The Spitfire Mk.II(LR)
THE FIRST OF THE LONG RANGE SPITFIRES
As is well known, the original design concept of the Spitfire was for a short range defensive fighter for the rapid interception of bombers attacking the UK mainland. However, when the RAF went on to the offensive in the spring/summer of 1941, it was obvious that the Spitfire needed ‘longer legs’.
Experiments with auxiliary fuel tanks fitted under the wings of Spitfires had been undertaken in early 1940, and included the trials aircraft, K9791, being flown with a mock-up installation of a pair of 29 gallon, blister-type, tanks, one for fuel the other for oil; a pair of ‘ferry’ 70 gallon wing tanks; and an asymmetrically mounted, port underwing, 40 gallon tank.
Another Mk.I, P9565, was fitted with a 30 gallon asymmetric installation for further trials in June/July 1940, and despite subsequent reports of poor handling characteristics, an order for some sixty, suitably plumbed wings for Spitfire Mk.IIs currently on the Castle Bromwich production line was placed.
Curiously though, it would appear that only fifty or so 30 gallon overload tanks were actually made, these tanks being removed and re-fitted to different Spitfire Mk.IIs under the Type 343 Spitfire Mk.II(LR) designation as required.
The first squadrons to be equipped with examples of the type were Nos 66, 118 and 152 Squadrons, who operated them on long-range escort missions during the summer of 1941. Other squadrons recorded as being partially equipped with Spitfire Mk.II(LR)s, include Nos 19, 222, 234, 501 and 616.
Operations with Spitfire Mk.II(LR)s continued throughout the summer and autumn of 1941, including deep penetration escort for Blenheims bombing power stations near Cologne, and numerous ‘Circuses’ and ‘Roadsteads’. Despite its lack of manouvrability and reduced maximum speed, the type carried nearly half as much fuel again as a standard Mk.II, and provided much needed long range cover for RAF bombers, taking the fight back to the enemy.
By the end of 1941, most of the surviving Mk.II(LR)s had been retired from frontline combat service, and replaced by the much more capable Spitfire Mk Vb, which must have been a relief and comfort to Fighter Command’s operational fighter pilots.
Modelling the Spitfire Mk.II(LR) in 1/48 scale
The basis of this particular model is the Relish Resins 1/48 Spitfire Mk.II(LR) Conversion Set comprising the port underwing 30 gallon fuel tank, starboard nose Coffman starter bulge, and blunt Rotol propeller spinner with broad Jablo blades.
In this instance, I used the excellent Tamiya 1/48 Spitfire Mk.I kit, although the Airfix Mk.I/II could just as equally well be used. Not a great deal needs doing to the Tamiya kit, and it can be built literally straight from the box. The only additions/alterations I made to the kit was the fitting of brass-etch seat belts; cutting off and replacing the kit’s ‘fabric ailerons’ with ‘metal ailerons’, to represent the replacement metal ailerons fitted to these Mk.II(LR)s; and cutting off the elevators from the tailplanes and re-cementing them back on slightly ‘drooped’. Similarly, in for a penny, in for a pound, I also removed the castoring tailwheel from the tailwheel strut, and re-cemented it back on at a 'turned' angle.
The resin tank was fitted prior to painting, using superglue, and was carefully positioned in-between the cartridge case ejection slots of the two inboard machine guns under the port wing. The resin tank is a perfect fit to the Tamiya kit, and should need no filling of the join to the wing. The tank was removable on the real aeroplane, and should have a very slight join line to represent this.
The resin Coffman starter bulge was also added using superglue, to a position on the forward starboard cowling, just above the lower cowling panel line. Finally, the resin ‘blunt’ Rotol propeller spinner and compressed wood Jablo propeller blades, can be cleaned up and, after painting, added.
Colour Scheme and Markings
The particular aircraft I modelled was P8388, UM•R of No 152 Sqn, based at Warmwell, Dorset, spring 1941. This was the aircraft regularly flown by, (the then), Flight Sergeant Walter Johnston. Although no photos appear to exist of P8388 itself, contemporary photos of other, albeit unmodified 152 Squadron Mk.IIs in general, and at least two of 152 Sqn Mk.II(LR)s in particular, show the aircraft finished in the standard pre-August 1941 camouflage scheme of Dark Earth and Dark Green upper surfaces, to the A scheme pattern in which most Spitfires were produced by this period, with Sky under surfaces.
It is possible that a few Mk.II(LR) aircraft may have had the Night (black) port underwing paint applied, (at the issuing MU or at Squadron level), by the time most of them were delivered to the frontline units, this recognition scheme had been abandoned (effective as from 22 April 1941), and Day Fighter under surfaces had reverted back to all Sky.
National markings were standard for the Spitfire with 56 inch diameter Red/Blue roundels above the wings, 35 inch diameter 1-3-5-7 proportioned Red/White/Blue/Yellow roundels on the fuselage sides, and 50 inch diameter 1-3-5 proportioned Red/White/Blue roundels under the wings. The fin flash was the post-August 1940 style, comprising three 8 inch wide stripes, 27 inches high.
The Tamiya kit’s decal sheet can provide the upperwing and fuselage roundels, but only features one 50 inch diameter 1-3-5 proportioned Red/White/Blue underwing roundel (the other being a 56 inch diameter 1-3-5-7 proportioned Red/White/Blue/Yellow roundel), so a matching roundel will either have to be taken from another Tamiya Spitfire Mk I kit, or alternatively, replacement pre-May 1942 roundels of the correct sizes/diameters sourced from your own decal bank or aftermarket sets. The Tamiya kit’s fin flash can be modified by trimming in to the 3 x 8 inch x 27 inch high style, or again sourced from your own decal bank and/or aftermarket sets.
The Sky spinner and rear fuselage band were introduced in late November 1940, and it would have taken some weeks for the manufacturers to have incorporated this change, which was originally to be a temporary measure anyway, into their production/paint shop procedure. It is therefore most probable that these Sky adornments would have been added to the Mk.II(LR)s at the issuing MU, which might explain the occasional shade variations and even Sky Blue colour sometimes seen on early-mid 1941 RAF fighters.
Once the Sky band had been painted on, I applied the serial number, P8388 in my models’s case. Many Spitfire Mk.IIs had a stencil-style serial presentation, which I obtained from a 1/48 scale aftermarket decal sheet.
No 152 Squadron appear to have had a penchant for fairly large-sized code letters during this period, of at least 30 inches high. Also at this time, code letters were still in the pale grey shade, Medium Sea Grey, and positioned with the Squadron codes in front of the fuselage roundel and the individual aircraft letter behind, on both sides. This meant that on the port side, the ‘U’ of the Squadron code overlapped the cockpit entry door flap.
Weathering was kept to a respectable minimum, although subtle hints of ‘wear and tear’ and exhaust and fuel stains were applied.
No 152 Squadron kept examples of the Mk.II(LR) until December 1941, by which time they would have been repainted in Ocean Grey/(or Mixed Grey) and Dark Green upper surfaces with Medium Sea Grey undersides, in which case they would have looked progressively more and more weathered as the winter wore on.