Valiant Wings Publishing | Airframe & Miniature No. 20: The Avro Lancaster Part One
Reviewed by Kevin Futter
UK publisher Valiant Wings Publishing has released Number 20 in its Airframe & Miniature series, entitled The Avro Lancaster (including the Manchester): Part One — Wartime Service, and subtitled as "A Complete Guide To The RAF's Legendary Heavy Bomber". The author is Richard Franks, and the illustrations are shared between Richard Caruana and Juraj Jankovic. The terrific cover art is by Jerry Boucher.
The first thing that struck me when I picked up this book was how heavy it is; at a hefty 272 pages plus a gatefold section of scale drawings, it is indeed a weighty tome. It's extremely well printed on quality glossy paper, and the reproduction of all drawings and photographs is first-class.
One thing to note right off the bat is that any coverage of post-war aircraft and developments is slated for Part Two, due out shortly at the time of writing.
The contents are broken up into nine separate chapters, grouped into two distinct sections:
- Airframe Chapters
- Manchester Prototypes & Production
- Lancaster Prototypes & B Mk I
- Lancaster B Mk II
- Lancaster B Mk III
- Lancaster B Mk VI
- Camouflage & Markings and Colour Profiles
- Miniature Chapters
- Manchester & Lancaster Kits
- Building a Selection
- Building a Collection
- In Detail
There is also a preface, along with a collection of appendices at the rear of the book:
- Manchester & Lancaster Kit List
- Manchester & Lancaster Accessory & Mask List
- Manchester & Lancaster Decal List
The sample images below (courtesy Valiant Wings Publishing) should give a good indication of the nature and style of the book's contents:
While not mentioned in the table of contents, the Preface weighs in at a substantial 35 pages, and describes a potted history of the Manchester, and its eventual evolution into the Lancaster, which provides useful support for the subsequent technical information.
The sequence of chapters covering the evolution of the airframe spans 50 pages, and consist of brief summaries supported by crisply-rendered greyscale profile drawings. They are clear and easy to follow, and form a handy guide for discerning what features distinguished which variants.
The Camouflage & Markings section covers 24 pages, though lacks the usual stencil placement guide. Rather than a dedicated section for colour profiles, they are instead interspersed throughout the text as necessary. They are by Richard Caruana as usual, and are very nicely rendered indeed. Wartime Lancasters only came in a limited variety of schemes, so there's not a lot of variation here, but that's hardly the fault of the book! Many of the featured subjects do feature nose art of some kind however, which should give the aspiring Lancaster modeller some suitable inspiration.
Chapter 7 features a brief description of the commonly available Manchester & Lancaster model kits. Even in 1/32 scale, we have two modern, injection-moulded kits to choose from, plus a pair of nose-only kits for those who don't have the space or money for the full models. The full kits are assessed in significant detail in these pages.
The modelling section features four kit builds, all by Steve Evans, comprising a 1/72 Manchester conversion utilising the newest Airfix release and the Blackbird Models resin set, a 1/72 Hasegawa B Mk I, along with builds of the 1/48 HK Models and Tamiya kits. These models are extremely well done, and while it's a shame that neither of the 1/32 kits is featured, it's understandable given the size and scope of such projects.
Chapter 9 is called Building a Collection, and features a series of annotated isometric 3D line drawings by Juraj Jankovic. These are designed to illustrate the salient differences between the various prototype and production airframes as the type evolved, and form a perfect companion to the earlier 'evolution' chapters. Taken together, they really do highlight the complexities of the development of the Lancaster (and Manchester) airframe.
Chapter 10, In Detail, features an extensive selections of archival and contemporary photographs and diagrams, including a series of walkaround detail photos of four surviving airframes. The walkaround photos have been selected with a modeller's eye, which is not only welcome, but very handy.
The four appendices cover the usual list of available kits, aftermarket, decals, and mask sets, as well as a concise bibliography for further research.
The scale plans included at the very back of the book are to 1/72 scale, and presented in gatefold format. They're printed on heavy, non-glossy plain stock, covering the following airframes:
- Avro Manchester L4247
- Avro Manchester B Mk I
- Avro Manchester B Mk Ia
- Avro Lancaster B Mk I
- Avro Lancaster B Mk II
- Avro Lancaster B Mk III
- Avro Lancaster B Mk VI
These are drawn by Richard Caruana and look very nicely done. Note that many of these variations are rendered only as scrap views that show pertinent differences between the models, rather than as separate full plans.
Not being a Lancaster expert, I can't give a considered evaluation of the accuracy or veracity of the text itself, and so will leave that to more knowledgeable readers. All other elements of the book ooze quality however, from the clear photography to the beautiful profiles and the detailed scale plans. Contemporary photographs are plentiful and very nicely reproduced. Overall it's an impressive attempt to be the Complete Guide the title alludes to. Recommended!
Thanks to Valiant Wings Publishing for the review copy.
© Kevin Futter 2023
This review was published on Sunday, May 28 2023; Last modified on Sunday, May 28 2023