Well, I’ve finished it! Today was the last day of the “Great Spitfire Build”. I started this back in January 2016, there have been periods where I haven’t done any work on it for various reasons (e.g. eye trouble!), however I have been gradually chipping away at the outstanding tasks over the last couple of months,.
After the main assembly was completed at the beginning of March, I gave the model a couple of coats of Humbrol matt varnish spray, this was to give me a decent non absorbent surface ready for painting.
Next up was painting. I used Humbrol enamel paints – the same as I’d use for plastic kits. I didn’t want to use acrylic paints as those are water-based and I wasn’t sure what effect that would have on the tissue covering. The upper surfaces were painted in Dark Earth and Dark Dreen (Humbrol codes 29 and 30). I had wanted to use Duck Egg Blue (23) for the underside but this was impossible to get hold of (and I was getting a bit impatient by this time!) so I went with Aircraft Blue (65). RAF fighters of the period had their undersides painted in either one blue or the other so it wasn’t as if I was committing a major historical faux pas. OK, WWII pedant alert: that’s apart from the ones painted half black and half white. Moving on.
Next up, the markings. The kit was supplied with roundels and tail markings printed on a sheet of thin paper, so I cut these out and glued them in place using diluted PVA. I also wanted to add some squadron markings. I couldn’t find any suitable decals so I made some stencils using “Frogtape” masking tape. The result is a bit rough but I think it looks OK. “Good enough for Government work”, as American WWII pilots used to say. After that, just a bit of detail painting (gun port blanking, undercarriage, exhaust pipes, etc.) and a final finishing spray with the matt varnish.
Job done. I think it looks quite good, particularly as it’s the first non-plastic model I’ve made.
A note on the markings – I’ve painted it to depict Spitfire EB-G of 41 Squadron, flown by Eric Lock DSO DFC and Bar, on the 5th September 1940 when he shot down 3 enemy aircraft in one sortie.
Here are a couple of pictures:
On a ‘dark day’ in September I was supposed to be at RAF Hendon sitting in the cockpit of a Spitfire. Instead, I found myself in Addenbrooke’s Hospital having major eye surgery so I sent Bob in my place (he really enjoyed it!).
Luckily, the museum released some new dates and so, sitting at home waiting for my vision to return, I booked myself on another ‘Spitfire Cockpit Experience’. Something to look forward to as I recovered from my eye Op!
Fast forward to the very last day of October: here I am at the RAF Museum, Hendon.
So, I’d finally fulfilled one of my boyhood dreams: to sit in a Spitfire! I wasn’t disappointed.
Clambering in through the small door and sliding down into the pilot’s seat.
With the cockpit door closed I immediately felt part of the aircraft, scanning the instruments, handling the controls and breathing in the smells of ‘old aircraft’.
A view of the cockpit , I’ve even got my boots into the picture!
This is the sort of view the pilot gets while taxying, i.e. bugger all. He would have to zig zag to get a view of the runway ahead before accelerating to get the tail up.
They even loaned me a WWII flying helmet so I could do the full Biggles impersonation. Tally Ho!
‘My’ aircraft was Supermarine Spitfire MK XVI built at Castle Bromwich in 1944. Serial RW373, she spent her early life in a training role before moving to 31 Squadron at RAF Hendon in 1949 as the personal aircraft of the AOC Fighter Command. Damaged in a landing accident at Hendon in 1951, after repair she moved around a lot, including a spell as a Gate Guardian and museum displays, until finally returning to her current location in July 2015. You can get the full history from the RAF Museum archives.
Family visit to Bentley Priory last Wednesday. As you know, this was the headquarters of RAF Fighter Command during WW2. From there Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding ran the Battle of Britain. In later years the house became the Officers Mess for RAF Stanmore before being sold off to developers in 2008. Luckily part of the deal was for the Priory to be restored to host the Bentley Priory Museum. Lots of information here.
For anyone with an interest in WWII or history in general a visit is a must. For anyone ignorant of the part Bentley Priory played in the Battle of Britain (or even of the battle itself) it is definitely worth a visit, if for no other reason than the excellent short film which provides an excellent introduction.
To begin with, the Filter Room was located in the grand ballroom, however before the Battle of Britain it had been relocated to a much safer (and resilient) underground bunker. After the war this was filled in and a new bunker constructed in time for the Cold War, unfortunately this isn’t open to visitors. If you really want to see what the underground control room would have been like, there is an exact copy at RAF Uxbridge but that’s another story.