ICM's 1/48 scale Spitfire
by Mark Beckwith
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXc, s/n EN398
F/O Ian Keltie flew during this aircraft February and March
1943 with 402 Sqn. RCAF.
ICM's 1/48 scale Spitfire Mk.IXc is available online from Squadron.com
402 Squadron RCAF, No. 11 Group. February - March 1943
by Ian Keltie
August 24, 1942 was a particularly hot day, as I recall. It was to be a
hot day in more ways than one.
We were escorting a bunch of American bombers in the daylight, coming
back from deep in France. We were over, or near Boulogne, when we were
bounced by fifty FW 190s. There were twelve of us. We got into a
dogfight, and I was busy shooting at an FW 190, when there was a big
bang in my Spitfire. I looked around, and I was under attack. The
cockpit cover flew off, and at the same moment I felt something hit me
in the leg, just like someone hit you with a hammer. I took violent
evasive action, and climbed as hard and fast as possible to get rid of
the FW 190 that was so close to me. I tried not to turn my head too much
at that point, as I didn't want to lose the new sunglasses I was
wearing. It seemed important at the time! When I was sure I was alone, I
figured it was time for me to start going back to England, so I pushed
the nose down. My leg just felt numb, so I was not in too much pain. I
was halfway back across the Channel when I spotted two aircraft flying
towards England. As I ran up closer, I found that they were two more FW
190s. This time I caught them by surprise. I opened fire on the second
one trailing behind the first, and immediately saw black smoke coming
from him as he went down. There was no way I could stick around to see
what happened, as the number one FW 190 was starting to turn to get on
my back, so I thought it wisest to just keep going.
Meantime, I could hear my squadron mate Eric Bland saying on his radio
that he was being shot at by FW 190s. He was right on the water near the
English coast. But he evaded them, and we both landed at our base at
Kenley at about the same time. He was badly hurt, and I felt for him. My
flying boot was full of blood, so I was rather amazed that I was still
able to stand. The 402 had an ambulance, one of three squadron vehicles
supplied by the city of Winnipeg, which had adopted the squadron. The
ambulance took us to the mess, and a little while later an RAF ambulance
took us to an emergency hospital. It was in the wing of an insane asylum
that was down the hill from Kenley airport, so we had to laugh about our
new quarters. We were then transferred to the RAF Hospital at Cranwell,
and I was back on operations a few weeks later.
F/O Ian Keltie's Spitfire MkIXc, s/n
EN398 coded AE-B, wearing his 'new sunglasses'.
That day I was flying a Spit IX, coded AE-B, but I also flew several
other spitfires. In June 1942 my usual aircraft was a Mark V, BM 230,
coded AE-T, and named "Gerfalcon II" with a full, not clipped wing, as
some were later on. From February to March 1943 I had a Spitfire Mark
IX, coded AE-I in February, and AE-B in March, which was serial EN 398.
Someone in the ground crew, I believe, painted a large Popeye cartoon
figure on the nose, so it was quite distinctive. Later on I discovered
that it became even more famous as the mount of Johnnie Johnson, when he
led the Kenley Wing just after that, with his initials on it JE-J.
Several of our Spitfires carried Disney cartoon characters on the nose,
quite large, such as the one of Goofy. I recall there were others, but
whether they had any significance for the pilots or ground crew, other
than just being for fun, I don't know.
On February 26,1943, while on a fighter-bomber operation, I was flying
EN 398, AE-I, when I damaged another FW 190 at 35,000 feet over Le
Touquet; France. I was following Squadron Leader Bud Malloy. Climbing
into the sun, we saw three FW 190s above, seemingly doing aerobatics.
One did a roll off the top, coming down as if to attack me head on. I
turned towards him, and climbed. I got a short burst into the 190, and
he rolled over on his back, and went into a steep dive. After this I
fogged over, and was unable to see much other than bluish-white smoke
emitting from the Focke-Wulf as he went into a steep spin.
The next day, February 27, 1943, I was flying the same aircraft again,
when we ran into more FW 190s over Dunkirk. Lorne Cameron in his
aircraft (BS 152, AE-W) shot down an FW 190, and two other fellows in
our squadron also had scores (Gimbel and Ford) .
On March 1, 1943, EN 398 was recoded AE-B for some reason. During that
month we had several scrambles to chase incoming unidentified enemy
aircraft, but we either found no one, or the enemy aircraft returned
early. On March 7, I was on a rodeo to Berck-Oraulines, and then on the
8th I was on a ramrod to St. Lo again in EN 398, AE-B, escorting sixty
Flying Fortresses. I saw two FW 190s, but they were Intercepted by 403
Squadron. The activity was constant. The next day was a rodeo to Le
Touquet, and again I saw an FW 190, but did not get close enough to
engage. On March 13 I was on a circus to Amiens in EN 398 with seventy
Just over a year later, I was flying as OC of A Flight in 442 Squadron,
under Dal Russel. I flew Y2-1 for the most part, recorded as serial MK
729 in my logbook, including D-day, June 6, 1944, and I do remember the
mass of ships. Just prior to D- day, my logbook records that we
destroyed a giant Wurzburg radar installation in strafing attacks, and
that we also dive-bombed V-1 sites. On June 10,1944, I landed Y2-1 for
the first time in France, at B-3 airfield. On June 16, 1944, based at
St. Croix sur Mer, I was bounced by an enemy fighter as I was taking
off. I had a squirt, but did not detect any result.
After that, I wanted something different to do, and I ended up flying
Liberator four-engine B-24 aircraft in 168 Squadron, at Rockcliffe,
Ontario. I also flew Mitchells and C-47s, quite a bit of a change from
single-engine Spits, and I don't think you see some of the aircraft I
flew in too many logbooks of fighter pilots!
Text and Image from "Spitfire II - The Canadians"
Copyright Robert Bracken 1999. Used with permission.
Illustrious Spitfire of All?
Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IXc EN398
Spitfire Mk IX EN398
took its maiden flight without problems on
13th February, 1943. On 18th February the aircraft was delivered to No 402 (Canadian)
Squadron at RAF Kenley. There Ian Keltie took possession of it and used EN398 (then coded AE*I) exclusively until mid March (by now
coded AE*B), when 402 moved. Keltie's last mission in EN398 occurred
on March 13. When 402 moved however, EN398 was left for their replacement squadron,
also Canadian, No 416
RAF Kenley housed four RCAF
squadrons - Nos 403 and 416 with Spitfire Mk IXs, and 411and 421 with
Spitfire Mk Vs. On 16 March the then Wg Cdr 'Johnnie'
Johnson arrived to lead the wing. Surprisingly, it seems EN398 was still
undergoing acceptance checks (26 days after delivery? - and several
operations!) when it caught
the eye of the new Wing Leader. He related their first meeting in his
book "Wing Leader":
'I found the engineer officer and together
we had a look at her, gleaming and bright in a new spring coat of
camouflage paint. Later I took her up for a few aerobatics to get the
feel of her, for this was the first time I had flown a Mk IX. She seemed
very fast, the engine was sweet and she responded to the controls as
only a thoroughbred can. I decided that she should be mine, and I
never had occasion to regret that choice.'
is interesting to note that Johnson remained convinced, almost until his
death, that EN398 was unused at this time, and the clean fresh paint was
factory applied. However, the reason the paint was fresh had more to do with the
removal of the "Popeye" nose art and other maintenance.
Johnson was also convinced that the Maple Leaf painted on the side just
below the windshield was green rather than
red. Johnson's next step was to have his initials painted on the fuselage to
establish the aircraft as his own. Before he took the Spitfire into action
Johnson demanded two more changes. EN398's guns were set to a standard
harmonization pattern designed to spread the rounds evenly over a circle a
few feet across so as to give the average pilot a better chance of
scoring hits. However, Johnson's shooting skills were far above the
average. To concentrate all the
destructive power at his command he had his aircraft's weapons harmonized
to a single point. In addition, Johnson had the Gyroscopic gun site
removed and his older style one from his MkV installed in it's place as
he preferred it. Johnson found that his aircraft had one
idiosyncrasy that defied all attempts to correct:
for Jeffrey Quill to fly, but they could not cure the problem."
aeroplane always flew with the turn needle a little bit to one
side, even when flying straight and level on an even keel. Changing
the turn and bank instrument did not cure it. 1 even took the aircraft
decided that he could live with it.
By the end of May,
1943, Johnson had added six victories and one shared victory to his
score, whilst flying EN398. On 1 June he shared in the destruction of a Me 109, on the 15 June he destroyed two FW 190s, with
one more on 17 June. Although EN398 was the Wing Leader's personal aircraft, and he was normally the only pilot to
fly it, there was occasionally a need for the aircraft to make up the
numbers during his absence. On 20 June Sqn Ldr Robert McNair (OC 421 Sqn.) flew EN398 in action and was
credited with the destruction of one FW 190.
June, Johnson destroyed a FW 190 and damaged a Me 109.
Another FW 190 fell
to his guns three days later. On 15 July to he led the Wing on a fighter sweep which added a Me
109 to his score. Another one was added on 25 July, one damaged on 29
July, and a share in the destruction of one more on 30 July. Success continued throughout
August. He shared in the destruction of a Me 109 plus another one
damaged on 12 August. On 17 August the Wing escorted B-17s on their way,
and return from, the ball-bearing factory at Schweinfurt. During the
action Johnson shared in the destruction of a Me 110. A further Me 109 was
destroyed on 23 August. While EN398 went off to Air Service Training at
Hamble for an engine change, Johnson, in a borrowed aircraft, shot down another FW 190 on 4 September.
Back with EN398 he damaged a Me 109. That was to be his last claim
before relinquishing his command of the Wing a few days later.
his six months flying EN398,
Johnson had shot down 12 enemy aircraft and shared in the destruction of
five more. Also, he had inflicted damage on a further six enemy
aircraft, plus a share in one more. During that time EN398 had
also destroyed a FW 190 whilst being flown by Robert
McNair. Remarkably, EN398 never broke off a mission early through technical
failure, and never suffered a scratch due to enemy action.
JE-J as it looked when used by Wg Cdr "Johnnie" Johnson.
Note; Johnson always maintained that the Maple Leaf was painted green,
even though it is certain that while with No. 402 Squadron the Maple
Leaf was red. Profile sourced from web, actual credit unknown.
Johnson moved on to No 11 Group Headquarters, EN398 went to No. 421 Squadron for
a couple of weeks before sustaining damage necessitating its return to
Hamble for repairs. The aircraft never returned to operations (new
aircraft were being delivered to units faster than they could be
repaired by that time). EN398 remained in store for the remainder of
the war in Europe.
was retrieved in May 1946 to go to No. 80 Operational Training Unit, RAF Morpeth and Ouston,
in Northumberland. There, it was used in the training of young French
pilots. That unit was disbanded in
March 1949, and EN398 took off for the final time to go to No. 29
Maintenance Unit, High Ercal, in Shropshire. There she remained in long-term storage for three-and-a-half
years. In October, 1952 Spitfire Mk IXc, serial number EN398, was sold to H. Bath & Son Ltd for
scrap and was cut up soon thereafter.
See reference section for sources.
ICM's 1/48 scale Spitfire IXc
Have you ever had a model that seems cursed form the moment you open the
This is the story of my cursed build of ICM's Mk IX Spitfire and how I
made just about every mistake that can be made in building a plastic
model kit. Read on...
This was my first ICM kit and having read
many of the reviews available on other sites, I thought I knew what to
expect. As it turned out, the kit was a lot better than I thought
it would be and almost all of my problems were self induced - even the
major problem caused by the kit was made worse by my own ham-fisted
attempt at repairing it.
The cockpit assembles quite nicely, I had
no problems with it and it installs into the already glued fuselage
halves with a nice fit. Mine installed positively enough that I
snapped it into place and then ran a little Tenax down the seam to glue
Care needs to be taken in examining the
parts of the kit as you assemble them. There are sink marks that
need attention, on mine I filled sink marks on the fuselage at the tail
under the horizontal stabilizers and on the port side at the
cockpit. I found that with care, planning and foresight the
cowling pieces go together very well. Like all the other reviews I
have read, I had to thin the firewall bulkhead to make sure it fit and
to help ensure I got the correct dihedral when the wing assembly was
attached. The wings were marred a little by
sink marks but as with the others, I filled with a couple of layers of
Mr.Surfacer and sanded smooth. After I had them filled to where I
thought they were good, I tested with a coat of paint.
The rest of construction went smoothly,
the horizontal stabilizers were a very good fit, I had removed the
elevators in preparation for the Ultracast replacements I was going to
use. With all basic construction completed, I decided to take some
pictures of the model ready for paint. I placed the model on a
flat surface and something didn't look right. I wonder if any
eagle-eyed readers can spot the problem as it appeared to me?
It still amazes me, a month later, that I
didn't notice the giant warp before getting to this stage. I
decided to try to correct the warp with hot water but was
unsuccessful. There were only two courses of action left to me,
give up or surgury. I decided that the work done was worth
sacrificing another kit and so I began to cut.
I removed the tail close to a panel line
to give me a datum. I the cut the fuselage on another kit (Max at
Alanger has agreed to replace the donor kit on my next order - thanks
Max) and glued it together. I made some simple strengthener plates
from plastic stock and joined the new tail to the fuselage with Tenax.
After much sanding and some rescribing, I
was back to where I was before noticing the warp. I attached the
glass pieces with white glue. I found the rear piece to be much
too long, close to a millimeter longer than it should have been. I
have not read in any other review about this problem so I'm will to
accept responsibility for it as another faux pas. I used Tamiya
tape for the masking and filled the open access door to the cockpit with
tissue. After a wipe down with a soft cloth dampened with Windex I
was finally able to move on the the fun part - painting.
A quick note now about the shape of the
ICM kit compared to the real thing. Below is a picture of my model
and a picture of a Spitfire MkIX I had the good fortune to be near last
fall. A comparison of the two pictures is interesting. To my
eye, a couple of things stand out; the fuselage looks a little narrower
(topside to underside) on the kit than the real thing, the kit canopy
seems to be shaped a little rounder and be oversize, and the sit of my
model is wrong as the undercarriage should be angled forward a tad
more. I haven't built a Hasegawa MkIX Spitfire so I cannot make a
comparison picture of that, but I will recount a quick anecdote: when
Robert Bracken and I were looking at the real Mk.IX pictured below, we
both remarked how much like a Hasegawa it looked.
...and below is a composite of the two
pictures. Note that I rotated the picture of my model to
compensate for the incorrect sit. I have matched the bottom of
both fuselages and used the cockpit entry door, base of the fin and the
knot in the tie down strap (as it sets the position of the underside of
the fuselage) as the datum points. There is clearly a significant difference
in the depth of the fuselages. Food for thought?
Anyway, back to the story... I thought my struggles were over. I
had decided to try a freehand camouflage as I wanted experiment with
pre-shading some more, this time on a camouflaged upper surface. I
preparation, I pre-shaded the entire model with Gunze flat black.
I sprayed a coat of RAF Interior Green
over the glass pieces and was then ready to begin the top colours.
For this particular model, all the paints used were Gunze
acrylics. I applied the Medium Sea Grey (MSG) to the underside
first, allowing the pre-shading to just come through the top coat.
When that was dry, I applied the Ocean Gray on the upper surfaces, spraying
the camouflage pattern only, and again, trying to allow a little of the
pre-shading to show through. Then, I used my new Iwata HP-B to
spray the Dark Green pattern free hand. It's possible that my
troubles were unfamiliarity with the new airbrush, but I was unable to -
despite many attempts - to get a result I was happy with.
finally, I masked with Blue-tack and switched back to my Aztek 470 and
re-sprayed virtually the entire camouflage scheme. Of course, in doing
all this spraying and re-spraying I completely obliterated the
pre-shading! After allowing the paint to cure fully, I masked and
sprayed the yellow leading edges on the wings and the Sky fuselage
band. When they were all fully cured, I made my next mistake and
sprayed on the gloss coat for decals with Metalizer Sealer instead of
Ian Keltie's Spitfire was a Mk IXc of 402
Squadron. I experimented with the ICM decals included in the kit
and found that they are useless. I used some Watermark decals for
the code letters, some Hobbycraft Seafury decals to make the Maple Leaf
(which was red and not green as is sometimes depicted) and an Aeromaster
generic roundel sheet for the national markings. I used a Tally-Ho
sheet for the serial numbers and had a terrible time trying to make sure
they didn't silver. Suffice to say, I ended up having to repaint
in a couple of places to repair damage done by an excessive use of
setting solutions! I ended up trying to use Future as a decal
setting solution and found it works very well - that's how I got the
walkway markings on the wings without silvering.
By far the biggest issue with decaling
was the "Popeye" nose art. First I looked on the web,
without success, for any images of Popeye that matched the character
painted on the Spitfire. Next, having decided that I'd have to
make it myself, I traced it from the photograph in "Spitfire II,
the Canadians" and then scanned the image into the computer.
Next, I cleaned up the image and then painted it in Photoshop to the
colours I wanted. The profile art in the book has Popeye's outfit
as yellow, which I felt was not likely so I made my Popeye wear a light
grey uniform. The pictures below indicate the development of the
With artwork done and correctly sized, I
printed onto clear decal paper and set it aside to dry. When it
came time to apply the Popeye decal, I was disappointed, but not really
surprised, to find the colour washed out and the decal became virtually
transparent. So, there was nothing left to try but to hand paint
Popeye using the outline on the decal as a guide. I think it came
With the decaling finally completed, I
sealed it all up with more Metalizer Sealer and set it aside to cure.
While the model cured, I turned my
attention to the Ultracast wheels and Spinner. These are exquisitely
molded resin parts that are vital to finish an ICM Spitfire. I
used SNJ to represent the natural metal finish for the wheel hubs.
It is possible that EN398 had covered hubs but I have not seen any
pictures of it while it was with 402 Squadron showing the wheels to be
The spinner and prop blades are equally
well cast and I painted and decaled them while waiting for the rest of
the model to cure.
Final Assembly and Completion
On the final stretch now, I attached the undercarriage,
the spinner, the cannon barrels, the Ultracast exhausts and other bits
and pieces. With that done I applied a flat coat, again using
Gunze acrylic, and once again set the model down to dry.
I applied some pastels sparingly
as this was a new aircraft at the time I am depicting it I
sealed in the pastels with another light coat of flat clear and decided
to call it finished.
I am now aware that most probably the
wheels are wrong. Certainly when Johnnie Johnson flew EN398 it had
covered hubs on the wheels. I plan on fixing this as soon as I get
hold of some appropriate wheels. I displayed the kit with both
machine guns in the wings, though the pictures seem to indicate that the
outboard machine guns were omitted. Ian Keltie is unable to recall
whether the machine guns were there or not.
Well, I've completed one of
the big, bad ICM Spitfire kits.
Despite the warped fuselage
and the resultant surgery, I enjoyed the build phase of this kit as much
as I've ever enjoyed the build phase. I wish I had done a better
job with the painting, decaling and general finish.
Nothing went right.
I will certainly build more of
these things and hope to enjoy subsequent kits at least as much as I did
this one. The final result result disappoints me however, though
that is in no way a reflection on the quality of the kit.
My verdict on this one,
"...could do better."
"Spitfire II, The Canadians" by Robert Bracken
"Cockpit" by Donald Nijboer and Dan Patterson
"Aircraft of World War Two" by Michael Sharpe, Jerry
Scutts and Dan March
"Spitfire - THe Story of a Famous Fighter" by Bruce
"The Royal Canadian Air Force - At War 1939-1945" by
Larry Milberry and Hugh Halliday
"Spitfire - A documentary History" by Alfred Price
Model, Images and Text
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Beckwith except where
Page Created 07 March, 2007
24 December, 2007
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