Sunday 31 May 2015

John Haas' 1/48 53rd Hiko Sentai Heaven Shaking Dragon Killer

John Haas has kindly shared these images of another of his Nichimo Ki-45 builds in 1/48th scale, representing a modified late production Tei aircraft of the 53rd Hiko Sentai's air-to-air ramming flight. The Toryu (屠龍) officially the Type 2 Two Seat Fighter - Ni-shiki Fuku-za Sentoh-ki  (二式複座戦闘機) usually abbreviated to Ni-shiki Fuku Sen (二式複戦 ) remains a popular modelling subject and like the Luftwaffe's Messerschmitt 110 its genesis as a heavy escort fighter and disappointing performance in that role led to a more successful secondary career as an air defence bomber interceptor. A career in which it has become iconic. Even so, and although Toryu features so strongly in the imagery of combat against the B-29, it was actually rated by the IJAAF as having the worst high altitude performance of the fighters available for air defence duties, with even the Hayabusa considered superior in that respect. And at an early stage it was envisaged to provide a predominantly night interception role which has been largely unappreciated.

John built this model shortly after the kit was first issued and used Bunrin-do's FAOW # 26 for reference, removing and fairing over the oblique armament, adding a fairing over the rear canopy aperture and cutting down the aerial mast to represent a ramming aircraft. As far as he can remember he used Polly-S acrylic light grey RLM 76 for the overall base colour and JAAF Dark Green for the intricate mottle. He found the Nichimo model excellent to build,  going together like the proverbial "piece of cake".

The 53rd Hiko Sentai was established at Tokorozawa in May 1944 ostensibly as a night  fighter unit with the Ki-45 as original equipment and responsibility for the air defence of the Kanto area. It was part of the newly re-organised 10th Air Division, expanded from the original 17th Air Brigade in March of that year. The 53rd was organised with a HQ, three Hikotai, and a Seibitai maintenance unit. By July 1944 the 10th Air Division held under command six air regiments including the 53rd. This Toryu unit is well known from a series of rare colour photographs of its aircraft taken by IJAAF photographer Kikuchi Shunkichi at Matsudo in late November 1944 and it was also the subject of both the Nichimo kit and the earlier 1972 Revell 1/72 kit (anyone remember Battledec of England who must have been one of the first to offer an aftermarket decal sheet for the Revell Ki-45?). An excellent article on the 53rd Hiko Sentai which reproduces those colour photos may be found in Issue 11 of Arawasi magazine (Summer 2009). It also includes a fascinating first hand pilot's perspective by Sgt Negishi Nobuji.

The unit insignia was a stylised and enjoined '5' and '3' painted in blue for the HQ, white for the 1st, red outlined white for the 2nd and yellow outlined white for the 3rd Hikotai. The aircraft of the ramming flight were further distinguished by a large representation of a Karimata arrow painted on the fuselage side. This has frequently been described as a Kaburaya or signal arrow but in fact represents the bifurcated or twin pointed arrow used for hunting big game as well as in war so the connotations are evident. Karimata arrows often had a whistling or shrieking bulb attached to them behind the tip as shown on the 53rd's marking but were not the 'turnip head' signal arrows per se. The purpose and meaning of the distinctive coloured bands sported on the propeller spinners of the unit are unknown.

In August 1944 the 53rd moved to Matsudo to replace the 1st Hiko Sentai (Ki-84) which had been transferred to Gannosu in the Western air defence district under 12th Air Division command. It was to remain at Matsudo almost to the end of the war. By October 1944 the unit was still officially rated as "Newly organised. Combat ability below required standard".

On 6 November 1944 the 10th Air Division instructed that shinten seikutai (heaven shaking air superiority unit) air-to-air ramming flights of four aircraft were to be formed within all fighter units under command with the exception of the 18th Sentai and 17th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai. The original concept of 'special attack' suicide units to dive against ships - tokubetsu kôgeki tai (abbreviated to tokko or to-go tai) - was extended to 'crash dive' aircraft with bombs onto formations of B-29s, but the technique proved impractical beyond theory and instead air-to-air ramming was developed with more freedom as to the tactics used (bitterly opposed by some unit commanders and the subject of controversy within the IJAAF as to its effectiveness).  Aircraft which were not part of the designated shinten seikutai also sometimes made impromptu air-to-air ramming attacks and often accidental collisions were reported as deliberate ramming attacks for propaganda purposes.

In January 1945 the 53rd was designated as a permanent night fighter unit restricted to nocturnal operations only and a period of advanced night flying training began which was so intensive that it led to a serious decline in morale. Aircrew were supposed to occupy darkened rooms and to wear dark tinted glasses in daylight. In late January the unit was provided with some Type B radar systems, the 'Tachi' ground units at Matsudo scanning a 90 sector with a radius of 125-150 miles. The ground scanner was combined with 'Taki' 15 air-to-air radar and height finder equipment by which in co-ordination with the ground units the course and altitude of enemy aircraft could be plotted and intercepted. The system was developed under the auspices of the 10th Air Division through the formation of the 1st Radar Guide Unit which drew on the fruits of the Tama Army Technical Research Station to disseminate and improve radar techniques. The project was highly secret and it was absolutely forbidden to photograph the ground equipment and those aircraft fitted with the air-to-air radar systems although a radar equipped Ki-45 Bo type can just about be made out in a distant shot of aircraft at Matsudo. The Bo was reportedly equipped with a single Ho-301 40mm cannon in the ventral position due to the weight of the radar equipment and the successful use of the short ranged but potent weapon at night. Another little known Toryu variant equipped with the long barrelled 37mm Ho-204 in the nose and a single oblique firing 20mm Ho-5 as special equipment was designated Ki.  Every night, between 1900 hrs and 0500 hrs a quarter of the unit were required to remain on the intensive Alert-A status, meaning that pilots stood by their aircraft which were kept ready for immediate take-off, whilst in addition from 0100 to  0500 hours a single flight of aircraft were required to maintain a patrol orbit at 16,500 ft over Tokyo.

The IJAAF aspiration to achieve successful nocturnal radar guided interceptions was overtaken by events and the perceived impending threat of invasion. With the carrier raids in February 1945 and the appearance of US fighters over Japan the Class A pilots of the unit (the most experienced) were designated to alert status during daylight hours for B-29 interceptions (to free up single seater aircraft for fighter vs fighter combat) and following a change of 10th Air Division policy in March the night interception duties were henceforth restricted to just a single flight of four aircraft whilst two flights were required on daylight alert status, one of them the ramming flight. The remainder of the unit were to continue with intensive training. By May 1945 because of dissatisfaction with the night flying training regime and the loss of aircrew through nervous breakdowns the exclusive night flying role of the unit was finally rescinded. Nevertheless at the end of the war the 53rd was still officially designated as a night fighter unit. In July 1945 the 53rd had 34 Ki-45 on strength but only a small number of those were deployed in actual air defence sorties.

The 1972 Revell kit in the smaller scale featured aircraft '25' of the 53rd Hiko Sentai's 3rd Hikotai leader

Nichimo chose the same subject as Revell for their 1970s box art

Image credits: Model photographs all © 2015 John Haas; Revell box art © Revell 1972 via Ken Glass; Nichimo box art © Nichimo from author's collection.

Saturday 30 May 2015

A Consideration of Colour and Monochrome Images

Some correspondence and discussion on a number of fronts  about "colour" in monochrome or greyscale photographs has prompted a consideration of the issues so ably catalogued by Dick Taylor in his 'Warpaint' book where he shows the monochrome and colour photographs of the same British tank in juxtaposition. In the monochrome image the tank name and squadron sign appear exactly similar in tone and anyone studying just that photograph alone might presume, reasonably enough, that they were painted in the same colour. However the colour photograph reveals that the name is painted yellow and the sign is painted red. Mr Taylor observes:-

"What is crucial is that we must always remember that the tone we see in Black and White photographs is dependent not only on the original colour(s) of the object, but also on the amount of light falling on any one particular area, so areas with tonal qualities (caused by shadows etc) can in fact be the same colour, or alternatively, the same tone can be produced by two different colours." 

To that can be added that the type and direction of illumination and the type and angle of surface also has an effect. In paint the appearance of the colour surface is also dependent on the reflective wavelength of the constituent pigments which can and do vary. Therefore paint colours falling ostensibly within the same colour "family" can actually possess slightly different reflective properties due to the pigments incorporated and their particle size. And there is also a difference between film sensitivity to colours and that of the eye.  This is due to the fact that most panchromatic emulsions used are more sensitive to blue, violet and ultraviolet than to other colours so for example blues often appear paler in film than they do to the eye.

A 64th Sentai Ki-43 which appears to have two coloured fuselage bands in addition to a third band or senchi hiyoshiki ~ but what are their colours and is the tail arrow yellow or white?

But there is still more to it and even to the question of film type which some love to assert hard and fast rules about but which are more ambiguous and slippery once explored in detail. There is also the question of exposure of the film and the processing of the image, both in the darkroom and through the many stages of printing or publishing. The use of digital images on the internet  brings another inevitable wave of processing.  And it is useful to bear in mind that RGB rendered greyscale usually has only 256 tones because each value will be the same, e.g. 96 96 96; whereas there are millions of possible combinations of RGB colour with each value being different. This means in effect that colours are "compartmentalised" down when converted to greyscale, hence Mr Taylor's red and yellow tank markings appearing to be the same tone and therefore the same colour. This digitisation of original photographs - or even prints - seems to be entirely unappreciated in speculative discussions about what colours the greyscale represents and where assumptions are made that each tone is relative in terms of contrast.

Any magnified digital colour photographic image will show individual pixels that make it impossible to determine a single colour except by averaging them - which is what the eye and brain do to variegated paint colour at distance. The result is an impression of colour rather than actual colour which might or might not be true to life. But any conclusion of precise colour is dependent on the fidelity of the digitised image to the original film emulsion and in turn the fidelity of that emulsion to the original paint colours having regard to illumination, surface and reflectivity. In terms of any conclusion the word tenuous doesn't even begin to cover it.

Enlarged digital image of a colour photograph of original IJN paint on an airframe artifact - which pixel is the correct colour?

Where tonal or reflectivity differences can be useful is for comparisons within the same image, although even then illuminant angle, surface angle and shadow will have an effect. But it is absolutely pointless to attempt to compare tones between one photograph and another taken at different locations and times. Converting colour chips or colour photos to greyscale and then inserting them in a monochrome photographic image to compare tones is also an inconclusive exercise because the diverse elements of  illuminant, exposure, etc., that  might be present in the photographic image are difficult if not impossible to reliably factor in. Any colour chip in greyscale can also be altered by different exposure settings to "match" the greyscale in a photographic image. It is again inconclusive to compare the constant of a measured, rendered paint chip to a variable represented by a paint surface recorded in a colour photographic image. At best it can convey a possibility or draw a speculative visual similarity or contrast. Nevertheless one sees this exercise being played out eagerly and continuously. Colour photographic images are still used to evidence hypotheses in ways that are disproportionate to their actual value.

Diffuse and Specular Reflectivity 

This is another aspect that complicates the assessment of "colour" from greyscale. The terms diffuse and specular reflectivity won't be laboured in detail here as they can be easily explored elsewhere but an example will suffice. The British  Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) conducted a number of tests of reflectivity for wartime camouflage paints and published the results in 1947. Selecting just one fairly well known colour Azure Blue, used on the under surfaces of RAF aircraft in the Middle East, the measurements recorded were 29.5% diffuse reflectivity and 115% specular reflectivity at 30° to the surface (60° to normal). What this means is that dependent upon the condition of the paint strata (matt, shiny, wet, dry, polished, dusty, etc.) illumination, surface angle and camera angle Azure Blue might look very much  brighter and  lighter in greyscale than might be expected when contemplating an actual sample of the paint colour under other conditions. And because each colour behaves differently in reflectivity a transition can  occur where, for example, RAF Sky Blue which is notionally brighter and lighter than Azure Blue at 58% diffuse reflectivity drops behind it in specular reflectivity at 109%. Therefore it is feasible, notwithstanding the question of film exposure, for Sky Blue to appear darker than Azure Blue in some greyscale photographic images. 

All this makes the interpretation of "colour" from monochrome images a  largely futile exercise with conclusions that can never be considered definitive. But there is a related aspect relevant to paint colour comparisons. Many comparisons are made with the adjacent colour strata viewed at an angle to the eye  (as with a book laid on a flat desk before a seated person) and under various uncontrolled forms of illumination. This will introduce inevitable margins of error however good the observer's colour acuity. A better method for a visual comparison is to ensure that the colour surfaces are perpendicular to the eye, at 90°, and illuminated constantly by North sky daylight at noon - not under direct sunlight. This can be achieved by the paint samples being held up perpendicular to the eyes with north sky daylight behind, as through a window or outside. Sometimes the results of doing that, when compared to previous comparisons made by angled observations under other forms of illumination, are surprising.

The other aspect of comparisons to be aware of are those that seek to cross reference hobby paint ranges. Rarely do those quantify or qualify the degree of proximity or difference between two paints. The methodology by which the comparison has been calculated is rarely revealed. In some cases paint manufacturer data is used where the 'closest' equivalent from one range to another does not mean that the paints actually match.

Real Paint

Film emulsion and digitised image pixels are not real paint. They ought to be the last consideration in attempting to assess real surface paint colour but remain incredibly seductive due to their immediacy and apparent reality. As in real life the eye and brain compensate to homogenise what we think we are seeing, influenced by derivative perceptions of what colours we ought to be seeing. Thus a Messerschmitt 110 nightfighter image whose pixels when analysed are actually a beautiful shade of lavender appear to the eye to be a persuasive RLM number. Superimposing a chip of the actual pixel colour on the image often produces disbelief, so strong is that eye to brain compensation.

A compound consideration of this is the presumption to identify paint surface colour as the colour standard which ought to apply. Thus one sees aircraft described as being "painted in FS 12345" rather than painted to match FS 12345. The inevitable variance between paint colour standards and actual applied paints, even before the vagaries of surface treatments and weathering come into play, should allow modellers and artists to relax a little. It is understanding the intended character or hue of the colour that is important rather than its precise shade. But even with the most pedantic approach to that elusive accuracy it is unlikely that two models of the same subject will be identical in colour and beauty truly lies in the eyes of the beholder, which is a rather fancy way of saying that everything published here in respect of precise colour analysis is relatively pointless!

Image credits: Heading image from Ross Caughers Photography; Japanese aircraft images from author's collection; 'End' title from 'Goodbye Mr Chips' © MGM Studios Inc.

Sunday 10 May 2015

VE Day - 1945-2015

“Yours is such a special generation – stoical, loyal, indefatigable and dutiful. You have been the bedrock of this country for all these years and it will not be the same without you. We salute you with all our hearts.” 
                            (HRH The Prince of Wales)

Above, the 51st Highland Division of XXX Corps march through Bremerhaven on 17 May 1945. They are not ceremonial soldiers but the frontline troops who fought their way from Normandy to Germany and had been in battle less than two weeks before the parade.

Liberation, 15 April 1945

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Lifelike Decals Trio for 1/72 Ki-27

Lifelike Decals have released a welcome trio of 1/72 sets for the Ki-27, scaled down from their popular 1/48th sets for this aircraft.

Set 72-034 Type 97 Fighters Part 1 (above) features decals for seven subjects as follows:-
  • Ki-27 of Maj Takeo Miyamoto, 246th Sentai, Kakogawa, Japan, Dec 1942 - this colourful Homeland defender in factory finish flown by the unit CO features a large red eagle on the fuselage. 
  • Ki-27 of Lt Col Saburo Hayashi, 4th Sentai, Kikuchi, Japan, Sep 1940 - a Type 97 in spendid blue plumage flown by the unit CO, with markings quite well known in the West as a result of a now hard to find 1995 special edition of the venerable Hasegawa kit with Aeromaster decals.
  • Ki-27 of Cpl Susumu Kajinami of 246th Sentai, Kakogawa, Japan, Jan 1943 - another 246th Sentai aircraft flown by a pilot destined to become a Hien ace over New Guinea, this one featuring red cowling and fuselage flash.
  • Ki-27 of 1Lt Iwori Sakai of 64th Sentai, Ertaokou, China, Nov 1938 - the aircraft of the 2nd Chutai leader, well known from the original issue box art of the Mania 1/48th kit also featuring a red cowling and fuselage flash.
  • Ki-27 of M/Sgt Katsutaro Takahashi of 59th Sentai, Hankow, China, 1939 - the aircraft of the leading ace of the Sentai. Lifelike have chosen green for the Sentai lightning bolt, but the Chutai colours for this unit have been variously depicted and are not agreed.
  • Ki-27 of 77th Sentai, Lampang, Thailand, 1942 - this Pacific War era fighter had the wings and tailplanes expediently camouflaged in two colours during the invasion of Burma, making for an interesting and unusual scheme. 
  • Ki-27 of the Manchukuoan Air Force 1942 - this was the third aircraft purchased through subscription by the citizens of Antung, Manchuria and carries the sponsorship dedication on the fuselage side in large black characters.

These are well chosen subjects and the inclusion of two early Homeland Defence aircraft is especially welcome. In addition to the subject specific markings the sheet contains sufficient stencilling and Hinomaru for two aircraft, the latter printed in the correct bright red colour. Two of the subjects will require the cowling painted red to match the fuselage flashes which could be a challenge. The recommended kit is the Hasegawa Type 97 but the decals would probably fit the ICM and RS Models kits too.

Set 72-035 Type 97 Fighters Part 2 (above) features decals for six subjects as follows:-
  • Ki-27 of an unknown training unit in Manchuria - the caption tentatively identifies the unit as the 28th Kyoiku Hikotai at Shimen (now Shijiazhuang?), north China during the summer of 1944, taken from an online Japanese source. That unit does not appear to be part of the 2nd Air Army in Manchuria. Whatever the pedigree of the unit this camouflaged example has a splendid tail insignia of a winged horse set against a yellow or orange rising sun.
  • Ki-27 of Sgt Totaro Ito, 5th Sentai, Kashiwa, Japan 1940 - the pilot of this multi-striped fighter flew against the Doolittle raid in April 1942 and went on to become a Ki-45 Toryu ace over the East Indies, New Guinea and Japan, claiming 13 bombers including 9 B-29s.
  • Ki-27 of Maj Tateo Kato, 64th Sentai, Kwangtung, China, May 1941 - this less well known aircraft of a famous commander was revealed in a partial photo published in the March 2007 Koku Fan magazine. The markings were also featured in a special edition of the Hasegawa 1/48th scale kit. The colour of the arrow marking on the tail is speculative.
  • Ki-27 of 10th Independent Chutai, Taiyuan, China, 1929-30 - the caption dates for this distinctively black tailed Type 97 appear to be in error as the unit was first formed in 1937 and that aircraft only entered service in 1938. The 10th were stationed at Taiyuan from December 1938 to March 1941. The sheet provides decals for the tricky white border to the black tail and a template for painting the black.
  • Ki-27 of 50th Sentai, Clark Field, Philippines, Jan 1942 - a red star was added to the 50th's lightning bolt on 3rd Chutai aircraft, said to represent the sub-unit being detached to the 10th Independent Air Group under the command of Col Komataro Hoshi ('Hoshi' means star) on 7 Jan 1942 when the 1st and 2nd Chutai were transferred to Thailand with the 5th Air Division.
  • Ki-27 of Cap Toshio Sakagawa, 24th Sentai, Hailar, Jan 1940 - the mount of another distinguished commander who after service as 3rd Chutai leader over Nomonhan would go on to command the 47th Independent Air Squadron which introduced the Ki-44 Shoki to action, then the 25th Sentai in China flying the Ki-43 Hayabusa and finally to serve as Executive Officer of the 200th Sentai*, claiming 15 victories in total before being killed in the crash of a transport aircraft. 
* The 200th Sentai was formed at Akeno in October 1944 with six provisional Chutai to participate in the planned reinforcement of the Philippines campaign with Type 4 Ki-84 Hayate fighters. Originally intended to be designated the 1st (1st-3rd Chutai) and 2nd (4th-6th Chutai) Air Regiments of the Akeno Air Training Division its full strength deployment was never realised and as the consolidated 200th Sentai it was incorporated into the 30th Fighter Group, a large ad hoc grouping of all Ki-84 units within the 2nd Air Division in the Philippines. Its aircraft were distinguished by a small red and white Akeno insignia at the top of the fin and large two-digit numbers painted across the fin and rudder in Chutai colours.

This is another excellent set with some colourful and well-chosen subjects, the first and second subjects being especially welcome. Again there is sufficient Hinomaru and stencilling for two aircraft with one set being white bordered for the first subject.

Set 72-036 Type 97 Fighters Part 3 (above) features decals for seven subjects as follows:-
  • Ki-27 of Sgt Moritsugu Kanai, 11th Sentai, Nanking, China, 1940 - Sgt Kanai became an ace during the Nomonhan fighting and went on to a distinguished career in the 25th Sentai over China, claiming 26 victories in total. His Ki-27 was marked with an unusual red saltire and as wingman to WO Shinohara, the 11th's leading ace over Nomonhan, might have carried victory markings which are unknown. It was a presentation aircraft bearing the 'patriotism' No. 437 on the rear fuselage. 
  • Ki-27 of 2Lt Iichi Yamaguchi, CO of 68th Shinbu-tai, Tenryu, Japan, March 1945 - the gaudy aircraft of the leader of one of several special attack units formed on the Ki-27. The term 'Shinbu' approximately means 'stirring the martial spirit'. The 68th with 12 Ki-27's on strength commenced anti-shipping suicide operations on 8 April 1945 as part of the Dai Ni Kikusui Sakusen (2nd Floating Chrysanthemum Operation) and aircraft from this unit armed with 250kg bombs were responsible for severely damaging LCS(L) 57 and the destroyer escort USS Rall (DE-304) in suicide attacks on 12 April 1945. 
  • Ki-27 of 13th Sentai, Taisho, Japan, 1942 - This unit's 3rd Chutai was originally the 102nd Independent Air Squadron formed as a secret interception unit at Akeno in July 1941. The three stripes on the tail represent the 3rd Chutai and the central symbol is a stylised cherry blossom representing the 13th's origin at Kakogawa (noted for its blossom) together with the first character 'Dai' (大) of Taisho which was its parent base from September 1941 to April 1943. A photograph of this aircraft appears on page 80 of Osprey's Ki-27 Aces although the date is incorrectly captioned as 1941 instead of 1942.  
  • Ki-27 of 47th Sentai, Chofu, Japan, 1944 - At this time the 47th was equipped with the Ki-44 and based at Narimasu but this somewhat mysterious aircraft is said to have been used by the unit as a liaison and communications aircraft.
  • Ki-27 of Cap Kenji Shimada, 11th Sentai, Manchuria, May-Jun 1939 - the aircraft of one of the first Army aces to become well known in the West. The 11th was the top scoring Ki-27 unit over Nomonhan and Shimada claimed 27 victories. The eight stars were painted on his aircraft during the June 1939 lull in the fighting and represent claims made in only two days of combat against Soviet aircraft in May. 
  • Ki-27 of 2Lt Kawabata, 1st Sentai, Harbin, China, Jan 1941 - This unusually marked aircraft carries the diagonal stripes associated with the 5th Sentai as well as the 1st's rudder and elevators painted in Chutai colour. 
  • Ki-27 of Cap Shigetoshi Inoue, 1st Sentai, Nomonhan, Sep 1939 - This well known and very colourful aircraft was one of the subjects in the first Hasegawa release of the original Mania 1/72nd Ki-27 kit from 1977 so these decals will be especially welcome to those who might wish to model that aircraft and replace the old kit decals. Although not mentioned in the instructions the elevators need to be painted yellow like the rudder   and close examination of original photographs of this aircraft suggest that the fuselage chevron might also have been yellow denoting Inoue's leadership of the 1st Chutai. 

This is another excellent selection of varied subjects including three very unusual aircraft as well as a pair of famous aces. As with all Lifelike decal sheets full descriptions are provided for each subject providing interesting details and citing reference sources. All the sheets are well printed with glossy finish, excellent colour saturation and definition. One additional feature of these sets is the good quality ziplock bags slightly larger than the decal and instruction sheets. This facilitates easy removal and return of the sheets when examining them whereas the bags of some other manufacturers are so tightly sized that it can be difficult to remove and return the instruction sheets and decals without damaging them - and then there are those self-adhesive envelopes!

With special thanks to Keishiro of Lifelike Decals for kindly sending the decal sets for review.

Image credits: All © 2015 Lifelike Decals

Sunday 3 May 2015

In Memoriam ~ Mike Goodwin 1960-2015

It was a shock followed by great sadness to learn of the recent and untimely death of Mike Goodwin.

Mike and I never met face to face but we had corresponded on and off since he was at the University of Manchester studying Physics. We exchanged letters in long hand in those days and Mike was always the better correspondent. He shared an enthusiasm for the Japanese aircraft kits available at that time and his burgeoning interest in the specifics of Japanese aero engine technology and experimental prototypes was already apparent. Many of the model conversion projects he discussed back then were based on kits quite crude by today's standards and neither of us could ever have guessed how the hobby would develop and the superb kits of obscure Japanese aircraft that would later become a reality.

After university Mike entered the world of IT through an industry training programme, later working as a developer and systems analyst throughout Europe before settling for a quieter life in the UK. After a couple of years he moved to New Zealand, becoming an IT lecturer at Otago Polytechnic.

Mike renewed our friendship via the IPMS (UK) Japanese Aviation Special Interest Group (JASIG) led at that time by Peter Starkings. He wrote an exhaustive and meticulous series on 'Japanese Aero Engines 1910-1945' for the SIG newsletter 'JAS Jottings', carefully charting civil and military aero engine development in Japan, excellent articles which still provide a seminal and definitive English language reference on the subject. That pioneering work deserved to be published more widely in concentrated form and thankfully plans are now in hand to make that happen.

Last year Mike kindly reviewed parts of the draft manuscript for 'Ki-61/Ki-100 Aces' for Osprey publishing. He had agreed to scrutinise those sections dealing with the engine development of both types and as expected provided a most courteous, positive and useful input with carefully explained suggestions and corrections. Mike was never aggressively competitive as some in this field of interest but was always friendly, patient and willing to share his enthusiasm, knowledge and expertise. It was a privilege to have his input for a book that will now sadly be dedicated to his memory.

Mike leaves behind his wife Fabienne and son William. For those who knew him or appreciated his work donations to his memory may be made to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Image credit: via Fabienne Lecomte.