by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
The Suez Crisis is often thought of as the last gasp of the British Empire, although you could equally argue that Indian independence a few years earlier really signalled the end. Whatever, Suez is hugely significant in global politics as marking the point in which the old European powers were forced to admit that they could no longer project their influence around the world in the manner they'd grown accustomed to in previous centuries.
BackgroundThe Suez Crisis grew out of the military coup in Egypt that established President Nasser in power with ambitions to be the dominant force in the Middle East. President Nasser then seized the Suez Canal - a vital trade route for Europe - and closed the Straights of Tiran to Israeli shipping. With the stage set for inevitable military conflict between Egypt and Israel, Britain and France could justifiably “be obliged” to step in as peacekeepers between Israel and Egypt and safeguard the Suez Canal. In fact, the entire scenario had been planned secretly in advance with Israel as a way of destabilising the Egyptian regime.
The whole ill-conceived plan unravelled when the USA and the USSR (not parties to the deception) forced a UN-monitored cease-fire, leaving Britain and France unable to complete their planned objectives and with their international reputations severely stained. Israel undoubtedly benefited greatly militarily, and it laid the foundations for the stunning successes that would follow a decade later. And, ironically, President Nasser emerged with his position hugely strengthened despite the military defeat. France could at least claim some success in its military operations, although viewed in hindsight the saga was perhaps a portent of things to come in French Indochina and North Africa. For Britain, though, there was little to take comfort from; the Suez Crisis, coming so soon after the independence of India, only served to confirm that the former global superpower was no longer able to have its way either militarily or politically. Exhausted and bankrupted by WW2, Britain was finally forced to admit what was already clear - that the balance of power had shifted out of her reach, and that two new global superpowers would vie for supremacy for the foreseeable future.
Airframe Extra #7Valiant Wing's new book begins with a concise 13-page historical account of the background to the conflict and the various operational stages of what has become known as The Suez Crisis. Written in a light and very accessible style by Steve Evans, it sets the picture nicely for what is essentially a modelling book. And, regardless of your view of the consequences that still reverberate 60 years later, the Suez Crisis is especially interesting for aircraft modellers because of the mix of types involved, ranging from WW2-vintage props to the latest jets. The sheer variety is amazing compared to most modern conflicts, and Valiant Wings have gone to town with seven excellent builds from Libor Jekl and Steve Evans.
1:72 - Meteor F Mk 8 - Xtrakit - Libor Jekl DP Casper’s decals for an Egyptian aircraft.
Libor Jekl is in fine form as he kicks off proceedings with the Xtrakit Meteor which is produced by Special Hobby. Taking the standard kit, he adds considerable refinement with a mix of scratchbuilding and aftermarket details - and the icing on the cake for me is the addition of beautifully subtle rivets. To be honest, if you didn’t know the scale, you could easily mistake the finished build for 1:48 or even 1:32!
1:72 - Sea Hawk Mk 6 - Hobby Boss - Libor Jekl
Next up comes Hobby Boss’s Sea Hawk. Obviously much more mainstream as a kit, but Libor still adds a lot of extra detail to good effect and shows how to use the kit’s tricky decals successfully.
1:72 - Piper J-3 Cub - KP - DP Casper decals Libor Jekl
KP’s Piper Cub makes a refreshing change from more obvious subjects, and this is quite a challenging conversion project with a fair bit of work needed as Libor extends and widens the fuselage to blend in a new engine cowling.
1:48 - RF-84F - Tan Model - Steve Evans
Steve Evans takes over at this stage with an excellent build of Tan Model’s 1:48 Thunderflash. Steve adds a bit of extra detail here and there, but the chapter shows just how impressive this company’s debut kit is. It’s certainly got me tempted to try it myself.
1:72 - Il-28 Beagle - Trumpeter - Steve Evans
It’s down a scale next for Trumpeter’s Il-28 - one of their earlier releases, one which Steve sums up as “crude”. Still, the result looks very good, sporting decals from the spares box.
1:48 - P-51D Mustang - Hasegawa - Steve Evans
The Mustang is something of a surprise, because I almost took it for granted that Steve would opt for the recent Meng kit. Instead, he’s chosen Hasegawa’s P-51D in a boxing that included Israeli markings. Steve’s build underlines what an attractive model Hasegawa’s kit is - overshadowed by Tamiya’s kit (and even more so now that Meng have joined the fray, with Airfix soon to follow) - and definitely worth building.
1:48 - Meteor NF Mk 11/12 - Classic Airframes - Steve Evans
Finally, it’s the Meatbox again - this time Classic Airframes’ long out-of-production 2-seat nightfighter. This is another advanced builds as Steve battles fit problems and sink marks, but the result is fantastic - and serves as a reminder just what a loss the the hobby the demise of Classic Airframes was. If you’re an experienced modeller it’s worth tracking down their kits if you can.
Backing up the builds is a fine selection of high quality colour profiles by Richard Caruana sprinkled liberally throughout the book. The attackers are all represented, with sections devoted to the RAF and FAA, France and Israel, but I found it a little disappointing not to find any Egyptian aircraft covered.
A handy colour reference chart is included to help find modelling paints to match the original colours, and a neat idea is that it's divided into acrylics and enamels. Importantly, it notes where only approximations are available from various manufacturers.
ConclusionPerhaps it’s something about the British psyche that makes us almost celebrate cock-ups like Suez? Whatever the reason, it’s a bitter-sweet modelling subject for us as, like the Korean War, the fiasco offers a fascinating variety of aircraft to build, with classic early 1950s jets and the last generation of propeller driven warplanes in the mix. Valiant Wings' book provides a handy historical overview of the Suez Crisis, along with plenty of colour profiles and it's an important reminder of just what a rich vein of interesting modelling there is in the sorry saga. Recommended.
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