Italeri 1/72 Spitfire Mk Vb

KIT #: 001
PRICE:  7.50 Euro
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Pavla decals and parts set # 1240; 12 Euros. Provides two decal options.


Spitfire Mk Vbs action history by two Malta air war aces

 A lot of useful information has already been reiterated about the Spitfire and its evolution into several successful types including the Spitfire MkVb. Instead of going once more into details of how the MkVb came about it is worth going into some detail about the airmen who flew the type in particular to Spitfires MkVb EP706 and EP340. The airman was no other than the Canadian born daring and legendary pilots, George F Beurling and JF McElroy who with their courage and actions against the enemy during the air war over Malta were to become a legends.

 George Beurling became the top scoring fighter pilot in Malta. Nicknamed as ‘Screwball’, George F Beurling was a superb pilot to become a legend in Malta. He arrived in Malta during June 1942 in particular attachment to No 249 (Gold Coast) squadron, which was to bring out the best of him. This changed the impression he created of himself from a non-conformant to rules and regulations, when it came to authority into an examplainatory top scorer pilot.  George Beurling applied to join the RCAF in 1940 but he lacked educational qualification to enroll him for pilot training. He soon worked his passage to Britain and joined the RAF where he was accepted for aircrew training. Although sometimes undisciplined he passed his flying training with no problems and was soon in the thick of fighting. He gained two early victories but was severely reprimanded for breaking away from the accepted formation pattern. It seemed that he was hell bent on shooting down every enemy aircraft himself no matter what method he used. This of course did not please his superiors who regarded him as somewhat reckless. Being sent to serve overseas was with the hope to conform where with 249 Squadron he was to become a hero.

 Being manned by a large proportion of Commonwealth personnel 249 Sq adopted the name of ‘Gold Coast’; the squadron was assigned with defensive patrol flying from Church Fenton, Boscombe Down and North Weald through 1940-41 flying Hurricane I. In February 1941 the Squadron re-equipped with Hurricane II and was notified of a posting to Malta. These embarked on aircraft carriers HMS Furious and HMS Ark Royal and after a rough voyage flew the aircraft on the 21st of May 1941 to Ta’Qali airfield, which is located close to the town of Mosta..         

 From the dark days of 1940 when the island of Malta was defended by three Gloster Sea Gladiators, successive convoys to Malta were able to deliver aircraft successfully though with some loss, forming a superior number of fighters able to defend Malta and sister island of Gozo and also begin to carry the fight back to the enemy stationed in Italy. No 249 converted from Hurricane to Spitfire Vb, and later to Spitfire Vc with a great number of very good pilots flying within its fold. In early 1942 the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle was bound for Malta from Gibraltar in operation ‘Salient’ carrying 30 Spitfires to strengthen the island’s fighting force. All 30 reached Malta on the 9th of June and included within the ranks was Sgt George Beurling being accepted in the squadron as an exceptional pilot even though a crazy one. Settling at Ta’ Qali with the new squadron it took three days for Beurling for his first score in Malta. This happened when a force of Messerschmitt Bf 109s came over shortly after dawn in hope of catching the airfield by surprise. Being alerted by the radar station at Had Dingli, Beurling and the squadron scrambled to intercept the incoming fighter wave. His first service score on the island was when he destroyed one of the enemy aircraft. July brought an onslaught by axis planes and bringing fear of possible surrender of Malta. Junkers Ju 88s of II and III/KG77 and Bf 109sof I/KG77 were moved to Sicily from the Russian front and together with units from Regia Aeronautica, the new offensive begun. On 6th July, a fine and clear day mass raids over Malta began in full force and every fighter from Ta’Qali and Hal-Luqa airfields scrambled to meet the enemy. Eight Spitfires from 249 Sq encountered a large force of bombers with fighter escort when still over Gozo. Beurling managed to shoot down a Macchi 202 and minutes later shot down another.. Landing to refuel and rearm he shot down a Bf 109and damaged a Cant Z1007. On 27th July Beurling had an even grater success, claiming two Macchis and two Bf 109s. and two more damaged. One more Macchi was shot down with 4 machine guns after his cannon jammed. The following day Sgt Beurling’s award of DFM came through.. The relentless onslaught by enemy by the enemy continued and by August the kill score approached 16, a unique achievement in such a short time.

 During a well-known convoy code named “Pedestal” for Malta that was to relieve the siege like suffering conditions to both civilian and military people on the island the enemy launched more and massive attacks, day and night. This resulted that only 5 of the original 14 ships that left Gibraltar made it, one of which was the oil carrying tanker “Ohio”. Operation “Pedestal” gave pilot officer Beurling more kills. On 4th September he was awarded a Bar to DFM. September and October brought his score to 26. He seemed invincible and to many other pilots on the island, he was becoming a legend. On 14th October 1942 the radar at Had Dingli plotted a force of 8 Ju 88 with an escort of 50 Bf 109s. Approaching the island 249 Sq scrambled and met the enemy off Gozo coastline. Beurling immediately weaved amongst the bombers and promptly shot one down. Pulling up to attack the fighters he fired at a 109, which also went down. During the process a burst sent from one Ju 88 across the Spitfire cockpit hit his hands and forearm.  Beurling put the Spitfire into a dive in order to get clear and return to base and soon noticed a fellow pilot being chased by a Bf 109. He maneuvered the aircraft round and fired his guns into the belly of the 109. Unfortunately an unseen 109 also had Beurling in his sight and raked his aircraft with cannon fire. The Spitfire fell out of control hitting Beurling his legs and heels. Despite his injuries he managed to bale out and was picked up by a high Speed Launch 128, which was already on the way having watched his Spitfire fall and the parachute open. He gently splashed down over St Paul’s Bay. As he was being pulled aboard Beurling expressed concern that he could not find a Bible that his mother has given him. He carried it on every sortie and was sure that it brought him good luck. It was eventually found and with a sigh of relief he fell into a deep sleep.

 Recovering from the L-Imtarfa Military hospital he reluctantly received the news that his tour of Malta was over. Despite the award of DFC and a month later a DSO he felt rejected and sad that he was to leave his beloved Malta. In November he left Malta for UK in a Liberator and upon approaching Gibraltar the aircraft crashed in the sea but Beurling survived.  In Malta he was accredited with 27 1/3 victories while with 249 Sq. at Ta’ Qali making him the highest scoring allied pilot on the island. He eventually added two more kills to his total before finally being killed in 1948 whilst delivering an aircraft to Israel. A small corner of the National War Museum at Fort St Elmo, Valletta, his memory is forever engraved. He was indeed, one of the greatest pilot heroes of the war and of Malta. 


The Italeri kit appears to be a reissue of earlier MkIX kit 094 but with obvious changes to make a MkVb mainly concentrating to the underwing detail, tropical filter, exhaust stacks and armament.. Beautifully molded in grey styrene the MkVb has fine panel lines detail some of the panels are raised. There is a detailed cockpit interiors and wheel wells and well fitting parts making it a joy in building the model. An addition attraction is that the kit has parts for a Mediterranean version having the large cumbersome Vokes tropical filter immediately under the nose for an aircraft flown by 249 Sq and again two different filters as used on a 244 RAF Wing and355th FS USAAC fighter group. It was an obvious choice to construct the MkVb flown by Flying Officer George Beurling in view of his connections with the island who flew the aircraft barely a mile away from where I live.


There are no difficult parts to fit together and construction was straightforward starting with the cockpit office in grey/green finish with brown seats and black and white instruments. Only the seat belts need to add. Care was taken not to spoil the fine depressed panel lines during construction and the joint lines were good match with practically no filler needed. Along with this kit I also had the Pavla Spitfire detail set No1240 which provided a choice for a belly tank, Tropical filter etc and decal options, all of which I have used on this kit. The cockpit was already crammed with detail and though this lacked side panel detail the cockpit was to be closed and I found no scope to add more detail here. Care was taken to join the separate three bladed propeller at the correct pitch angle to ensure they are assembled at a right hand rotation as indicated on the instructions. There are two types of wind screens and optional rear view mirrors and the instructions indicate which type can be used while the view mirrors is left to adequate reference material.

 Another Spitfire VB was built alongside the Beurling Spitfire which was EP340 coded T-M. This had identical camouflage pattern of light and dark earth with the difference that the colors are reversed as shown in the pictures. Spitfire Vb was flown by another ace in the Battle for Malta. The decals issued in the same Pavla set No 1240 mentioned earlier are those for the Spitfire flown by flying officer John McElroy who was also serving with No249 Sq based at the same airfield at Ta’Qali. With this Spitfire McElroy destroyed a Reggiani Re2001 and damaged a Bf 109 on the 13th October 1942.

 JF McElroy was another famous pilot flying with 249 Squadron, and was two times an ace. He became a squadron leader after the war. In 1948 the fledging air force of the new state of Israel raised a single fighter squadron No 101, which was soon equipped with Spitfire IX, acquired from various sources. In the brief war with Arab neighbors the unit was to claim some 35 victories. The most successful being Rudi Avergarten, a former US P-47 pilot who claimed three and one shared including two Egyptian Spitfires IX. The Malta ace, Canadian JF McElroy who has claimed 8 or 9 over the hard-pressed island, added three more and one shared with 2nd TAF. After the war ended he fought in the Middle East shooting down an Egyptian Fiat G55 at the end of December 1948. McElroy then added further Spitfire victories on Jan 7th 1949 by shooting down two RAF Spitfires XVIII of 208 Squadron.


Among the three decal options that comes with the kit of the MkVb there is one attached to Sq No249 RAF based at Ta’Qali (wrongly printed as TAKALI), Malta in 1942 but the decal had incorrect white letter codes instead of yellow and here is where Pavla came to the rescue which are provided in yellow. Decals for the two Spitfire ace markings both came from the Pavla set. These were of the usual high quality and those for EP706 also carried the tally kill markings added to port side of cockpit. I used Humbrol paints mid stone and dark earth for the upper camouflage and azure blue CA15 Compucolor brand for the undersides. A fine XF needle fitted to my Badger 150 brought the correct feathered edge between the colors.



The Italeri kit has nice fitting detail parts, which easily be enhanced further with Pavla kit pack. If you build one MkVb you go for a second one like I did. The interesting about the pilots who flew the type is that F/L GF Beurling DSO DFC DFM had 31.3 victories to rank third in the top scorer list of British WWII combat pilots, while S/L JF McElroy is No27 on the same rank list of 97 aces. An ’ace ‘ in this case is termed as a pilot claiming five or more victories on Spitfires. Everyone in Malta very well knew these two outstanding Ace pilots besides other gallant airmen based here during the bitter years of WWII.


 1)  ‘Flypast’ December 1985 issue

2)  ‘ Malta Flypast’ issue No8.

Carmel J. Attard

August 2010

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