Eduard 1/48 Spitfire Vc

KIT #: 1137
PRICE: $49.95 MSRP
DECALS: Four Options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Reboxed Special Hobby kit with photo-etch detail parts added.


     The Spitfire V was originally an “interim” type based on the Mk.I airframe, specially strengthened to take the additional 475 h.p. of a Merlin-45 so as to be able to take on the new Messerschmitt Bf-109F that had first appeared toward the end of the Battle of Britain.  Appearing in early 1941, the airplane was visually different from the Spitfire I and II in that it had metal ailerons, which greatly improved controllability and roll rate.  Of course, this distinguishing mark was absent from the Mk.II Spitfires flown by the Tangmere Wing, led by Douglas Bader, who managed to bend the rules - something he was very good at - and get Supermarine to equip the wing’s Spitfires with the new metal ailerons.  Some 200-odd Spitfire Va with the original armament of eight .303 caliber machine guns were produced, but the vast majority were the Spitfire Vb with two drum-fed 20mm cannon and four machine guns. This “interim” Spitfire became the most-produced variant after the Spitfire IX, another “interim” type pushed into production to deal with another German aerial threat, the Fw-190.

     The Spitfire Vc was introduced in late 1941, and can be compared to the Spitfire Vb in the same way a Spitfire VIII can be compared to a Spitfire IX, i.e., this version featured a redesigned and strengthened airframe specifically to take the power of the Merlin-45, and other refinements.  It also introduced the “universal” or “c” wing which could carry four 20mm cannon or two 20mm cannon and four .303 machine guns, with the cannon being belt-fed rather than drum-fed.  Very few ever carried the 4-cannon armament as the extra cannon imposed stresses on the wing and the ext5ra weight had a deleterious effect on performance and maneuverability. Most Spitfire Vc’s carried the two-cannon/four-machinegun armament, with the extra space in the cannon bay used to double the ammo for the two 20mm cannon, with a plug in the leading edge of the wing over the cannon port.  The Spitfire Vc could also be distinguished from the previous versions by the fact the undercarriage legs sloped forward 2 inches further.  2,467 Spitfire Vc’s were built: 478 by Supermarine, 1,494 by Castle Bromwich, and 495 by Westland,

     The Spitfire Vc saw widespread overseas service from early 1942 onwards.  Most of the Spitfires assigned to the defense of Malta were of this version. The aircraft was also used extensively by the Desert Air Force in the North African, Italian and Balkans campaigns, as well as seeing service with five RAF squadrons in the India-Burma theater.  250 Spitfire Vc’s were also supplied to the RAAF, where they were flown in the defense of Northern Australia around Darwin, and for operations in New Guinea and the South West Pacific.

     The USAAF was the largest foreign user of Spitfires, with two fighter groups equipped through reverse Lend Lease operating in North Africa and the Mediterranean theatre of operations/

     Spitfire Vc’s were also operated by the Armee de l’Air, the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force, the Yugoslav Partisan Air Force, the Royal Hellenic Air Force, the Turkish Air Force, the Portuguese Air Force, and the Royal Egyptian Air Force.

The 31st Fighter Group in North Africa:

     The 31st Pursuit Group, composed of 39th, 40th, and 41st Pursuit Squadrons, was formed February 1, 1940 at Selfridge Field, Michigan, and was initially equipped with the P-39 Airacobra. In January 1942 the 39th, 40th  and 41st squadrons were transferred to the 35th  PG and the 307th, 308th, and 309th  Pursuit Squadrons were formed in their place.

      In June 1942 the 31st Fighter Group was shipped to England, where all three squadrons received Spitfire Vb’s. On August 1, 1942, the 307th FS moved to Biggin Hill, the 308th FS to Kenley, and the 309th to Westhampnett, where they operated with RAF squadrons under RAF control. The Americans took part in sweeps over France during the first two weeks of August, participating in Circus 204 to Lille on August 17 and the Dieppe Operation on August 19, where they made their first claims - 2 destroyed, 3 probable, and 1 damaged, for the loss of 8 Spitfires.  At the end of August, all three squadrons moved to Westhampnett and took part in patrols and Circuses in September and early October. On September 14 the 31st FG was transferred from the 8th AF to the 12th AF. On October 13, the Group ceased operations and boarded ship bound for North Africa on October 23, 1942, reaching Gibraltar at the end of the month, where they were equipped with new tropicalized Spitfire Vc aircraft.

   Operation Torch commenced on November 8, 1942. That day, the 308th FS and 309th FS flew from Gibraltar to Tafaraoui Airfield, Algeria, where three French Dewoitine D.520s strafing the airfield as the group was landing were shot down by pilots of the 309th. The ground echelons arrived that night, with the 307th FS arriving the next morning. The squadrons engaged in ground attack actions until November 11, when the French forces surrendered. On November 14, the group moved to Le Senia, where they provided air defense for Oran. For the rest of the year, rain and mud greatly limited operations.

     On January 11, 1943 the 308th FS moved to Casablanca, Morocco to cover the arrival of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. On February 7, the group transferred to Thelepte, Tunisia, 50 miles behind the front. Conditions at Thelepte were difficult, with the men living in shelters and dugouts, with frequent Luftwaffe raids.  On February 15, the 307th was strafed as they assembled on the runway.  Over the course of the day six Bf-109s Fw-190s were shot down. On February 17, with Thelepte in imminent danger of being overrun by the Germans, the Group evacuated immediately and was forced to leave much of their supplies and equipment behind.

     Between February 17 and March 7, 1943, the individual squadrons of the 31st FG operated from Tebessa, Du Kouif, Youks-les-Bains, Canrobert, and Kalaa Djerda before they reassembled at Thelepte. For the rest of March and early April, the squadrons provided escort for A-20s attacking the Afrika Korps. During this period the group claimed 15 Luftwaffe planes destroyed. On April 6 the 31st received their first Spitfire Mk IXs, which were used to provide high cover for the Spitfire Vc’s.  The Germans were now in retreat and the Group was moved to Djilma on April 7, 15 miles from the front, then on April 13 to Le Sers. Flying from Le Sers, the 31st claimed 29 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed by the time of the German surrender in North Africa on May 11, 1943.

     With the fighting over, operations slowed considerably for the 31st FG during the rest of May. Pilots were given rest leave and most of the Spitfire Vc’s were replaced with Spitfire IXs and Spitfire VIIIs for the coming invasion of Sicily.


     For being the third most-produced version of the Spitfire, and being more widely-used by different air forces than the Spitfire Vb, it is remarkable that the Spitfire Vc has only in the past year made it into release as an all-new injection-molded 1/48 kit. (Airfix did release what they called a “Spitfire Vc” that was a re-pop of their ancient Spitfire Vb with a different wing)  Previously, modelers had to scratch-convert a Spitfire Vb or find the resin wing that was made by Jules Bringuer in his pre-classic Airframes days.

     The Special Hobby kit shows its lineage pretty obviously, being based closely on the Tamiya Spitfire Vb, with some additional plastic parts to box in the cockpit, and separate ailerons.  This release by Eduard is a clipped-wing Spitfire Vc with markings for foreign users of the airplane in both standard and tropical versions, including a French Air Force Spitfire, one flown by the South African Air Force, and one with D-Day stripes.  The kit only includes parts for the clipped wingtips.  A full photo-etch cockpit, including the seat assembly, throttle and other details as well as a multi-part instrument panel and seat belts, is provided, as well as exterior details like the radiator screens and gear doors and wheel well detail.


     I began construction with the wing, and made the awful discovery that the ailerons do not fit the wing!  They are too small as well as too thin.  I fixed this by gluing them in place and then “fattening them up” with putty and Mr. Surfacer.  This really made more mess than was needed, and I would suggest gluing a piece of .010 Evergreen sheet to the lower surface, reshaping that and then rescribing it as a much superior way to solve the problem.

     Other than that, the kit goes together as well as any MPM kit does, which means test-fit everything and be prepared to use putty and Mr. Surfacer on all joints and seams.  I elected not to use most of the Eduard photoetch cockpit detail as it seemed too thin to me, and the plastic parts were perfectly adequate.  I did use the instrument panel, several of the other instrument faces, and the seatbelts.  I also elected not to use the photoetch gear doors for seeming too thin, and did not use the radiator screens on grounds they are so deep in the cowling that you can’t see them.  I also used a pair of Tamiya extended wingtips, which fit perfectly, since I intended to do a model of an airplane with a standard wing.



     I painted the model with Xtracrylix RAF Dark Earth, Middle Stone and Azure Blue, applied freehand.  When that was dry, I gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix Gloss Varnish.


     The decals in the kit are perfectly adequate and will create some interesting-looking models.  I decided I wanted to finally make an American Spitfire Vc, and used the Third Group Decals sheet that had been hiding in the decal dungeon for the past 10 years to do a Spitfire Vc of the 31st Fighter Group, operated in North Africa during Operation Torch.  I also used the kit decals for the stencils.  Everything went down with no problem using Micro-Sol.



I decided to do the model as the original might have looked at about the time of the invasion of North Africa, so it would be relatively clean and mostly un-dinged.  Photos of Spitfires operated in North Africa by the 31st FG show them faded and dinged a lot by the Spring of 1943, so one could really go to town on this scheme if they so wished.  After applying some exhaust stains and dings where the pilot would board the airplane, I gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish with a brushful of Tamiya Flat Base to give it the sun-weathered look that comes quickly in North Africa.  I attached the landing gear, prop and canopy, and the model was finished. 


      This Spitfire Vc needs care in assembly and finish, and a modeler should be experienced in building limited-run kits to get the best results.  It is far, far superior to the Airfix Spitfire Vc, which is only in the running if price is the sole consideration.  For any serious Spitfire “boffin,” this Spitfire Vc fills a yawning gap in the collection.  There are other markings options, such as the recently re-released Aeromaster sheet that provides two RAAF Spitfire Vc aircraft.  Special Hobby has also released the kit as a Seafire III, which fills another important hole in any comprehensive Spitfire collection.

Review kit courtesy of Eduard Models.

Tom Cleaver

March 2009

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