Spitfire Mk.Vb Tropical- Malta Defender.

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Spitfire! 

Yes, another one and why not? I love Spitfire’s and I am obsessed with them! I am particularly interested in Battle of Britain and Malta Spitfire’s hence why I build so many of them. Upon seeing the camouflage scheme of AB264, a Mk.Vb Tropical Spitfire that saw action with 249 Squadron RAF I was fascinated and wanted to discover more.

Now there is a lot of speculation as to certain schemes and colours on Malta based Spitfire’s and I can find 4 different paint schemes for this one airframe. From what I can gather what I have here is my best guess based on the evidence of my research.

A little bit of History: 

AB264 is noted for being a survivor of  Operation Spotter which took place 76 years ago. The first Spitfires to be based outside of the UK were flown to the island of Malta in March 1942. The aircraft initially were sent in crates to Gibraltar where they were assembled on the quayside under the cover of darkness to prevent the Spanish from informing the Germans. The part assembled aircraft were craned on to HMS Eagle where further work on them continued including the fitting of a 90 gallon extra fuel tank. The carrier set sail for Malta, but problems during testing with fuel transfer from the Spitfires extra fuel tanks forced a return to Gibraltar to await a specialist from Supermarine to fly out and resolve the problem.


HMS Eagle and it’s escort convoy set out for Malta once again, it’s 15 aircraft were ready to go- One other had been used for spare parts.
The Spitfire had never before been flown off an aircraft carrier and the 15 pilots had also never flown off an aircraft carrier in any aircraft before. The engines of the aircraft had been run up and tested onboard, but the aircraft had not been flown since being assembled. All 15 Spitfires and their pilots arrived safely after the flight of around 600 miles from the middle of the mediterranean to Malta.
Spitfire AB344 is seen with a 90 gallon additional fuel tank whilst still in England and was flown off the carrier by Flt Sgt Paul Brennan. On Malta it was marked as GN-M and flew with the others as part of 249 Squadron, this Spitfire shared in the destruction of one enemy aircraft but was destroyed on the ground in a bombing raid on April 18th 1942, it’s flying life had lasted less than 15 hours.

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Spitfire’s tethered to the deck of HMS Eagle:

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HMS Eagle crew securing the new Spitfires to the flight deck:
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One of the 15 Spitfire’s taking off from the carrier HMS Eagle on route to Malta                in March 1942:
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Spitfire Mk.Vb AB264 was flown to Malta by P/O Peter Nash as part of Operation Spotter on March 7 1942. On March 25th P/O Nash shot down a Ju87 whilst flying this aircraft, and also used it in the shared probable destruction of a Ju88 2 days later. During March the Spitfire was also used by P/O Robert ‘Buck’ McNair DFC in damaging several German aircraft . In November 1942 a Ju88 was shot down by the aircraft’s guns whilst flown by Sgt Thomas Kebbell. AB264 was the only one of the 16 Spotter aircraft to leave Malta, being passed to the United States Army Air Force in1943 and going on to serve in the middle east in 1944.

Here is AB264 as she was in Malta:

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It was during this time that records show this Spitfire being flown by P/O Robert Wendell “Buck” McNair D.F.C. (RCAF) of No. 249 (Gold Coast) Squadron, Royal Air Force at Ta’ Qali, Malta during March 1942.

It is noted that when the 249 Squadron Spitfire’s arrived in Malta they were quickly overpainted with a “locally sourced” blue/grey paint to cover the RAF Middle Stone. This resulted in a highly unusual camouflage scheme of RAF Dark Earth and Blue/Grey upper surfaces over a RAF Sky lower surfaces. Here we have much discussion between historians and modellers as to what was the correct colour of the undersides. Some like me, go with RAF Sky whilst others believe that RAF Sky Blue is more likely to have been used. Whatever it was, we will never know for sure so we take our best guess and paint our model.

The kit:

For this build I went straight to Tamiya’s Spitfire Mk.Vb Tropical as I believe it to be the very best Mk.Vb in 1/48 scale available.

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This is a kit that is a true pleasure to build! All I added to it was an etched brass seat harness and decals from Airfix’s latest Mk.Vb Spitfire release.

Work began in the Cockpit:

I hand painted the details on the Instrument Panel, this is a great way to add life to the interior of the airframe.

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All the interior parts have been drybrushed and given a thin enamel wash to accentuate the details.

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Paint!

The assembled model:

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First stage: The model is primed in black and a marble coat for the camouflage pattern is airbrushed on.

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I used Mr.Hobby RAF Dark Earth and my own mix of “Local Blue/Grey” derived from Tamiya acrylics. The pattern was sprayed freehand with my new Infinity CR+ airbrush.

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The next stage was apply the decals, seal them in clear gloss varnish so that the weathering process could begin. For this I used AK Interactive Paneliner and artists oils.

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In-between weathering process’s I began to detail the landing gear:

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Eventually, the model came together with finished airframe, landing gear, canopy and wires.

Here is my finished model of AB264, it was a true pleasure to build.

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I hope you have enjoyed this model as much as I have! This Spitfire is a tribute to the brave men of the RAF who defended Malta against overwhelming odds in 1942.

Take care and Happy Modelling!

Darren.

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Spitfire Mk.Vb Tropical- Malta Defender.

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