"The Shepherd"

Story by Frederick Forsyth

Gallery Article by Alvis 3.1 on Dec 24 2011

Christmas Eve


1/48 Models

A short story written many years ago by Frederick Forsyth is a perfect Christmas eve story. You can even listen to it online as read by Alan Maitland of the CBC http://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/fireside-al-maitland-reads-frederick-forsyth-s-the-shepherd-1.3379102?autoplay=true

It is a stirring tale of a young RAF pilot attempting to return home for Christmas when his luck turns horribly bad. Stuck out over the North Sea at night, without radio or instruments, how will he survive? When all seems lost, however, a lone aircraft approaches him and guides him back to a hopefully safe landing, but is it in time? Listen to the link, I think you will enjoy the tale. 

*The following contains spoilers that many ruin the ending for those not in the know. Read on at your own risk!

The two aircraft depicted in the story is a DeHavilland Vampire, and an older Dehavilland Mosquito. Neither mark is accurately described, and in my edition, the artwork isn't particularly helpful in determining accurate make or makings, so I decided to wing it! I used an HobbyCraft Vampire and Monogram Mosquito, both in 1:48 scale, and both not known for being stunning accurate either! So much more the better, since the telling of the tale is more important than the nit picking accuracy of a technical journal.

First, the Vampire. I used a HobbyCraft Vampire of an unknown mark, as I obtained the kit without instructions. I shortened the wings to simulate the later fighter variants. Markings came from the spares box, and the pilot came from a Tamiya Douglas Skyray. Basic spray can painting technique was used. As an aside, the tail surfaces are terribly small on this kit, but it still looks like a Vampire once done. Bear in mind, I was not going for 100% accuracy here, but just a depiction of the story as it unfolded.

The Mosquito was built up from the ancient Monogram kit. It actually went together reasonably well, but I've heard it's off in the accuracy department. Oh well, so is the book! In it, the Mosquito is described as a Pathfinder Squadron bird, so I depicted what I assume would be a reasonable version of that. Painting was done with Tamiya Spraycans and some fun masking. Decals were from the kit, with the tail number and JK nose letters from homemade inkjet decals. I also added electric motors to spin the props and a green LED to illuminate the pilot (an extra bit on my part, using the transparent crewman from a Tamiya Swordfish to achieve a spectral glow not depicted in the book...)


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Both planes were built gear up, as the scene takes place inflight during the white-knuckle descent through the East Anglian fog to an uncertain fate! They were mounted on a base that had been masked to show the book cover, and were held aloft on styrene tubes (This was essential for the Mosquito as it required wiring runs up the inside of the tubes.) Franky, I kind of wish I'd NOT bothered with the running engines, as the starboard one refused to work for quite a while, and during the photo shoot, the port one quit completely! Must have had Lucas Wiring!

"Mr Johnny went out on his last patrol Christmas Eve 1943, just fourteen years ago tonight. He never came back, sir. He went down with is plane somewhere out there in the North Sea. Good night sir. And Happy Christmas."

Alvis 3.1

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Photos and text by Alvis 3.1