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  1. Ok so, a lawyer’s natural prudence counsels caution. So I’ll begin with some caveats.... I start from a position of not knowing terribly much about the Spitfire (an admission I feel a need to apologise for on this forum) ; I haven't done much (alright hardly any) modelling for a couple of years - as a result of busy life syndrome and a Hawk build wallowing in the heavy buffet just short of flicking and spinning – and so a decent result is far from assured . But the chance to contribute a model to the 453rd Bomber Group Museum was an opportunity not to be missed - and so I find myself in possession of a Tamiya 1/48 Spitfire Vb, courtesy of James Clarey (Jim) the proprietor of the Museum; and an enthusiasm build a model that’s been absent for a while (my enthusiasm's been absent I mean…not that the model has been AWOL ). @CedB and @Ex-FAAWAFU and @woody37 have 453rd BG builds under way already – and others are sure to follow To get up to speed on the Spitfire I’ve a modest number of books and of course the world wide web to refer to. I’ve had the kit for a week or so now and have already enjoyed myself reading up on the 4th FG and the Spitfire Vb. There are of course any number of Britmodeller threads containing much accumulated and shared wisdom on the Spitfire – not the least of course from the late Edgar Brooks, but also from many other knowledgeable BM’ers. I’ve also shamelessly searched BM for build threads to crib from and have to give honourable mentions to @PlaStix and @giemme Tamiya 1/48 Vb threads. The Tamiya 1/48 Vb kit dates from as long ago as the mid 90’s so it’s no longer state of the art; and I know there are a few shape issues on close inspection (e.g. short fuselage, wing chord too long and a “square shouldered” look to the engine cowling). But I think it looks more than enough like a Spitfire when it isn’t sat for comparison on a set of accurate plans, so I don’t think I’ll be correcting any of those things. And I’ll just have to keep my effort well away from any accurate plans! Giorgio also pointed out that the wheel wells are too oval – but like him I’ll leave them as they are. It’s only noticeable when looking exactly perpendicular at the underside; at any other angle even perfectly circular wells look oval anyway! As to the 4th FG. Most if not all on BM will know that in late September 1942 the 3 Eagle squadrons (71, 121 and 133) were absorbed in to the USAAF and became respectively the 334th, 335th and 336th Fighter Squadrons and that they kept their Spitfire Vb’s, albeit only until about March 1943 by which time they’d re-equipped with the P47. If I’ve got it right the 334th spitfires kept 71 squadron’s XR aircraft codes, the 335th kept 121 squadron’s AV codes and the 226th kept 133 squadrons MD codes. Jim is sending me some decals (I hope he can get hold of some – I can’t find any Eagle Squadron or 4th FG aircraft decals actually available in the UK at the moment!) and I’ve yet to decide what aircraft to build. More of which below. One of the things I’ve learned about the Spitfire Vb is that at any given time they came in all sorts of different modification states depending on where and when they were built and what had been done to them on the squadrons. Thus any given aircraft may have had (if I’ve got my research right): The old external armoured windscreen or the later internal armoured windscreen. Most but not all of the 4th FG spitfires seem to have been built at the Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory (CBAF) and to have the old external armoured windscreen. The older flat sided canopy or the later blown sided canopy. The blown sided canopy goes with the internal armoured windscreen; but there are many photographs of Vb’s with the old external armoured windscreen that have been fitted with a blown sided canopy (and I’m sure that any fighter pilot would prefer to have a blown sided canopy fitted if at all possible!). Rotol or DeHavilland propellers. Most Vbs seem to have Rotol propellers and I think that CBAF Vbs were all produced with Rotol propellers. Round or Fishtail exhausts. I’ve seen photographs of both types on 4th FG spitfires. Covered wheel hubs or uncovered 5 spoke wheels. Most photo’s show the latter. For this reason I’m quite keen to build an aircraft that I can find decent photo’s of – so as to get these things correct. However I’m pretty sure that: None of the 4th FG aircraft will have had the over wing stiffeners fitted. Edgar posted that this mod was introduced on the production line from 16/7/42 and so whilst they could be and were retrofitted (viz the IWM Mk 1 having them) I don’t think any of the 4th FG aircraft will have been done in late 42/early 43 (I’ve not seen any photographs definitely showing them). All will have had VHF radios and so had the two wire antennas from the fuselage sides to the tailplane, but no wire from the radio mast to the tailplane. Jim emailed me some colour plates of particular aircraft and I’ve seen one or two on the web; I’ve also seen several photo’s (mostly on the IWM ‘American Air Museum’ website IWM American Air Museum) and the moment amongst the best reference photo’s I’ve seen are the following (all photos from IWM American Air Museum) BM510 (XR-A) of the 334th which I know was flown by Maj. Gregory A 'Gus' Daymond and Capt. Robert Lee ‘Junior” Piser (pictured here): BM240 (MD-L) of the 336th which I know was flown by Maj. Carl H ‘Spike’ Miley. And EN768 (AV-W) of the 335th for which I don’t have a pilot’s name (any idea’s anyone?) Although there are other aircraft/pilot combinations and so I’ll just have to see what further information I can find. And so to the kit. Which probably needs no introduction but which’ll get one anyway. There are only 3 sprues: The cockpit detail was probably excellent for the time but ain’t nothing special by today’s standards. My first thoughts are that the some of the moulded in ribs are useable but the details like the IFF remote contactor, morse key and trim wheels etc. will have to be replaced. Also the characteristic floorless cockpit isn’t captured at all. In truth I’ve had one of these kits in my attic for donkey’s years gathering dust. So at at least I’ve a spare to pinch bits from when it all goes to worms. Also I found some extra’s I had squirreled away and after blowing the dust orf.... Aires cockpit set. I like the IP and will probably use the seat (although it needs modification) and selected bits of the rest. Not going to use the cockpit sides as supplied but might pinch bits from them. Eduard Mk 1 etched set. Shan’t be using them flaps. Spitfire’s weren't routinely parked with the flaps down and that’s just way to fiddly-to-far when it’s not even representative . Crispin is the photo-etch maestro and I aren't interested in competing with him..... Eduard Mk Vb etched set. Might use the odd grill or map case from that. And I’ve just invested in a few goodies: Master brass cannons. Saw Crisp’s ones on his P38 thread and thought gotta see if they have Spitfire VB cannons. They do and they’re awesome. If the rest of the model turns out rubbish - at least the cannons will look good Quickboost door. It’s technically for the Mk IX and for the Eduard kit to boot – but if there’s any difference from the Vb I’m not aware of it and it was so cheap I just had to.... Quickboost mirrors. Again just so cheap. And the sort of silly detail that can really be eye catching (maybe draw attention away from the poorly filled seam lines?) HGW Sutton harness. Ridiculously detailed. So many tiny parts I’m not even sure I’ll be able to put it together successfully. But if I can it’ll look great. Actually this is one thing I’m not going to follow Edgar’s views on. He argued on BM and elsewhere that with the earlier resin and paper seats the ‘Y’ straps would have gone over the back of the seat rather than inside and through the hole in the back of the seat (as the seats were too weak). Others argued otherwise. There doesn't seem to be a definitive answer to the question and so I’m going to go with the visually more attractive ‘inside and through the hole in the back of the seat’ approach. Plus I know from experience just how important it is in a fighter cockpit to be able to bend forward in the seat to look back over your shoulder; and I have to say that I struggle a little in principle to accept Edgar’s view that with the ‘Y’ straps over the back of the seat the ‘Y’ could slide down either side of the seat back to let the pilot bend forward. Of course he may be right. I'm a self confessed Spitfire no-nowt and what do I know at the end of the day? Ok. So. Fair enough, I’ve still not actually started any modelling! But I’m definitely closer to it than any time in the last few years!!! More in a few days’ time. Steve.
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