Surrender at Seletar, Singapore, 12 February 1942

By Suresh Nathan


The 12th of September came and went without too much fanfare. I was in the midst of a speed build in the form of the Revell Ju 88A-1. Nice kit. The afternoon was to be spent at a little known commemoration ceremony for the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in the Asia-Pacific in the Kranji War Memorial in Singapore. As I attended the ceremony I was inspired to create a diorama to mark the event – an idea suggested by an acquaintance who runs the Changi Museum in Singapore.

A quick search on the Internet revealed an interesting picture of the Brewster Buffalo being inspected by Japanese soldiers (Figure 1, below). Apparently many of these were still in their crates when the Japanese arrived and were scavenged for spare parts. This resulted in many of the aircraft stripped and abandoned in airfields (Figure 2, below). The idea came to show this with the option of the engine on or off.


The main models were the Tamiya Type 97 Chi Ha Tank and the Czech Models Brewster Buffalo. Although separated by nearly 20 years, the Tamiya is easily the better model (of course). The kit details are finely moulded and go together very easily. The Brewster buffalo is reasonably decent but for what you pay is a bit unfair with thick plastic making open panel detailing challenging and seams that don’t match. Supplemental resin material is nice but not really necessary for the British variant I chose to build. Most of the resin parts are hidden (Figure 3, below).

I wanted a diorama with a tight configuration that could bring in armor and aircraft elements. That usually involves a crash scene or maintenance scene - I chose the latter as per the abandoned aircraft theme alluded to above. Once satisfied with the general configuration of the plane and tank I formed the figures around the models (Figure 4, below). The figures were from Tamiya and Fine Molds with arms and legs being swapped around with a few parts from the spares bin.

The tank was painted early in the process and mounted so as to be weathered on the base (Figure 5, below). The workshop equipment was from Italeri. The engine section was cut of the fuselage and fastened with neodymium magnets to allow them to be detached (Figure 6, below).


All markings on the plane were hand-painted. Both vehicles were painted in enamels, varnished with Future-Tamiya Flat acrylic, weathered with turpenoids and drybrushed. The mud on the tank was a pasty homemade concoction of ground material. Weathering on the plane was kept to a minimum to be consistent with the theme of fresh planes just out of the crate (Figure 7 to 15, below).

The figures were all done in artist’s oils on acrylic (Figure 16, below). The kneeling private has a flag attached to his bayonet. These flags were gifts from family at home. Allied soldiers often collected them as mementos of war. In the recent 70th anniversary many of these were returned to the families of the fallen soldiers. It was an element I had to capture in the diorama.

Each soldier was painted with an accurate rank. All variations in color and uniform were researched. In particular the green-topped officer is a seaman or equivalent of the Japanese Marines.

Looking around the diorama, one will see papers on the bench top. These are accurately reproduced pages from the Brewster Buffalo technical manual and newspaper reports reporting the fall of Singapore. The cowling and engine compartments can be displayed with varying stages of “undress” (Figure 17, below).


All told this was a quick build taking a little over a month. It was very satisfying to execute a Japanese-British diorama commemorating such a momentous event as the brown-green color schemes can look very subdued in these dioramas. I believe that by keeping these colors distinct and separate sufficient contrast can be achieved to create a striking diorama.

© Suresh Nathan 2015

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This article was published on Saturday, November 28 2015; Last modified on Saturday, November 28 2015