War isn’t won just with planes, tanks and ships. Behind the scenes a huge machine needs to operate to keep the frontline moving, from medical care to mechanics and cookery to construction.
With shifting territory and short aircraft ranges in both world wars, runway and hangar building was as important to the war effort as the aircraft that used them. Often overlooked by Lego builders we have two builds today that recognise the behind-the-scenes heroes of the Allied victory in both wars.
First above (above) is Dread Pirate Wesley‘s superb First World War diorama, set somewhere in Northern France and featuring wonderful SE5a and Sopwith Camel biplanes alongside a brilliantly recreated canvas and wood hangar. It’s a stunning scene and one that you can see more of via the link to Wesley’s photostream above, where you can also find a trio of German Fokkers ready to meet the British fighters in the skies over France.
Today’s second wartime hangar (below) jumps forward around twenty-five years to the Second World War, with the canvas and wood replaced by concrete and tin, and the biplanes by the far more sophisticated Supermarine Spitfire, very probably the greatest fighter of the conflict. Builder Didier Burtin has curved LEGO’s grey baseplates under tension to create the impressive hangar, equipping with everything required to keep the pair of Spitfires airworthy.
There’s more to see of Didier’s beautiful Second World War diorama at his photostream via the link above, where you can also see what happens when a part fails on a 1940s fighter plane, and therefore why the heroes behind the scenes were as vital as those in the cockpits.
It’s time for some history here at TLCB, because we are – at heart – complete nerds.
The world’s first purpose-built racetrack (or what’s left of it) lies not far from TLCB Towers. The Brooklands race circuit opened in 1907, built partly for manufacturers of the newly emerging auto-industry to test their cars, and partly because driving really quickly is bloody good fun.
Measuring just under 3 miles long the Brooklands track was built from uncoated concrete banking, which in places reached 30ft high, and was simply unimaginably steep, far steeper than any modern banked circuit. With no safety barrier at the top and cars routinely getting airborne over the bumpy concrete the spectacle was incredible, and crowds topped a quarter of a million in the circuit’s hay-day.
The outbreak of the First World War saw Brooklands requisitioned by the War Office, as the site also included an aerodrome, becoming the UK’s largest aircraft manufacturing centre by 1918. The end of the war saw motor racing return the the track, alongside the continuation of aircraft manufacturing, but when Hitler decided that Germany hadn’t quite finished with Europe yet motor racing at the track ceased for good.
During the Second World War the Brooklands site became the hub of Hawker fighter and Wellington bomber manufacturing, amongst other aircraft, and the track’s survival as a piece of British heritage sadly, but necessarily, came second to the war effort. Trees were planted on the track to disguise it from German bombers, and whole sections ripped up to expand the runways.
By the end of the war the track was in a poor state, and the site was sold to Vickers-Armstrong to continue operations as an aircraft factory, at one time laying claim to being the largest aircraft hanger in the world. However as the UK’s aircraft manufacturing industry declined the Brooklands site was gradually sold off, becoming a business park, a supermarket, and the Mercedes-Benz World driving instruction track.
Today not much of the original circuit remains, but what does is managed by the Brooklands Museum, who are endeavouring to preserve possibly the most important motor racing, aeronautical and war-time manufacturing site in the world. A recent heritage grant aims to return both the aero-buildings and the famous Finishing Straight to their former glory, and a section of the incredible concrete banking is still standing. You can even take a car on it if you’re feeling brave.
If you’re in the UK and you get the chance to visit the Brooklands Museum we highly recommend it, but for our readers further afield you can get an idea of the insanity of the vintage racing that once took place there courtesy of this lovely scene recreating Brooklands circa-1935 by Flickr’s Redfern. There’s more to see of his 1930s Maserati, its racing counterpart, and his wonderfully recreated Brooklands banking his photostream. Click the link above to step back in time.
Enough of vegetable carving and creepy kids, it’s time for a creation with a bit more meaning. This beautiful mini-figure scale World War 1 Sopwith Camel has been created by Flickr’s Daniel Siskind, and it has a special importance at the moment.
It’s 100 years since Great Britain joined the Great War, with a sacrifice of 888,246 military lives. Of course many more died on both sides of what was a pretty pointless conflict, and even more from disease and starvation. Mankind may have invented fairly sophisticated instruments of death during the war (the Sopwith Camel included), but instruments of preserving life were a long way behind.
You can see more of Daniel’s build here, and you can see the incredible memorial to the 888,264 that the UK is currently undertaking here.
This gorgeous mini-figure scale Sopwith Camel fighter plane was discovered on Flickr. Built by TheBrickAvenger, the Camel helped turn the tables in the Allies favour in the skies over France during the First World War. The Avenger’s version is complete with twin Vickers 303 machine guns, support wires and authentic RAF livery. See more here.
A very excited Elf returned to TLCB Towers today. Excited because it was carrying two creations, and two creations means two meal tokens. So now we have a deservedly swollen Elf waddling round the building, and can bring you this pair of wonderful Great War airplanes designed and built by mrutek on Flickr. Handily for the unbiased nature of this post, each represents a side of the First World War; the Allies with an RAF Sopwith Camel and the Axis Powers with a Bomber Biplane, from the days when bombing involved dropping the explosive by hand out of the side of the plane. To see more of these fantastic creations click the link above.
Your favourite Lego Cars blog (whaddaya mean there’s only one…?) goes off topic again…
Welcome to our review of Lego’s latest big thing with wheels. As a fan of all things mechanical, and Lego, I couldn’t fail to notice this; an impressively faithful rendition of the 1917 Sopwith Camel, pioneer of the earliest days of airborne warfare.
It’s another one of those models that seems to have been created by an aficionado of the real thing. If anything about it looks a little strange – e.g. very short front, stubby fuselage – it’s because the real one was exactly the same. Even the colours are spot-on.
So, what do get for your eighty quid ?
Answer; a well-stuffed box with lots of fine goodies, some of them pieces I haven’t seen before in strange and exotic colours. It’s quite a lot of money for the number of pieces you get, but since many of them are big and/or special; even chromed, it’s well worth it.
Once you’ve emptied the whole lot into a big and unsortable pile you can get cracking: a couple of hours of enjoyable building await. There’s nothing too tricky here, although you do need to take care of installing the long strings that control the flaps to avoid snagging – follow the instructions carefully and you’ll be alright.
Speaking of which, is it just me or does everyone find it difficult to see individual brown pieces in the instructions when there’s already a mass of them ? Perhaps this old git should admit defeat and get his eyes tested… At least there isn’t the trouble differentiating black from dark grey that there used to be.
When finished, what you’ll have is a surprisingly large model and nowhere to put it… still, it can always hang suspended on a wire from the ceiling, ready to strafe unsuspecting visitors.
It’s a working model, too. The control stick in the cockpit will activate the turning flaps with a side to side motion and the tail flaps with a back and forth movement, all done via the aforementioned strings. Very clever.
Of course, Lego have been here before, with this from 10 or so years ago:
… the previously inflated price of which is about to get a lot more reasonable. It’s a pretty good effort, but it’s easy to see where the newer one improves things.
The Sopwith Camel was a hugely significant aircraft, and not just for Lego. It was famously tricky to fly, with a deliberately front-heavy instability that made it highly manoevreable – a feature of most modern fighter aircraft, which are so unstable they wouldn’t fly at all without computer controls.
No computers in 1917, of course, just very skilled and very brave pilots. This ‘plane shot down more enemy aircraft than any other in World War One.
The engine was an air-cooled rotary (not to be confused with the Wankel rotary, a totally different design), sometimes known as a radial engine, whereby instead of a rotating crank in a fixed block, it was the cylinders that rotated around the fixed crank. For aircraft, this had several advantages. The rotating mass of the cylinders did away with the need for a heavy flywheel – the engine was the flywheel – and, when exposed to the air, it could be effectively self-cooling, without the need for a radiator. This made for a much better power to weight ratio than conventional in-line engines of the time.
This type of engine nearly always had an odd number of cylinders – typically seven, or in some cases, nine, in the Sopwith Camel. The only inaccuracy of Lego’s model is that it has eight. Still, at least it spins round with the propellor.
Speaking of which, shouldn’t the guns right behind it shoot it off ? Nah, Sopwith had that covered with another innovation; a synchronization gear that blocked the guns from firing when the blades were in front of them. The pilot could keep his fingers on the trigger and not worry about shooting himself out of the sky.
All very interesting, I’m sure, but the very best thing about this model is it’s sturdiness: strong enough to swoosh about the house, making authentic ‘duggaduggadugga’ noises and scaring the cat….