|KIT:||Hasegawa 1/48 Spitfire VIII|
|KIT #:||9079 (Jt 79)|
|NOTES:||Aeroclub corrected fuselage, Red Roo RRR48134 “Spitfire Mk. VIII Quick-Fix Enhancement Set” and Victory Productions Decals, “Spitfire: Aces of the Empire” used.|
The Royal Australian Air Force was always on the far end of a very long supply line - either from Great Britain or the United States - throughout the Second World War, which meant there was a constant struggle to obtain first-class combat aircraft.
When the Japanese began their attacks against Darwin in 1942, the RAAF were able to convince the British that they needed the return of three RAAF Squadrons from the Middle East, and the provision of at least two more RAF squadrons - mounted on first-class aircraft - to provide effective air defense. The result was the entry of the Supermarine Spitfire Vc into combat in the Southwest Pacific Theater.
Given the range limitations of the Spitfire, it was not really suited to the needs of the theater, and General George Kenney, USAAF, who commanded the Allied air forces in the SWPA, did not favor its presence. However, he also refused RAAF requests to equip with the P-51 Mustang. The RAAF was left with no alternative but to update the Spitfire force, and this began when the RAAF received 251 F.VIIIs, serialled A58-300 to 550, from November 1943 through July 1944. The RAAF also received 159 of the H.F.VIII variant, serialled A58-600 to 758, from September 1944.
Markings and Camouflage:
Modelers have long been interested in these Australian Spitfires, and have had to put up with a lot of misleading information regarding the camouflage and markings. Fortunately there is now a body of recent research available, which goes far toward solving the problem. I am indebted to RAAF historical researcher Peter Malone for providing the following information.
The first batch of Spitfire VIIIs arrived in Australia in desert camouflage. Repainting was done initially at the Aircraft Depots, but later aircraft seem to have been issued to the squadrons still in RAF desert camouflage and were repainted at unit level.
There appear to have been two basic schemes. Where there was time, the entire aircraft was repainted, with the upper surfaces in RAAF Foliage Green and the undersurfaces in RAAF Sky Blue. For these aircraft, the demarcation line between the upper and lower colors on the nose followed the panel line between the lower and side engine cowlings. The RAAF paints had a slight sheen and appear to be glossy in some photos.
On other aircraft, the RAF Dark Earth and Azure Blue were retained but the RAF Middle Stone was over-painted with RAAF Foliage Green. Close examination of photos often reveals over-spray from the Foliage Green on the Azure Blue. On these aircraft the upper/lower color demarcation line followed that of the original pattern. There seem to have been three basic styles, which closely follow the patterns which can be seen on desert finished Spitfire VIIIs in the Middle East and Italy, and which may be related to which factory built the particular airplane. Looking at the nose, these patterns were: 1) A fairly straight line, about two thirds up the lower cowling; 2) Azure Blue in a narrow band under the cowling ahead of the intake, with 'loops’ of upper surface camouflage down the sides of the intake/filter; 3)Azure Blue in an oval shape under the front-lower cowling and a narrow band under the intake/filter.
The result of this is: a photograph of a Spitfire in the 300-550 range that looks overall one dark color is most likely the Foliage Green/Sky Blue scheme, while one in the same serial range with dark colors in a disruptive two-color upper scheme is most likely the Dark Earth/Foliage Green/Azure Blue scheme.
Any Spitfire VIII with a serial above 600 is Ocean Grey/Dark Green/Sea Grey Medium, but might alternatively be in the Tropical Land Scheme of Dark Earth/Dark Green/Sea Grey Medium.
The bottom line is that in the absence of any color photos, with all this analysis done from black and white photographs, there is significant “wiggle room,” though I think Peter Malone’s research is as close to fully accurate as anyone is likely to get.
Robert Henry Maxwell Gibbes joined the Royal Australian Air Force as an Air Cadet in February 1940. By 1941, he was a Pilot Officer. He first served overseas as Adjutant with 450 Squadron that year. He flew first the Curtiss Tomahawk and later the Kittyhawk in North Africa. He was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader of 450 in February 1942, at which point he was transferred to 3 Squadron as Squadron Leader. On May 26, 1942, he was shot down in flames, and parachuted at low altitude, breaking his leg and ankle. In July 1942, while making a low-level strafing attack at Nun, Tripolitania, he landed in enemy territory and picked up a Pilot Officer of his squadron who had been shot down by flak. He saw combat against both the Germans and the Italians, scoring 10 victories in North Africa, and one against the French while participating in the invasion of Vichy-controlled Lebanon in 1941, making him the 14th-ranked ace of the RAAF in World War II.
In 1944, he returned to Australia, where he became Chief Flying Instructor at Mildura that March. Promoted to Temporary Wing Commander, he was first posted to 80 Wing at Darwin that as Deputy Wing Commander, then led the unit to the Halmaheras in October. He remained as Wing Commander (Flying) until the ill-fated “Revolt of the Wing Leaders” in the Spring of 1945.
The Revolt of the Wing Leaders or “The Morotai Mutiny”:
By early 1945, the RAAF First Tactical Air Force (TAF) was based at Morotai, where the Spitfires of 80 Wing were tasked with providing fighter cover for the Beaufighter wing and the Kittyhawk fighter-bomber wing. Their task was to free the southern Philippines, Netherlands East Indies and British Borneo of Japanese forces as part of the overall Montclair Plan. This was overtly political, as the Australian government was already looking forward to an expanded regional role for the country post-war. Prior to the landing at Tarakan in Operation Oboe in May 1945, operations mainly involved strafing ground targets and watercraft, and some dive-bombing. While there were few enemy aircraft, enemy anti-aircraft defenses were active and a number of aircraft were shot down. There was a certain amount of grumbling among the units over these losses, since the “real war” was in the north in the Philippines and on to Okinawa, and these areas were seen as places that the Japanese would surrender regardless once the war was over. Aircrew deaths and other losses were seen as pointless in the overall situation.
Group Captain Wilfred Stanley “Wilf” Arthur, who at age 24 was the youngest Group Captain in the RAAF following a distinguished combat career with 3 Squadron in North Africa and 75 Squadron in New Guinea, was OC 81 Wing with Kittyhawk IVs in the Spring of 1945. As he later put it, “There were occasions previously when certain things that had been done by the RAAF had disappointed and probably disgusted me, but I finally sold out ... about the time I was at Morotai. I thought there was very little hope left for the RAAF.” He went on to explain that by "selling out", he meant: “What I considered the complete dishonesty of purpose evident in First TAF and the fact that I considered there was no attempt being made to kill Japanese, and that the only reason for most of the activities of First TAF was personal benefit of individuals within the Air Force. I considered there were certain persons using the Air Force for their own personal advantage and in the Air Force, it means peoples' lives. I reckoned it was and I reckon it is treason. It is also my opinion from what I have seen before that it is not peculiar to First TAF; that it exists in all the Air Force. We were wasting time, endangering peoples' lives and wasting valuable bombs and ammunition."
Arthur asked his Intelligence Officer to put together a “Balance Sheet” for his Wing's operations and took this took this to Air Commodore Cobby, the Air Officer Commanding, where it was ignored. Arthur initially discussed his balance sheet with Group Captain Gerald Packer who was the Senior Officer Administrative of 1st TAF. Packer considered the document had merit, and told Arthur to take it direct to AOC Cobby. Encouraged by Packer, Arthur took the paper to Cobby on January 23, 1945. Arthur showed Cobby his figures and explained why he thought the operations were not worthwhile. Cobby looked at the figures and said they were interesting and asked for copies of the balance sheet, relevant operational instructions and the intelligence appreciations.
Arthur was disappointed that no official attention was given after this and concluded that, because no action was taken, there was something dishonest in the way 1st TAF in particular - and the RAAF in general - were prosecuting the war. He brought these matters up to the leaders of the other units in 1st TAF, who agreed with him. On April 20, 1945, Group Captain Wilfred Arthur, Group Captain Clive Caldwell, Wing Commander Kenneth Ranger, Wing Commander Robert Gibbes, Squadron Leader John Waddy, Squadron Leader Bert Grace, Squadron Leader Douglas Vanderfield and Squadron Leader Stuart Harpham applied for permission to resign from the RAAF, on the grounds their service was wasted in these operations. All indicated a strong willingness to take 1st TAF to the Philippines or Okinawa to enter combat on the front lines of the Pacific War.
These men were some of the most famous names and genuine heroes in the wartime RAAF, and the Australian government could ill afford the adverse publicity of their complaint becoming known within the country, since Australians in general had (and still have) a strong opposition to the needless waste of men in war stemming from their experience as cannon fodder for the British at Gallipoli in the First World War. There was a fear on the part of the government that it could fall if this became public.
An Inquiry was held to investigate the resignations, conducted by John Vincent William Barry KC. The government was considering bringing charges of mutiny in wartime and resignation in wartime, which are very serious charges indeed.
Arthur stated that, after he arrived at Morotai, he decided he would not take part in operations he thought were worthless. He was then asked "This gets very close to Mutiny, does it not?" He responded "Yes. I meant to make as big a fuss as I possibly could with the object of getting the position corrected... we thought that, in the end, if we put our cards on the table, we would have a sufficiently strong case to prejudice a lot of people in our favor. All the same, we realized that, to lay ourselves open to any charge of mutiny, we might lessen the force of what we were doing, which was the reason we put the things in as resignations and not as any attempt to unseat people higher up ... It occurred to us, but we did not seriously think, or I did not, anyhow, that we would be charged with mutiny.”
The Commissioner of the Inquiry determined that the eight had no real intentions towards mutiny, and he did not comment on the potentially mutinous actions in his report. However, the government was not prepared to forgive and forget this affront to their authority.
There is no provision for officers to resign their commissions in time of war. "Except during time of war and except as otherwise prescribed, an officer may by writing under his hand tender the resignation of his commission at any time by giving three months notice." Flight Lieutenant Davoren, who represented Caldwell, argued that “There is no provision that prohibits your requesting permission, nor is there any requirement that when you make such a request, the grounds of your application must be stated."
In the end, while these serious charges were dropped, each and every one of these officers was found - after a very detailed investigation - to have committed many small variances in the conduct of paperwork and the enforcement of petty regulations such as allowing access to liquor at forward bases, and each was demoted one grade for allegedly having profited in a scheme to provide alcohol to their men. All left the RAAF in the year following the end of the war, though each had been seen before this event as having a spectacular future in the air force.
After leaving the RAAF, Robert Gibbes established Gibbes Sepik Airways Ltd. in 1948, operating throughout New Guinea during the 1950s through the 1970s.
Hasegawa’s Merlin-60 series Spitfire has been praised and damned since its release in 2001. The level of detail is marvelous, the cockpit is so good one does not need to even think of replacing it with a resin “correction set.” Unfortunately, the fuselage - which was designed using a set of incorrect drawings - is significantly misshapen, being too short overall and with other serious dimensional irregularities. The kit makes up into a beautiful model, but for anyone who really loves the Spitfire, that fuselage makes things look “odd,” to say the least.
Loon Models released a resin “corrected fuselage” a few years ago which did answer the problem of overall length, but did not deal with the other dimensional problems of the fuselage, and was at least as expensive as the original kit.
We now have a solution from John Adams at Aeroclub that is both accurate overall and inexpensive to obtain. The Aeroclub fuselage, which was released this past September, corrects all the dimensional problems associated with the Hasegawa kit’s fuselage, as a “drop fit conversion.” While this is a limited-run product and is thicker than the Hasegawa parts, special effort was made to keep the area of the cockpit as thin as the original kit parts, so that the detail parts of the kit fit as they would with the regular fuselage. The correction set includes a lower forward fuselage with either the early or late intake.
There is still an “issue” with the Aeroclub set, as the Spit Boffin’s Spit Boffin, my good friend Bruce Archer, has pointed out. This is that the entire cockpit interior is 1mm too far forward. I have to say that when I read this from him, and looked at my completed kit, my reaction was “huh?” Personally, I can’t even see 1mm on a ruler, so this doesn’t rock my boat. Those who do worry about this can move the various bulkheads back, but this will then throw out alignment with the molded-in sidewall detail. For me, it’s a glitch I can live with.
I also used the Red Roo conversion set for the Spitfire VIII, which provides a more accurate set of long-barrel cannons than are in the kit, and a corrected tailwheel and gear doors, as well as a rudder with less-overdone surface detail and a superior shape.
I will note here that Red Roo also does corrected fuselages for the Spitfire VIII and Spitfire IX that completely replace all the fuselage parts of the original kit other than the cockpit detail. I haven’t seen these myself, but based on the past Red Roo products I have been happy to use, I am certain these are also worth getting.
Because this fuselage is limited-run, it doesn’t fit together as well as the original parts. This means a modeler will have to fill the centerline seam, and will need to test-fit the attachment of the wing and fuselage sub-assemblies as well as fill and sand the joints where the fuselage and wing sub-assembly attach. This is not a problem, and anyone with average skills will have no difficulty doing this.
The really fortunate thing is that all the cockpit parts of the original kit fit perfectly to this correction fuselage. I also used Eduard photo-etch RAF late-style seatbelts with this project.
Once a modeler has the fuselage assembled with the cockpit inside, further assembly of the model is completely straightforward, and I will refer you to previous reviews of the Hasegawa Spitfires I have done here.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
The last group of Spitfire VIIIs received by the RAAF were the H.F. VIII version, and it is believed all were finished in the standard day fighter scheme of Ocean Grey/Dark Green upper surfaces and Sea Grey Medium lower surfaces.
However, some Spitfires in this group, including the Spitfire flown by Wing Commander Robert “Bobby” Gibbes, the Wing Commander (Flying) of 80 Wing at Morotai, appear to have been overpainted, since some of the camouflage pattern - particularly the area of the left rear fuselage - does not conform to any known Type A camouflage pattern. The possibility exists that some of these airplanes were supplied in the Tropical Land Scheme of Dark Earth/Dark Green/Sea Grey Medium, and had the Dark Earth overpainted with Ocean Grey. Additionally, the non-standard pattern of the rear fuselage camouflage on this airplane could have been an overpaint of the original RAF serial number.
There are also those who believe this airplane remained in the Tropical Land Scheme, and several diecast models of this Spitfire have been produced in those colors. Since the only photos of Gibbes’ airplane were all taken in black and white, there is no way to know for certain. However, the Spitfire VIII in Australia, which was restored in these markings, was seen by Gibbes, who pronounced himself pleased with it in Ocean Grey/Dark Green/Sea Grey Medium. Even after 60 years, it would seem to me likely Gibbes would have remembered Dark Earth or Ocean Grey. (He might also have been polite if they were wrong, knowing the trouble the restorers had gone to in doing this work.) Ultimately, one will never really be able to make a final determination on this airplane, though I think the preponderance of evidence supports how I painted it here.
The model was first “pre-shaded” with flat black over panel lines. I then painted the leading edges with Tamiya “Flat White” and masked that off. The rest of the model was painted with Xtracrylix “Ocean Grey,” “RAF Dark Green,” and “Sea Grey Medium,” which I think are the best representations of these colors by any paint manufacturer. Since I believe the airplane was overpainted in the field, I freehanded the Type A scheme with a bit of simplification from the standard pattern. The prop spinner was painted with Xtracrylix “Red Arrows Red.” When the paint was dry, I unmasked the white area and gave the model an overall coat of Xtracrylix Gloss Varnish.
The stenciling was done with the kit decals. The national markings and Gibbes’ personal markings came from the excellent Victory Productions Decals sheet, “Spitfire: Aces of the Empire.” It is interesting to note that as Wing Commander, Gibbes used his initials “RG,” with the “V” memorializing the Tomahawk II he flew in North Africa with 3 Squadron, RAAF when he was Officer Commanding of that unit.
The Spitfires of 80 Wing were kept in excellent condition. They weren’t flying any air combat, and in fact weren’t doing much flying at all by the Spring of 1945 since they were operating in a backwater. Photos show the airplanes clean other than some having heavy grey exhaust staining from the tuning of the engine to provide maximum range. The photos I have of Gibbes’ airplane show it as clean as one would expect the Wing Commander’s airplane to be, so I only “muddied up” the wheels.
I used a vacuform canopy from Falcon’s “Spitfire Special” set rather than the kit canopy parts, due to the fact I managed to misplace the kit windscreen at one point. The vac canopy looks much better in my opinion.
There you have it - the quest for the perfect Merlin-60 series Spitfire has taken a giant leap forward with the availability of this new corrected fuselage from Aeroclub. Unlike the Loon Models resin correction, it really is dimensionally-accurate throughout, not just in overall length. The small detail set from Red Roo makes those parts of the finished model look far more accurate than what you get out of the box. Someday some company may finally get this great airplane right the first time, but until then you can’t go wrong using these correction sets.
Hasegawa kit courtesy of my wallet. Detail correction set courtesy of Red Roo. Corrected fuselage courtesy of Aeroclub Models. Get yours at: http://www.aeroclub‑models.com
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