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Spit Fan

Spitfire Mk. V belly tanks?

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Back again with another Spitfire question. On page 41 of the Osprey "Spitfire Mk.V Aces 1941-45" book there is a profile of a Mk. VB X4272/SD-J flown by Flt Lt David Fairband 501 Sqn, June 1944. The profile shows the a/c with a 30 gal belly tank. (This is not the cigar shaped tank normally seen on the Mk. IX.) My question is was the 30 gal tank widely used on ops? Was it's bigger brother the 90 gal tank also used on ops? I have a 90 gal tank left over from the ICM Spitfire Mk. IX and though it might be an interesting addition to my current project. Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated. John R.

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Can't answer your question but I have seen a photo in the book eyes of the RAF where a PRIV has the 90 Gal tank fitted with two F24 cameras and 8" lenses fitted facing forward either side of the centreline.

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The fittings, for both tanks, were introduced from 25-9-42. According to the pilot's notes, the aircraft could only be flown straight and level, when fitted with the 90-gallon tanks; this did not apply to the 30-gallon tank. Both tanks had to be jettisoned in level flight. From this, it rather sounds as though pilots, if bounced, couldn't manouvre out of the way, if they had the large tank, but had to jettison it first, while they could break while carrying the 30-gallon tank, and jettison it at the first opportunity. From that, I'd doubt that the 90-gallon tank saw much combat use, in Europe, at least; in fact the V manual indicates that only the tropical fuel system was designed to use it.

Edgar

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First rule of combat at extended ranges; never engage with tanks on. Even if it's a hang up.

Mind you, I can't imagine any Spitfire could outrun anything more than a CR42 or Ar96 with a 90 gallon tank fitted.

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Spit Fan,

Belly tanks.....

Although the fittings were present for some time, from Sep 1942, (Thanks Edgar..), they were introduced to tackle the one chronic problem the Spitfire had, Range......

They did not at first become commonly used because of the problems in releasing them. Tanks do not always behave as you would expect when jettisoned.... Hence lots of trials.

Plus most Spitfire operations were at that time only conducted from quite forward locations, and this continued even after 'D' Day.. This led to the 'Cigar' tank only having limited use.

As far as I am aware, the only relatively common use of them was for the PR Spits, particularly the PR XIX, although it was used on the PR XI.

The larger tanks when fitted, added to the aircraft's longitudinal instability, I.E. it weaved from left to right. This proved a problem after taking off. The aircraft was only good in a straight line if you could live with the 'weaving'...

This was regarded as being acceptable for the PR XIX particularly for the climb out from England, to the continent. They were used for the climb up to operational height, and then jettisoned, most commonly over Holland and Belgium. My source in saying this, is a PR XIX pilot. He describes it as being common practise to take of from RAF Benson and refuel at RAF Tangmere, before heading for the continent.

Obviously they were not photographed that often! See here a photo of a PR XIX on trials,

VPRXIXPS851ATALTITUDE.jpg

The tanks were used, but only in certain situations, so your modelling opportunities are limited.

My friend Ken told me a tale that surprised and amused me...

He described taking off with a tank, and retaining it with some fuel in it, against orders..! He flew on over Germany to his 'target' and when he saw something under him that he thought was a good target, he dropped the tank in the hope that it would do some damage... he never told anyone about this act of aggression from an unarmed Spitfire, until shortly after the war ended, when he was converting onto Meteors. he found himself with one of his fellow Warrant Officers, there were not that many of them, and he told the tale of his 'war efforts' with the fuel tank. He was amazed to see a look come over the other chaps face... Before he admitted that he had done the same as well.... They both had a good laugh, but never said anything to anyone else, until he told me some 60 years later when I took him to the BBMF for a visit to reacquaint him with his PRXIX....

Ken.jpg

So there you go, a tale and information about the drop tanks, hope it proves of interest.....?

Colin

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My question is was the 30 gal tank widely used on ops? Was it's bigger brother the 90 gal tank also used on ops? I have a 90 gal tank left over from the ICM Spitfire Mk. IX and though it might be an interesting addition to my current project. Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated. John R.


The 90 gal tank was more or less restricted to the Med, i.e. Trop Spits, at least initially, while the 30 gal was used by the Home squadrons. Eventually a 45 gal tank was also available, but I don't know the particulars of that one. Spits with the ability to carry the slipper tank began to be issued in about March '42, but this coincided with the dispatch of Spits to the Med, and the conversion to Seafire Ib, both of which got priority. First UK units to get the slipper tanks were 66 and 501 (not counting 152, who got a couple which they passed to 501). Aside from about 35 early Mk.Vc that variant should have been fitted for the tanks- from Supermarine, at least- as usual Castle Bromwich lagged behind, so I'm not yet clear on when their Vs came off production with the fittings. Supply of tanks was limited at first, but was supposed to ramp up pretty quickly.

* Update: both Westland and Castle Bromwich started delivering (off production) Trops in May '42, and the slipper tank mod was part of the trop conversion. It stands to reason that the temperate birds would be suitably equipped from about then, too. Note, though, that Westland shifted from Vb to Vc in May/June, and it doesn't appear that they did any VbTrop straight off production, so it is possible that their Vbs could not carry a tank.

Use is a little harder to say- as I said, at first particular squadrons were given the ones that could carry the slipper tank (replacing the Mk.IILR). Probably (in other words, I don't KNOW) at least some earlier aircraft would be modified during a major servicing. The ability to carry the slipper tank was part of the tropical conversion from the beginning.

* Update: per the Osprey "Spitfire V Aces" (Price) and Spitfire V in Action (not Squadron!) the first squadrons to get Spits equipped for slipper tank (not counting those mentioned above) were those of the Hornchurch and Kenley wings in spring '42. I'm still looking into that...

That's the state of my knowledge... I'll update if I find better information.

bob Edited by gingerbob

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It pays to remember that, allied to fuel usage, oil consumption increased pro rata. The C.O., in Malta, complained about having to have desert-converted (i.e. big-chinned) Spitfires, and was told that it was because the desert Mk.Vs had a larger oil tank, so could cope with the extra range during the ferry flights. It could help to explain the lack of 90gal tank use in Europe. The PR XI already had a larger oil tank, so it would have been less of a concern, and the XIX had the Griffon which was less of an oil-chucker.

29-3-43 saw mod 647 "To introduce the tropical oil tank as standard on Mk.V aircraft," so oil consumption, apparently, was, together with fuel, always a source for concern.

Not long after that, another mod (657,) for the Vc only, came in "To introduce 170gal jettison tank inc overload oil tank and pilot's relief tube." This went out as leaflets, during April/May 1943, with DTL Waterhouse and Thurlbeck (haven't found out, exactly, what that is) listed as main exponents. There were plans for a 29gal tank, in the fuselage, also only in the Vc, as mod 729, to be allied to this ferry tank, but the mod was eventually cancelled. The 29gal fuselage tank is mentioned in the Mk.V manual, but it's adamant that it could only be used together with the 170gal tank.

Edgar

Edited by Edgar

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It pays to remember that, allied to fuel usage, oil consumption increased pro rata. The C.O., in Malta, complained about having to have desert-converted (i.e. big-chinned) Spitfires, and was told that it was because the desert Mk.Vs had a larger oil tank, so could cope with the extra range during the ferry flights. It could help to explain the lack of 90gal tank use in Europe.

First I'll point out that I've edited my post (#6) and will continue to do so if I find more information.

Edgar's right about the Malta Spits- they needed the 90 gal to get there, and needed the larger oil tank to support that endurance.

I think for Europe it was more a case of 30 gal was sufficient to get them to the French coast, and initially it was assumed that they'd drop the tanks then, so there was no (perceived) value in a larger tank.

bob

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It pays to remember that, allied to fuel usage, oil consumption increased pro rata. The C.O., in Malta, complained about having to have desert-converted (i.e. big-chinned) Spitfires, and was told that it was because the desert Mk.Vs had a larger oil tank, so could cope with the extra range during the ferry flights. It could help to explain the lack of 90gal tank use in Europe. The PR XI already had a larger oil tank, so it would have been less of a concern, and the XIX had the Griffon which was less of an oil-chucker.

29-3-43 saw mod 647 "To introduce the tropical oil tank as standard on Mk.V aircraft," so oil consumption, apparently, was, together with fuel, always a source for concern.

Not long after that, another mod (657,) for the Vc only, came in "To introduce 170gal jettison tank inc overload oil tank and pilot's relief tube." This went out as leaflets, during April/May 1943, with DTL Waterhouse and Thurlbeck (haven't found out, exactly, what that is) listed as main exponents. There were plans for a 29gal tank, in the fuselage, also only in the Vc, as mod 729, to be allied to this ferry tank, but the mod was eventually cancelled. The 29gal fuselage tank is mentioned in the Mk.V manual, but it's adamant that it could only be used together with the 170gal tank.

Edgar

Many thanks for the replies. As soon as I saw the bit on increased oil required for the increased flight time I realized that there was no way the 90 gal tank was used operationally from the UK (non tropical mod). I suspect that the tank shown in the Osprey profile of the L Mk. Vb was a 45 gal tank. I say that because it seems to be the same size and shape as one shown and labeled as a 45. gal tank on a Spifire Mk. XVI based in Germany July 1945 in "The Spitfire Story" by Alfred Price. If memory serves me right the Tamiya Spitfire Mk.Vb (trop) comes with a 30 or 45 gal tank. I guess I need to see if I can find one. By the way just where is the filler port on the fixed 30 gal tank on the Mk. IIa (LR). There doesn't seems to be one on the SAM resin tank. TIA John R

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First I'll point out that I've edited my post (#6) and will continue to do so if I find more information.

Edgar's right about the Malta Spits- they needed the 90 gal to get there, and needed the larger oil tank to support that endurance.

I think for Europe it was more a case of 30 gal was sufficient to get them to the French coast, and initially it was assumed that they'd drop the tanks then, so there was no (perceived) value in a larger tank.

bob

I need to get a good look at the 30 gal and the 45 gal tank side by side or at leased installed so I can make an reasonable guess as to which is shown on the profile of the L Mk.Vb of Fob Fairbanks ' a/c. Thanks for the reply. John R

Spit Fan,

Belly tanks.....

Although the fittings were present for some time, from Sep 1942, (Thanks Edgar..), they were introduced to tackle the one chronic problem the Spitfire had, Range......

They did not at first become commonly used because of the problems in releasing them. Tanks do not always behave as you would expect when jettisoned.... Hence lots of trials.

Plus most Spitfire operations were at that time only conducted from quite forward locations, and this continued even after 'D' Day.. This led to the 'Cigar' tank only having limited use.

As far as I am aware, the only relatively common use of them was for the PR Spits, particularly the PR XIX, although it was used on the PR XI.

The larger tanks when fitted, added to the aircraft's longitudinal instability, I.E. it weaved from left to right. This proved a problem after taking off. The aircraft was only good in a straight line if you could live with the 'weaving'...

This was regarded as being acceptable for the PR XIX particularly for the climb out from England, to the continent. They were used for the climb up to operational height, and then jettisoned, most commonly over Holland and Belgium. My source in saying this, is a PR XIX pilot. He describes it as being common practise to take of from RAF Benson and refuel at RAF Tangmere, before heading for the continent.

Obviously they were not photographed that often! See here a photo of a PR XIX on trials,

VPRXIXPS851ATALTITUDE.jpg

The tanks were used, but only in certain situations, so your modelling opportunities are limited.

My friend Ken told me a tale that surprised and amused me...

He described taking off with a tank, and retaining it with some fuel in it, against orders..! He flew on over Germany to his 'target' and when he saw something under him that he thought was a good target, he dropped the tank in the hope that it would do some damage... he never told anyone about this act of aggression from an unarmed Spitfire, until shortly after the war ended, when he was converting onto Meteors. he found himself with one of his fellow Warrant Officers, there were not that many of them, and he told the tale of his 'war efforts' with the fuel tank. He was amazed to see a look come over the other chaps face... Before he admitted that he had done the same as well.... They both had a good laugh, but never said anything to anyone else, until he told me some 60 years later when I took him to the BBMF for a visit to reacquaint him with his PRXIX....

Ken.jpg

So there you go, a tale and information about the drop tanks, hope it proves of interest.....?

Colin

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Spit Fan,

Belly tanks.....

Although the fittings were present for some time, from Sep 1942, (Thanks Edgar..), they were introduced to tackle the one chronic problem the Spitfire had, Range......

They did not at first become commonly used because of the problems in releasing them. Tanks do not always behave as you would expect when jettisoned.... Hence lots of trials.

Plus most Spitfire operations were at that time only conducted from quite forward locations, and this continued even after 'D' Day.. This led to the 'Cigar' tank only having limited use.

As far as I am aware, the only relatively common use of them was for the PR Spits, particularly the PR XIX, although it was used on the PR XI.

The larger tanks when fitted, added to the aircraft's longitudinal instability, I.E. it weaved from left to right. This proved a problem after taking off. The aircraft was only good in a straight line if you could live with the 'weaving'...

This was regarded as being acceptable for the PR XIX particularly for the climb out from England, to the continent. They were used for the climb up to operational height, and then jettisoned, most commonly over Holland and Belgium. My source in saying this, is a PR XIX pilot. He describes it as being common practise to take of from RAF Benson and refuel at RAF Tangmere, before heading for the continent.

Obviously they were not photographed that often! See here a photo of a PR XIX on trials,

VPRXIXPS851ATALTITUDE.jpg

The tanks were used, but only in certain situations, so your modelling opportunities are limited.

My friend Ken told me a tale that surprised and amused me...

He described taking off with a tank, and retaining it with some fuel in it, against orders..! He flew on over Germany to his 'target' and when he saw something under him that he thought was a good target, he dropped the tank in the hope that it would do some damage... he never told anyone about this act of aggression from an unarmed Spitfire, until shortly after the war ended, when he was converting onto Meteors. he found himself with one of his fellow Warrant Officers, there were not that many of them, and he told the tale of his 'war efforts' with the fuel tank. He was amazed to see a look come over the other chaps face... Before he admitted that he had done the same as well.... They both had a good laugh, but never said anything to anyone else, until he told me some 60 years later when I took him to the BBMF for a visit to reacquaint him with his PRXIX....

Ken.jpg

So there you go, a tale and information about the drop tanks, hope it proves of interest.....?

Colin

Thanks for a great story and a great photo give my best to your friend Ken. Not to many left who can say "I flew Spits!" John R

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Thanks for a great story and a great photo give my best to your friend Ken. Not to many left who can say "I flew Spits!" John R

Bizarrely,

Ken rang me yesterday, trying to find some one's phone number, to explain he could not meet them due to family commitments and the fact that he has to go to the gym after his early morning walk.....

Ken is 88....!

Ken.jpg

Does make you wonder......!

The tale about his experiences of the USAAF over Europe were interesting as well.

Colin

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The search function works, Thanks Troy!

Rather than start a new thread: There is an oft printed picture of a Spitfire with deep chin, plugged cannon barrels, 170 gallon tank and pilot with aviator sunglasses and a floppy haired ground crew captioned as taxiing out at Gibraltar. The last number of the serial looks like a 3 to me. This is always captioned as a Vb which, according to posts above can't be right surely? Graham Boak's (?) serials in the recent (and excellent) MMP Malta Spitfire book are all Vc's. So is this Spitfire actually a Vc?

As the camouflage shows a distinct contrast and allowing for the film of the period my photographic friend suggests the Temperate Land scheme abroad Dark Green/ Dark Earth over Sky or Light Med Blue. I know this is a can of worms but is this reasonable.

This photo BTW is part of a family legend, it was believed that the 'erk' was my uncle who looked like that, spent a lot of the period on Gib' but died in a car accident before the picture was widely known. Unfortunately it turns out not to be so as he was hospitalised for October and November 1942 and in no fit state to walk a Spitfire out! I'd still like to make the model though...

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Yes, it will have been a Mk.Vc. My serial list in Brian Cauchi's book was taken from all the sources I could find but they agree that it was Mk.Vc that were modified.

The Temperate Land Scheme had the Dark Green around the cockpit, and this will appear as the darker colour. If the lighter colour is around the cockpit this will be the Desert Scheme. Sometimes the colours were exchanged in the Desert Scheme, but this may have died out by late 1942. The underside colour is almost certainly Azure Blue by this stage. Light Med Blue is a darker shade.

Edited by Graham Boak

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First rule of combat at extended ranges; never engage with tanks on. Even if it's a hang up.

Mind you, I can't imagine any Spitfire could outrun anything more than a CR42 or Ar96 with a 90 gallon tank fitted.

Maybe also a Po-2! Although, as far as I know, the Po-2 once came out of a confrontation with a Shooting Star as the victor. The jet had to lower its speed to catch up to such a degree that i stalled and dived into the ground. At least something I read somewhere.

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Yes, it will have been a Mk.Vc.

I just had a look at "The Spitfire V Manual" and didn't see anything saying that the 170 gal tank was restricted to the 'c'. I'll look a little further.

The photo that I believe Sleeper was referring to is in Spit the Hist. It should be possible to confirm whether it is 'b' or 'c' by the cannon stub and the gear leg angle, but my first attempt was unconvincing!

That last digit looks like it could be a 5 to me, rather than 3, but I'd like to see a better print of the image.

bob

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Check the serials of those 12+ that went directly to Malta from Gib - you'll find they were all ARxxx beginning with AR464 and listed as Mk.Vc. There's a little nag saying "Westland" at me but I can't swear to that. I've looked that the photo and there's only one visible stub which presumably is influencing the caption writers.

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AR prefix is Westland manufacture, if that's what's nagging you. The trial (AAEE) of 170/29 gal tanks was on BR202, a Vc. The one in "the photograph" might only have one stub- I can't see well enough to be certain- but that's not saying it isn't a 'c'. Got to go look at Clydesdales!

bob

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Modification 657 "To introduce 170gal jettison tank inc overload oil tank and pilot's relief tube" is listed as "5c only" & "S.O.O."

A later mod 729 "To introduce 29gal fuselage fuel tank in conjunction with mod 657 + pilot's relief tube" also for the 5c & S.O.O., was added, but later cancelled in 1943, presumably when Malta had been relieved, the IX was readily available, so direct flights for the Vc were no longer necessary.

Beware the cannon stubs in that photo; Park complained about Vcs being delivered with the outer stubs removed, when he needed to fit cannon there on aircraft used as bombers.

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Thanks So Far Chaps!

My friend completely agrees with you Graham and also about the Azure Blue, he had a blip about which blue was darker. Temperate Land Scheme it is.

Gingerbob you're right Spitfire The History Pg 153. I tried to scan it for the post but it didn't work too well.

Edgar Thank You for clearing that up for me so a Vc with cannons and outer stub removed, empty inner stub left. What does S.O.O. stand for BTW?

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My friend completely agrees with you Graham and also about the Azure Blue, he had a blip about which blue was darker. Temperate Land Scheme it is.

Just a minute, the Dark Earth was replaced, in the Temperate Land Scheme, by Ocean Grey, in August 1941, turning it into the Day Fighter scheme. There is no way that a Vc, heading to Malta, should be in TLS; orders were that they should be either overall blue, in mid-1942, or, later, Day Fighter Scheme with Light Mediterranean Blue undersides.

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I sit corrected. When I tell Dick he was right about the colour he'll be unbearable..... Thank You once again Edgar. I'm so glad you stayed on BM. And very relieved and much better informed.


Just a minute, the Dark Earth was replaced, in the Temperate Land Scheme, by Ocean Grey, in August 1941, turning it into the Day Fighter scheme. There is no way that a Vc, heading to Malta, should be in TLS; orders were that they should be either overall blue, in mid-1942, or, later, Day Fighter Scheme with Light Mediterranean Blue undersides. :worthy:

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I have considerable doubts that the DFS was seen on Malta before 1943 at the earliest. If Brian Cauchi had seen the slightest suggestion of this it would have been in his book. It has certainly been argued elsewhere that TLS was retained for overseas service until considerably later, and it was in use on Spitfires of 40 SAAF well into 1944.

The first of these Mk.Vcs AR464 was built in May 1942, and was actually on Malta on the 1st August 1942, so we can certainly rule out that one being in Day Fighter. The others rather dribbled out to the island, so the later serials can be argued over.

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