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As the Battle of Britain raged, Reichsmarchall Hermann Göring reportedly asked Luftwaffe ace Adolf Galland if there was anything he needed to make the Nazi campaign go more smoothly. Major Galland is said to have responded, “Give me a squadron of Spitfires.”

Galland’s response was only one indication of the reputation that Supermarine Spitfires attained on both sides of the war. When they were sent as replacements for Hawker Hurricanes as the frontline fighter, the contribution of “Spits” reached legendary proportions in the defense of Malta and the desert war in North Africa. American wing commander Lance Wade, who joined the RAF in 1940 and soon became an ace, flew a Mk.Vb Spitfire in North Africa, and his aircraft is our model project for this issue.

The Mk.V Spitfire was a Mk. I or II airframe fitted with an upgraded Merlin 45 engine. The “b” suffix indicated that the aircraft was armed with two 20mm cannons and four Browning .303-caliber machine guns.

Tamiya produces an excellent Mk.Vb Spitfire in 1/72nd scale. The cockpit consists of seven pieces, and should be painted Model Master “RAF Interior Green.” The instrument panel, which has a decal provided for the faces, is semigloss black. The Spitfire’s seat, according to several sources, was made from Bakelite and when left unpainted was a deep reddish color. I painted mine Gunze Sangyo’s “red brown,” No. 47. Another decal, depicting the pilot’s harness, can be applied at this time.

Cement the fuselage pieces together and slip the completed cockpit into place through the space in the bottom. The instructions next call for the placement of the exhaust stubs. Hold off on this step until you’ve completed the painting. They can, however, be painted “rust” and set aside to dry. Glue the wings together and attach them to the fuselage.

Since this kit will allow you to build either a standard Mk.Vb or a Mk.Vb tropical version, you’ll have to select the standard or clipped wingtip parts at this time. Squadron commander Wade’s Spitfire did not have the clipped wings common to some Spitfires used in the desert for low-level attacks.

There are two types of air-and-sand filters provided in the kit. Photos show Wade’s aircraft fitted with the larger Vokes air-and-sand engine filter, giving the Spit a distinctive profile. The kit also comes with the smaller “Aboukir” filter named for the Egyptian air base where it was developed.

Finish the basic model construction by attaching the horizontal stabilizers and cementing the radiator cover and oil cooler shroud to the bottom of the wings. Check all the seams, then sand and fill where necessary. The undersides of British desert Spitfires were painted “Mediterranean blue” or “Azure blue.” I airbrushed the topsides with Gunze Sangyo’s “middle stone,” No. 71, and “dark earth,” No. 72, in the standard British camouflage pattern.

Wade’s No. 145 Squadron painted the spinners of their propellers bright red. The prop blades are Model Master “aircraft in­teri­or black” with yellow tips. The paint schemes and markings for No. 145 Squadron from November 1941 to February 1942 can be found at the Web site

I sprayed a coat of Testor’s Glosscoat over the entire aircraft to provide a smooth finish for the decals. The kit decals were used for the roundels and fin flashes. The “Z X E” aircraft codes and “ES-252” aircraft serial number came from an old decal sheet of British squadron markings from HisAirDec, Inc. (I found this 6 x 9-inch sheet of letters and numbers at a recent model swap meet for 25 cents.) Since these decals were quite old, I brushed on a coat of MicroScale’s liquid decal film before using them. (Liquid decal film coats the printed images and keeps them from “shattering” when placed in water.)

The wheels should be painted “tire black” and then attached to the landing gear legs and undercarriage doors. The canopy and windscreen in this kit are very small. A steady hand and a triple zero artists’ brush will work well for painting the frames.

Use a light coat of dulling spray to simulate the weathering that commonly took place in the desert. When all is dry, attach the clear pieces with white glue, and your Spitfire is ready for action against the Afrika Korps and the Luftwaffe.

“Wildcat” Wade: The Forgotten RAF Ace, appeared in the November 2004 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here!