hand insight are photos and descriptions of the two Woodason models along with other existing models and excerpts from Woodason's 1943 book. Altogether, this compilation makes a good start at telling the Woodason story, yet there is more to be learned from future sources not yet heard from. An acquaintance of Victor Woodason, Peter Halliday, a professional model maker, who also co-authored with Alan Butler a revised 1978 edition of Woodason's book, may have some information which has not been incorporated into this story as yet. David Brown's uncle, Michael Woodason, who lives in Australia, was too young during the Heston period as he was only three and a half when the family moved to Colnbrook according to Betty Woodason. Victor Woodason had eight children between two wives so it's possible that there are more relatives with anecdotes to contribute. I look forward to any future input which will be added to this tale of a master model-builder. Any corrections are also greatly appreciated.
Some of the photos shown below were given to Brian Woodason by his father, Victor. In each case, Victor provided a caption in his own words. These captions will be used verbatim and will be attributed.
Betty Woodason, known as "Nan" to her grandson, many years ago discarded a number of Woodason Scrap Books containing photographs of models, invoices, orders etc. Fortunately David was able to "rescue" one Scrap Book from the dustbin when he was a teenager. The Scrap Book covered dates of 1932 and 1933. Photographs in Betty Woodason's possession cover mostly the era from 1936 to 1944.
As told by David Brown, Grandson of V.J.G. Woodason and additionally illustrated with photos submitted by Brian Woodason, son of V.J.G. Woodason.
Victor Woodason was born on April 18, 1904, son to James and Ada Woodason. His father was a bricklayer journeyman and it is thought Woody worked with him at an early age. His first recorded occupation was a teachers assistant. However, during the first world war he had a fascination with the war planes and found it frustrating that you could not buy any models. By the end of the war, Woody had started to make his own models. Many, in his own words, were not very good as information was very scarce. Slowly his techniques improved and information became a little more easier to find. All his spare time was to try and create a better model. It became a full time hobby. (See excerpts from the Woodason book).
In 1923 Woody married his first wife, Alice Cloutt. They had 5 children, the eldest, Alec Woodason, actually worked for Woodason Aircraft Models, WAM, for about 3 years.
In 1929 he sold his first model to a pilot in the Air Force. I have a letter dated February 15, 1929 which states that the pilot (sorry cannot read signature) encloses a cheque for £2 and is very pleased with the model. Unfortunately it does not mention what the model is but does say the undercarriage has broken off in the post! In a magazine article I have, Woody mentions that after the sale of his first model, and more that came with it, he decided to form WAM about 3 years later, which would be about 1932.
Now I have in my Scrap Book a couple of purchase orders from the de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd dated May and July 1933 for a Puss Moth and a Dragon Moth. The address given is not at Heston and neither is WAM mentioned. So my reckoning is that WAM was formed in late 1933, perhaps 1934.
I know for certain that WAM was at Heston airport in 1936 (see above 1936 photograph). The workshop was rented at this site until the start of the second world war when the Ministry of Defence needed the space.
Notes: The March 7, 1935 Flight mentions the following in a section on the Heston Airport - this description fits the photos of the first Woodason facility on Heston but leaves a few questions to be answered: "In a specially designed, three-roomed hut Mr. Woodason, first and chief craftsman of the Model Transport Co., carries out the more than usually intricate detail work on aircraft models. The workshop is all 'true to life.' the hull of a Short 'Scipio' lies on a wooden jig, complete even to the rivets on the skin. A big job, this 3 ft. span or more, and destined for a Dutch museum. Next door is the paintshop with its own electric blower motor working a spray-painting apparatus. The third room contains pigeon-holed blueprints and models awaiting the final touches, for which they are sent to Mr. Woodason at Heston. The bulk of the work is done at the London factory, and supervised by Miss Rosalind Norman, the managing director." The headline mentions "A Change of Name: Air Transport in Miniature," but there is no follow-up in the article. The Model Transport Co. name showed up in a Daily Mirror newspaper caption shown below - and who is Rosalind Norman in London and how many people worked there? Is she related to Mr. N. St. V. Norman, the original Heston Aerodrome developer?
The date of the formation of WAM can be pinpointed by an article in the May 21, 1936 Flight magazine: "Scale Models. Mr. V.J.G. Woodason, formerly chief engineer of the Model Transport Company, has gone into partnership with Mr. R.A.C. Holme, and within the last few weeks has been manufacturing models at Heston under the business title of 'Woodason Aircraft Models.' His workshop is on the ground floor of the former service hangar, and it contains at present several large models of Imperial Airways' new equipment to various stages of construction." This pretty well places the WAM formation around the late spring of 1936.
Woody then rented an old farm house, Grange Farm, just outside the airfield at Heston known as 91 North Hyde Lane, Heston. He converted most of the ground floor to a workshop.
At first Woodason was concerned that he would have to lay off his workmen when the war broke out. He quickly got around this by making German Aircraft models for recognition purposes. This was followed by making models for various war time films which include, In Which We Serve, Ships With Wings, One of Our Aircraft is Missing and several others. In early 1941, my grandmother (Betty) joined the company as secretary / receptionist / typist etc; this was after working in London and being told that because of the London blitz, it was becoming a very dangerous place to be.
They had 3 children: Helen, Carol born April 1, 1945 (my mother) and Michael who later emigrated to Australia. In February 1945, an American fighter plane, soon after take off from Heston, had an engine problem and tried to land but the wing tip hit the corner of the farmhouse virtually destroying the workshop. No one in the house was hurt but the fighter pilot died in the crash. It was a P-51B, a/c sn 43-6785, flown by 1st Lt. Gaston Riggs on an approach to Heston from Fowlmere; one report mentions that it happened during an engine failure on takeoff and that a wingtip caught the house as Lt. Riggs tried to return to the base. At the time, Betty Woodason was pregnant with David's mother. As a result of the damage, 91 North Hyde Lane had to be demolished. (Note that this event date has significance with respect to the two Woodason models.)
Betty Woodason said that Woody received very little for writing the 1943 book and that he was promised that it would be very successful - but spare money for books was scarce in England at that time and the book did not sell well.
Woodason and family were then rehoused to 210 North Hyde Lane, a 2 bedroom flat. Whilst staying here he rented space at no cost from Airwork Ltd. who were based on the Heston airport (see photograph ). My grandmother said that in July/August of 1950 they purchased 604 London Road, Colnbrook, Slough, Buckinghamshire which had a large garage and out buildings. He converted these to workshops. I have a letter heading with the WAM logo at this address. Unfortunately the council never gave him permission to run a business from this address. He could only work as self employed. This did not stop him using his staff though.
However, his health was beginning to deteriorate. Also, the orders for model planes after the war started to fall. And to cap it all, his financial backer, a Sir Whitney Strait (of the Royal Air force), pulled out. My grandmother said he was very good with his hands but useless with money. He would spend too much time on each model, sometime would work through the night to gain perfection. Whitney Straight wanted a greater turn over with his model business, with less attention to detail. Sadly, Whitney took with him all outstanding models and sold them. According to grandmother, Woody continued making models but only for another few years until his health problems prevented him making anymore. But I have found an invoice dated May 31, 1956 for a 1:10 scale model of a Bristol Fighter addressed to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australia! I have no record of anything later than this. Note: The Flight magazine issue of May 17, 1957 has a short article entitled "Woodason Models Again." It begins, "After a long illness, Mr. V.J.G. Woodason, of 604 London Road, Slough, Bucks, has begun to make aircraft scale models once again. Until a few years ago, his products were greatly in demand in the industry for development and display purposes." Of significant interest, the new models that Woodason was building in 1957 were plastic and were made in a form of bas relief only about an inch thick! The article can be seen by clicking here.
Woody died on November 19, 1964, aged 60 of heart failure. A short obit was carried in the Flight of November 26, 1964. The photograph above of the WAM workshop dated 1936 shows Woody on the left. The tallest guy was Mr. Barnett who was still working with Woody during the 1950's. He was a very quiet person but also an excellent model maker. The other 2 guys we do not know the names of. In the photograph below, the fellow holding the flying boat Cavalier with Woody is Charlie Dermon who also worked for WAM for a number of years.
I have a letter from The Royal Aero Club, London, dated March 1960, which states that V.J.G. Woodason is the finest aircraft model maker in the world. When Woody passed away, his remaining models were sold.
Mr. Furness received the following letter from Victor Woodason, dated April 17, 1948, offering employment. The letter is reproduced below and is also transcribed for easier reading; note that the letterhead has an address sticker which replaces the printed, off-airport address and that other details have been crossed out or added. Victor Woodason did not waste money on a new letterhead when he moved back to Heston Airport!
The Short Mayo Composite model was constructed in 1938. A photo of this model at the Heston Airport appeared in the November 3, 1938 Flight magazine which you can view by clicking here.
As mentioned, Victor Woodason moved back on the airfield for a short time in the postwar period until the airport closed. The following article describes Woodason's shop location during that period.
Excerpt from the article, "Heston Revisited," in the April 1995 issue of Aeroplane Monthly by Denys Bowring. Mr. Bowring, at the age of 16, started working for Heston based Fairey Aviation at the fitter apprentice school in 1946 and soon was transferred to the Flight Development office. The Heston branch of Fairey performed the final painting and flight testing of airplanes built at the Hayes plant. The Firefly Mk I and Mk IV were completed at Heston. Flight testing was also conducted on the Spearfish torpedo bomber - two prototypes were built and flown. Young Mr. Bowring was laid off from Fairey and, as his story printed below relates, he became a teenage modeler employee with V.J.G. Woodason for 18 months just prior to the closing of Heston Airport. His peek into the workings of the WAM shop tells a lot about the postwar period.
An interesting sidebar to the V.J.G. Woodason story. Woodason was president of the local Heston Community Aviation Club. Apparently this organization was interested in all aspects of aviation including modeling. The very first copy of DATAIR, the "Journal of the Heston Community Aviation Club" was published in March 1949. The cover and two illustrated pages of the "journal" were printed by some form of the old "Ditto" machine using the purple aniline wax ink; the rest of the pages appear to be either black ditto or mimeograph. You can view the cover and first page by clicking on the partial page image below.
Barry Clay, a dedicated solid model builder, has offered a few comments on V.J.G. Woodason. Shortly after Woodason's death, the British television program "Blue Peter" showed Woodason's collection of models before they went up for auction. Included in the program were scenes of a small garden workshop where he built his last models. A notebook was kept outlining exactly how much time was spent on each model project. Barry also mentions that the model shop of DAGRA was based at Eaton Bay where attempts were made to make it into a model aerodrome but they fell foul of the planning authorities and had to close the whole place as they set up without permission. The late Doug McHard was an employee of DAGRA.
Andy Woodason of Woodley, Reading, Berks. wrote the following after reading this article: "As a distant relation I always wondered where my father got his interest in model aircraft. Now I know as my father's dad (my grandfather) was Victor's brother and perhaps Victor got his brick laying skills from out four generations of builders, who knows! Anyway, absolutely fascinating - many thanks."
There must be a number of existing examples of WAM models, but I have not had much success in locating more than a handful. To start off this section, three examples in the collection of the Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington are pictured. Incidentally, I highly recommend a visit to this museum - it's usually not prominently mentioned amongst British aviation museums, but the aircraft collection centers on some of the world's greatest airplanes: examples include the Vickers Vimy, the Supermarine S.6B, Amy Johnson's de Havilland Moth Jason, a Mark 1A Spitfire, a Mark I Hurricane, 1912 Cody biplane, 1910 Latham Antoinette, 1916 Fokker E.III, Cierva C.30A Autogiro and others of significance - a replica 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer replaces the original Flyer which was exhibited there until returned to the U.S. in the late 1940s.
Jane Insley, Senior Curator, Engineering Technologies, at the Science Museum helped track down the whereabouts of some of the Woodason models in the collection. Three Woodason models are cataloged in the 1949 publication by the Ministry of Education, Science Museum entitled, Aeronautics, Heavier-than-air Aircraft, Their history and development as illustrated by the National Aeronautical Collection in the Science Museum, Part II, Catalogue of Exhibits with Descriptive Notes. The inventory or catalogue number of each starts with the year of accession. There is some indication that the museum may have had more Woodason models.
82. F.E. 8 BIPLANE, 1915 Scale 1:10 - Inv. 1938-99
From the 1949 catalogue: "The model shown represents a small single-seater fighting biplane with pusher airscrew. It was produced by the Royal Aircraft Factory in 1915, and was superceded in 1917 by more efficient tractor machines. The armament consisted of a Lewis gun controlled by the pilot and arranged to fire ahead." Note that the three Science Museum models were purchased in the 1930s to replace models which were returned to the Imperial War Museum. This model is located and crated at the Large Object Facility at Wroughton, south of Swindon. The photo below was taken by David Brown at Wroughton. It is crated along with some other, larger models. The second photo is from 1938.
91. SOPWITH SCOUT TRACTOR, 1916 Scale 1:10 - Inv. 1938-98
From the 1949 catalogue: "This model represents a single-seater fighting biplane, commonly known as the 'Sopwith Pup.' It was first used in 1916." This model is located in the Small Object Facility at Blythe House in Hammersmith (no photo of it at that facility). The photos below are from1938. All of these Science Museum models are pictured in Woodason's book.
139. AVRO BIPLANE, TYPE 504-N, 1926 Scale 1:24 - Inv. 1936-428
From the 1949 catalogue: "This represents a type of military aircraft first adopted in 1926 and later employed as the standard training machine by the Royal Air Force. Since 1932, however, it has gradually been replaced by an improved type, known as the Avro 'Tutor.'" This model is suspended in a wall case in the Science Museum's Flight Gallery at South Kensington; the first photo below is by David Brown and the others are from 1936. The last photo appears in Woodason's book. Note that the 1936 photos do not show any markings on the model as it now appears in the museum.
BOAC SHORT SOLENT in collection of Anthony J. Lawler, Scale 1:66
This lovely flying boat model is all-metal and must be considered a very rare example of Victor Woodason's work. A post-war model. Also see additional example in the following paragraph.
Correspondent Glenn Murray has provided several photos of Woodason models and suspected WAM models. The photos below show a Woodason metal cutaway model of the Short Solent which is on exhibit at the Solent Sky Museum, formerly known as the Southamption Hall of Aviation. This model appears to be of similar construction to the Solent shown above and with the same marking. Note that the WAM logo label is prominently displayed on the bottom of the hull. What a beauty!
Another WAM Short Solent, G-AHIL, has surfaced at the Musèe de l'Hydraviation in Biscarrosse, France. See photo below, courtesy of Ursula Maurer of the museum.
This Imperial Airway's HP-42 Heracles in the Science Museum is most certainly a Woodason Aircraft Models example. It is not the same model as featured in the newspaper clipping previously displayed on this page, but is surely a sister model made by WAM. Thanks to Glenn Murray for this photo.
This stunning model of the DH-86 is in the Science Museum, South Kensington, England. Although it hasn't been authenticated yet as a WAM model, it is so similar to other WAM models that the likelihood is great. An attempt will be made to determine if WAM is the maker. Thanks to Glenn Murray for the photo and information.
These two models were made by WAM during World War 2 and they carry impeccable provenance. The models came in their original WAM shipping box, complete with shipping labels. The pair was purchased by a Mr. G.F. Rice, (George Rice),The Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Reassembly Division, Liverpool Airport, Liverpool, 19., this address appearing on two labels on the box.
The models were returned to the U.S., sold to another Lockheed employee, a test pilot, who placed them in a small museum until his death in the 1990s whereupn his widow placed the box of models in storage. Their condition has been pristine for all this time. The shipping label has the WAM address of 91 North Hyde Lane, Heston, Middx. which was the company's address from early in WW2 to February 1945 when the house at 91 North Hyde Lane was demolished by a P-51. There is no further dating so that all we know is that the models were of WW2 vintage for certain - the type, Spitfire Vb and a He 100D-1, might suggest an early war time-frame since, by 1945, the Heinkel was old history and much later Spitfires were actively engaged. And, in particular, a card with a caption was located in the box which described the Heinkel as a He 113, a Luftwaffe subterfuge which was only effective during the early war period, plus, the Heinkel carries the lightning bolt spurious squadron marking which was the first to be used on the twelve D-1 aircraft built. If you would like to view a history of the He 100, as printed in the December 1966 issue of Air Progress, then click here.
Note how each model is carefully padded and string-tied to mounting blocks. Betty Woodason did some of the local delivery of models. The Aeroplane Spotter magazine of June 15, 1944 carried an article co-written by V.J.G. Woodason entitled "On Sending Models by Post" - note in the photos below how the model packing closely follows the instructions!
Of interest, is the fact that this method of string tie to a padded block has been used by other manufacturers at a much later date. As an example, the North American F-86H,shown below, is a solid wood model made by the North American model shop; note that it is tied in the same way to the shipping box made by North American.
The following photos show the He 100D-1 with the lightning bolt squadron marking. Both models have fully functioning retractable landing gear (carriage?) which was conveniently retracted when shipping. Aging has caused a few joint cracks in these models and some plastic warping in the canopies but the condition of each is better than would be expected for a wood model well over 60 years old. The painted finish is in excellent condition - neither model has received any restoration. The He 100 was designed by the Heinkel team of Siegfried and Walter Günter with the goal of competing with Messerschmitt for RLM contracts; it has been reported that Nazi politics tipped the scale in favor of the Bf 109. About 25 He 100s were completed by Heinkel and never saw actual Luftwaffe service as line fighters. Several were retained to defend the Heinkel factory and these were used as a propaganda tool. The Germans reported that the "He 113" was in service with the Luftwaffe and this misinformation was picked up by the allies. Photos purporting to be He 113 squadrons used phoney markings (lightning bolt was one)and allied recognition manuals and magazines of the period were convinced that the "He 113" was an operation fighter. Some wartime photos can be viewed by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return. This page is from the October 2010 issue of the British magazine Aircraft; their website is www.aircraftmagazine.co.uk. Woodason was fooled as well as this model was labeled by the buyer as a He 113.
The Spitfire VB squadron marking is very interesting. ZD*F denotes the 222 Squadron. Spitfire Mk. VB BL614/4354M in the R.A.F. Museum carries this squadron code. This aircraft was transferred to the 222 (Natal) Squadron on August 11, 1942 and received the code at that time. The photo below shows this Spit as currently exhibited in the R.A.F. Museum.
During WW2, a rare color photo was printed of a Spitfire VB with code marking ZD*F; in fact, a poster of that photo is currently available. The photo is shown below. I am making the assumption that WAM saw that color photo and the model's markings are a result of that prominently displayed wartime picture. I find it interestingly coincidental that the R.A.F.'s exhibit carries the same squadron code as this model made around 1943. The museum's Spitfire was originally coded ZD*F in August 1942 when it was transferred to 222 Squadron - to view the museum's history of this Mk. VB, click here.
The Woodason Spitfire VB model is displayed below. The He 100D-1 carries a Woodason Aircraft Models label but the Spit has no marking applied. The color balance is poor in some of these photos - the upper surface grey appears as a blue. The last four are truer in color.
This model was auctioned by Christie's at London, South Kensington, on February 18, 1993. The Lot Description for the model is printed below as found on the Christie's website.
"A detailed wooden model of the DH 88 Registration letters G.AC55 'Grosvenor House' built by Woodason Aircraft Models, Heston Airport. Wingspan -- 21½in (54.4cm). With cockpit seats and instrument boards, perspex canopy (cracked, some panels missing) metal propellers, lowered undercarriage (one mainwheel missng), finished in red and white, with Titanine Dope and makers decals (some old damages) ; and the guiding brochure and route handbook issued to competitors in the Macrobertson(sp) International Air Races England - Melbourne 1934, in original ring binder containing rules, instructions to pilots and aerodrome details."
If anyone can provide a photo of this model, it will be added to this page.
Correspondent Brian Robertson has kindly offered the following (Dec 2010):
This wood model is in 1:48 scale and features retractable landing gear. Based on its Heston origin and provenance, it is most surely a Woodason-constructed model. The model is in fine condition and appears to be largely original; model expert Doug Emmons suggested that the spinner/prop joint is a little rough and certainly not to Woodason standards. Most likely the prop was broken at one time and a less-than-expert restoration was performed. Note that the spinner appears to be laminated (apparent when photo enlarged).
Flg. Off. Maurice "Shorty" Longbottom had an illustrious career in the RAF which was tragically brought short by a training plane crash in 1945. The early photo-reconnaissance activity is summarized in this article from the internet:
Information on the photo Spitfires may be found at airrecce. Use the back arrow to return.
Longbottom was better known for his role with the Dambusters team. He flew on the practice runs and was the trusted colleague of Barnes Wallis who invented the famous explosive device. On May 13, 1943 he recorded in his logbook in red ink the first live drop of the bouncing bomb 'Upkeep' - just three days before the daring raid over the Ruhr dams in Germany. Although he didn't fly on the Dambusters mission itself, Longbottom's importance was summed up by Barnes Wallis in a letter of condolence he wrote to the pilot's widow Linda. In it he said:
News: I recently acquired a Woodason model of the Blackburn Skua from the U.K. - the model needs some restoration and photos will be posted here in the future when work on it is completed. It is possible that this model was made for the 1941 film Ships with Wings.
The search is on for any more Woodason models which are in public or private collections. I will be happy to print photos or information about any Woodason models currently available.
Films of Woodason models were used extensively as recognition training aids during WW2. The use of Woodason models in commercial movies is an interesting sideline, however, because the models were usually of a larger size, similar to the air transport models.
The film, "In Which We Serve," starred actors that became well known; it was Richard Attenborough's first movie role. The film starred, and was directed and produced by Noël Coward, the only time he seved as a film director; John Mills also was an actor in the war drama. The film is described: "This engrossing tale about the sinking of British destroyer HMS Torrin during the Battle of Crete is based on the true-life story of the HMS Kelly, a destroyer under command of Lord Louis Mountbatten that sank in the Mediterranean. Three survivors (Noel Coward, Bernard Miles and John Mills) on a raft recount their lives aboard the sunken vessel." The modern DVD cover is presented below.
A Woodason Ju 88 is the aviation star of the film as the German aircraft that sank the destroyer. The single, large scale Ju 88 model is filmed from many angles and is made to represent the whole attacking force. The model, and it's air scenes, are very realistic. The aerial effects are much better than many American movies of the same period. Victor Woodason is shown holding this giant movie model.
The following scenes are stills of the Ju 88 taken from the movie as the Ju 88 attacks the British destroyer and sinks it. Notice how the model was dirtied for the film - in particular, the exhaust streaks alongside the lower nacelles. Also, the markings have been changed and it appears as if the dive brakes were removed. Some photos of a real Ju 88 are involved in some way in this film.
There is an interesting sidebar to this wartime movie which uses the HMS Kelly sinking as its premise. Lord Louis "Dickie" Mountbatten was the skipper when it was sunk by Germans. Mountbatten eventually became Admiral of the Fleet, a long and outstanding career marked by some controversy. Tragically, Mountbatten was murdered on August 27, 1979 while boating with his family near his Irish estate, Classiebawn Castle; his small boat was blown-up by members of the Provisional I.R.A.
The book, Mountbatten, by Richard Hough, explores Mountbatten's involvement in the making of the movie and his friendship with Noël Coward whom he had known since the 1920s. During a dinner in 1941, Coward had Mountbatten relate the story of the sinking of the HMS Kelly. Coward later wrote (from the book): "'He told it without apparent emotion, but the emotion was there, poignantly behind every word he uttered.' Coward had always been deeply attached to the Navy, and in Mountbatten's account he recognized 'all the true sentiment, the comedy, the tragedy, the casual valiance, the unvaunted heroism, the sadness without tears and the pride without end.' Coward returned to the Savoy Hotel , and on that night was conceived In Which We Serve."
Plans for the movie slowly progressed. Mountbatten had concerns about the movie being a personal accolade. From the book: "Coward soon convinced Mountbatten that he had no intention of basing the film 'too exactly' on the career of the Kelly, or her commanding officer at all closely on Mountbatten. Coward wrote: 'Mountbatten is definitely one of the most outstanding men of our time . . . My Captain (D) was a simpler character altogether, far less gifted than he, far less complicated, but in no way, I hope, less gallant.'"
The film elicited some complaints from senior officials. "At one point the Ministry of Information threatened to ban the screening of the film outside the country, as it was bad propaganda to show one of H.M. ships being sunk." The film opened in September 1942 and resulted in a lifelong vendetta with Lord Beaverbrook (then Minister of State): "The scene to which Beaverbrook took such violent objection was the one showing in close-up of the Daily Express floating in oil-stained water, carrying the headline that there would be no war this year. For Beaverbrook, this was an affront to his political responsibility, to his power as a seer and prophet, and to his beloved newspaper. And this became the tinder that set off a deep-seated feud."
Noël Coward wrote more than 60 plays, musicals and revues; about half of these made it to Broadway. His plays were famous for the British urbane and frothy wit although some were serious efforts at depicting real life in Britain.
British correspondent Steve Crook has offered the following comments on the movie The Foreman Went to France and the Woodason Ju 87 Stuka model pictured below.
The August 1988 magazine Aircraft Modelworld has an article by Ron Giddings concerning the period of time in 1941 and 1942 that he worked for "Wham." He worked on models for the film Ships With Wings, released in 1941 and the magazine carries a photo (page 147) of Ron as he labors on a giant scale Swordfish while a fellow employee of WAM works on a smaller scale Swordfish. The photo was taken at the Grange farm house showing a wide plank wood floor. Giddings writes,
Note regarding Landfall: I took advantage of the Foundation's offer and have viewed the "Landfall" movie tape. A very clean copy by Pinewood Studios. Ground views of a real Wellingon are shown. The WAM models unfortunately take up only a few brief seconds; one of the models is blown apart, the severed wing and fuselage falling into the sea. The movie's hero, of course, survives the horrific crash. One interesting sighting in the movie: a few second, bit walk-on part of P/O Hooper is played by Laurence Harvey.
Some additional information with regard to wartime British access to German warplanes. It has been noted that Victor Woodason created a series of German model aircraft for use in recognition manuals and training films and built scale models of German aircrft for use in civilian feature films during the war. There were, however, flying examples in Great Britain of many of the popular German warplanes such as the Me 109, Fw 190, He 111 and the Ju 88 and these aircraft were flown around to many airbases for inspection by military personnel and also were used for photographic and other operational training purposes. The unit was setup at RAF Station Duxford in November 1941 as the No. 1426 (EAC) Flight, nicknamed the Rafwaffe. By the end of 1941, the unit had a He 111, Ju 88 and a Me 109. The Ju 88 came from RAF Station Chivenor whre it had landed, crew disoriented, at night.
The unit's history shows that the aircraft were flown for recognition training photos and sound recordings. During the month of July, 1942, the Two Cities Film Company took some photographs of the Ju88 for use in the film, In Which We Serve; these photos were either used in the film or were used to assist with the painting of Woodason's Ju 88 movie model. I have not been able to distinguish a real Ju 88 from a model in the movie (which is exactly what a good movie director wants).
The fifth base tour of the unit in July, 1942 visited Stations Biggin Hill, Gravesend, Kenley, Redhill, Atcham, Heston, Northolt and Boscombe Down (where test pilots flew the aircraft and the Ju 88 was flown at night for exhaust glare photographs for recognition purposes). The flight then visited USAAF Stations Bovingdon and Molesworth, and returned to Duxford on the 21st of August. Although Woodason was not on Heston Airport in July 1942, he was close by and perhaps saw the Ju 88 when it landed at RAF Heston. Some of the other movie roles for the Rafwaffe Ju 88: During the month of November, the Metro Goldwyn Mayer Film Corporation took some photographs of the Ju 88 and Me 110 for use in the film Sabotage Agent, later named The Adventures of Tartu. During the month of April, 1943, the Ju 88 was flown for photographs for the film The Re-Discovery of Britain made by the Crown Film Unit. In May, 1943, the Ju 88 and He 111 were flown for the Army Film Production Unit who were making a film about the African Campaign. On July 7, 1944, the Ju 88 and He 111 were flown to USAAF Station Polebrook to enable Captain Clark Gable to make an Instructional Film for air gunners. On July 25, 1944, the Ju 88 was flown for the Realist Film Unit who were making the film Tinker Tailor. Official notification was received of the disbandment of No. 1426 (EAC) Flight in January, 1945.
The Kurt Erlach Ltd. organization used Woodason models in a trade show exhibition of their "Volspray" spray painting equipment; the models were examples of the spray finish achieved with "Volspray."
Another soft cover book entitled Solid Scale Model Aircraft, written by J.H. Elwell, was published in England in 1941. This is an excellent book which describes techniques for making solid scale models, in part very similar to Woodason's book. Mr. Elwell was on the staff of Aero Modeller magazine. The book contains many photos of scale models, some made by Mr. Elwell. Other builders are also featured, including Woodason. The photos shown below are from the book and each is attributed to the magazine, The Aeroplane and the model is credited to Woodason. Other Woodason models are pictured which have been previously shown on this page, including the Stuka, Ju 88K and the Breda 65.
A 1948 photo of a four-engine Universal Transport model made by Woodason can be seen by clicking here.
A March 1948 article mentions that the Lancashire Aircraft Corporation was exhibiting a sectional model of a "Halton" freighter made by Woodason. The corporation was using the freighter to haul marine propeller shafts to Singapore and Calcutta.
From GERMAN AIRCRAFT AND HOW TO KNOW THEM by C.H. Gibbs-Smith, Royal Observer Corps - 1943, the "Acknowledgments."
Note: The author of this recognition manual, C.H. Gibbs-Smith. signed a copy of the acknowledgment page for Mr. Woodason and wrote, "The best model maker in the world..."
This is a fitting place to pay tribute to the two men who not only made this book possible, but whose work is to be found wherever Aircraft Recognition is taught or practiced. Both shun the limelight and work for the love of the thing and, with Mr. Peter Masefield, may be said to form the basic trio of those who pioneered the recognition study of enemy aircraft.
Mr. Woodason's models speak for themselves, or rather do almost everything but that. They are indeed perfect of their kind, and his genius for thinking of and interpreting shapes in three dimensions has, to quote one achievement only, provided us with advance renderings of enemy machines long before we capture them. His models often dive at us at the cinema; they are the actors in countless recognition films, and they also form the subject of Mr. Gaseltine's photographs.
Mr. Gaseltine takes the models and makes them into invaluable recognition documents. From the opening of hostilities he has given expert assistance to many branches of war photography, but the specialised presentation of Mr. Woodason's model aircraft is perhaps nearest to his heart. The work of the Gaseltine-Woodason team, thanks to the foresight and generosity of the Directors of Ilford's, is to be found in official manuals, and in hundreds of R.A.F. and Ack-Ack recognition rooms throughout the country; and the Royal Observer Corps has received the finest series of standarised comparative views in existence.
The present writer especially wishes to thank the Directors of Messrs. Ilford, Ltd., for kindly allowing Mr. Gaseltine's photographs to be reproduced; the authorities of the Aeroplane and Flight, and Mr. Leonard Bridgman, for permission to use their drawings; and the Aircraft Recognition Dept. of the Ministry of Aircraft Production for much kindness. Last, but not least, are sincere thanks due to the publishers for their enthusiasm, and the unending care they have taken in face of a very fussy author. C.H. GIBBS-SMITH Harrow on the Hill, 1943.
The Heston Aerodrome was the site of Victor Woodason's shop during the last half of the 1930s and in the immediate post-war period. The airport was a hotbed of private aviation activity in the pre-WW2 era and became home base to a variety of military aviation operations during the war; the Woodason shop had to vacate the airport during the military phase. It's interesting to locate where Woodason did business on the airfield and to delve into the history of Heston Airport - an airfield that just might have become the current Heathrow had WW2 not interfered.
Sir Nigel Norman (an architect and a member of the Norman Aviation family) and Alan Muntz formed Airwork Ltd. in 1928 to construct a new private airfield at a market garden site in western London near Heston, Middlesex. Opening on July 6, 1929, the new field had a north facing complex of buildings which included a purpose-built control tower, the first facility of its sort. Hangars were constructed on each side of the central facility - a 100 ft. concrete hangar, along with one other, were located just east of the terminal building and another hangar on the west side - a number of individual "lock-up" hangars also were constructed. The formation of the Heston Aerodrome is nicely described in the October 25, 1928 issue of Flight magazine which you can read by clicking here. Some photos of the aerodrome facility under construction can be viwed by clicking here.
Tim Sherwood's excellent book, Coming In To Land, presents what he calls, "A short history of: Hounslow, Hanworth and Heston Aerodromes 1911-1946." This book was published by the Hounslow Cultural and Community Services in 1999 and does an outstanding job of describing the airport activity of Middlesex during aviation's formative years. I obtained this book from a dealer in Wales.
Tim gives an in-depth look at the origin of the Heston Airport which was known as "The Ascot of Aviation" because of its gentlemen's club atmosphere. The Household Brigade Flying Club, known as the Guards Flying Club, had three rooms of the Clubhouse. Upper and upper-middle class social events for which Heston became famous - such as garden parties, competitive flying events - all in the middle of the economic depression. Tim introduces the Heston chapter with:
The earliest completed building photo (with article) that I've located is from November 1929 and you can view the pictures by clicking here. Also, the photo below was taken around the same time.
The photo below shows the airfield soon after opening - there is no custom house. This is the earliest overall photo that I've found. The event in the photo is the King's Cup race meeting of July 6, 1929. Perhaps the Hounslow Library could be a source of others taken around the opening.
By 1930 the airfield was approved to have a customs facility, the first unsubsidized airfield in the UK to permit foreign entry - another "first." A 1930 radio facility and airport floodlighting also added to the modern development of this airfield. Heston Airport became a popular departure point for record flights and by 1932 it became an official diversion airfield for Croydon, thereby witnessing operations by Imperial Airways airliners. Owned and operated by Airwork, the airport had numerous flight schools and charter operations and even had a hotel-like facility.
A Chance Floodlight was used at the Heston Air Park (another title for the aerodrome). This floodlight was portable and mounted with a generator on a trailer pulled by a Fordson tractor, or alternately by a Crossley Kegresse or Vickers-Carden-Lloyd. The light could be located at the active runway to illuminate the aerodrome; usual boundary and obstruction lights were also fitted to the field.
A number of aerial views of Heston and the surrounding area circa 1929-1930 may be viewed by clicking here. Use the back arrow to return.
Heston was the site for several King's Cup air races, the first in 1929. The 1931 race events included Oberleutnant Ernst Udet, the second-highest scoring German ace of World War I, who flew to England for the first time to perform in the display mounted on the occasion of the annual King's Cup Air Race; centered that year (July 25, 1931) on London's Heston Airport. Many social aviation events were hosted on the Heston airfield; shown below is the Guards Club Garden Party of July 22, 1931. Thanks to correspondent Peter Dance for the correct caption for this 1931 scene.
Manufacturing at Heston began in 1933 as Comper Aircraft built their Swift line of aircraft.
Comper was taken over in 1934 by Heston Aircraft Company which manufactured the Heston Phoenix in 1935.
Click here for a Heston Phoenix advertisement from January 1937.
A three-view of the Heston Phoenix, G-AEHJ, from a 1939 issue of Flying Aces magazine can be viewed by clicking here.
New airlines began using Heston by 1935 with significant activity on the grass field. Also in 1935, Airwork built a large hangar, with 200 ft. doors, nearby the terminal on the west side. V.J.G. Woodason, with the Model Transport Company, would have been operating on the airport by this time. The Heston Airport had 33,962 take-offs or landings during 1935 and 17,903 passengers on regular airlines. Jersey Airways replaced their D.H. Dragons with D.H. 80s and Dragon Rapides. Besides Jersey, other airlines serving Heston included Spartan Air Lines, Portsmouth, Southern and Isle of Wight Aviation, United Airways, Inner Circle Air Line, B.A.N.C.O., North Eastern Airways, Birkett Air Service, British-American Air Service and Air Commerce.
The British magazine, The Aeroplane, carried an advertisement in the July 27, 1945 issue which is one of a series of reminiscences of British Aviation history - a scene is shown of a Saturday afternoon party at Brooklands and there is a caption which mentions similar parties at Heston in the mid-1930s. To see a full page PDF file of this delightful ad, please click here.
This hangar was taken over by British Airways by 1938 - photos below. Note the extensive development since 1929. Airwork moved out of Heston at this time because of lack of adequate space and relocated to Gatwick.
Airwork was losing money on the airport operation by the mid-1930s and feared that the property would be developed for housing (sound familiar?). The Air Ministry was pressured to purchase the airport and operate it as a viable alternative to Croydon which was proving to be too small (see photo below).
The reluctant Air Ministry then tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the local Councils to purchase the airport. As late as Septemeber 1936, the Air Ministry declared that "there was no case for the purchase of Heston as a state-owned civil airport." However, soon afterwards, the Air Ministry elected to purchase Heston Airport and land around it with the idea of developing a large airport to replace Croydon; the government purchase was completed in November 1937 although Airwork continued to be responsible for operating the field. The Air Ministry's ambitious 1939 expansion plans for the field did not materialize. The longest landing run was 4500 feet running from the north-west to the south-east. Large gas works were located north and east of the field.
The above 1938 photo also shows a single-story building extension on the west side of the Airwork hangar (located just east of the terminal/tower). A detail of this building is presented below.
This is the site of what was probably Victor Woodason's third location on the Heston Airport. The photo below, previously displayed, shows Victor standing in front of this building, which at this point is displaying his company's sign.
The Heston Airport scene from 1933, shown earlier, shows the area of the concrete Airwork hangar that Woodason occupied as his second shop location on the airport; a detail of that photo is presented below along with a previously shown scene of the Woodason factory which was dated 1936 using that particular hangar space.
Note the "shed" in front of the hangar. Woodason's first shop location, when he worked for the Model Transport Company, was in some sort of a similar, minimal wood structure on the airport (described by some as a "hut."). As seen in the photo below (undated), the shop faced a ramp with an airplane evident. The exact location of this facility on the airport has not been determined.
The Napier-Heston racer was by far the most advanced airplane designed and built at the Heston Airfield. The Heston Aircraft Co, Ltd was given the order for its design in the spring of 1938. Constructed exclusively for an attempt at setting the World's Landplane and Absolute Speed Record, the Nuffield-Napier-Heston J5 was originally conceived by A.E. Hagg of D Napier and Son in 1936. Financial arrangements for the patriotic venture were offered and provided for by Lord Nuffield (the industrialist, Robert Morris, of MG fame).
The Heston project design department, headed by Chief designer George Cornwall, was asked to design a super-fast aircraft intended to recapture the world's air speed record, then held by the Germans. The racer's design parameters were to be purposely designed around and powered by a top secret, specially built, blown version of a 24-cylinder, 2,450 HP liquid cooled Napier Sabre engine.
If you would like to construct a model of the Heston Racer, you can click here for a three-view and dimensions from the October 1943 issue of Model Airplane News.
WWII intervened in the development of two prototypes, but one, G-AFOK, was completed, ground run and ready for test flight by June, 1940. The "Racer" made its first and last flight, piloted by Heston's chief test pilot, Squadron Leader G.L.G. Richmond, in that month. An overheating engine problem brought the flight to a quick close, a hard landing and a write-off. Details of the Napier-Heston airplane may be viewed by Clicking Here. This 1938/39 design is more than up-to-date by today's Reno Air Race standards with aerodynamic features that are modern in every sense of the word. I would like to think that Woodason was contracted to build a model of this sleek craft!
The magazine, Aeroplane Monthly, in its December 1979 issue, carried a four-page article entitled, "Gone But Not Forgotten - Heston." Informative text and some interesting photos. The two photos below are from that article and show two unusual airplanes that were built at Heston.
R.J. Mitchell of Supermarine designed the single engine, pusher amphibian Sea Eagle which first flew in 1923. The airplane sported a "cabin cruiser" style hull and cabin and three of the aircraft were constructed. The seaplane provided the first scheduled flying boat service in Britain, operating between Southampton and Guernsey. Imperial Airways was incorporated in 1924 and the two Sea Eagles remaining at that time were marked with "Imperial Airways." John Shelton writes in his marvelous book, Schneider Trophy to Spitfire - The Design Career of R.J. Mitchell, in a section devoted to the Sea Eagle, that, "..G-EBGS was rammed and sunk when moored at St. Peter Port (Guernsey) on 10 January 1927…the latter must have been retrieved, as a correspondent to The Aeroplane later photographed the hull at Heston Airport, intended for restoration display at the new London Airport; nothing came of this proposal, however, and the hull was burnt on 13 February 1954." Note that BOAC absorbed Imperial Airways and was the owner of the hull in 1954. In the photo below of G-EBGS, taken at Heston Airport, note that the Imperial Airways logo has been painted out. Sad that this historic airplane was destroyed. The mystery of why G-EBGS came back from its watery grave at St. Peter Port is probably explained by this information on G-EBGR: "The service between Southampton and Guernsey was taken over by the Calcutta, G-EBVH, in October 1928 and therefore the Sea Eagle G-EBGR was considered redundant and was withdrawn from use. The hull was preserved and exhibited alongside the Short Empire flying boat, Capella, at the British Power Boat Company's display at Hythe, Hampshire, in February 1938. Finally, wrongly marked as G-EBGS, it was presented to John Brancker of BOAC in September 1949 by Victor Paine (half-brother of Hubert Scott-Paine) then publicity manager of Vickers (Aviation) who had acquired Supermarine in 1928. It was stored at Hythe base and then moved to Heston where problems of maintenance ands storage caused it to be burnt on 13th February 1954."
Correspondent Mick West has added much valuable information on the Heston Airport. Mick grew up on the edge of the airport, being 4 years-old in 1948. As a lad in the vicinity of the airport, he had the usual curiosity to explore some of the facilities, even after the airport closed in 1948 (the hangars were continued to be used for manufacturing etc.). Mick states that he saw a large wooden model of the Heston Racer in the Reception Building of the Heston Aircraft Company near the Tower around 1956 - it would be a surprise if anyone else built this model other than Victor Woodason (where is it now?). Since the full-scale Racer was constructed of wood, it is possible (but no proof) that WAM could have been involved with its construction. Mick has done some digging and his research has turned up definitive information on the airport's location and some of its history - this will follow in the Heston Airport Today section.
What appears to be the Heston Aircraft hangar can be seen in a movie scene taken of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as his Lockheed G-AFGN takes off from Heston on his second trip (Koln for Bad Godesburg) on September 29, 1938; Click here for video.
HESTON AIRPORT AT WAR Beginning in 1939, the Heston Airport became a RAF base (X2HS Heston). For the duration of the war, the base experienced a wide range of military aviation activity. During the late 1930s, an Australian businessman, Sidney Cotton, operated photographic "spy planes" for MI6, using various Lockheed 12As equipped with cameras to detail portions of Germany and Italy while conducting his business. In 1939, this operation, less Mr. Cotton, became the basis for RAF photo units, variously known as Photographic Development Unit (PDU), Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (PRU), "Heston Flight," 2 Camouflage Unit, etc. using Blenheims and Spitfires, and initially operating from Heston. RAF 11 Fighter Group, including Squadrons 303 and 315, flew from Heston occasionally - 315 had Mustang Mk IIIs. Polish Wing Squadrons 302 and 316 did some flying at Heston. Special searchlights, the Tubinlite, were installed on Boston/Havoc bombers for awhile by Heston Aircraft. The 61 and 52 Operation Training Units were at Heston as well as 515 Squadron flying Mosquitos. Numerous units (over 30) were in and out of Heston as the war progressed and near the end, the field was used for mostly communications and ferry flights by both the RAF and USAF. In 1944 the Fairey Aviation Company constructed additional hangars near the old Heston Aircraft facility and used the field for test work - it became inadequate for testing the Firefly and they moved out by late 1947 - the Fairey hangars were visible with the Fairey name until around 1980. Heston Aircraft Ltd., after the war, was engaged in doing conversion projects on the Sea Hornet and constructed a prototype of the Observation Post, a twin-boom aircraft powered by a pusher Gipsy Queen - photo below.
It is reported that the Chrislea Aircraft Co. Ltd. moved onto Heston after the war and built the prototype of the "Super Ace" series of light planes, first flying in September 1946; the airplane was later put into limited production at Exeter. The airfield slowly shutdown as Heathrow opened in 1946, with the last operations into early 1948. The prewar tower and passenger terminal at Heston were camouflaged and probably remained so until sometime after the war. They were torn down in 1978. The Fairey hangars remain as warehouse facilities.
Mike Hudson, a Heathrow cargo officer, has supplied this classic shot (below) taken by his late father Frank ( a BOAC Cargo Manager). Although it has a classic pre-war look, it was taken June 9, 1951, 3 years after the airfield closed. This Miles Hawk Trainer(ex RAF Magister) and one behind it were flown in with special ATC permission onto the remaining grass by the hangars, avoiding the gravel pits, for a BOAC Sports day. As you can see the buildings had been repainted from the WWII camouflage by then. The tarmac area in front of the hangars was expanded post war for the engineering companies based there. After the closure, mid-fifties, control line model plane competitions and Triumph TR-2 and TR-3 car rallies were held at weekends on the tarmac, and the airport bar remained in use until the late sixties. Another Miles fixed wing plane is known to have slipped into Heston at dusk autumn 1956, this time without permission, the pilot had apparently lost his way. After a night in the hangars an aerial departure was allowed.
Lawrence Hole, childhood friend of Mick West, also grew up near the postwar Heston Airport. Lawrence attended the BOAC Sports Festival held at Heston in 1951 and witnessed the sport flying which took place that day at the "closed" Heston field. Click on the Sports Festival logo below for a view of a BOAC cartoon, drawn by the famous Chris Wren, which ran in the BOAC Review and Newsletter in 1951 - cartoon furnished by Lawrence Hole who is also trying to dig up information on any fixed wing movements at Heston up to 1956 (at which point the airport had been "closed" for 8 years.) Click on the cartoon to expand the size.
The Skybirds League manufactured solid airplane models in the 1930s; James Hay Stevens of Skybirds was responsible for their plans and it was Mr. Stevens who started the use of 1:72 scale for models. Of interest to this article is the fact that Skybirds made toy buildings also and one of them was called the "Heston Hangar," made of tinplate sitting on a plywood base about 13" in width, with hinged and functional hangar doors. This "Heston Hangar" has appeared in countless photos of model aerodromes.
Skybirds League collector, George Burton, has graciously submitted some photos of the toy Heston Airport collection made by Skybirds in the 1930s. Part of the collection shown belongs to Graham Bailey who is the grandson of Skybirds founder, A.J. Holladay. Shown in the photos below, the Jackaman Hangar is unmistakable, along with the signature refueling pylon sporting a "BP". The airplane is the Heston Phoenix - G-ADAD was the first. What great memorabilia of Heston Airport.
Note that the Croydon Airport was closed in 1959. There is a Croydon Airport Society today which was formed in 1978 to preserve and promote the history of Croydon. No such organization exists for Heston Airport, however a new and informative online group has formed; go to Yahoo Groups and check out the Heston Airport Group. The main buildings were demolished in December 1978 as the photo below shows the destruction of Heston history.
Only about 2.3 miles from Heathrow, the location of the old Heston Airport is disguised today. The M4 runs right through the middle of the old airfield (see current photos below). The late 1970's Esso road map presented below shows the location of the old Heston Airport (marked by Mick West), it's position relative to Heathrow, and the location of two of Victor Woodason's homes, Grange Farm at 91 North Hyde Lane (this location pointer on the map should be aimed at the intersection of North Hyde Lane and the M4 - the approximate location of the Grange Farm) and 604 London Road in Colnbrook. The old Grand Union Canal, just north of Heston Airport, is shown in blue.
The plan, shown below, outlines the Heston Airport and its facilities as it existed in 1935.
A current 2006, expanded map (in three sections below) of the community shows the area in more detail - the Heston Airport (circa WW2) boundary ran from just south of the Grand Union Canal ( near "Convent Way" in second map) south to "The Vale" and then stepping down to "Cranford Lane" (on second map). The west boundary is "Southall Lane - High Street" (running roughly north-south through the "3" just below "Spitfire Way" (an appropriate name) on map one and shown in detail on map three. Eastward, the airport extended to where "North Hyde Lane" turns south on map two, near the end of the Airlinks Golf Course.
British correspondent Mick West kindly provided a 1945 color Official Ordnance Map of the London Airport (Heathrow) area showing the Heston Airport layout in that year. The Heston Airport is depicted below in a blow-up; the Terminal buildings and hangars are at the south end and hangar workshops of manufacturers can be seen at the western boundary. The blue area just below the Grand Union Canal is the canal docks - this system was abandoned around 1960 according to Mick Mick lived in the neighborhood bounded by the five streets, shown in the lower right-hand corner, in a house built in 1935. He adds that London Bus #91 ran out to the junction just above "Cr" in "Cranford", probably for the workers at the airfield. Comments by Mick follow the map.
Correspondent Tony Wingfield has commented on the Heston Airport. Tony says that he was born before WW2 and "knew Heston Airport as a kid like the back of my hand as I and my mates used to tour the area looking for prized shrapnel from the previous night's airraid. I lived just down the roaad from the airport in Eton Avenue. Just down the end of the road through Heston Park into Cranford Lane and there it was. How I would have loved to have come across the Woodason workshop - I may well have joined the team when a bit older."
Correspondent Dud Deas added the following in October 2009: "Just found your site whilst seaching Heston Aerodrome. Born in 1949 I can just remember an intact Heston Aerodrome. My brother, who was 18 years older than me, worked for Heston Aircraft Ltd and I served my apprenticeship with the Fairey Aviation Co. I well remember Grange Farm (Woodason Model Aircraft) as I cycled past I to school every day. It's not until now that I know who lived there. I knew that an aircraft crashed into the house but not the circumstances of the accident. Incidentally, Fairey's had a wonderful collection of models in their wind tunnel at Hayes, many of them were display models not just for wind tunnel experiments. Thank you for collating this web site. Dud." Any old friends of Dud out there?
This same map region, as seen today, is shown below in a satellite photo from Google Earth. Try your hand at outlining the airport's location as would be seen today - use the boundaries given above - it's really quite evident. The Grand Union Canal is very prominent but the canal docks have been filled in. You'll have to guess where 91 North Hyde Lane might have been, the location of Victor Woodason's farmhouse and shop during the war until struck by a fighter from the airfield. Why no development in the northeastern part of the old airport? - this golfcourse was the location of a gravel pit used in the 1950s (rail line was run to it) - the gravel probably used for construction at Heathrow. Mick West states that the pit was later back-filled with dubious material - a social housing project built near the canal had to be abandoned because of leaking methane gas from the pit.
The photo below, taken in 2005, shows the original Heston Airport area as seen from FL360.
Coming down to earth for a low altitude view, Mick West took the photos below in January 2007. The first two are taken from the North Hyde Lane bridge over the M4 motorway.
Correspondent Colin Bear is an unofficial historian for the Heston Airport, with a collection of material associated with the airfield over the years. The photograph below (thanks to Colin) was taken during the construction of the M4 motorway around 1964. The view is looking east and most of the old airfield is to the south of the M4 (to the right in the photo). The old hangars and the concrete Jackaman hangar are seen in the middle top-right of the photo. A blow-up of this section is then presented below which clearly shows the Jackaman hangar and the workshop area of Woodason's activity.
A larger view of the M4 construction, also looking eastward, is shown below. The Grange Farm would have been located near the upper portion of this photo at the eastern border of the field.
The location of Woodason's move to 604 London Road in 1950 is shown below in a modern Multimaps view - Mick West has marked the home's location in Colnbrook (a town just west of Heathrow). It is now reported to be a guest house.
During the 1936 controversy over whether the Air Ministry should buy the airport, the Daily Telegraph, in August 1936, ran an article entitled "Heston Airport in Danger - Builders Threaten Extension Plans". A map of the airport and the proposed extension areas accompanied the article; that map is shown below from 1936. Note that Heston Airport was eventually extended, but only to the limits shown in a darker grey; the airfield was never expanded South of Cranford Lane, or West of Tentlow (aka Southall) Lane.
A detailed drawing of the airport's 1945 layout can be found in the booklet, Airfield Focus 24: Heston, by John R. Hamlin and published by GMS Enterprises. However, be cautioned that the scale given for the airport appears to be incorrect as it scales out much bigger than it really was (a mixing of kilometers and the British mile on the same chart). The booklet is full of Heston Airport history and details of operations and services over the years.
The photo below is from Tim Sherwood's book; Tim writes, "The plaque in Cranford Lane commemorating the aerodrome. Behind is the Parkway Trading Estate: with to the west the Redwood Estate, next to which are the warehouses of Nippon Express. On the western perimeter of the airfield, to the north of the M4 (Heston services being in the middle) is British Airways Concorde Centre, approximately where the Heston Aircraft Company workshop etc. stood. To its north are trading estates named Airlinks and Spitfire. Adjacent is the Airlinks golf course. The northern perimeter is a mix of housing estates and warehouses."
Victor Woodason, writing as "V.J.G. Woodason," and known to his family as "Woody," began building scale model aircraft around 1923 and began a professional career as "Woodason Aircrft Models," WAM, based in Heston, England. This book, although apparently aimed at the young, amateur builder, is, in fact, a very sophisticated and thorough treatise on solid wood model construction and, in the years since 1943, has not been excelled. Woodason outlines some of his work ethics and modelling background; that minor portion of the book is reprinted below (note: All of which was omitted from the 1978 revised edition). The bulk of the book is devoted to construction techniques and is highly recommended to anyone contemplating building a solid wood model. Woodason also devotes several chapters to models as recognition training aids; "Aircraft Recognition - The Use of Scale Models" and "Use of Models by Direct Observation" cover some of the British training methods in recognition at the time of his writing. Quote Mr. Woodason, "An accurate scale model aeroplane contains all the essential features necessary for the study of aircraft recognition. Being solid it may be examined in perspective and, being to scale, its appearance is identical to the appearance of the actual machine seen at a correspondingly greater distance." The British WW2 recognition training program, and Victor Woodason's contribution, is examined in detail on the Friend or Foe? Museum page on this website (see top-left hand column for page links).
In the piping days of peace, before we learnt to know the aeroplane as a fearsome bird that could lay such destructive eggs in the homes of all and sundry, the most familiar conception of a model airplane belonged to the genus toy. It was something that imitated the appearance of the real thing, but the closer the outward resemblance, the less likely was it to have practical purpose as regards performance. The sporting models which our youngsters flew in large numbers, even competitively, in the parks, were really glorified gliders, the the addition of an eleastic propelling device. The very fact that these machines were devised to work without the heavy load of an internal combustion motor altered the proportions of their bodies and wings from tthe full-sized prototypes. Nevertheless, they contributed greatly to public progress towards airmindedness, and similar credit bust be given to non-operating reproductions of flying machines in paper and carton cut-out models, as well as the toys and ornaments which symbolised man's growing mastery of the air.
Now, self-propelled models have already a whole bibliography to themselves, but before proceeding to the real subject of this book - scale model aircraft - a little may be said about models which are neither operative nor built to scale. These may be built for the amusement of the constructor or can have a decorative purpose - mounted to form paper-weights or contain a desk cigarette lighter, for example - and therefore belong to the category of toys or ornaments. After this war, the manufacture of aeroplane ornaments, toys and mascots is likely to develop on a large scale. At present, there is a range of metal toys, under one trade-mark or other, which are ideal for children and can be used together with toy aerodromes, tanks, lorries and cars, all built on the same scale. Another very popular type is supplied in kits of parts, every piece being moulded, which have to be assembled and stuck together - an exercise not only entertaining but instructive. Kits are also produced with metal stampings, which one can put together and dismantle any number of times, and here there is enormous scope for a closer approach to realism. The toy aircraft of the future will have to have a close resemblance to a well-known type, with a retractable undercarriage, a cockpit hood that slides back, retachable or folding wings, and moving rudder and ailerons. Even quite small boys are becoming very critical of such details, and their demand should stimulate the toy manufacturers to a little mor ingenuity in this relatively neglected field.
Quite good models can be made in paper and stiff cardboard. Note: Woodason then has several paragraphs devoted to the details of paper airplane construction. At this point, Woodason starts to tell of his background in model building, starting with WWI.
Scale model building has, until now, suffered by the almost total absence of printed instruction, and while there is now a large public interested in it for a variety of reasons, its early beginnings during the first world war sprang from purely practical causes. Scale models were extensively used to investigate the behaviour of wing surfaces and material in flying conditions and thus played their part in the world struggle. During the war years, aircraft design developed rapidly among all the fighting nations, each advance giving superiority in attack or defence to either side in turn. There were gigantic increases in speed, flying range and height, as well as maneuverability, size and firing power. All the details of these new machines, their great engine power and breath-taking exploits were a fascinating subject for boys of my age to follow. Accounts of their technical details and prowess were eagerly read, every illustration faithfully cut out and pasted in albums. I belonged to the most fervent of these aeroplane "fans," and would have been humiliated if anyone could have set me right on the number of enemy machines brought down by a British "ace" or the type of plane that he flew. When the war ended, I was just leaving school and, apart from collecting all aeroplane pictures on which I could lay hands, I used to make my own sketches and workshop drawings of what I imagined to be the component parts as an outlet for my enthusiasm. The more I read about flying, the greater my eagerness to harness my hands to my hobby.
It was about this time that I came across a picture of a model aeroplane, a fretwork production, if I remember rightly. It was not of any particular type, the the immense appeal it made to me is still clear in my mind: here was the very medium in which I could translate my enthusiasm into handicraft by making models of the aircraft that attracted me most. I lost no time in making a copy of this photograph, in wood, and for weeks it was my most treasured possession. The more I looked at it, however, the more I wished it looked like one of the real aaeroplanes I knew about, and the longer this thought remained in my mind, the stonger grew my resolve that I would make my future models like the actual thing. In those days, there was nothing that one could buy in the shops for model aeroplane building; no drawings, no choice of seasoned wood or other selected material, no books - nothing to give one a lead or inspiration. Toy and model ships and railways were catered for and were very populart, but the would-be constructor of model aeroplanes had to seek his material among the scraps in the woodshed. Now, model liners and steam engines could be built accurately down to the minutest screw and flange, they could be operated by steam or clockwork or electric motors, and sets of parts were obtainable from which the veriest tyro could produce results fine to look upon and easy to work. Now, trains and ships make bery good models, and their appeal will always be very wide, but what can be more attractive than a graceful, streamlined aircraft? In those early stages, however, aeroplanes were a tangle of struts and wires, most difficult to reproduce in miniature, which was one reaason why manufacturers of toys andd models fought shy of them. It is a far different picture to-day, when the monoplane is the universally accepted type, and its clean-cut design makes it an easy model to copy on however small a scale.
Do not imagine that the profession of a model aeroplane constructor can be taken up, even now, in the same way as those with at least a generation of development behind them. There is a lack of traditions, due to the limited demand there has been for the services of the handful of pioneers in this line. It may even be said that they themselves created their own market by showing the public, the air transport companies and the aircraft industry what could be done by way of miniature productiojn, and by pointing out to publicity agents and designers how useful scale models could be for thier respective purposes.
For myself, model building began as a hobby, originating from my general interest in aviation, as described above. I was lucky, perhaps, in being apprenticed to the house building trade; for while this was apparantly as remote from aircraft models as baking, my experience as a jobbing carpenter and painter taught me to handle tools and deal with a wide range of materials. Fortune favoured me again, when I tried to turn my pastime to profit, because I was one of the first to take up model-making professionally. Besides, I have never been able to get away from the early enthusiasm which launched me in this work; the striving after realism caused me to spend long hours in studying pictures, photographs and actual 'planes in order to become familiar with the complete character and "attitude" of each type reproduced. Almost as much time was devoted to problems of finish, how to avoid that "painted" look, where any amount of theoretical research always seems to leave endless difficulties in the final execution. Naturally, I always aimed at including the maximum amount of detail in my aircraft and, if genius means the capacity to take infinite pains, I certainly attempte to excel in this respect. I was never satisfied to produce models which just looked like something made of wood, but, by a happy knack in choosing the right materials and applying the same finishes as those used on the actual 'planes, I gave myself the best chance of achieving a lifelike and living result, which was appreciated by my customers.
Well, I sold my first model, followed by a few more, mostly to private 'plane owners who were well-known personalities in the world of aviation and , through these connections, I was soon brought into touch with the aircraft industry. The orders that came my way from this source quickly caused me to specialise in model building, and I have never regretted turning to scale model building as a full-time occupation. If there is any recipe for success, it is never to allow one's work to be commercialised, never to entertain a cheap and shoddy job, and not let a model leave one's hands until it was as accurate and highly finished as possible, regardless of the time spent. by faithfully adhering to these principles, no craftsman need fear competition, which, in any case, is not very great in scale model aircraft. Very few people seem to devote themselves exclusively to this work, though some seem to have turned to making scale model aircraft after specialising in flying models. This is always distinguishable in the final appearance: the designers do not seem to be able to get away from the style peculiar to light flying machines, so that thier results are usually too lightly built and too fragile to endure the robust handling to which scale models are exposed.
If thess autobiographical details appear somewhat wearisome, it must be remembered that I am not writing about an industry - I know very little of my competitors in this field - but about the uses of scale model aircraft and how they affected my own career. At all events, I promise not to repeat the offence in the succeeding pages. Let us rather investigate further the origins of scale model construction. It will be remembered that the pioneers of flying were usually practical engineers who designed and built their own aircraft: mostly, they found it helpful to make a model by whose help they could formulate their ideas and work out the proportions of the actual machine. This practice has been continued to the present day and, more recently, models have also been used for actual tests and experiments, besides allowing the "lines" of a prospective aircraft to be viewed from all sides, to try out the effect of various angles and shapes for general appearance and airworthiness. While these data are naturally governed by the facts of gravity and pressure, obtainable by calculation, decisions can very often be made by the eye alone, and thus model building developed side by side with the aviation industry itself. It is quite a long stride to the next phase - the demand for models to be exhibited to the public. Before that could materialise, aircraft had to become populat, particularly as a means of transport. By that time, the aeroplane had accumulated such a number of records and achievements that museums also found it necessary to acquire models; history had been made and must be preserved for posterity.
Long distance flights were the real means of creating general enthusiasm among the public of all countris and, as a result, large numbers of people wanted a model of the machine in which the feat had been performed. The publicity value of these airmen or airwomen was also seized upon by manufacturers of commodities used during such a flight or personally by the pilot, and these called for models to assist their advertising campaigns. Following Amy Johnson's flight to Australia, for example, the makers of an "Amy" biscuit meeded miniature replicas of he 'plane to exhibit in the sindows of the big department stores as an extra draw for the public. When the "Comet" reached Australia in the amazingly short time of seventy hours, the firm that had produced the machine (De Havilland) ordered models of it for presentation to their chief designer, test pilot and all the directors as a commemorative souvenir. These are merely outstanding instances of a fashion that became increasingly popular and, when added to the fondness of private owners for perpetuating the memory of 'planes they had owned, created quite a respectable volume of orders, not only for myself but for other firms, prepared to build models as a side-line.
Everyone knows that the permanent value of these record-breaking adventures was chiefly to accustom the public to the idea that even long-distance flying was a safe and punctual means of transport. A fortiori, Mr. and Mrs. Everyman would argue, shorter journeys were not only quicker but just as safe as other means of travel. Obviously, attacks on records were not really useful for plotting the routes for regular services, but prepared customers for the air liners, when put into service. Ther era of stunt flights was followed almost immediately by a rapid expansion in passenger routes, and here again there was a new outlet for model aircraft to display in the companies' headquarters and booking halls, as well as the windows of travel agencies. For this purpose, sectional models were judged most suitable, such as the fuselage or hull of a flying boat, with the sides cut open to reveal the interior details and cabin arrangements. Travellers intending to go by air were naturally interested in the position of their seats, the design of the chairs, the nature and location of the comforts offered, the space available in the cabin, how far it was from the engines, the accessibility of their baggage. These and other similar details acquire a new importance when a journey of thousands of miles is to be undertaken a few hours hence in their midst, and to picture such homely items as plate racks and other kitchen utensils, miniature serviettes and diminuitive cups and saucers, without detracting from the background impression of airborne freedom, called for an entirely new technique. Imperial Airways appropriated quite a large amount of money to the acquisition of this type, as well as to smaller, complete machines and , further, gave special orders for display on their stands at various exhibitions all over the world, such as the Paris Aero Show, the National Exhibition at Toronto and the Centenary Exhibition at Sidney. At one time, a railway coach was fitted up as a travelling exhibition, where models were, of course, the main attraction, and this was sent on tour about the country. In 1936, when Imperial Airways opened up the new Empire Air Routes and revolutionary types of air liners and flying boats were put into service, the scheme was introduced to the public by a special exhibition at the Science Museum. Large models of thses new machines, prepared in secret, were here shown for the first time, including the Mayo Composite, with its transatlantic seaplane mounted on the back of a large multi-engine flying boat, nicknamed the pick-a-back 'plane. The models included a historical set illustrating the machines used by the Company since its inception.
Scale models have often stepped into the breach where either time or space was lacking to allow the introduction of some projected or futuristic type of machine to be presented for a special occasion. They have served as media for displaying improved finishes or colour schemes to be used on the full-size 'planes and, at British Industries Fairs, manufacturers of parts or accessories used aeroplane models on their stands in order to make it known that their products were among the compnents. These models were often made more attractive by being fitted with electric motors to revolve the propellers, and the cabin and navibation lights were kept burning.
On the historical side, not only was it a frequent practice for aviation factories to present models of their types to museums, but some companies are building up museums of their own, as a permanent record of their share in the development of flying from year to year5, the achievements of the several types being displayed like battle honours. The Royal Flight also has a complete range of models of all the machines which it has used, set out in the Flight Commander's offices. As stated previously, most private owners ordered models of their own 'planes, and these had to be copied accurately, with the colour schemes carefully matched and any individual gadget faithfully reproduced. These models were used to adorn the home, and would be displayed with pride whenever the conversation turned upon aviation. It must be remembered that the actual machine might be garaged at the nearest aerodrome, ten miles or more away, and the enthusiastic owner could get quite a lot of satisfaction out of showing-off an accurate replica in miniature. Veteran pilots will have accumulated quite a collection of models, perpetuating happy memories of all the 'planes they have flown - each connected with some outstanding incident: a forced landing in an isolated spot or an aerial ramble in a foreign country. Among airmen, models have a great vogue as gifts; what finer present could there be for a wife to make to her flying husband than a perfect reproduction of his beloved 'plane? A service pilot often receives a model of his machine as a wedding gift from his flying comrades, and I have often received orders prompted by sentimental motives. My client may have had a near relative killed in the air and will cherish the little replica in much the same way as swords were in former days. Other producers of mine have gone round the world with famous travellers and explorers, out to plan future air services or to deliver a series of lectures whereat the model might serve to illustrate a particularly difficult manoeuvre or some other part of their tale.
In the lean days of the aircraft industry, competition for Government orders, small as they were, was fierce, and manufacturers, anxious to keep their works going, used to have models made of their new types in order to send them in with the specifications and plans. Making these models called for quite a lot of imagination because the real thing was not yet available to copy. It was a case of entering into the designer's mind and translating what one saw there into three-dimensional form without even the aid of essential drawings. When the Air Ministry invited firms to tender for a certain type of aircraft, there is usually a time limit which often means that the designing staff has to work hell for leather to get the necessary details ready. The general arrangement drawings fo an aircraft only become available towards the end, when the final shapes can be decided according to the displacement of loads to be carried, the wing postion and areas needed. It is only then that the outline of the machine is fixed in complete detail, and by that time it would be too late for the model-maker to begin his work. Thus, he has always to think at least one step ahead of the definite information, and this is where training in the judgement of shape is essential in order to visualise, from a few advance drawings, the final goal aimed at by the designer. As this merciless critic looks at a model for the first time, we always scrutinise his expression with great anxiety: if our work has been successful, he develops a boyish grin as he holds our handiwork up and turns it over pensively. He has seen his own mind's picture made concrete, with all the graceful lines and curves shown to advantage, far better than they could ever be on the drawing board. Suppose, on the other hand, that he looks grumpy and frustrated . . .happily, however, such disastrous occasions have been rare.
Government departments appreciated the idea of receiving these models with tenders, and in some cases the Air Ministry has specifically asked for a model to accompany the drawings. When their experts go through the competitive drawings and technical data, it sometimes happens that several firms have produced designs of an almost identical nature; in such circumstances, the deciding factor in their award migh well be a well-built model, giving an attractive idea of the 'plane's external appearance.
Public authorities themselves use models for propaganda purposes and the Air Ministry has its own collection in special travelling cases for send round the country in support of various campaigns, such as recruiting for the R.A.F. and W.A.A.F. Local councils find them indispensable for War Savings and salvage drives.
If our inventors and designers of weapons have earned the sobriquet of the "back-room boys," the scale model aeroplane has an equal title to be called the back-room weapon. Even before the year of preparation for the present war, models were extensively used by the R.A.F. for training in aircraft recognition. An accurate model has a great advantage over photogrphs because it shows the correct profiles and angles when viewed form any direction. Models built in different sizes can be examined at different ranges to give not only flying men but also anti-aircraft gunners an idea how a full-size machine would look at various distances. Miniatures of enemy aircraft are used for teaching pilots and bomber-gunners: the model will be equipped with small electric bulbs illuminating a certain arc, representing the enemy's blind spots, and the pilot thus learns the best way of approaching to attack without exposing himself to the full fire of the opponent's guns. Models also fitted with movable control surfaces operated from the cockpit, so that flying school pupils may learn by outside observation how an aeroplane responds to the movements of the ailerons, elevators and rudder.
Photographs from models are particularly useful for recognition purposes, as certain views can be obtained which could never be taken from real aircraft. As for enemy aircraft, models are practically the only means by which a comprehensive idea can be obtained and communicated of some types. Only odd pictures of these being available, models are constructed from this scanty data and pieced together, the camera then provides a complete range of angle views. The scrappy information from which models must be built makes it a job for an expert with imagination in addition to skill. Aircraft recognition films are made for the War Office and Air Ministry with the help of models, whcih are manoeuvered in a manner imitating real flying. As they wheel about the sky and assume different positions, the talkie commentator describes their outstanding features and identification points. Often, where enemy and friendly machines are very similar in size and shape, models of each are used together to teach pupils how to distinguish between them.
Propaganda films made for the Ministry of Information often necessitate the use of models, particularly when an aircraft must be shown to crash or to be shot down in flames. These models are sometimes quite elaborate and may be fitted with electric motors, retrqctable carriages operated by remote control, bomb releases and movable flaps. Even before the war, full-size machines existed in an experimental stage, taking off, flying a very accurate course and landing, all under remote control by radio. With certain limitations imposed by their size, models can be made to do the same, and certain developments, necessarily kept secret, have taken place during the war.
The uses of models would be incomplete without mention of wind-tunnel tests. The only example of such a tunnel, known to the public, is that at the National Physical Laboratory. Here, in the leisurely times of peace, a specially constructed model was put through its paces before a new type was finally approved. Seaplanes have also to undergo trials in a water tank, with facilities for creating artificial storms. Making wind-tunnel models is a highly scientific job, entrusted to experts only. Some firms have their own model making department and even their private wind tunnel, but usually the models are sent either to the N.P.L. at Teddington, where there are also model building workshops, or to the Aircrft Establishment at Farnborough. The N.P.L. models are made from drawings specially prepared for the purpose, all the sections and contours being drawn to the correct dimentsions within one-thousandth of an inch. Templates have to be made from every one of these sections and profiles, and the wood is shaped so that it fits perfectly in the right postion. The wood used is usually mahogany, finished to a high surface with french polish. This wood is specially selected and well seasoned so as to be immune from shrinking or warping. The size of these models varies, but they are usually fairly large and, being constructed of solid wood throughout, they are quite heavy.
Another type of model used for research work is built specially for spin tests. The material is mostly Balsa wood, and they are weighted with lead in certain parts. Models are also constructed of individual components or sections, such as a complete rear end with tail unit and fittings. Some of these are built on quite a large scale, even full size.
The book is divided into many chapters, most connected to the method by which models are constructed. The following excerpts concern some of Mr. Woodason's comments concerning the profession.
How does one start model building? If anyone should imagine that model-making is the right career for a boy who is not good at anything else, he has not grasped the full import of the earlier pages. Enthusiasm for aircraft may go a long way in dissipating the unwillingness to exert body and mind - particulary the latter - which is characteristic of so many boys who are "bad t school," perhaps because they are profoundly bored with the subjects taught. I should be quite willing to give a trail to such a reputed dullard for a limited period, to see whether he had the right stuff in him, but my method would not vary from the time-honoured treatment of apprentices: he would be put on elementary routine work, where he could not do much harm, to see whether he had the patience to make sacrificed for the attainment of skill, i.e., whether his enthusiasm was more than skin deep. Without a good average intelligence, the probationer would fail in this first test and would be unable to make progress, and the third main quality is keenness of observation. Some people seem to be born with a chronic incapacity to use their hands, but the majority, if started young, can be trained to handle tools with fair precision and speed. If satisfactory in these four respects, a youngster is likely to develop into a sound model-maker but, all things considered, it still seems that the top of the tree is reserved to a combination of inborn talent and, above all, luck.
Woodason also states in the chapter, Model Making as a Profession: Not every model-builder, however skilled he may be, can take up model-making as a profession. When you practice it as a hobby, you spend countless working hours on a job to achieve a good result, but if you applied costing methods to your time, the price would be prohibitive. when such an amateur tries to make a living by his hobby, he finds it necessary to make radical changes in his methods; in other words, he must become a quick worker without sacrificing skill.
Aeroplane modelling as a trade can be divided into several distinct categories: making and selling flying models, making kits and accessories, solid scale models and kits, and detailed scale models for the aviation industry. Even if all these activities are carried by the same firm, it will be well to treat them as separate departments.
Woodason writes under the chapter heading,The Future of Model Aircraft Building: In war conditions, it has been found impossible to cater for the public demand for aeroplane models, and the stocks in the shops are practically exhausted. Previously, the industry had made quite a good deal of headway, but at present its plant and cratsmanship is helping the war-effort. In any other sphere, such a long period of dormancy would tend to stifle a demand, particularly one of such recent creation. Where flying is concerned, however, the appetite is likely to become greater by being unsatisfied, and the return of normal conditions will open out a bright future ofr model-makers.
Many pilots and members of air-crews will want remembrances of the aircraft in which they have experienced so many thrills and narrow escapes, and many others will be wanted for presentations and trophies. Collectors will get busy acquiring complete sets of all types used during the war, and museums will also want these, as well as individual machines for commemorating illustrious feats. The reproduction of war-types is likely to occupy the model industry for a considerable time after the war, which will be just as well, for the full-size aeroplane manufacturers will be much too busy changing over from war conditions to think of introducing radical changes in their designs. Those factories from which innovations may be experienced are the war-time specialists in fighter machines - a type much too costly to run commercially - but these are likely to take up some quite different lines of manufacture. In the end, new civilian types are bound to be evolved and put into mass-production, and then there will be something new for model-makers to offer to the public. Quite a number of amateurs will have started on model aircrft during the war and may never have made a machine with other than combatant purpose, but let me assure them that they will find as much, if not more, to interest them in the 'planes of peace. For one thing, they will be able to visit a civil aerodrome as a club member, or as a visitor on a conducted tour, and pay for a joy-ride if desired. After that experience, they will feel much less our of things aerial than in war-time, when you were suspected of spying if you so much as glanced into an aerodrome though a hedge. Meanwhile, the forced incubation imposed upon aviation by the stress of war will give such a stimulus to inland and overseas communications by air that fares are likely to be fixed far below those ruling before the war. The many aerodromes built everywhere for military purposes will facilitate the finance of this expansion, and one of the results will be a still greater demand for aircraft models by the many more people who hve flown in them.
The chapter, Why Build Scale Model Aircraft, starts out: The really successful model-builder must have a real delight in using his hands and manipulating tools and machines. Unless he has unlimited time and funds at his disposal, he must also have an economical mind, ingeniously seeking to utilise every scrap of bought material, as well as household waste like empty cocoa tins, besides devising simplified methods of producing the required results. To produce accurate scale models, it must again be emphasised, one must be able to master the secrets of drawings and blue-prints; if one has the good fortune to obtain the drawings used for full-size manufacture by an aircraft company, one has not only to reduce them to the desired scale, but to discriminate between necessary and unnecessary details, the latter applying only to the real machine, unless one is making a sectional model. Generally, all that is needed is only the general assembly drawing, which gives plan, side and front views and, sometimes, separate view of the top and underside. Some general arrangement drawings, however, are merely diagrams of the aircraft, too vague and inaccurate to be followed, and then recourse must be had for the details to deductions from photographs.
I hope that you have enjoyed the above excerpts as they paint, very descriptfully, the way Victor Woodason viewed the profession of model-making - with integrity and thoughtfulness.