Here's something a bit different. It's a paper model aeroplane which I made from a design published on 30 June 1934 in "Boys and Girls", the weekly children's supplement to the Daily Mail. The claim is made there that it glides, but sadly all mine does is stall and then enter a tailspin ... but perhaps somebody taking greater care in making the model will have greater success! A PDF of the plan can be downloaded from here (size 1.4 Mb) and then printed out onto an A4-sized sheet of paper, if anyone wants to try it. The only other materials needed are a thin, stiff piece of card (for backing), glue, a match (for the wheel axle), a pin (for the propeller), tissue paper or something similar (to weight the nose, in the event that the model is actually airworthy). And scissors. The instructions are in the PDF; here are some tips based on my own experience:
- It does make it a lot easier if you fold where appropriate before you assemble the model!
- Take especial care to score along the lines on the rear fuselage section, as otherwise it will be out of shape and the tail assembly won't sit straight.
- There's no need to make the left and right tabs on the forward underside of the fuselage overlap precisely, as the "fuselage closing strip" is then going to be too wide for the fuselage at the front and will spoil the aeroplane's clean lines.
I think the original was in colour, but the microfilm I printed it from was not, so unfortunately it's a little drab. The colours could be worked out from the roundel and added with a paint program -- or even just coloured in on the paper -- but that would require more energy than I was prepared to expend :)
"Boys and Girls" would often include an aviation-related cartoon or story -- in fact, one of the regular strips followed the adventures of Phil and Fifi, the "flying twins" -- but this edition was chock-full of airminded goodness. The Whisker Pets see an aeroplane and decide to make their own (hilarity ensues); a stork-powered air show entertains the inhabitants of Treasure Island ('I like being an airwoman', says Penelope the parrot); two panels list "Famous flyers' great flights" (including some not so famous now, such as the non-stop flight of Codos and Rossi from New York to Syria in 1933); and on the Pet & Hobby Page, Teddy Tail provides some hints on how to make airworthy model aircraft -- which I clearly should have read before making mine! This was obviously intended to coincide with the annual RAF Pageant held at Hendon on the very same day, a hugely popular air show: 200,000 attended that year, a record crowd -- despite the best efforts of pacifist demonstrators outside the front gates.
This being the Daily Mail, there was probably another agenda besides getting plane-crazy youngsters to remind their parents to buy their favourite right-wing newspaper that Saturday: to make even more plane-crazy youngsters. The need to create an airminded youth was a common theme in the Rothermere press in the 1930s. For example, just two days earlier, Amy (Johnson) Mollison's regular aviation column had been entitled "Don’t discourage the young idea in flying",1 in reference to an Air Ministry ban on solo flying under the age of 17, after a 16-year old boy had been killed doing just that near Scarborough. And, near the end of the year, Lord Rothermere himself contributed an article called "Make the youth of England air-minded! Has Germany 10,000 aeroplanes?"2 -- the question explaining and justifying the demand.
The RAF roundels on the model aeroplane mark it out as a machine of war, not a pleasure craft or commercial aeroplane. So while I had fun making and trying to fly it, I was also replaying (in a very small way) the mobilisation of youth for the next air war. I wonder how many of the adolescent boys and girls who made it before me joined the RAF or the ATA when the prospect of war became reality, just five years later?
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