Hasegawa 1/32 Spitfire Vb
KIT #: 08160 (USAAF boxing)
PRICE: $39.95 MSRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Techmod Decal sheet used


       Following the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe introduced the new redesigned Bf-109F, with a more powerful engine giving improved performance over the BF-109E.  The RAF had been working on a new development of the Spitfire, the Spitfire IV, which would be powered by the new Griffon engine.  However, the engine was not developed to the point where it could be introduced on operations.  Thus, the Spitfire V was created as a “stop-gap” to counter the Bf-109F.  Basically a Mk. I/II airframe with strengthened longerons to take the increased power of a Merlin 45 producing 1,450 h.p., a considerable increase from the Merlin III’s 1,030 h.p.

      The first Spitfire Vs went to 92 Squadron in February 1941. Fortunately, the widespread introduction of the Bf-109F had been delayed because of flutter problems created by insufficient strengthening of the rear fuselage for the unbraced horizontal stabilizer.  The Luftwaffe soldiered on with the Bf-109E in the majority of their Channel Front units until the early summer of 1941, by which time the Spitfire V was well on its way to replacing the earlier marks of Spitfire.  This was largely accomplished by the fall of 1941.  Eventually, the Spitfire V would become the most-produced Spitfire sub-type, and with its offspring - the Merlin-61 powered Spitfire IX - these two “interim” types would be produced in larger numbers than all the rest of the series combined. 

      At about the same time the Spitfire V became the main type equipping Fighter Command, the first Fw-190s were introduced by JG 26.  The Fw-190A would completely outclass the Spitfire V on all performance parameters other than turning radius, but the type flew on until late 1943 before completely disappearing from the Channel Front.  It would see service on every front the RAF and Commonwealth Air Forces fought during the Second World War. 

The Kosciusko Squadron in the RAF:

      The first squadron of the Polish Air Force formed within the RAF was 303 Squadron, named “Kosciusko” in honour of the famous Kosciusko Squadron formed by American volunteers (one of whose leading lights, Merian C. Cooper, is better known to history for having created “King Kong”) which fought during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920.  The unit was formed July 22, 1940, at Northolt with pilots from 111 “Kosciusko” and 112 “Warszawa” squadrons  of the Polish Air Force, who had escaped from Poland after its defeat, and from France after the German attack. 303 was formally commanded by  S/Ldr Ronald Kellet, with F/Lt John Kent and F/Lt Athol Forbes, commanders of “A” and “B” Flights respectively. The Polish commander was S/Ldr Krasnodebski with F/Lt Urbanowicz and F/Lt Opulski as flight leaders.  The British command was due to RAF fear that the Poles - unused to modern high-performance aircraft and the ground controlled interception system developed by Fighter Command.

      The unit did not enter combat until September 2, 1940, at which point the Poles more than proved their worth, with 303 becoming one of the most successful RAF squadrons of the entire Battle of Britain in the five weeks they flew against the Luftwaffe. In their first week of combat they scored more than 20victories without loss.  Most Polish pilots were generally older than their British counterparts and had hundreds of hours of flying time in a variety of planes, as well as combat experience in both Poland and France. Unlike the RAF, they had not been trained to rely on a sophisticated radio and radar network. As a result, said one British flight instructor, "their understanding and handling of aircraft was exceptional." While they understood the value of tools like radio and radar, the Poles never stopped using their eyes to locate the Luftwaffe. "Whereas British pilots are trained.. . to go exactly where they are told, Polish pilots are always turning and twisting their heads to spot a distant enemy," an RAF flier noted.

     Additionally, British pilots were taught to fly and fight with caution and were instructed to open fire on the enemy at a distance of not less than 150 yards. The Poles, by contrast, had been trained to use their planes the way a cavalryman uses his horse - to crowd and intimidate the enemy, make him flinch, and then bring him down. After firing a brief opening burst at a range of 150 to 200 yards, the Poles would close to almost point-blank range. "When they go tearing into enemy bombers and fighters, they get so close you would think they were going to collide," observed Athol Forbes. Only then would the Poles open fire, which, as Forbes noted, "will cut chunks out of any part of a German bomber and generally disable it in one attack."

      In mid-October 1940, 303 was withdrawn to Yorkshire for defensive duties, returning to Northolt in January 1941 where they re-equipped with Spitfires and eventually became part of The Polish Wing under the leadership of Wing Commander John A. Kent flying offensive sweeps over France. In July 1941 303 moved to Speke, returning south in October to resume offensive operations.

      The 1942 season began in April, with 303 again at Northolt, flying nearly-daily cross-Channel sweeps.  On May 25, Jan Zumbach - an 8-victory Battle of Britain ace - took command of 303.  On June 5, during an afternoon escort mission, F/O Gladych, P/O Szelestowski and Sgt Stasik each shot down an Fw-190 without loss. By June 15, 303 had flown 16 full-strength operational sorties, not counting several air-sea rescues and interceptions. On June 15, 303 moved to Kirton-in-Lindsey, where they remained until being send to Redhill on August 15 with the rest of the Polish units.  On August 19, the Poles participated in Operation Jubilee, the Dieppe raid, where 303 flew four missions that day.

Zumbach was replaced as Squadron CO on December 1, by S/Ldr Bienkowski, after increasing his score from 8 to 13.5 during the combat the unite had seen under his command.  After flying escort missions for American bombers during the early months of 1943, 303 returned to 11 Group in March 1943, re-equipping with the Spitfire IX that summer.  By the time they were sent for a rest in Northern Ireland that November, they had shot down their 250th and last victory, making them the most successful of the Polish squadrons that flew with the RAF during the Second World War. 

      After the war, Zumbach returned to Poland, but escaped in 1947 after the communist government assumed power.  In 1961, he formed the air force for the short-lived breakaway Republic of Katanga in the former Belgian Congo, which he led with other Polish mercenaries until 1965.  He died in 1986 and is buried in Warsaw.


     The Hasegawa1/32 Spitfire first appeared in the late 1980s.  It has been re-released over the years in several guises.  The most recent being the “USAAF” version, which has markings for a Spitfire Vc with the Vokes filter flown by the 52nd Fighter Group in North Africa, and a standard Spitfire Vb flown by Don Gentile with the 4th Fighter Group in the fall of 1942.

      While the kit has raised-line panel detail, it is quite accurate in outline and dimensions, with good fabric effect on the rudder and elevators.  The cockpit has adequate detail, though the seat does not have the padded back.  Both the early and late windscreens are provided.


      Construction was really quite simple.  I have been very surprised by the fit of these 1970s-era Hasegawa 1/32 kits like this, the Zero, the P-12 and the P-26, all of which go together much easier than Hasegawa’s 1/48 and 1/72 kits from the same period.

      I used some Evergreen dowel to create the ribbed leather back pad for the seat, which was the only modification I did to the kit other than to rescribe panel detail.  I also made seatbelts from lead foil taken from a wine bottle.

      Assembly was straightforward, though I needed to fill large sink areas on bother upper wing parts where the lower flap caused shrinkage in the mold.  Other than that, I only needed Mr. Surfacer on the fuselage centerline seam and the upper wing-to-fuselage joint.



      The model was painted with Xtracrylix RAF Ocean Grey, Dark Green and Sea Grey Medium, with the Sky fuselage band and prop spinner.  In this size of model, I could freehand the Dark Green over the Ocean Grey, thinning the paint and tightening the air brush to give a narrow demarcation line with very little overspray.  This is the way the RAF painted the full-size Spitfire, as seen by close examination of the accurately-restored Spitfire IX out at Planes of Fame, which came from The Fighter Collection at Duxford.

      When all was dry, I gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix Gloss Varnish before proceeding to apply the decals.


      I used the new Techmod sheet for Polish Spitfire Vbs, which provides markings for Jan Zumbach’s EP596, which was the third and last Spitfire Vb he flew on operations in 1942.  There is frequent disagreement about these airplanes, but they can be distinguished from each other by the size of the Donald Duck personal marking, which is different on each, and by the scoreboard below the windscreen.

      While I have had problems before with Techmod decals exploding into pieces while soaking in the water, these decals presented no difficulty other than they are very thin and can be screwed up easily if not applied carefully to the surface of the model.  They snuggled down without problems under a coat of Micro-Sol.


      I washed the model, then gave it some moderate dings and scuffing - photos show the airplane was well-maintained and the paint job was kept up.  I applied exhaust stains and oil stains, and then gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix Satin Varnish, followed by two final coats of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish.  I then attached the wheels and gear covers, propellor blades and put the canopy and side flap in the open position.


      I was really surprised at how good this kit is after 30 years.  The only problem is that the plastic is more brittle than one is used to dealing with on contemporary kits.  I think that as far as shape and dimensions go, this is one of the most accurate Spitfire V kits available in any scale.

Editor's note: an excellent reference on the early days of the Kosciusko Squadron is by Mushroom Models Publications.

Tom Cleaver

April 2006

Copyright ModelingMadness.com

 Review Kit courtesy of my wallet; Techmod decals courtesy of Hannant’s - www.hannants.co.uk 

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page  2017