Rediscovering the joys of an old hobby during lockdown

Phil Le Brocq had not made models for years until the pandemic led him to revisit his former passion. And now he is winning model-making competitions and has made likeminded friends from around the world. By Gill Kay

ISLANDERS who have discovered a new skill – or revived an old one – during lockdown include Phil Le Brocq, who has picked up his model-making tools after a break of many years.

The marine engineer, who specialises in military models and aircraft in particular, says that the hobby has been a real boost during the pandemic.

‘I’ve built more in the last year than the last few put together,’ said Mr Le Brocq. ‘I started as a young kid, as many did, with the Airfix kit and carried on into my 20s. Then I basically took a 20-year break when my daughter was born as leaving sharp tools and bits-and-bobs lying around was a no-no. And despite many half attempts I never really got going again.

‘The saviour was Facebook after I saw a group build for a Harrier on a page and thought, “I’ve got one of those in the loft”. I entered and made a whole new group of friends. It was the first kit I had finished in over two decades and the rest is history.’

He added: ‘Building models is very relaxing and an absorbing hobby. It’s perfect in the current situation but when you finish a model and have few people interested in it, then it’s a real let down. But on the Facebook pages you can just share and enjoy.

‘To cut a long story short, I’m having fun and have made a whole new circle of friends. I only know a couple of others in Jersey who build, but with three outlets selling kits locally, there must be an interest.

‘If so, I’d love to hear from them.’

The Facebook group comprises around 80 international modellers who choose a subject for each project. Members then vote for their top three models, the scores are added together and the one with the most votes comes out on top.

As well as taking part in the Facebook group builds, the modeller also combines his other hobbies of family and local history in many of his projects, such as the model of a French Char B tank, which is a type used by the Germans in Jersey.

The model of the Tiger Moth is another example as it was an aircraft that his uncle, Peter Le Brocq, flew on his first solo flight during the Second World War and is pictured in front of his original flying log. Mr Le Brocq has also made a model of the Beaufighter that his uncle flew on D-Day with No 144 Squadron on a strike that prevented three German Destroyers reaching the invasion fleet. Sadly, Peter Le Brocq didn’t survive the war.

‘My uncle was the youngest pilot in the RAF and made his first solo flight in 1941 when he was 16,’ Mr Le Brocq said. ‘He was killed in 1944 when he was 19 and already had been a pilot and an instructor and was on his second tour of anti-shipping strikes. It was a very short but eventful career.’

Peter Le Brocq died in a crash and fire on the evening of 21 July 1944 while attempting a single-engine landing at Strubby airfield, near Alford, Lincolnshire. After a campaign led by Mr Le Brocq, his uncle’s name was finally added to the St Brelade parish war memorial in 2016.

As well as making incredibly accurate and detailed models, Mr Le Brocq also uses Photoshop software to create a more realistic image. ‘It adds a whole different dimension and the Spitfire and Mosquito photos are examples of this. The Lancaster NX611 ‘Just Jane’ kit was another group build that is now at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, which is where the original ‘Just Jane’ ‘is based.’

One of his models has won an international group-build competition held by the Revell model-making company. His model of a B-17 bomber came out on top and earned him the prize of a new model – a kit of a 1/32-scale Mustang plane.

Mr Le Brocq works primarily on 1/48-scale aircraft and 1/35-military models and most have a local or personal interest. Occasionally, though, he likes to try something a little different, such as one of his earlier projects – the 1/350-scale German battleship Bismarck. His latest completed major build was a Junkers JU52 set in a desert diorama, again for a Facebook group build.

He is currently working on a model of a German artillery piece from the Occupation period. ‘It’s a large gun which is a limited production 1/35-scale resin kit of the type of French weapon used by the Germans at Batterie Roon at La Moye, where the prison now stands,’ he said. ‘It’s a 22cm K532 (f) and they were biggest guns in Jersey.

‘And now I have the great question... what to build next?’

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