The air raid sirens ceased their wailing, and Capitaine Gaston Thibeault quickly exited the basement of the building in which he and others had taken shelter. He was concerned for his brother Claude, who owned a cheese shop just a short walk away along Rue de la Tonnellerie, in the city of Chartres. His concern was abated somewhat when he saw his brother running toward him, obviously unharmed. “Mon Dieu!” he yelled, “The shop has been destroyed!” Capitaine Thibeault almost collapsed, thinking of the finest fromagerie in the region. “Therese?” he asked, “And the children?” “They are fine”, said Claude, “They are in the shelter helping others.”
This was not a good day. An armful of baguettes in the Capitaine’s arms indicated that this was going to be a casual day. Two training flights with bomber crews, using the old and obsolete Amiot 143. The base at Chartres-Champhol was not near the front lines, and life was not as hectic as those further east and north. Training flights were conducted with good spirits, good food, perhaps some wine for everyone but the pilot, and a good view of the French countryside from the capacious picture windows in the aircraft’s lower deck. Not today.
His regular crew was incensed. War was one thing, but to destroy the best fromagerie in Chartres was an affront to every Frenchman! Something had to be done, and that something was not training crews. They had to take the fight to the enemy.
New aircraft were not forthcoming, and the crew were old veterans, not considered for the front lines. But once the magnitude of the insult to national pride was fully absorbed, the Colonel was able to work some magic.
They found themselves billeted at the airfield in Bordeaux-Mérignac, and were to be used in the maritime patrol and anti-shipping role. Few modifications were needed to adapt the aircraft, the main ones being two larger bombs and two depth charges on the underwing points, and a striking colour scheme of dark grey over white.
Within a few days of patrolling over the Bay of Biscay, the gallant crew had destroyed two submarines, three merchant vessels, and caused such havoc that the Germans had already given the aircraft the name ‘Teufelstochter’, the Devil’s Daughter. Ungainly in appearance, it was nonetheless a formidable opponent, flown by men who were avenging something near and dear to their hearts; French cuisine. Such was their effectiveness that soon many other Amiot 143s were converted to anti-shipping roles, and they helped stem the tide of the Axis advance in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. ‘Teufelstochters’ soon swarmed over the coasts like angry bees, waging war on anything lying an Axis pennant.
Hitler’s advance through Belgium was halted while the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine tried in vain to counter the offensive of this mighty warbird, but to no avail. They were destroying supply lines faster than replacement material could be produced, and a German retreat was ordered.
We are all well-acquainted with what happened next. Within months the conflict, now known to most French as The Cheese War, was over. Germany sued for peace, and it was granted. But only on the western front. Russia continued, seeing an opportunity to seize control over eastern Europe. Germany united with the allies, and turned their industry to making more aircraft, principally the heroic Amiot 143. Not only maritime patrol, but tankbusters, ground attack, reconnaissance, night fighters, medevac, there was no role in which this aircraft did not excel. After suffering under the onslaught of this mighty machine for months, Russia capitulated, a new revolution sprang up from the ashes, and democracy was restored.
Today, monuments to the aircraft, and Capitaine Thibeault and his crew, are everywhere. Schoolchildren sing their praises, and history books are full of their exploits. A fitting memorial for such gallantry. They will never be forgotten.
SERIOUSLY?! Cripes, that is the most painful collection of letters I have ever thrown together. I suppose it is possible to go over the top when writing an ugly duckling story, but I couldn’t stop myself. The praise had to be in inverse proportion to its ugliness, and even then it might not be enough.
If you don’t know anything about this kit, go ahead and build it if you want to. It’s a free country. If you do know what this kit is like, there are only two reasons for tackling it; either you’re a master modeler, or a fool. I am not a master modeler. Internal detail is nil. Perhaps to counter that, external detail is overdone with massive rivets. If the rivets were half that size there would have been enough plastic left over to make a fully kitted interior. Fit is not great, and the landing gear seems rather delicate, but it seems sufficient to hold up the completed model without collapsing. Why the canopy is molded in two halves is a complete mystery to me, especially since a mistake could have someone joining them together incorrectly, making what actually looks like a better version, with more visibility for the pilot.
I did scratch together a very basic interior, just because… well, I don’t know, just because, I guess. It isn’t very accurate, but at least I know it’s in there. Primary paints were Tamiya XF-2 Flat White and Tamiya XF-54 Dark Grey. And thanks to the size I ran low on both. Fortunately a local hobby shop is doing an ‘order and pick up’ service during this coronavirus lockdown, and I have restocked. If you’re in the vicinity, Dailey Hobbies in Whitby, Ontario, is a great place to shop.
Photos and text © by Dave Bailey