Hell Island (Malta) Spitfire: 1/48th Tamiya Spitfire Mk.Vb
Updated: Oct 8, 2021
The Tamiya 1/48th scale Spitfire Vb is certainly a go-to kit of mine if I am looking for a stress free build. The parts fit and engineering are still highly competitive although the kit came out over 25 years ago. Besides, another Spitfire in the collection is always a welcome addition (although I do like to build variety as well).
Notable Kit Features:
Straight-forward build with low parts count
Minimal ejector pin marks (and typically in places not seen)
Well detailed cockpit with excellent fit
Pilot figure included
Optional armored glass
Two styles of rear view mirrors provided
Option to easily cut out cockpit door to display open
Excellent finely engraved surface detail
Option to build clipped-wing or standard-wing version
Aboukir and Vokes underside filter provided
Optional Slipper tank
This one had been on the slate a while, however I had to get to a point where I felt I could tackle the custom markings and subtle paint job. After reading Dan McCaffery's "Hell Island" (Highly recommended read on the battle for Malta) and investing in a small Plotter Cutter (Silhouette Portrait - which is capable of cutting out masks for lettering and other markings) I figured I was as ready and inspired as I could be to start this project.
After the usual research period, I selected a Takali based Spitfire Vb of RAF 249 Squadron which was flown by a couple of RCAF pilots. This was one of the first Spitfire Vb sent to Malta in July 1942 and it was subsequently lost on 25 August 1942. During its brief career, future Ace John McElroy claimed a shared kill and another damaged. Another RCAF pilot, John Williams, claimed two Bf109s on July 27 flying this aircraft. (Well not this aircraft obviously, but the real one ;)
Left photo: John Williams Centre photo: "B" Flight 249 Squadron in Malta - early July 1942. From the left - unknown, unknown, S/L Laddie Lucas, Sgt Paul Brennan, unknown, Bob Middlemiss, George Beurling (with bomb), unknown and (I believe) John William "Willie the Kid" Williams. Right photo: John McElroy
Kit Additions / Modifications:
Added seatbelts made of tape (heavy foil works very well too)
...and we are done! (as you'll note, I typically build out of the box, without all the addons)
The paint job consisted of applying the RAF desert scheme of Middle Stone and Dark Earth upper surfaces and Sky Blue lower surfaces (which was more common than the Azure blue on Spitfires during this period - according to my research). After this finish was dry, I then over-spayed a thinned version of US Navy / Intermediate blue, having the original finish barely show through in spots. These aircraft were reportedly painted blue while on their way to Malta with whatever paint was available at the time (which may have been a thinned mix of paint to get them all covered). Regardless, it is an interesting addition to my collection of Spitfires in a scheme less often seen.
If accuracy is your thing, I believe the newer (2014) Airfix kit reportedly best captures the cockpit detail and shape of the Spitfire Mk. Vb (Although I have not got this kit as yet). The Tamiya’s kit is probably still the easiest to build and certainly looks the part at a reasonable price, therefore I still highly recommend this kit. You can make the choice depending on availability and price and you shouldn't be disappointed either way.
Completed build #190 - December 2015 using the 1/48th scale Tamiya #61035-1800 kit.
Feel free to ask any questions or post comments on the build - Keep on building what you want, how you want - Cheers