Joe LoMusio sent in photos of his stunning WWI diorama, “The Pulpit”. He shares with us the great story behind the photo that inspired the build (and an amazing video link showing the actual event!), as well as his experiences building the model. Thanks for sharing this with us Joe!
Be sure and check out more of Joe’s work on his website, “World War One Modeler”.
As a pastor, the moment I first saw the photo of an RAF Chaplain conducting a Sunday morning service from the front nacelle of an FE2b, I was inspired. As a modeler, I knew I wanted to recreate it in a diorama. I began to do research on the photo, which led me to contacting David Blake, Curator of the Museum of Army Chaplaincy, Amport House, England. Mr. Blake sent me valuable information, including the Chaplain’s name and the location of the No. 2 Supply Depot, where the service took place on that September morning, 1918.
The Chaplain in the photograph is Reverend James Rowland Walkey (1880 – 1960). He was an Army Chaplain at Woolwich from 1911 – 1914. He then served in France and Flanders from 1914 – 1918. He was promoted to Senior Chaplain 19th Division in 1915 – 16, then DACG VII Corps 1916 – 18, and became Deputy Chaplain in Chief RAF from 1918 – 19. Rev. Walkey continued to serve with distinction and became Chaplain in Chief RAF 1933 – 1940, thereby serving in two world wars. He retired in 1940.
As to the location, 2 Aeroplane Supply Depot was formed at Fienvillers in November 1917, as part of 2 Aircraft Depot and serving squadrons on the southern part of the Front that worked with the Third and Fifth Armies and 9th (HQ) Wing. The unit was at Hesdin from May until at least July, and then Berck-sur-Mer by August, 1918, and remained there to the Armistice.
The famous photo may be a still captured from an actual video of the ceremony. Incredibly, Mr. Blake sent me a link to the one minute clip of the actual service depicted in the photo. The image appears to be a still from a Film sequence ‘September Offensive’ and the footage can be viewed at these sites:
As to the diorama itself, I first entertained the idea of doing the FE2b offered by Wingnut Wings, which would be a spectacular model (as all WNW kits are), but the 1:32 scale would be too large and the many figures I would need would be difficult to obtain in that scale. I decided to find the only 1:48 scale FE2b available, which would be the old kit by Aeroclub. I finally found one on eBay.
The Aeroclub 1:48 scale FE2b by today’s standards is a “crude” kit. It lacks much of the detail and parts that make kits, like Wingnut Wings, so enjoyable to build. To bring this FE2b up to acceptable standards, many hours of scratch-building and refining occurred.
Some of these scratch built additions include: wood grain decals for interior (created on my computer); fuel tank under pilot’s seat; map, gauge wires, magneto switch, throttle and wires; engine sparkplug wires, engine oil tank; gas and radiator caps; real wood laminated propeller; undercarriage struts; control horns and cable pulleys. The Bible that the Chaplain is holding is also made of real paper and thin cardboard.
Additionally, some aftermarket items were used:
- Seatbelts (Eduard’s British WWI set)
- Gauges (Copper State Models British set #132)
- Instrument dials (Airscale generic WWI AS48)
- Wind speed indicator (spare box)
- Turnbuckles (Gas Patch models, Type A and Type C)
- EZ Line and Wonder Wire for rigging.
The figures used were from Eduard WWI ground crew kits, as well as some ICM crews. Out of all these, only one – the French ground crew – had a sitting figure. Many hours were spent in recasting arms, legs, torsos, heads, garrison caps, etc, and then repositioning each one to various sitting and reclining positions. I also decided to add some officers standing in the back row, swagger sticks and all, plus one French officer. The base was made to look like a podium (pulpit) which disassembles for easier transport and storage. Static grass was used for the field and some drums, cans and supply depot junk are strewn about. In the lower right corner is my testimony to the Crucifixion and the Savior, something and Someone that certainly would have been the focus of the Chaplain’s comments that September Sunday morning on the Western Front.