Nigel Julian will need little introduction to anyone familiar with Aeroscale. And, if his name is synonymous with one thing here, it’s the P-47 Thunderbolt - and, by extension, the 56th Fighter Group, probably the most famous of all units to fly the aircraft.
Now he has teamed up with fellow author Peter Randall and illustrator Zbigniew Kolacha to produce a truly outstanding study of the 56th FG published in two volumes, the first of which has just been published by Hussar Productions in cooperation with AJ-Press. The book is produced as a softbound, landscape format, with 64 pages in colour throughout.
Part One begins with a concise and eminently “readable” history of the unit from its formation through to April 1944. The authors cut through some of the more fanciful stories that have come to be accepted as “fact” over the years, and something I really like is the way they manage to paint both the broad picture of the unit’s battle against the Luftwaffe while never losing sight of the essential human drama behind it. So the text contains many personal and amusing anecdotes as well as the essential details of equipment changes and modifications that will help modellers to depict the 56th’s aircraft accurately.
Similarly important for modellers, the next section deals with camouflage and markings. Some of the material will be a real eye-opener to many readers, as it challenges some long-held beliefs that have accepted as “gospel” - particularly on the topic of the overall cockpit colour. There are also numerous small points noted, such as the additional thin stripes on the propeller blades to denote the manufacturer - something I must admit I’d seen, but never paid any attention to on my models. Overall, the study goes into depth on the evolution of the unit’s markings to a level I’ve not found elsewhere, and will be essential reading for anyone modelling one of the 56th’s “Jugs”.
Thereafter, the book’s format changes noticeably. The style is quite distinctive, biased firmly towards carefully chosen high quality period photos, backed up with excellent artwork. This really is ideal from a modeller’s perspective, with a mix of period B&W and colour shots illustrating many of the unit’s aircraft. Each of the chosen subjects is covered in depth, with multiple photos capturing it at various points in its career. The accompanying captions are packed with information - again often with the modeller firmly in mind and highlighting the small details and colour-scheme changes that might otherwise be missed. This is all backed up by really excellent 1:48 colour profiles and 1:24 detail views of nose-art and other personal markings.
The quality of the vintage shots obviously varies, but they are consistently well reproduced and the clarity of the best of them is outstanding. Of course, the icing on the cake for most modellers will be the surprising number of colour photos that have been included, negating the need for educated guesswork in trying to establish the correct hues from B&W shots. In one or two cases, modern colour photos are included of items recovered from crash-sites as a poignant reminder of the dangers faced daily by the young men pictured so vividly in the vintage shots.
A real plus point for most modellers will be the inclusion of a beautiful custom-printed set of Cartograf decals covering the following seven subjects in 1:72, 1:48 and 1:32 scales:
P-47C-5-RE s/n 41-6330, LM-Z, "My Comrade", flown by Col. Hubert Zemke
P-47D-1-RE s/n 42-7937, LM-Q, "Triss", flown by Lt. Anthony R. Carcione
P-47D-2-RE s/n 42-7975, UN-I, flown by Lt. Raymond D. Petty
P-47D-2-RE s/n 42-22456, HV-N, "Liberty Bell" flown by Lt. Joseph R. Curtis
P-47D-6-RE s/n 42-74643, UN-H, "Ole Puss", flown by Capt. J. Carroll Wakefield
P-47D-11-RE s/n 42-75224, HV-O, "Pengie II", flown by Maj. Boleslaw M. Gladych
P-47D-11-RE s/n 42-75410, HV-M, "Ole Cock", flown by Lt. Donavon F. Smith
As you’d expect with Cartograf, the quality is superb - absolutely pin-sharp registration and minimal carrier film around most items. On a subject like "Liberty Belle", the nose-art is almost “photo-realistic”, with subtle shading matching the original artwork beautifully - a mile above the quality of traditional kit decals. The sheet is definitely a real inspiration to raid the Stash and build one or more of the aircraft featured
Knowing Nigel’s passion for the subject, I was always confident that the book would be excellent, but the result exceeds even my expectations. While many unit histories can be somewhat dry reading and of little practical value to modellers, this is entirely different; the authors really do tick all the boxes in providing an ideal reference for modellers and enthusiasts alike. I can’t wait to read Volume 2! Unreservedly recommended.
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Highs: Highly detailed. Excellent photos and colour artwork. Cartograf decals for 7 aircraft in 3 scales.Lows: None that I've found.Verdict: This is an excellent book which really manages to satisfy the needs of aircraft enthusiasts and modellers alike.
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About Rowan Baylis (Merlin) FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM
I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...