World War 2, shortage of model supplies

As the 2nd World War (not the first, as some people who shall remain nameless like to infer) became more intense, modelling supplies were no longer manufactured or imported so were very, very scarce, all most impossible to find. My pal Denny Jones( who some of our members knew, I use the word knew as he is no longer with us) and I would cycle miles if we heard of a shop who had some balsa or tissue still in stock. It was on one of these forages that I first meet Bob Goslin when we visited his model department, which was a counter in his wife’s wool shop on Aigbirth road Liverpool. In the pre war years, Bob Goslin was well known in the model gliding world for his many designs of sport gliders, including the Baby Gull, Ivory Gull, Tern and others I can not remember.

Engines where no longer available, if you where lucky enough to have one you were not supposed to fly them.( it was something to do with spies using Power models to send message to the enemy. Who thought that one up I do not know, some crack pot politician no doubt.)Rubber, as you can imagine, was unobtainable, although we did try cutting up cycle inner tubes with out much success. As we had no choice other than gliders, gliders it had to be and what better choice than the Baby Gull. Denny and I purchased a plan from Bob Goslin, along with some wood, tissue and a tube of balsa cement and of course the all important tin of dope.(strangely this was never in short supply, probably because it was required for the full size aircraft and the dregs sold off for other uses.)I can’t remember how much all this cost, not much because at the time I had just started work (in those days you left school at 14 years old and continued you studies at night school after a day work) and was earning the princely sum of 5 shilling a week (25 pence in today’s money.) of which I gave my Mother half.

The Baby Gull was some where in the region of 30ins wing span and was designed for thermal soaring and was very light, as most of the gliders of that period where. Slope soaring was in it’s infancy as far as model gliders where concerned and not really practical because of the travel restrictions during the war. Travel did become a lot easier in the later stages of the war and I was able to get my first taste of slope soaring, which I never lost, but more about that later on.

The method of launch for these light weight models was a by tow line, which consisted of a reel of cotton, yes cotton and a paper clip bent to shape and bound to the bottom longron just in front of the CofG. Not unlike today’s method, except a lot lighter and of course you had to run like hell to obtain any height, not a problem in my younger days.

As there were no radios in those days, (certainly not during the war, that was most defiantly a no no,) a method of preventing a fly away, should you be lucky enough to find a thermal was advisable. This was achieved by the use of a de-thermaliser, which tipped the Tailplane up to a steep angle causing the model to stall, so breaking it out of the thermal and returning it to Mother earth. The system we used then was very simple, consisting of a light rubber band to pull the Tailplane up and a length of cotton to hold it down, this had a fuse tied in the middle of it which would burn through the cotton and allow the Tailplane to pop up. The longer the fuse, the longer the flight, that is so long as you remembered to insert a piece of silver paper between the model and the fuse to prevent it catching fire, I did witness such a mishap on a couple of occasions, very spectacular, but not for the person who’s model it was.

Following on from the Baby Gull, I built two more of Bob Goslin’s designs, which where a little larger in wing span. These were the Ivory Gull and the Tern, both excellent flyers.