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Model Talk - The Airfix 1/48 Spitfire Mk.XII

The Spitfire Mk XII – A (Very) Brief Operational History

The Spitfire Mk XII was the first of the operational Griffon-engined sub-types. It was an interim version, based upon existing airframes already on the production line, mated to the then new, powerful, low-altitude rated Rolls Royce Griffon IIb engine. Of the one hundred Mk XIIs built, the origin of the airframe could be determined by the tailwheel assembly, some with fixed tailwheels from Mk Vc and Mk IXc airframes, and some with retractable tailwheels, which were based on the Mk VIII airframe. Irrespective of the fuselage’s origin, the mainplanes were common to all, and featured the asymmetric radiator and oil cooler layout of the Spitfire Mk Vc’s wings, with the so-called Universal (c wing) armament comprising one 20mm cannon, with a narrow blister fairing over the inner cannon bay, and two 0.303 inch machine guns per wing. Optimised for low level interception, all the operational Mk XIIs had Supermarine-designed ‘clipped’ wing tips.


Only two squadrons were fully equipped with the Mk XII – Nos 41 and 91. The first to receive the new type was No 41 Sqn, (coded EB), under the command of Sqn Ldr Thomas Neil, which exchanged its Spitfire Mk Vbs for the Mk XIIs in February 1943. No 91 Sqn, commanded by Squadron leader Raymond Harries, received its Mk XII aircraft in April 1943.

Both units undertook 'Ramrod' missions – escorting USAAF Fortresses, Mitchells, Marauders, as well as RAF Typhoons, to attack targets in France. The Spitfire Mk XIIs would often sweep ahead of the main bomber formations, and at other times, would provide target and withdrawal support or escort cover. 'Rhubarbs' were carried out when the weather was not conducive to bombing, the favoured target being trains. Low-level reconnaissance missions along the coastline of occupied Europe were also undertaken, but in view of the Mk XII’s speed at low altitude, a good 20 to 30 mph faster than the Mk V, both Squadrons became more and more employed against the Fw 190A-4/U3 ‘tip and run’ raiders of 10 (Jabo)/JG 2 and 10 (Jabo)/JG 54.

No 91 Sqn had been earmarked to introduce the Mk XII’s successor into service, the Spitfire Mk XIV, and converted to the type during March/April 1944. No 41 soldiered on with the Mk XII until early September 1944, and helped to combat the opening stages of the V1 ‘flying bomb’ campaign, the Squadron’s previous low altitude interception operations standing the unit in good stead to counter these attacks, until it too fully converted to the Mk XIV by the end of the month.

The Airfix 1/48 scale Spitfire Mk XII


Amongst the latest batch of releases from Airfix is the Spitfire Mk XII. Moulded in an off-white plastic, the surface detail features nicely engraved panel lines reminiscent of the company’s superb 1/48 scale Spitfire Mk 24/Seafire 47 kits and recent 1/48 Bf 109E, there is a rather well-detailed cockpit interior, with bulkheads, instrument panel, side wall detailing and a nicely-moulded seat. An optional ‘open’ entry door flap is included for those who wish to display all this detail. Separate flying surfaces are also included with ailerons, elevator (correctly linked) and rudder, all poseable, and the flaps can be modelled deployed or retracted.



The option for either a ‘fixed’ or ‘retractable’ tailwheel aircraft is included and ‘weighted’ or ‘fully circular’ mainwheels. The cockpit canopy is moulded as a separate windscreen, canopy hood and rear clear fuselage section, with an additional ‘open’ canopy hood part with the rear clear section and part of the fuselage integrally moulded inside to avoid any scale thickness problems with showing it slid back on the fuselage. My only real ‘concern’ is with the main undercarriage doors which have a curved exterior face, which I am sure was only introduced on very late-war or even post-war Spitfires?



Assembly was simplicity itself and totally straightforward – a joy to stick together – and there was nowhere that needed even the slightest smear of filler. The only decision to be made during assembly is whether to finish your model as a ‘fixed’ or ‘retractable’ tailwheel variant.



There are two decal options in the box – a fixed tailwheel variant, EN625 DL•K, flown by Sqn Ldr Ray Harries, CO of No 91 Sqn, based at Hawkinge in May 1943; and MB882, EB•B, a retractable tailwheel variant, flown by Flt Lt Donald Smith (RAAF) of No 41 Sqn, Tangmere October 1943. As I built this model from a pre-production test shot, there were no decals available at the time, but from the decal placement instructions, a full set of national markings, serial numbers, code letters, wing walkways and stencils are provided. I opted to finish my model as a ‘fixed’ tailwheel variant, EN237, EB•V flown by Squadron Leader Tom Neil, No 41 Squadron’s CO when the unit was equipped with Mk XIIs. For those wishing to model a retractable tailwheel variant, there is a little bit of ‘surgery’ required – to cut away a section of the lower rear fuselage, (deeply scored on the inside face so you know exactly where to cut), and then to add the tailwheel doors and the retractable tailwheel).





All Spitfire Mk XIIs were finished in the standard RAF Day Fighter camouflage scheme of the period, consisting of Ocean Grey and Dark Green upper surfaces, in the A Scheme pattern, with Medium Sea Grey under surfaces. Photographs of Mk XIIs show them to have well-defined uppersurface camouflage pattern demarcation with little or no overspray, indicating the use of spray mats during production, so the disruptive upper surface Dark Green pattern was dutifully masked out before being sprayed on to my model too. I painted the model in the new Tamiya Color acrylic paint shades – XF-81 Dark Green and XF-82 Ocean Grey on the upper surfaces and XF-83 Medium Sea Grey on the undersides, with their existing XF-21 Sky for the spinner and rear fuselage tail band. The two greys (Ocean and Medium Sea) look good with the right sort of bluish caste, but the Dark Green (XF-81) looked a teeny bit light to my jaded eye. It did darken down a bit under a couple of coats of varnish, but I still think it’s a wincey-bit too light...

The Airfix 1/48 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.XII is due to be released in January 2011 and will be available from Relish Models.

Spitfire Mk XII references

The best single reference for Spitfire Mk XIIs is a publication called Allied Wings No 1, ‘Supermarine Spitfire Mk XII’ by Phil H Listemann (2008). Osprey also have two books that proved very useful, Osprey Aviation Elite 3 ‘No 91 (Nigeria) Squadron’ by Peter Hall (2001) and Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 81 ‘Griffon Spitfire Aces’ by Andrew Thomas, (2009). There are also some photos of No 41 Sqn Mk XIIs in the Aircam Aviation Series No 8, ‘Spitfire Mk XII - 24, Seafire Mk I - 47’ by Ted Hooton and Richard Ward, (circa 1970s) which is long out of print but these photos are featured in the Allied Wings publication anyway.


Neil Robinson