have published the second volume in their comprehensive study of the Spitfire and Seafire by Richard Franks. Printed as a softbound A4 book on high quality stock, Airframe & Miniature No. 13
stretches to a mammoth 272 pages and divides its coverage between Airframe
sections, but there is a degree of overlap and modellers and enthusiasts alike will find plenty of interest in both parts of the book.
The first thing that greets you when you open the cover is a very welcome set of 1:48 scale drawings
presented as a 2-sided fold-out which is four pages wide. Every version from the Spitfire Mk. XII through to the Seafire FR Mk. 47 is covered in profile, along with plan views (and partial plan views) of a representative selection. If these are used in conjunction with the later sections of the book, you should have no trouble pinning down the correct features for any given mark.
The book's main content begins with a 32-page Preface
- which, as usual with this series of titles, is actually far more useful than its name might suggest. In reality, it's quite a detailed overview of the development and service history of the late mark Spitfire and Seafire, both in Britain and abroad, along with the story of the ill-starred Spiteful and Seafang.
is spread over three chapters, totaling some 36 pages, and covers every version and prototype individually, with a brief description backed up by side profiles and a good selection of period photos.
Camouflage & Markings
has a lot of ground to cover in this volume, with so many versions serving with different air forces and navies, plus the Spiteful and Seafang development aircraft. The 32 pages are packed with excellent profiles by Richard Caruana, while numerous well chosen period shots highlight details. Something that's sure to fuel the hard vs soft upper surface camouflage debate is the fact that the photos clearly show both styles. The other thing that is noticeable is just how weathered some of the airframes were, so there’s plenty to think about when planning how to depict one of the many attractive schemes illustrated in the profiles.
The section includes a very handy set of 1:72 scale drawings for the Spitfire Mk. XIV and F Mk. 21 showing the positions of national markings and servicing stencils.
The modelling coverage begins with Spitfire & Seafire Kits (Griffon-powered)
, featuring reviews of a selection of the kits which have been available over the years. Not all are currently in production, but they are still easy to track down.
Following the reviews comes Building a Selection
, with a quartet of models in 1:72 and 1:48 built by Libor Jekl and Steve Evans.
Libor tackles the Fujimi FR Mk XIVe and Xtrakit/Special Hobby F Mk 22 while, moving up a scale, Steve gets to grips with the new Airfix FR Mk XIV and the Special Hobby Seafire Mk XV. Having just reviewed the kit myself, I obviously found Steve's take on the new Airfix kit especially interesting. Like me, he seems to have found it something of a proverbial "curate's egg", but he didn't run into the warped wing issue that afflicts my model, so hopefully I was just unlucky on that score and it's not a widespread problem.
Continuing the modelling theme, Building a Collection
details every prototype and production version with a series of isometric drawings by Jurai Jankovic that are captioned to highlight the changes and features specific to each mark. The illustrations are very useful for pinpointing what you need to do for any given aircraft. I do wish they could be combined with the Evolution
chapters, though, because Building a Collection
covers a lot of the same ground and splitting the content means needlessly flicking back and forth between sections.
I think it's fair to say many modellers will buy this book purely for the In Detail
chapter alone, and it certainly doesn't disappoint. Spanning over 80 pages, the "walkaround" coverage features 6 preserved airframes, plus extensive use of period pilot's notes and maintenance manuals. The result is really impressive and it forms the most detailed modellers' reference I've seen for late-mark Spitfires and Seafires. The Spiteful and Seafang understandably aren't examined in the same depth because no airframes survive (wouldn't be something if at least one did!), but anyone building a kit of them will still find plenty of useful details.
The chapter breaks down as follows:
Engine, Propeller & Cowlings
Fuel & Oil Systems
Cockpit & Canopy
Mid & Aft Fuselage
Armament, Ordnance, Drop Tanks, Sighting & RATO
Each of the subsections can run to many pages. For instance, 12 pages are devoted to the cockpit, a further 10 pages to the wings, and 12 again for the guns and ordnance. But the real eye-opener for me was the tail section, which includes outline drawings of the changing shape of the vertical and horizontal surfaces, plus an astonishing 30-photo "spotters guide" of the different fins and rudders fitted to the various marks!
Rounding everything off is a series of
Appendices, with a useful Kit List, Accessories, Decals and Bibliography
Valiant Wings' new study of the Griffon-engined Spitfires and Seafires will appeal equally to enthusiasts and modellers alike, and I'd go so far as to declare it an almost essential reference for anyone building a kit of one of the later versions of the iconic fighter if they want to ensure accuracy or add extra detail. It will certainly be helpful if you're building a Spiteful or Seafang too, and I'll definitely refer to it if I ever pluck up the courage to do battle with the Trumpeter kit of the former (see the review HERE
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