WWII USAAF Bomber Re-Supply Set
Airfix, 1/72 scale
Reviewed by Cookie Sewell
More than 50 years ago Airfix was the premiere manufacturer of small scale armor and vehicle kits, and had a large number of figure sets as well. While the figure sets were mostly vinyl, the kits were all styrene with vinyl tracks for the tracked vehicles. But starting in the late 1960s they also began to come out with aircraft related vehicle sets for dioramas.
The first two sets were an Austin K2 ambulance and K6 fire tender and a Bedford QL and AEC fuel bowser set. Each set had some reasonably nice figures to compliment it and while a bit Spartan (they were in nominal 1/76 scale) could be made into nice models on their own. They followed this up with a David Brown tractor and three bomb carts in their wonderful (for 1969) Short Stirling kit. The last one they released was a set of a Bedford MW tractor with “Queen Mary” tasker’s trailer for hauling aircraft components or damaged aircraft and a Coles crane for lifting them. But that was it until 2015.
Starting in 2015, Airfix returned to the airfield diorama related vehicles with two new sets: a “1/72” (more like 1/76) set of a British RAF Bomber Re-Supply Set with a Bedford MW cargo truck or bowser, a bowser trailer, an Austin 10 HP “Tilly” utility truck, several bomb carts and a slew of bombs of all sizes plus detailing items like work stands, equipment, a courier motorcycle and a bicycle. It was offered either as a separate set or with Airfix’s new mold Avro Lancaster bomber. The other set was in 1/48 scale with a utility truck, three-point refueller, numerous small detail items like ammo cans, machine guns, service carts, and a team of 11 figures plus a dog. It too was available as separate items or as a set with a Hawker Hurricane I.
They followed this up in 2016 with a USAAF set in 1/72 that included the following items: an Autocar U-7144 4 x 4 heavy tractor, an F-1 5000 gallon fuel trailer, a Chevolet M6 bomb servicing truck, an M5 bomb trailer with 2 x 1000 lb and 4 x 500 lb bombs, and a Cushman Model 39 package car. This also was offered with their new mold B-17G kit as a package deal.
The Autocar heavy fuel tanker, even though nominally built for off-road use with a tactical suspension system and 4 x 4 drive, was not really a hard-charger and as such was mostly used no lower than forward airfields. They also served long after into the Korean War and beyond, but by then they had mostly been repainted yellow for safety reasons.
The Chevrolet based M6 bomb servicing truck was built on a lightened version of their 1 ½ ton cargo truck but had a sturdy winch and crane for handling bombs of up to 1000 lbs and also providing transport for the armorers that loaded the aircraft. It was often accompanied by the larger M29 truck based on the GMC CCKW trucks for larger bomb sizes.
The M5 was a universal bomb transport with rails to carry bombs of varying sizes as well as some other accessories such as fuses, mounting hooks, straps and fittings.
The little M39 was a mechanic’s support vehicle for courier runs to get small parts for aircraft maintenance as well as general rear services support on airfields.
The kit breaks down into assembly of each component as a separate item. The Autocar comes first and consists of some 57 parts assembled over 12 steps. The doors are separate items so they can be posed open or closed, and the fifth wheel (part D40) may be set for towing at zero degrees or unladen at -5 degrees. It comes with an optional canvas top, and the windshield can also be displayed folded down.
The F1 trailer consists of 42 parts and also has several options. The fuelling doors can be shown in open (parts E9/E10) or closed (part E18); however the refueling hoses come as a two-part assembly with reels and pump so anyone wishing to use it as in action will need some minor scratchbuilding skills and tubing to add hoses and nozzles. The landing gear (parts D22/39) can be shown retracted or extended.
The 52-piece M6 has very few options such as the optional canvas top but does have controls for the driver and the basics for the winch; no chain or cabling is provided though.
The M5 bomb trailer of 20 parts can have the front dolly turned if desired as well as an option on the bomb racks. They may be inverted to form channels for bombs carried longitudinally or right side up with notches for bombs carried laterally. The two 1000 lb and four 500 lb bombs can be carried in a variety of ways to include with their tails dismounted on pins at the front of the trailer; purists will note the fins are quite thick and may wish to replace them with etched brass.
The little Cushman consists of but 11 parts. The carry bin may be shown open if the modeler wants to have it “in action”.
One suggested color scheme – olive drab – is provided but it does also come with a relatively complete decal sheet with markings for each vehicle as well as for the six bombs. Airfix also notes small numbers are provided to mark the vehicles for a specific wing or group as well as the correct stars (e.g. 8*918 for the one from “12 O’Clock High” as an example).
Overall these are a great idea but I do wish like the 1/48 scale kit they had included 8-10 figures or drivers to help modelers with a diorama.