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Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I/II Photo Archive Number 26


Mike

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Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I/II

Photo Archive Number 26 ISBN: 9781908757401

Wingleader Publications

 

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The Spitfire was the champion of the Battle of Britain along with the Hurricane and a few other less well-known players, and it’s an aircraft with an amazing reputation that started from the disappointing Supermarine Type 224.  The gull-winged oddity was the grandfather of the Spitfire, and despite losing out to the biplane Gloster Gladiator, designer R J Mitchell was spurred on to go back to the drawing board and create a more modern, technologically advanced, and therefore risky design.  This was the Type 300, and it was an all-metal construction with an incredibly thin elliptical wing that became legendary, although it didn’t leave much space for fuel, a situation that was further worsened by the Air Ministry’s insistence that four .303 machine guns were to be installed in each wing, rather than the three originally envisaged. It was a very well-sorted aircraft from the outset, so quickly entered service with the RAF in 1938 in small but growing numbers.  With the clouds of war accumulating, the Ministry issued more orders, and it became a battle to build sufficient airframes to fulfil demand in time for the outbreak and early days of war from September 1939 onwards into the Battle of Britain.

 

By the time war broke out, the restrictive straight sided canopy had been replaced by a “blown” hood to give the pilot more visibility, although a few with the old canopy still lingered.  The title Mk.Ia was given retrospectively to differentiate between the cannon-winged Mk.Ib that was instigated after the .303s were found somewhat lacking compared to the 20mm cannon armament of their main opposition at the time, the Bf.109.  As is usual in wartime, the designers could never rest on their laurels with an airframe like the Spitfire, as it had significant potential for development, a process that lasted throughout the whole of WWII, and included many changes to the Merlin engine, then the installation of the more powerful Griffon engine, as well as the removal of the spine of the fuselage and creation of a bubble canopy to improve the pilot’s situational awareness.  Its immediate successor was the Mk.II with a new Mk.XII Merlin, followed by the Mk.V that had yet another more powerful Merlin fitted, which returned the fright of the earlier marks’ first encounters with Fw.190s by a similar increase in performance of an outwardly almost identical Spitfire.

 

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This twenty-sixth volume in the series returns to the early Spitfire, revisiting the Mk.I and then covering  later Mk.IIs that the author didn’t have enough content to justify a full book to itself, whilst trying not to rehash old photos and information on the original Photo Archive that detailed the Mk.I from prototype to the Battle of Britain.  As such, this has been designated a Special Edition that is a companion to the initial Photo Archive #1, which is still available and can be purchased here if you’ve not already got one.  You may recognise the name of the author of this edition, as Richard Alexander is one of the people behind Kotare models, who have uncoincidentally recently released a spitfire kit in 1:32.  The profiles have been penned by his colleague Ronny Bar, who is well-known in the hobby.

 

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Some of the photos are staged and are of official origins of course, but there are also a large number of candid shots, very few of which are in colour due to the era, and a small number are of battle-damaged aircraft with holes in their rear end for the most part, one upended on the airfield after a difficult landing and possibly over-zealous application of the brakes.  There are also several photos of the pilots in and around their cockpits, some of whom didn’t make it through the war.  This edition is also unusual because of its Reference Guide that fills the rear pages of the overall 72 leaves, helping the modeller navigate the minefield of subtle differences between the early Spitfire Mk.I and Mk.IIs, many of which are enlarged portions of photos that are accompanied by informative captions specific to the elements under discussion.

 

A visually impressive book with plenty of reading material into the bargain that will have you coming back to it again and again.  It will be of use whether you have #1 or not, although it will probably result in more sales of the earlier volume.  There are a growing number of Spitfire volumes of various marks in the Photo Archive series, which will build into an invaluable reference for Spitfire modellers.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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