Roy Cross and his Airfix Dogfight Doubles
by Jeremy Briggs
In the mid-1970s the plastic kits manufactured by British firm Airfix were omnipresent in toyshops, newsagents and corner shops around the country with their dramatic box illustrations making them stand out on the shelves. At that time Airfix had a 75% share of the United Kingdom plastic kit market and the company was selling some 20 million kits annually, the vast majority of which had illustrations on their boxes painted by one man – Roy Cross.
Born in Southwark in London in 1924, Cross had attended the Camberwell School of Art before moving into the aviation industry as a technical illustrator during WWII. After the war he began producing commercial advertising artwork, wrote and illustrated books, produced cutaway images for adults in Flight magazine and children in Eagle comic and, by the early 1960s, he was painting covers for both Eagle and its sibling comic Swift and signing them with his distinctive “- CROSS -” signature.
The modern Airfix company released new pairings of Dogfight Doubles in the 2000s however the original batch of Dogfight Doubles that Roy Cross provided the box artwork for in the 1960s and 1970s were as follows –
Series 2 – Dog Fight Series
Camel and Albatross (WWI – issued in 1966 as 02140-3)
F2B and Fokker DR1 (WWI – issued in 1966 as 02141-6)
Roland and RE8 (WWI – issued in 1966 as 02142-9)
Series 3 – Dogfight Doubles
Beaufighter and Bf109 (WWII – issued in 1967 as 03140-6)
Spitfire and Bf110 (WWII – issued in 1967 as 03141-9)
Mosquito and Me262 (WWII – issued in 1967 as 03142-3)
Mirage and MiG-15 (Six Day War – issued in 1968 as 03143-5)
Stormovik and FW190 (WWII – issued in 1969 as 03144-8)
Cessna O-2 and MiG-21 (Vietnam War – issued in 1971 as 03145-1)
The RAF Museum at Hendon in London is planning an exhibition about Airfix which is due include examples of Roy Cross’ artwork for the company. The exhibition is due to open in June 2013 and is planned to relocate to the RAF Museum at Cosford in Autumn 2014. Both RAF Museums are free.
There is a highly detailed account of Roy Cross’ career on the Hatfield Hertfordshire website. There is more general information on Airfix box artists by Airfix expert Arthur Ward on the Collecting Friends website. Details of all Airfix kits currently available are on the Airfix website.
(* The photo of Roy Cross, taken in 2011, was borrowed from the Airfix Facebook page.)