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Gas patch soup: making Flight Artworks accurate

Spitfire Mk I R6596 flat_pr_blog
Allan Wright's Spitfire R6596, August 1940 

High Wycombe, 12 Feb 2013

Someone saw this picture on Facebook and asked what the yellow diamond shape was on the port wing.  A gas detector patch. 

His further comment prompted me to write this article. He said: 

"Of all the time I have studied, built, and cherished this time in History - this is the first time I have seen this! Thank you!"

When I was commissioned to make this Spitfire portrait I found, in one of the splendid Alfred Price Aces... books a (typically low quality) contemporary black and white side view of R6596, which is how I know that it had such large QJ-S lettering - and that peculiar big and non-standard fuselage roundel with its acres of white. Although not unique, this was unlike even the one on the aircraft alongside it. I've not seen any other profile of R6596 that gets this right.

The wing surface is indistinct in the picture so to an extent the gas patch is an educated guess. But they were on very many military aircraft and vehicles/equipment of all sorts in 1940. And see, for example, the still flying Spitfire P7350 of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Sometimes placed as a diamond, like this one, other times square on to the fuselage, typically attached with red doped strips.

The aerial wires are also deduction. The new type of VHF equipment did not go into general service until September onwards, and this is August. So the aircraft retains the aerial wire from the mast to the fin. It would not yet have wires for the IFF equipment running from the fuselage roundel to the outer leading edge of the tailplanes. See info on The Spitfire Site.

Spitfire wing variants are a bit of a nightmare for modellers of any kind, but fairly straightforward on this aircraft (I think!). Elevators: older type without the 'horns'; and like the ailerons at this time, fabric covered (the details are in my picture though you probably cannot make them out at this resolution).

Incidentally, looking at the tail fin in that old photo of R6596, it does appear that the red-white-blue flash colours are reversed, i.e. blue-white-red. This is a guess from the greyscale picture. This would not be unknown but certainly very odd, so in the end I stuck with convention on that detail.

Why bother with this level of accuracy? Because that is what Flight Artworks is all about. So please do let me know if you see something in a picture that you think I have got wrong. I will thank you for it.


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