Tamiya 1/32 Spitfire VIII

KIT #: 60320
PRICE: 11,000 yen (about $128 at HobbyLink Japan)
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver

Victory Productions Decals 32-003 “Spitfire: Aces of the Empire Part 1" 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 attacked Darwin in 1942, the Australian government was able to convince the British 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, where they were instrumental in stopping the Japanese attacks in 1943.

Due to 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, serials A58‑300 to 550, from November 1943 through July 1944.  The Spitfire VIII was the ultimate development of the Spitfire to take maximum advantage of the Merlin 60-series engine. By this period of the war, unfortunately,  there was little opportunity for the Australians to prove the superiority of the Spitfire VIII against their Japanese opponents, though Spitfire VIIIs in the Burma Theater demonstrated clear superiority over their opponents during the campaign to drive the Japanese out of Southeast Asia.

Clive “Killer” Caldwell:

Group Captain Clive Robertson Caldwell DSO, DFC & Bar was the leading Australian ace of the Second World War, and is officially credited with 28.5 enemy aircraft shot down over 300 operational sorties.  Caldwell learned to fly with the Aero Club of New South Wales in 1938.  At the outbreak of war,  he joined the Royal Australian Air Force, intending to become a fighter  pilot. At 29, he was over the age limit for fighter training; he got around this by persuading a pharmacist friend to alter the details on his birth certificate.

Caldwell's first assignment was with a British Hurricane unit, 73 Squadron, during the early stages of the North African campaign. Shortly thereafter he was transferred to 250 Squadron RAF which had recently converted to the new P‑40 Tomahawk.  Caldwell, flying as Flying Officer Jack Hamlyn's wingman, participated in the first P‑40 victory, over an Italian CANT Z.1007 bomber, on June 6, 1941, though the claim was not officially recognized.  Soon afterwards the squadron was to Palestine and Caldwell flew in combat over Syria and Lebanon.

Struggling to acquire skill with gunnery deflection, Caldwell developed a technique he called "shadow shooting", in which he fired at his aircraft’s shadow on the desert, a technique that  was widely adopted by the Desert Air Force.

250 Squadron returned to North Africa in late June. On June 26, Caldwell flew as escort for bombers attacking Gazala, Libya, during which he scored his first aerial victory, a Bf-109E flown by Leutnant Heinz Schmidt of I/JG 27, over Capuzzo.

On August 29, while flying to his base alone, Caldwell was attacked by two Bf-109s, which approached simultaneously at right angles.  The leader was Leutnant Werner Schröer one of the leading experten of JG 27.  While Caldwell sustained three separate wounds as his Tomahawk was hit by more than 100 7.9 mm bullets and five 20 mm cannon shells, he shot down Schröer's wingman, and heavily damaged Schröer's "Bla

On November 23, 1941, Caldwell shot down Hauptmann Wolfgang Lippert, Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 27.  Lippert bailed out and struck the tailplane. Shortly after his capture, his legs were amputated. Ten days later gangrene set in and Lippert died on December 3.  Caldwell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for this action.  Two days later, he claimed five Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers in a matter of minutes, for which he  was awarded a Bar to his DFC.

On December 24, Caldwell fought another Luftwaffe ace, 69-victory experte Hauptmann Erbo Graf von Kageneck of III./JG 27.  Though Caldwell only claimed a "damaged" at the time,  postwar sources awarded him the kill (which really was, since von Kageneck was mortally wounded).   

In January 1942, Caldwell was transferred to 112 Squadron, where he scored a striking victory in February 1942.  While leading 11 Kittyhawks of 112 and 3 Squadrons over Gazala, he sighted a schwarm of Bf 109Fs 2,000 feet above.  He nosed into a shallow dive, applied maximum power and boost, pulling his Kittyhawk into a vertical climb. With the P‑40 "hanging from its propeller," he fired a burst at the Bf-109 flown by Leutnant Hans‑Arnold Stahlschmidt of I./JG27, who was lagging behind the others. Stahlschmidt's fighter "shuddered like a carpet being whacked with a beater" before spinning out of control.

In July 1942, Caldwell was recalled to Australia by the RAAF, where he assumed command of No. 1 Fighter Wing, consisting of 54 Squadron RAF, and 452 and 457 Squadrons RAAF. The wing was equipped with Spitfire Vc aircraft and arrived at Darwin in early 1943, to defend it against Japanese air raids.

Caldwell claimed two victories in his first interception over Darwin, a Mitsubishi A6M Zero and a Nakajima B5N "Kate." The Australian pilots found the Japanese reluctant to engage in combat over Australia, due to the distance from their bases in the Dutch East Indies. 1 Wing initially suffered high losses because of inexperience and mechanical problems with their newly‑"tropicalized" Spitfires.  Caldwell scored his last aerial victory, a Mitsubishi Ki‑46 "Dinah" of the 202nd Sentai, over the Arafura Sea on August 17, 1943, giving him a total of 6.5 Japanese aircraft shot down

After a tour as commander of the fighter training unit, when 80 Wing re‑equipped with the Spitfire VIII in 1944, Caldwell moved up to Wing Commander, while fellow ace Robert Gibbes became Wing Leader.  Since the position of Wing Commander was administrative and did not involve regularly flying on operations, Caldwell did his best to keep his hand in, leading the unit on strafing missions throughout the East Indies from their base on Morotai.

The Revolt of the Wing Leaders or “The Morotai Mutiny”:

By early 1945, the RAAF First Tactical Air Force was based at Morotai, where the Spitfires of 80 Wing provided fighter cover for the Beaufighter wing and the Kittyhawk wing.  They flew missions over the southern Philippines, the Netherlands East Indies, and British Borneo as part of the Montclair Plan.  The plan was overtly political, as the Australian government was already looking toward an expanded regional role post‑war. While few enemy aircraft were encountered, enemy anti‑aircraft defenses were strong and losses mounted. There was a certain amount of grumbling over these losses, since the men saw the “real war” was in the north at Okinawa, while the East Indies were seen as places the Japanese would surrender regardless once the war was over.  Thus, aircrew deaths and other losses were seen as pointless in the overall situation.

At 24, Group Captain Wilfred Stanley “Wilf” Arthur, was the youngest Group Captain in the RAAF.  After a distinguished combat career with 3 Squadron in North Africa and 75 Squadron in New Guinea, was he became Officer Commanding 81 Wing, equipped 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.”  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 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 lives and wasting valuable bombs and ammunition."

Arthur had his Intelligence Officer put together a “Balance Sheet” for the Wing's operations and took it to the office of Air Commodore Cobby, the Air Officer Commanding, 1st TAF, where it was ignored.  Group Captain Gerald Packer, the Senior Officer Administrative of 1st TAF, considered the document had merit, and told Arthur to take it direct to AOC Cobby. Arthur took the paper to Cobby on January 23, 1945, and explained why he thought the operations were not worthwhile. Cobby said the figures were interesting and asked for copies of the balance sheet, the relevant operational instructions and the intelligence reports. 

Disappointed that no official attention was given after, Arthur 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 this 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 Okinawa and fly combat on the front lines of the Pacific War.

Being some of the most famous names and genuine heroes in the wartime RAAF, the Australian government could not afford the adverse publicity if their complaint became known in the country, since the Australian public had - and still has - a strong opposition to the needless waste of men in war stemming from their experience as cannon fodder for the British at Gallipoli.  The government leaders feared the government  could fall if this became public.

An Inquiry was held, conducted by John Vincent William Barry, KC. The government was considering bringing charges of mutiny in wartime and resignation in wartime.

At the inquiry, Arthur stated that, after he arrived at Morotai, he decided he would not take part in operations he thought were worthless. He was 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 Inquiry determined the eight had no real intentions towards mutiny.  The Government, however, was not prepared to forgive and forget this affront to their authority.

In the end, while the serious charges were dropped, each and every officer 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.  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.


This is the second Tamiya “Uber-Spitfire.”  It differs from the Spitfire IX kit in providing the retractable tail wheel and shorter-span ailerons associated with the Mk. VIII, as well as the pointed rudder and extended wingtips used by some versions.  Decals provide markings for an H.F. VIII with extended wingtips of 417 Squadron RCAF in Italy, the Spitfire F. Mk.VIII flown by Wing Commander Robert Gibbes. RAAF, and a Spitfire flown by the 31st Fighter Group, USAAF in Italy in 1943 and early 1944.


 The kit sets a new standard for production quality and ease of assembly, to the point a modeler would have to work to do it wrong.  The project involves not so much construction as assembly. Everything in the kit fits, all details are present, and the main thing a modeler needs to bring to the project is an attention span sufficient to get through the various sub-assemblies and the ability to read and follow the well-done instructions.  If one elects to do the engine, I recommend additional work be done to provide the wiring and other details that will bring the engine “alive.”

 I differed from the standard OOB build in not doing the engine in detail, though I had to use the engine block and the framing to provide internal strength for the nose since the cowling panels are extremely thin.  Even with this internal structure and gluing the panels in place, there was still a problem in making them all fit together right, since it was easy to squeeze them into the wrong shape.  Once I solved this, construction was complete.  Again, I replaced the instrument panel with an Eduard photoetch panel, when the instrument decals failed to properly adhere to the clear plastic backing parts.  Other than that, I used the kit parts throughout.

 I attached the large drop tank during assembly.  Once this was done, the model was ready for painting.


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 overall RAAF Foliage Green and the lower surfaces 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 the other aircraft that were repainted at the squadron level, 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. 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 last group of Spitfire VIIIs received were all in the standard European Temperate Day Scheme of Ocean Grey/Dark Green upper surfaces and Sea Grey Medium lower surfaces. The RAAF received 159 of these, serialed A58‑600 to 758, after  September 1944. They retained this standard scheme while in Australian service.

 The result of all 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.

 Caldwell's Spitfire:

 Caldwell flew two Spitfire VIII aircraft, with the first being  the more famous.  Almost all information that has been recorded about it originally is incorrect.

 For starters, Caldwell never flew A58‑464. This error dates back many years, when a researcher noted this serial number in Caldwell’s logbook. An article appeared in one of the first IPMS‑USA Quarterly magazines that embellished the facts a little (surprise surprise) and the error has been repeated at regular intervals ever since. Squadron, maintenance, and 464's status card all confirm that an operational unit never flew it. “464" was in fact a transcription error for “484.”

 A58‑484, the Spitfire VIII Caldwell actually flew, was maintained by 457 Squadron from July 1944 and then 452 Squadron from November 1944.  It was one of those that had the Middle Stone over‑painted with RAAF Foliage Green. The proof is seen in close examination of several photographs where the stencil JG543 (the RAF serial of this aircraft) can be seen on such items as the antenna mast; this was done to insure when the aircraft were re‑erected after being knocked down for shipping that the original parts were reattached (these may have been mass‑produced, but there were small detail differences between airplanes, which made this necessary). When the RAAF repainted airplanes after reassembling them there was no need to keep these stencils. Where these can be found, this proves that these are parts of the aircraft that were painted RAF Dark Earth.

 The colors for A58‑484 therefore would have been RAF Dark Earth and RAAF Foliage Green over RAF Azure Blue. The letter codes would be Sky Blue ‑ not white as has been frequently stated; the serial is black, with the rear fuselage band white with a black stripe. The spinner bands were red, not black, as has been previously stated. One can look at the side view photo of Caldwell's Spitfire and see the tonal differences between the letter codes (sky blue) and the center of the national insignia (white), quite clearly.

 I freehanded this scheme, after applying white to the fuselage band and the wing leading edges and then masking those areas.  I used Xtracrylix “RAF Azure Blue” for the lower surface, and did the upper camouflage with “RAF Cark Earth” and RLM 71 Dunkelgrun,” which is considered a close match to the RAAF Foliage Green color.  I painted the spinner white, then masked it completely, then cut out the areas for the stripes, and painted those with Xtracrylix “RAF Red”.

 When this had cured, I unmasked the white areas and gave the model an overall coat of Xtracrylix “Gloss” varnish.


 I used the Tamiya kit decals for the national insignia and the stencils.  These decals are not of the best quality, and it took several applications of Micro-Sol, followed by a heavy coat of Solvaset after the Micro-Sol failed to get the decals to lay down.  Even with that, they didn’t lay down that well.  I think this is due to the fact that Tamiya decals are generally thick.

 I used the Victory Productions decals from “Spitfire: Aces of the Empire Part 1" for Caldwell’s individual markings.  I would recommend using the VPD decals for the national insignia also, since the decals I did use went down without problem under a single application of Micro-Sol.


Photos show the original airplane to be well-maintained other than some visible exhaust staining due to the lean fuel mixtures that were used to maximize range, as well as some “dings” on the wing where the pilot boarded the aircraft.  I “dinged” that area with Talon aluminum acrylic, hand painted, and did the exhaust staining by applying Tamiya “Sky Grey,” then Tamiya “Dark Grey” and finally Tamiya “Smoke.”

 I used resin wheels from the Pacific Coast Models Spitfire kit, since the photo I found of 80 Wing Spitfires showed them using the full wheel cover hub due to the mud there at Morotai.

 You should never “ding” the blades of a Spitfire, since other than the original deHavilland blades of the Mk. I and Mk.II, all Spitfires used Rotol blades that were made of “Jablo,” a sort-of wooden substance.

 I unmasked the canopy and placed it in the open position, and attached the cockpit flap in the open position.


The kit is worth its expensive price, even if a modeler does not build it so that the engine can be displayed.  I personally think if one is going to display the engine, extra work has to be given to the detail with the addition of electrical wires and other tubing, to bring that area “alive.”  My “curbside” model looks fine to me.  This is the only out-of-box kit for a Spitfire VIII that is accurate in all the small ways that this version differed from others, and so any Spitfire Boffin will be happy with the result.

Tom Cleaver

September 2010

 Decals courtesy Victory Productions Decals.  Get yours at http://www.victorymodels.com/

 Review kit courtesy of HobbyLink Japan.  Get yours at  http://www.hlj.com/product/TAM60320

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