Welcome to the Workbench.
67 Squadron, on which I spent a year, was one of those less-known units that came and went, in the Middle East in WW I, in Burma and India in the Second World War and in Germany for the beginng of the Cold War. My time with them, and subseqently 148's Valiants, must have contributed to my abiding interest in squadron histories and markings, particularly RAF, and has been a constant factor in much of my modelling. I have seen a few pictures of 67's aircrft over the years, but I've only ever seen one of a Spitfire in Burma; so to find one included on the DK decals was a real treat, not only when it identified it's pilot as the Squadron CO, Sqn Leader R. Day (confirmed by the invaluable John Rawlings whose "Fighters" book fostered and confirmed my squadron addiction) but also revealed the name Mary Ann on the nose (any further information on a postcard, please). I've had a Hasegawa Spitfire VIII lurking on one of the nearer fringes of my stashes for several years, and pleading to be used even though I'd stopped making single-engined Spitfires; the arrival of the DK decals was obviously A Sign, and to be on the safe side I added a Freightdog pointed rudder.
Apart from Mary Ann, my only recent modelling link with Spitfires had been my series of a dozen or so Supermarine 327 "Shrews"; one of the virtues of the Freightdog kit was the chance to pick fron a considerable variety of Spitfire schemes to give the essential artistic verisimilitude, giving me an unexpected chance to pursue my addiction with colour schemes and markings. About a year later the Airfix 1:48th F.XIV/14 which I planned to build as the one of the aircraft flown by Flt.Lt. Harry Walmsley with 130 Squadron in early 1945, when he became the leading Griffon-Spitfire ace, ten years before he was my Boss on 67 Squadron, which led by a slighly devious route to not one but this "flight" of three Spitfires albeit in 1:72nd.
The trouble was unusually this time not the scale but the version; I checked with the Osprey Griffon Spitfire Aces book, and found a photo of one that he'd flown. Airfix, unfortunately, had chosen the "teardrop" canopy version, but the photo showed a "high-back" one and the books went back on their shelves but the intent stayed with me, and was revived quickly with the appearance of the Sword kit of three Griffon-powered aircraft in 1:72nd giving once again the chance of various finishes, one being immediately earmarked as that of Flt.Lt. Harry Walmsley when he was with 130 Squadron.
The scheme for this was straightforward, needing me only to ensure that I had some Xtracrylix Ocean Grey to hand, and with the photo being black and white making the assumption that the spinner would have been black; for the codes I checked that I had a set of Xtradecal Sky 18". For my second Griffon-powered I wanted to use the modified scheme used by the RAF in Palestine to distinguish their Spitfires quickly from those used by the Israelis and the Egyptians, with light slate grey in place of dark green, as described in the SAM Camouflage & Markings No.5 9 (without which of course no modeller's library is complete). With this the aircraft turned in to a Mark XVIII; fortunately on consulting Peter Caygill, whose book was rarely out of reach until the models were ready to be photographed, the differences were all internal, though I did add the two under-fuselage camera windows. The unit markings were from an Xtradecal Griffon set, though I took the liberty of using 32 Squadron colours and markings on a 208 aircraft, or possibly the other way round. What I hadn't remembered or perhaps even realised is that when this modified scheme was applied so were the new pattern roundels, those that became known as "D" type; the combination of these colours and markings looks as though it should be in a What If line up, in to which I might put it one day to see if it raises a few eyebrows.
Just as I really started on these Airfix produced their Spitfire Vc, with two strikes in its favour in USAAF desert colours and a sharkmouth, which as you may know by now I find very hard to resist. I must say I was very impressed by the kit; as well as the imagination shown in an uncommon marking the standard of moulding and fit was first class. In comparison I had more problems with the Sword offerings; how much was self-induced I'm not sure, but fitting the lower wing part and the two upper wing halves gave me a bit of head-scratching, and it didn't seem to make any difference with the clipped tips option. I am of course always impressed by a sharkmouth.
There are three Griffon Spitfires in the Sword package, and I used parts from all of them to make the first two in this group; my main problem, and I was never sure whether it was my bad fit or theirs, was fitting the upper wing halves where it seems they should go on the the one piece lower wing, notably around the flaps/upper trailing edge. The moulding looked very good, sharp and flash-free, but I must confess to a prejudice; ever since I started on the kits I've built frm mid-1955 on I've liked having the pip-and-socket arrangement when parts are positioned and joined, even if I've had to remove the occasional pip. My IPMS and Berkshire John Salmon, now sadly long gone, made a point of removing all the pips, but I've always found them a help; as far as I know Sword among others don't use them at all. The need for them may of course be another sign of the difference between modellers and assemblers of plastic kits. I suspect that the twinges of frustration that I went through with these, especially the Sword Spitfires, may be down to me as much as to the kits; certainly I muttered less over the Airfix Vb. More or less by chance one of the next two kits sitting on the edge of my cutting mat was also by Sword, and give me an interesting second view.
Drawing another Sword
Following the Spitfires both of this pair were chosen because of the intended markings, and after some head-scraching over the little Eclipse 400 "Very Light Jet" I decided that it should be assigned to the Empire Test Pilots School; this was prompted by an Air-Graphics set of decals which had a striking hawk's head intended for an ETPS Hawk. Once I was well in to its build I realised that the head was just too big to fit properly on the airframe, but I stuck with The Plan and did at least get the title on to the engine nacelle; just don't ask me what its owners are going to use it for, but I enjoyed it, and would like a slightly used one for my next birthday, please. The hawk's head will be stored carefully in the pending bay, and I hope for a decal for the Boscombe PC-21 (the kit of which is also on my pending shelf).
My picking up the second of this pair was immediate as soon as I recognised the 831 Squadron's emblem on the cowling, a small cartoon character called Flook, who featured in a Daily Mail strip in the 'sixties (for further reference see the note on the Mike's World page; he was for a while an integral part of it!). It's a while since I made anything in gloss sea blue, which I've always thought of as a colour which can save almost any model, a recommendation which should be in any Coarse Modeller's Handbook, and it marks the Admiralty's getting a batch of "new" Avengers post WWII to fill a gap in its capabilities. Five were allocated to 831 NAS as ECM.6s and based at Culdrose though the instructions mention Syerston; perhaps it was only visiting. I may add a CU tail code some day if it ever gets the chance of an outing on the SIG table. I enjoyed making it, though I did have much the same problems positioning some of the parts as I had with the Sword Spitfires; I'm still not sure how much of it was my fault, and I'm still looking forward to their NF.14 (I think 60 had an all-white Venom, and I think these quirks should be perpetuated).
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