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Procopius

The Killer Destroyer (1/72 Xtrakit Spitfire XII)

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"Qu'il avoit cainte Escalibor, la meillor espee qui fust, qu'ele trenche fer come fust."

[For at his belt hung Excalibur, the finest sword that there was, which sliced through iron as through wood.]

 

-- Chrétien de Troyes, Perceval, le Conte du Graal (c.12th century)

 

 

On 3 September 1944, eight Spitfire XIIs of 41 Squadron laden with 90-gallon "slipper" tanks took off from Lympne on Ranger A10, a deep penetration sweep in the Liege area, lead by Flight Lieutenant Terry Spencer at the head of Black Section. Over Louvain, with 7/10ths cloud all the way down to 4,500 feet, Spencer ordered White Section to remain up as top cover and took the four Spitfires of his own section down to look for trade. Almost immediately, Flight Lieutenant Bill Stowe spotted a trio of Fw190A-8s from Stab II./JG26, lead by Hauptmann Emil "Bully" Lang, a so-called "experte" with 173 victory claims, though all but 28 of these were from the Eastern Front; Lang was accompanied by the 52-claim ace Leutnant Alfred Goss, and Unteroffizier Hans-Joachim Borreck. The three aircraft were following the rest of JG26 in its ignominious flight east from Brussels-Melsbroek to Dusseldorf, ahead of the annihilating wave of the Allied ground advance, then in full swing. Lang's aircraft had mechanical difficulties, which had delayed his takeoff. Possibly, had he more than four months experience of the Western Front and what the RAF and USAAF were capable of, Lang would have been more circumspect about risking a daytime ferry flight in an aircraft with mechanical difficulties. 

 

The Spitfires swooped in to attack. 

 

Flight Lieutenant Spencer got behind Lang immediately and opened fire, but Leutnant Goss, flying #2 to Lang, began shooting at Spencer's Spitfire, hitting the starboard wing and elevator before Spencer brought the Spitfire's superior turning ability into play, pulling into a sharp turn to port that the Fw190 was unable to follow. Lang, too, had broken to port, and Spencer found himself again behind the German ace. With 1 and 1/2 rings deflection, Spencer opened fire again, and Lang's undercarriage, which had previously taken ten minutes to retract after he'd gotten airborne, dropped, slowing the Fw190 dramatically. Spencer gave Lang another long burst (he was found to have expended 220 rounds of 20mm and 840 rounds of .303, out of a total of 240 and 1200, respectively), and the butcher bird burst into flames and smashed itself to pieces upon the ground. It was Spencer's first victory over a manned aircraft. 

 

While all of this was happening, Warrant Officer Peter Chattin had engaged and damaged the Fw190 of Unteroffizier Borreck (who subsequently force-landed after his windscreen became obscured by oil), but was in turn shot down by Leutnant Goss; Chattin tried to belly-land his Spitfire, but died of a serious head injury, presumably from hitting his face on his gunsight during the landing, although it's not impossible that he was in fact murdered by the German soldiers who recovered his body, as subsequent information may suggest. He had two children, a son aged four years and a daughter only nine months old.

 

Goss didn't have long to enjoy his victory, as the Flight Lieutenant Bill Stowe and his wingman, Warrant Officer Coleman turned in like medieval knights at a joust and attacked Goss's Fw190 head on in succession; Goss appears to have been attempting an Immelman turn, first dropping his nose to gain speed and then pulling up vertically, but he miscalculated badly, and went up directly in front of Coleman at a range of thirty yards. Coleman, who would ultimately end the war with five victories plus two shared, made the most of his opportunity, and gave the Fw190 everything he had at point blank range. Goss bailed out of his stricken aircraft, but was then shot and severely wounded in his parachute  by German soldiers on the ground; he never flew again and died of TB in 1947.

 

These two aerial victories were the only ones scored by 41 Squadron in all of 1944, and the last two aircraft shot down by Spitfire XIIs ever; at the time, Spencer and Coleman were the only two pilots in the squadron to have shot down enemy aircraft while with 41 (though Spencer had shot down a number of V-1s while on anti-Diver patrols, inlcuding one knocked down with his wingtip on 9 August 1944). They had permanently removed two German aces with combined claims of 225 Allied aircraft from the war, saving countless Allied lives. 

 

Subsequently, Terry Spencer had a fascinating career as a photojournalist (including following the then largely-unknown Beatles about in 1962) and married the film actress Leslie Brook, a union which lasted 62 years; they died within twenty-four hours of each other in 2009. He never shot down another aircraft after Lang.

 

41 Squadron is profoundly unusual among WWII-era RAF squadrons in that it's the beneficiary of a sweeping and comprehensively-researched two-volume squadron history by Steve Brew, both volumes of which I have, and either one of which, thrown with sufficient force, could stun or possibly even kill an adult water buffalo. This is rather helpful when researching stuff like this, though unfortunately there are few good photographs of the aircraft.

 

I have decided to build Spencer's Spitfire XII on Ranger A10, EB-B/MB882; here she is in all her glory.

 

42964175480_348129a884_b.jpg16807657_1429648753726599_7063633498269721299_n by Edward IX, on Flickr

 

In September of 1944 when operating over the continent, she would surely have worn invasion stripes, and of course, if you wondered about something, Britmodeller has a thread about it. It would appear they were underside only, which is fine by me. I'll be using the Xtrakit Spitfire XII, which is of course a Sword kit, the prototype of all subsequent Sword Spitfire kits, and mighty rough it is, too. 

 

It's been a long time since I built an Xtrakit XII, but let's hop in the wayback machine and see what it looked like way back in 2011:

 

30904979758_b19c508a24_b.jpg333717_272714309420055_1162695243_o by Edward IX, on Flickr

 

Oh dear.

 

My first task was to take my trusty micro-chisel and scrape out the many ejector pins that would prevent closure of the wings and fuselage:

 

44055614094_59194cc1df_h.jpg20180918_221957 by Edward IX, on Flickr

 

Then some test-fitting, something I expect to do a shedload of with this build. In fact, if you don't like test-fitting, let me save you some time: you won't like building Sword Spitfires.

 

44055613934_2732dae3b1_h.jpg20180918_222336 by Edward IX, on Flickr

 

This actually looks a bit better than it is. 

 

44725161382_9cef5ce98a_h.jpg20180918_222352 by Edward IX, on Flickr

 

Great.

 

Even though it only causes pain and misery, I opted to box in the wheel wells with the kit parts:

 

44775029201_2b14f5120e_h.jpg20180918_232046 by Edward IX, on Flickr

 

They are far too tall, as they are on all Sword kits, and will need murderous sanding down that will probably ultimately defeat the point of including them. 

 

I also drilled out the locating holes for the landing gear -- Sword/Xtrakit had left one totally filled in and the other too small to admit the landing gear (the last time around, I discovered this only when it was time to add the gear, a memory of defeat and frustration that has stuck with me these seven years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm in. I believe you will do a better job on this one than the last one :D 

 

Cheers,

 

Stew

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1 minute ago, Stew Dapple said:

I believe you will do a better job on this one than the last one :D 

Fingers crossed.

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Me too :) 

Great background (as usual) PC and your experience will show this time, I'm sure of it!

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Great intro, PC, and I admire your willingness to have another go at a kit that doesn't sound too willing to be built!

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Fascinating story, and I'm sure this will turn out rather better than your previous essay.

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I'm overjoyed that you're doing a Spitfire XII, PC, especially as I have one of these in the stash but haven't yet gathered the strength to make it, so I'll be taking notes during the build. Mind you, I am a little disappointed that you're not doing a 91 squadron plane but life is full of disappointments and I'll get over it.

 

RAF Lympne, for those who don't know, is now an industrial estate. There are a few buildings still standing by the entrance to the Port Lympne wildlife park situated in the grounds of Phillip Sasson's former home which had been used as an officers mess during the War. I'm off work today and am going to visit a zoo but, sadly, I'm going to Howletts (the original park founded by John Aspinall) so won't be able to get any photographs of what's left of the airfield.

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Can I pull up a chair too? I watched your two lovely Hurris come to life and am sure you'll make an equally beautiful job of this Spit. 

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Great!  I have one of these to build , as well as 2 of the Aeroclub conversions.  I think the XII really looks the business!

Although to judge by a book about 41 I read, the chief losses of XIIs seemed to be due to failure of the slipper tank changeover switch, which left the pilot over France still with a full fuselage tank but no way to use it!

Cheers

Will

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What are you doing awake at this hour? No sleep for you?

But off course, the allure for a Griffon Spit is too strong, I get that 😁

 

Happy dryfitting!

And you seriously got me thinking of migrating my stash to Scalemates...

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Realised I should have referenced the 41 pilot's book, which is well worth reading, strong on anecdotes if not fact-heavy.  The book is quite humourous though some of the events must have been pretty grim at the time.  He certainly had an eventful service as you can perhaps see by the precis below I cribbed from Abebooks.

"Happy is the Day - A Spitfire Pilot's Story" - Tom Slack.

"Pilot training at Singapore in 1940, service in Iraq (siege of Habbaniya &c., shot down) then with 41 Squadron flying sweeps over Europe inc. supporting Normandy landings, &c. Shot down several more times, he evaded capture & escaped on one occasion, but then ended up in PoW camp in Germany until released (& re-imprisoned) by the Russians near Berlin. Illustrations include drawings made by the author whilst a PoW."

 

Cheers

Will

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Awesome sauce! My favourite Spitfire!

I shall definitely tag along with useless 'advice' and commentary from the bleachers here!

 

Now if only we could get an up to date Mk.XII in 1/72...

Ahem-hem, Jan, are you listening over there in KP/AZ land? :whistle:

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2 hours ago, Procopius said:

 Flight Lieutenant Bill Stowe spotted a trio of Fw190A-8s from Stab II./JG26, lead by Hauptmann Emil "Bully" Lang, a so-called "experte" with 173 victory claims, though all but 28 of these were from the Eastern Front; 

 

 

 

Lang's demise is also attributed to Lt. Darryl S. Cramer of the 55FG  flying P-51D CL*Z  Mick#5. Some 8th AF histories go so far as to say he was the top-scoring Luftwaffe ace downed by the 8th AF in air-to-air combat.

Lang's Wiki page allows for both possibilities.....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emil_Lang

 

The Fog of War......

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2 hours ago, Roger Holden said:

Lang's demise is also attributed to Lt. Darryl S. Cramer of the 55FG  flying P-51D CL*Z  Mick#5. Some 8th AF histories go so far as to say he was the top-scoring Luftwaffe ace downed by the 8th AF in air-to-air combat.

Lang's Wiki page allows for both possibilities.....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emil_Lang

 

The Fog of War......

Yes, however, the fact pattern more closely coincides with Spencer et al's claims: three Fw190s (as opposed to 3-6), two shot down and one damaged as opposed to one, an Allied aircraft lost as opposed to none, etc. Additionally, while neither a P-51 or a Spitfire looks more like a P-47D, the Spitfire's wing is more similar in shape to that of a P-47.

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Oooh, good choice, I've got one of these, which has been gently maturing as loft insulation ever since it was released.

 

If you think the fit is bad, it could always be worse - it could be the Model News XII which was (very) roughly Spitfire shaped and left the builder to carve/sand/grind out vast quantities of plastic more akin to sculpting than assembling. 

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Hello PC ... :drink:Really looking forward to this. I have a 1/48 resin conversion for a Mk.XII. I failed in the first attempt years ago, so it is waiting in the wings for its day. Guess I’ll pull up a stool at the Bar. Seeing as I’m a bit late to the happenings. 

 

Dennis

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Tonight I sprayed some of the interior parts Colourcoats RAF Interior Green and did a lot of fettling. I think once the paint dries tomorrow I can get the wings together and start on the cockpit interior. Were the Spitfire XIIs all green on the inside, or green and silver? The two compressed air tanks should then be grey?

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The tanks should be silver, at least that's what I have seen.  Green on the inside.  

 

Fascinating story too!

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4 minutes ago, John D.C. Masters said:

Fascinating story too!

Oh, half the fun of building them is finding the story behind them. There's a great line in Harry Pearson's wargaming memoir, Achtung Schweinhund!, that I think about sums it up for me, though I'm separated from his childhood by thirty years and five thousand miles:

 

"It says something about the difference between our two nations that the American comics were in colour while ours were in black and white. More than that, though, the nature of the heroes differed wildly. The American kids had Spiderman, Daredevil, Batman, and Thor. British kids had the Second World War. Burma and the Western Desert were our Gotham and Metropolis. The men who saved our world didn't have extraordinary powers, fancy gadgets, or bizarre costumes (though Keith's granddad sometimes wore his old jungle hat when he pruned the roses and Mr Maynard from down the road who'd help sink the Tirpitz owned a colour telly)."

 

I didn't read many comic books as a kid, but I vividly remember sitting in the library at age nine and nearly jumping out of my seat as I read that Tobruk fell to Rommel. It was like it was happening for the first time for me at that age; the war was and is as real to me as anything.

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Like isn’t a strong enough reaction for that post. The line about “The men who saved our world...” chokes me up every time. 

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Very moving PC - that post made me think a lot about the generations that went to war not to protect us from 'Clear and Present Danger' but to stop the spread of 'evil'.

There's a lot to be said for the quiet men who did so much to defend our way of life; we really should remember them and live our lives with respect for the country and way of life that they gave so much to defend.

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4 hours ago, Procopius said:

Were the Spitfire XIIs all green on the inside, or green and silver? The two compressed air tanks should then be grey? 

As i understand it, it depends on when the aircraft was built: before September 1943, the Interior would be aluminium (apart from the cockpit; after September 1943, the whole interior would (or could) be Grey-green.

I think the compressed air bottles could be painted Aluminium, Black or left in Primer Grey.

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3 hours ago, Procopius said:

"It says something about the difference between our two nations that the American comics were in colour while ours were in black and white. More than that, though, the nature of the heroes differed wildly. The American kids had Spiderman, Daredevil, Batman, and Thor. British kids had the Second World War. Burma and the Western Desert were our Gotham and Metropolis. The men who saved our world didn't have extraordinary powers, fancy gadgets, or bizarre costumes (though Keith's granddad sometimes wore his old jungle hat when he pruned the roses and Mr Maynard from down the road who'd help sink the Tirpitz owned a colour telly)."

This is such a poignant commentary. This was so real for me as a nipper in the 70's even out here in 'the colonies' too. Raised on a diet of Battle Picture Weekly and Valiant, we had our old Mr Maynards around along with an interesting eclectic mix of others. Nick across the road who was, IIRC, an Italian artilleryman in East Africa, being captured and sent to Australia as a PoW in '41. Then there was old Mr Vuksinic (sp?) who had been one of Tito's partisans in that rather nasty part of the war. Hale and hearty for his age he just kind of stopped and died within a week of the disintegration of Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War. My best friend at school, Jon, had a grandad who fought in Burma and refused to buy anything Japanese for the rest of his life. A good friend of the family Pat Rothery who is still ticking away at 99 served in destroyers on the Russia Convoys among other things. Cripes. As Jon (06/24) above rightly says "Like isn’t a strong enough reaction for that post."

 

Sorry for the digression all.

Please proceed PC. This'll be a good one!

Edited by Gazontipede

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2 hours ago, CedB said:

Very moving PC - that post made me think a lot about the generations that went to war not to protect us from 'Clear and Present Danger' but to stop the spread of 'evil'.

There's a lot to be said for the quiet men who did so much to defend our way of life; we really should remember them and live our lives with respect for the country and way of life that they gave so much to defend.

You wonder what those men (and women) would make of the current direction the world is taking.

 

AW

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5 hours ago, Andwil said:

You wonder what those men (and women) would make of the current direction the world is taking.

Personally I cringe to think about that myself. My grandfather drove tanks in the island hopping of the pacific. My Grand-uncle was in the RN on a Hunt class escorting convoys. Another Grand-Uncle was involved in capturing Goering. I think they look at us and weep. 

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