As a small boy of nine or ten, I was very keen on Airfix plastic kits. They came originally in see-through plastic bags with a folded piece of paper stapled over the open end of the bag. The instructions for making the kit were inside the folded paper.
The smallest Series 1 kits were one shilling and threepence, or perhaps one shilling and sixpence. Series Two were three shillings and Series Three were four shillings and sixpence. Series Four cost six shillings and Series Five seven shillings and sixpence. Series Six, of which for many years there was only one, the Short Sunderland, was twelve shillings and sixpence. At this time I used to get around two or three shillings pocket money per week. As life grew more sophisticated, Airfix decided to put most of their kits into boxes and to decorate them with illustrations of that particular aircraft in action. The absolute toppermost of the poppermost of the Airfix artists was a man called Roy Cross (born 1924). Let’s take a look at his talents as an artist.
After initially helping illustrate Eagle comic Roy moved to Airfix in 1964 and started his career with the Dornier Do 217. Here is the box art:
Notice how he makes the Dornier’s opponents the Polish Air Force, something out of the ordinary. Below is the original drawing. Both illustrations featured on an auction website, where Roy’s first ever aircraft sketch was on sale for £790.
Let’s take a look at some more of Roy’s best work. Here’s a Series 1 Spitfire, with the plastic bag still in place and the model unmade.
Series 2 included the de Havilland Mosquito, the Fairey Battle and the Bristol Blenheim. This one is flown by the Free French Air Force. Roy’s work never seems to drop in standard:
A Series 3 kit might have been the Junkers Ju-88 and Heinkel III. A bigger box allowed him to make his pictures more and more complex. Notice again how he makes the Heinkel’s opponents somebody out of the ordinary, in this case the Soviet Red Air Force:
In Series 4 was the Vickers Wellington:
The mighty Avro Lancaster was in Series 5, as was the B-17 Flying Fortress. Notice how the very large box has enabled him to portray accurately the huge wingspan of both aircraft:
Here’s the Short Sunderland:
The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was of such a size that it probably was in Series 29. This box is big enough to portray a defensive “box” of B-29s, and a Japanese fighter:
I was not very good at making the kits, as I would be the first to confess. With biplanes such as the Roland Walfisch of World War I or the Handley Page HP 42, the 1930s airliner, I was hopeless at gluing the top wing to the bottom one and soon there were gluey fingerprints all over the place:
Quite a rare kit in my experience was the de Havilland DH.88 which won the race from England to Australia in 1934 with an official time of 70 hours 54 minutes 18 seconds. The raw plastic for it was bright red. I am not wholly sure if Roy Cross did this artwork. The kit may have appeared pre-1964:
There are some kits that I would like to have made but never did. There was the Mitsubishi “Dinah” which was reckoned to be the most aerodynamically perfect aircraft of World War II. This is one of Roy’s very best pieces of work in my opinion:
The Spitfires defending Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia certainly couldn’t catch the Dinahs that flew high above them day after day.
The second kit I yearned for was the Angel Interceptor used in the TV series “Captain Scarlet”. That too, was a fairly rare kit during my modelling years:
I can’t bring this post to an end without showing you the last few masterpieces by Roy Cross. They are the B-25 Mitchell, with a choice of either a glazed or a solid nose:
Here’s the Aichi “Val”, looking for all the world like a Stuka that’s put on a lot of weight:
The Westland Whirlwind was a very advanced concept for 1938. It was one of the fastest combat aircraft in the world and with four Hispano-Suiza HS.404 20 mm autocannon in its nose, the most heavily armed. Prolonged problems with the Peregrine engines delayed everything and few Whirlwinds were built……only 116 in actual fact:
And let’s not forget the Blohm und Voss Bv 141 reconnaissance aircraft, one of the few aeroplanes ever to have had an asymmetrical structure. And yes, it flew very well, but was never produced in numbers because of the shortage of the engines of choice.
One last detail I found out about Roy Cross. He was apparently highly amused by the modern practice of taking his artwork, but photoshopping out any explosions and burning aircraft in case they upset anybody and reminded them what most of these aircraft were designed to do.
If you want to see more of Roy Cross’ art, then, please, use google images to sort out some pictures of other aircraft whose boxes he decorated. Roy may not be a famous artist, but his images of planes are irrevocably etched for ever in the memories of so many men of my age.