Hasegawa 1/32 Spitfire Vb floatplane
KIT #:
PRICE: $35-$0 for the kit
DECALS: Several kit options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Greymatter Figures Spitfire Type 355 floatplane conversion used (about $75) with Lifelike Decals.


            The Spitfire was the descendant of racing seaplanes.  As the war developed, it appeared there were places where a high performance seaplane fighter might be useful, which led to the development of a modified Spitfire Vb with landing gear removed and replaced by twin floats known as the Type 355.

            The first time such a conversion was brought up was at the outbreak of the 1940 Norwegian campaign, where the RAF found itself at a disadvantage against the Luftwaffe, with very few airfields to operate from during the German invasion.  Folland Aircraft undertook the conversion of a Spitfire I, R6722, known as the “Narvik Nightmare,” using Blackburn Roc floats.  However, the Norwegian campaign was over before further development of such a fighter could take place and the airplane was returned to Mk.I configuration. 

            The idea resurfaced in 1942, following a report from Folland Aircraft, which had continued working on the concept even after cancellation.  This time a Spitfire Vb, W3760, was used for the conversion and used floats designed by Arthur Shirvall, who had created the high speed floats used on the S.4., S.5, S.6A and S.6B racing seaplanes.  The initial flight took place on October 12, 1942 in Southampton harbor, with the standard carburetor intake initially replaced with a tropical Vokes filter, but this did not protect against water ingestion during takeoff and landing, and a smaller intake was developed that did keep water out.  It was also found necessary to enlarge and extend the  vertical fin and rudder and a larger ventral fin was added for directional stability.  Following these modifications, the prototype began further tests in Glasgow in January 1943.

            Fully loaded, the seaplane weighed only 1,100 lbs more than a standard Spitfire Vb, and maximum speed was only reduced 40 mph, to 324 mph at 19,000 feet.  Maneuverability with the floats was only slightly less than a standard Spitfire and it was found to be more maneuverable than any other seaplane.

            In the summer of 1943, planning began for an operation using the Spitfire seaplane against the Germans in the Dodecanese Islands off the coast of Turkey. This unit would be dependent for supply on air transport, and the plan was to use the Spitfire seaplanes operating from a small, uninhabited island to attack German aircraft, with a submarine used as a base.  Folland was issued a contract to convert two more Spitfire Mk.Vb’s, EP751 and EP754. 

            The three Spitfire seaplanes were transferred to Egypt, arriving at the base at Kasfareet, were the prototype W3760 remained crated after serious corrosion was found in the tail unit, while EP751 and EP754 were assembled by 107 Maintenance Unit and taken to the old prewar seaplane station at Fanara on the Great Bitter Lake in November 1943, where they would be operated.  The unit was equipped with a 40-foot high speed launch powered by two 100hp engines, an all-purpose 22-foot seaplane tender powered by a Ford V8, and a steam-operated crawler crane to lift the seaplanes onto the concrete dock.  A Walrus was provided for initial seaplane training for the pilots.  Five high-time Spitfire pilots were chosen for the unit, led by Flying Officer William Lindsay. Training proceeded and the pilots were easily able to fly the Spitfires after a minimum of experience with the Walrus. 

            Unfortunately, during training it was found that the floats leaked enough that the aircraft had to be hauled out of the water to allow them to drain.  While this was not an issue at the seaplane base, it would be a serious issue at a submarine mooring near a small island in the Dodecanese Islands, where it would not be possible to haul the airplanes out of the water.  It was also found to be virtually impossible to take off in crosswinds over 15 mph. It was finally found impossible to discover a suitable "secret" location in the Dodecanese Islands that would allow flexible takeoffs. The Royal Navy was not enthusiastic at all, since they saw it as an operation that would inevitably require surface units to rescue the aircraft once the base was discovered.  After the Germans occupied the area and stationed JG 27 with BF-109G6 fighters in the archipelago, the plan was abandoned.  With no other operational use found for the airplanes, they were disassembled, re-crated and returned to Kasfareet, where they were eventually returned to Britain and put in storage.

            The idea of the Spitfire on floats did not die.  It was resurrected in 1944 as a possibility for support of invasions in the Pacific, and Spitfire IX MJ982 was modified as a seaplane and flown in June 1944.  However, the plan died since by this time the American island-hopping campaign had demonstrated that there would be fewer amphibious operations and that they were easily supported by aircraft carriers.

            The four Spitfire seaplanes were struck off charge at the end of the war and were all broken up.


            Over the years, there have been three Spitfire floatplane kits released that I am aware of, the most recent being the 1/24 kit by Trumpeter, based on their godawful Spitfire Vb, which kinda/sorta resembles a Spitfire, if viewed from a distance no closer than about 3-4 feet away.  PM released a 1/72 kit that is W3760 in its initial configuration with the Vokes filter and ventral fin with standard rudder and vertical fin.  In about 1994, Gartex - a sub-set of Hasegawa - released a Type 355 that utilized the Hasegawa Spitfire Vb kit with resin gear well plugs, floats , rear tail, extended carburetor intake, and 4-bladed prop, with white metal beaching gear.  I did one of these latter kits and it looked quite nice.

            This conversion set from Greymatter was first released by Warbirds several years ago, among their many Spitfire conversions based on the 1/32 Hasegawa Spitfire Vb kit.  The set includes floats, pylons, enlarged tail, extended carburetor intake, spinner and four bladed prop in resin, with resin beaching gear.  As with their other sets, the parts are well designed and beautifully cast.


             Basically, what you are building here is a Hasegawa 1/32 Spitfire, with parts added on.  The major bit of work to the kit itself involves cutting off and replacing the tail, and filling in the wheel wells.  Neither is particularly difficult, but I do wish they had included resin plugs for the gear wells.

            One problem with the tail is that it is a butt join.  There is nothing on the resin part to help in aligning it with the fuselage.  I used 5 minute epoxy, and did my best to get it perfectly aligned, and yet it turned out when it was set (and too late to change) that I was about a half-degree off.  Not really noticeable from any view but dead astern, but if you are not careful, aligning the horizontal stabs would be a giveaway.  I ended up heating a pan of water and dipping the tail in it, so I could bend the vertical and ventral fins enough to make it straight, but it’s still not exactly right.

            The gear well covers were made with Evergreen sheet, which involved drawing the shape, cutting it out approximately, and then carefully cutting and sanding to a good fit, after which a liberal application of Squadron Green Stuff putty was followed with Tamiya surfacer, to get a nice smooth underside of the wing.

            There is the additional fact that the pylons for the pontoons are also a butt join.  I penciled in the centerlines of the area, and measured the front attachment point and penciled that in, then attached the pylons with 5-minute Epoxy.  When they were dry I attached the pontoons.  This was done after completing the wing as a sub-assembly.

            Once all was assembled, I painted the model in the Temperate Sea Scheme of Extra Dark Sea Grey, Dark Slate Grey and Sky, using Xtracrylix paints over Tamiya primer.

            The decals came from a Lifelike Decals 1/32 Spitfire sheet, while the serial number was pieced together from an Xtradecals letters-and-numbers sheet.

            I weathered the model per a photo of EP754 found on the net.  Other photos showed the airplanes to be pretty clean during their time in England, so I did not weather it further.  I applied two coats of Xtracrylix Clear Flat varnish, then attached the prop, the cockpit side flap, and the canopy in the open position.


            For a Spitfire fanatic, having the Spitfire seaplane in one’s collection makes the collection complete.  The Greymatter Figures conversion is easy to do for any modeler who has done at least one other resin conversion and presents no difficulties.  Recommended for all “Boffins.”

Tom Cleaver

May 2012

Kit courtesy of my billfold. Conversion set courtesy of Greymatter Figures.

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