Revell 1/32 Spitfire V
KIT #: ?
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Lifelike 32-013 and Eagle Strike decals used.


          In the development of the Spitfire, there is a recurring theme: that outside of the Mk.I, each major sub-type used was actually a “stopgap” design while the “definitive” design undertook more prolonged development.  This applies to the Spitfire V, the Spitfire IX and the Spitfire XIV.

           Following the end of the Battle of Britain, Fighter Command predicted that the high-altitude Junkers Ju-86P would become the primary bomber type to be intercepted, and requested that Supermarine develop a high-altitude version of the Spitire.  This would appear as the Mk. VI.  In the meantime, the first Bf-109Fs had appeared on the Channel Front and it was evident this 109 outperformed both the Spitfire I and II.  Supermarine then proposed a “stopgap” fighter utilizing the same Merlin-45 engine as the Spitfire VI, mated to a “beefed up” Mk. I airframe.  (This would be the same scheme that would result in both the Spitfire IX and the Spitfire XIV).

           The first Spitfire V appeared in December 1940, and initial production of the sub-type involved utilization of modified Mk. I airframes at the Supermarine factory in Southhampton and Mk.II airframes at Castle Bromwich.  The first squadrons to equip with the new type received their Spitfire Vs in April 1941.  Over the course of the spring and summer of 1941, all of Fighter Command’s Spitfire squadrons and many of the Hurricane squadrons would re-equip on the Spitfire V, with the last Mk. Is disappearing from operations in June and the last Mk.IIs by late September 1941.

           In addition to the Merlin 45, which provided 1,450 horsepower as opposed to the 980 h.p of the Merlin “C” in the Mk. I and the 1,175 h.p. of the Merlin-XII in the Spitfire II, the Spitfire V also introduced a single-stage two-speed supercharger that increased operational ceiling to 35,000 feet with “best altitude” at 29,000 feet (as opposed to the 20,000 feet of the two earlier types).  Additionally, the Spitfire V had metal-framed ailerons which vastly improved high-speed roll.  Over the course of the spring and summer of 1941, Spitfire IIs were also re-equipped with the new ailerons, following Douglas Bader’s side-stepping of regulations in late April to obtain them for the Tangmere Wing he led.

           The Spitfire V first appeared as the Type 331, known as the Spitfire Va.  94 were built with the “A” wing carrying eight .303 Colt-Browning machine guns.  This sub-type had a top speed of 375 mph, and could climb to 20,000 feet in 7.1 seconds.  The best known of these Spitfires is W3185, which was flown by Douglas Bader as commander of the Tangmere Wing and in which he was lost on August 9, 1941.

 Douglas Bader and “the Non-Stop Offensive”:

           Following the Battle of Britain, both Air Marshal Hugh Dowding, OC Fighter Command, and Air Vice Marshal Keith Parks, OC 11 Group - the two men who had won the Battle of Britain - were replaced.  Air Marshal Sholto-Douglas (a long-time opponent of Dowding) took over Fighter Command, while Air Vice Marshal Leigh-Mallory (Parks’ main opponent other than the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain) took over at 11 Group.  Both men had opposed the strategy and tactics used by Dowding and Parks during the battle, believing that massing defending fighters in larger formations was the key to success.  That such a strategy would have lost the battle, as revealed when its leading proponent, Squadron Leader Douglas Bader, was allowed to develop a “Big Wing” in 12 Group based at Duxford that proved unable to assemble in time to attack the Germans before they had done their damage and were on the way home, did not diminish his stature with his new commanders, with whom he had close relationships.

          Both Sholto-Douglas and Leigh-Mallory favored a “lean into France” strategy of going on the offensive against the Germans in France.  There was the problem that the short range of the Spitfire and Hurricane made it impossible to penetrate northern France much further inland than Rheims, while the only bomber that Bomber Command was willing to risk on daylight actions over Occupied Europe was the thoroughly-inadequate Blenheim.  Fighter Command was reorganized into three-squadron Wings, led by a Wing Commander who was usually a pilot with demonstrated combat leadership during the Battle of Britain.  One of the first of these fighting Wing Commanders to be appointed was Douglas Bader, who was given command of the Tangmere Wing on Mach 18, 1941, leading 145, 610 and 616 Squadrons.

           The “strategy” of the “lean into France” was to send 4-6 Blenheims, carrying a total of 16-20 250-pound bombs, to attack Luftwaffe airfields; not a very sizeable attack.  Fighter escort involved a complicated system of a Wing to cover the bombers inbound to the target, a Wing to relieve that one and cover the bombers over the target, and a Wing to relieve that one and cover the bombers on their withdrawal to the coast.  This thus involved 108 Spitfires and Hurricanes to cover four bombers.  That the fighters had to assemble over England before crossing the Channel meant they were tracked by German radar as well as the English had tracked the Luftwaffe the year before.  The raids quickly demonstrated that they were close to useless operationally, since their airfield targets were easily repaired.  While the British press trumpeted “The Non-Stop Offensive,” the Luftwaffe came up with a more accurate name: “The Nonsense Offensive.”  Even changing the bombers from Blenheims to Stirlings in the late spring did nothing to change the nature of the “offensive.”  The British were unintentionally very right to call such an operation a “Circus.”

           The Luftwaffe defended the entire Channel Coast with three fighter wings: JG 2 on the Cherbourg Peninsula, JG 26 in the area behind Dunkirk, and JG 1 in the Low Countries.  Operating under positive radar control and utilizing the superior high-altitude capabilities of the Bf-109E and F, the Germans could choose the time and place of their attacks, which usually came when one escort wing was being replaced by the next and RAF pilots were operating at maximum confusion.  Most of the time they didn’t come at all, since the Germans didn’t consider the threat worthy of a major defense.

           Had the RAF not engaged in these operations in 1941, and had instead provided Spitfires and Hurricanes where they were needed - in the Mediterranean - the losses suffered might have had meaning to more than propaganda and would have changed the way the war was fought, to the profit of the Allies.  As it was, the only thing the Circus accomplished for the Allies between 1941-43 was to have something going on nearby which the press could cover and convince the public Things Were Being Done, and increase the Allied casualty lists for no real purpose.

           Douglas Bader himself is a controversial figure in many ways.  His story is compelling, and many of the advances made in the treatment of amputees and the development of new technology to replace lost arms and legs is the direct result of his tireless campaigning in the years after the Second World War until his death in 1982.  The man was an inspiration to all who ever met him and to most of those who served under him.  That said, Britain is fortunate that his tactical advice wasn’t taken during the Battle of Britain, and that his advice not to arm the Spitfire with 20mm cannons also went unheeded.  Many of those who served under him in 1940 and 1941 and caught his fire went on to notable careers in the rest of the war, most famously his wingman, John Edgar “Johnnie” Johnson, who went on to become the top-scoring Spitfire pilot of history and the leading RAF ace in northern Europe with 34 victories, all in Spitfires and all against single-engine opponents other than two Bf-110s.

           Bader exchanged his Spitfire IIa in which he had scored the majority of his 20 victories for Spitfire Va W3185 in mid-July 1941.  Bader’s continued desire to fly more operations (the wing had been doing two a day every good weather day since late March) had his pilots in a near-mutinous state according to 616's CO, Squadron Leader Burton.  He scored at least two and perhaps three victories in the new airplane before his final mission over northern France on August 9, 1941, which marked his 62nd mission since March 24. 

           Bader and his flight spotted 12 Bf-109s below them as they crossed into France.  He dove on the enemy so fast that he could not get a clear shot and nearly collided with the leader he was chasing.  Becoming separated from the rest of his flight, he spotted three pairs of 109s below and attacked them, claiming one.  Going after a second, he saw two others coming in on him and made the mistake of banking away from them.  He always believed he then collided with one of the two he had been aiming at.  The entire rear fuselage and tail of W3185 was blown off right aft of the cockpit.  Bader attempted to bail out, but found his prosthetic leg caught on something inside the cockpit.  He finally deployed his parachute and the force of the deployment broke his leg straps and he was able to successfully escape the airplane.

           Researchers have found no Bf-109 lost in a collision that day.  Feldwebel Max Meyer of II./JG 26 claimed he shot down Bader.  According to Luftwaffe records, Leutnant Kosse of 5./JG 26 and Meyer, of 6./JG 26, were the only pilots to make claims that day. Meyer mentioned that he followed the downed Spitfire and watched the pilot bail out, which appears to match this statement in Bader's memoirs: "I was floating in the sunshine above broken, white cloud ... I heard an aeroplane just after I passed through. A Bf 109 flew past." Adolf Galland went through every claim record of JG 26 for that day, even of pilots who failed to return, and could find no report that matched the circumstances Bader described; he stated that Meyer’s claim only matched the loss of F/Sgt Haydon of 452 Squadron. 

           Historian Andy Saunders’ research, published in 2003 in “Who Shot Down Douglas Bader?”, suggests Bader was shot down by F/Lt Buck Casson of 616 Squadron, who claimed a Bf-109 shot down that lost its tail just before the pilot bailed out, just before he himself was shot down.  Casson also noted that the pilot appeared to struggle for awhile to get out.

           Bader then went on to his more famous wartime role as the most truculent RAF POW in Germany.


          Revell announced a new-technology Spitfire IIa earlier this year.  Given their success with low-priced good-quality kits of World War II subjects in earlier years, modelers were enthusiastic at the news, particularly statements that the kit was developed from direct measurement of P7849, a restored Spitfire IIa.  The enthusiasm waned when test shots revealed they’d managed to get the instrument panel reversed (which has been corrected). 

           The kit is now out.  The first criticisms were that it had metal ailerons when the IIa mostly had fabric-covered ailerons, that it lacked the Rotol prop used by the vast majority of Spitfire IIa aircraft, and that the radiator and oil cooler were more appropriate for a Spitfire V than a Spitfire IIa, while the gear legs are strange and the main wheels too small.  The cockpit has several errors, most prominently the seat which is not the right size and additionally does not use World War II-appropriate “padding.”  Additionally, various of the scoops and bulges on the cowling are incorrect. This may all have been the result of P7849 being restored with these items from Spitfire V stocks, which would be more likely available, and that Revell cut corners in the name of cost containment (which definitely happened with their two Bf-109G kits).  Most of the negative comments quieted when the “usual suspects” of the aftermarket quickly announced resin replacement and correction sets.  However, the “cheap” kit was rapidly rising in final price for those who desire an accurate model.

           Recently, Derek Bradshaw, who is well known as one of the most careful and conscientious kit reviewers, compared the kit with the well-known Cox Drawings, which are considered the most accurate for the early Spitfire sub-types.  Those interested can read his research in detail at Large Scale Planes.  The “quick and dirty” is that the fuselage is a bit long, with the cockpit location misplaced, and the fuselage too wide in some areas and too narrow in others.  Additionally, the wing is too thick in section at the root. What’s surprising here is that, regardless of technical items used in the restoration, one would expect that simply measuring P7489 correctly should avoid all these problems.


          I have to say up front that I have finally just Had It with Revell instructions.  They are the worst instructions from any company and make construction of every kit they produce more difficult.  Couple these instructions with kit production design in which parts that will end up next to each other when assembled are strewn hither and yon on different sprues (which are not identified in the instructions), and building a Revell kit can easily resemble an Easter Egg hunt.  It has contributed to the fact that my 1/350 Bismark has sat sans final detail assembly for several years.

           That said, overall the kit fits well, and I only needed to use a very little bit of filler, mostly along the fuselage centerline on the upper cowling.  As a matter or personal taste, most of the surface detail is way too heavy even in 1/32, and rivals the worst of Trumpeter.

          I don’t know why they released this kit with the flaps dropped.  Spitfires never sit on the ground with the flaps down unless they’re being worked on, and all it does to do this is add an unnecessary construction step to the project.  I also noted while assembling the wing that the bulges over the main gear well are completely the wrong shape - which is strange since Revell got the wing perfectly right when they did the mish-mash update of the old Hasegawa Spitfire V kit 20 years ago.

             As I proceeded, I realized that out of the box the kit is far more a Spitfire Va than a Spitfire IIa, and so I decided I would use the Lifelike Decals 32-013 sheet that has Bader’s Spitfire Va and just proceed with an OOB build. Even with that decision, I ended up replacing the godawful deHavilland prop with the spinner and prop from the Hasegawa Spitfire V, I also cut up a Hasegawa seat to narrow it properly and then “upholstered” it with Evergreen rod, and decided to use a set of resin wheels left over from a Hurricane, which were better than what the kit provided.

           The cockpit is very simplified.  I thought about scratchbuilding things to increase the detail, but was already losing enough enthusiasm about the project, so I just closed it up after putting in a “more correct” seat, something I haven’t done with a Spitfire model in a very long time.

           Once the kit was assembled, as I looked at it, things seemed “off” about it overall, the way the Dragon P-51D is “off” from the accurate shape of a Mustang.  It was at this point that Derek Bradshaw referred me to his analysis and I read the specific details of what created the “off” look I was seeing.  This “off” look isn’t as bad as the Trumpeter P-51 with the too-narrow nose and lack of proper airfoil in the wing; as I said, it is more the “off” look of the Dragon P-51.  At a distance, it is not so noticeable, and a modeler who is not very familiar with the Spitfire won’t be put off.  It will “look like a Spitfire to me” for most people, but those who know what they’re looking at and for whom shape is important, are going to be put off by this kit. Sadly, what makes the kit look “off” are not items that are (or can be) addressed by aftermarket correction sets.


           I used Xtracrylix Dark Earth, Dark Green and Sky to do an “A” camouflage scheme.

           I alternated using the stencils and national insignia from the Eagle Cals 32-158 sheet with the personal markings for W3185 from the Lifelike sheet.  Everything went down with problems.

           Since Bader only had this airplane for a few weeks, I didn’t do more than apply oil residue on the lower fuselage and exhaust stains for weathering.  I unmasked the canopy after applying a coat of Xtracylix Clear Flat.


          Close, but no cigar.  Given that Revell claims their designers spent up close and personal time with Spitfire P7849, the geometry and outline mistakes are really inexcusable.  It’s not like there aren’t good plans also available, not to mention knowledgeable researchers who would be happy to provide the results of their knowledge.  Doing this kit right should have been a no-brainer.

          I have been informed by a knowledgeable source that, rather than take all their information from P7489, Revell actually did all their detail research on the heavily-modified AR213, which has had many parts replaced over the years with what was available at the time.  This likely explains why the kit is more a Spitfire V than a Spitfire II in its detail.  The fact that Revell didn’t ask any of the several excellent Subject Matter Experts in Britain to check over their work before committing to  plastic demonstrates clearly why this is “a swing and a miss.”

          As a demonstration of what they could have done, I am providing  a picture of my Hasegawa-Revell Spitfire II “mismash” that has been released over the last 20 years or so with the 1970s vintage Hasegawa Spitfire V kit mated to a new set of 8-gun wings, using the kit-provided Rotol prop with Rotol “Jablo” blades from the Greymatter Hurricane II conversion.  Hannant’s has released a very nice decal sheet - 32054 - of Spitfire IIs, one of which is for Bill Dunn’s airplane from 71 Eagle Squadron.  I stripped this model and repainted it to use these markings.

          Revell would have done themselves a big favor to have updated this old kit, since it has fewer mistakes in it than their new kit has.

          I’m thinking seriously of getting the 45 year old original Revell 1/32 Spitfire I and mating it to the Greymatter correction set.  I think I’ll be more successful getting an early Spitfire that’s closer to right that way. 

          This kit reminds me of the Eduard Bf-109G-6, which is also “a swing and a miss,” though it looks nice when completed.  For the modeler looking for “value for money” who isn’t a Spitfire afficionado, the kit is OK.  In conclusion, there is still room for someone to do an early Spitfire in 1/32 scale.

 Tom Cleaver

September 2014

Review kit courtesy of my wallet.

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