Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Low Level Recce - PR XIII

As I got a bit smarter about the Spitfire, I learned of the PR variants and the many coats of color they wore. Their missions were important, providing strategic as well as tactical reconnaissance of the theatre or battlefield, respectively.

Spitfire numbering can be confusing, especially the PR ones. Initially they were modified fighters, and their designations were references to the camera installations: PR IA, B, C, etc up to the PR IG. To reduce confusion the PR ID was renumbered PR IV, the PR IE was the PR VI, the PR IF the PR VII and the PR IG became the PR VIII. But those were also designations for fighters. Eventually in 1943 these were all replaced by either the high flying PR IV or tactical Recce PR XIII; albeit both were replaced by the PR XI or FR IX by mid 1944. By war's end these were being phased out by the Griffon PR XIX or FR XIV and FR XVIII. Whew!

Most PR or FR Spitfires wore unique camo schemes. All over Sky, Royal Blue, PRU Blue, Azure and White, Pink and some wore disruptive schemes similar to standard fighter types, but also quite unique. All because the PRU had a somewhat free hand to camouflage their aircraft as the tactical situation warranted.

The Subject

The PR XIII was a purpose built tactical (low level) reconnaissance aircraft, they were not intended to be conversions, albeit a few of the first ones were conversions from earlier PR IF and G machines. There eventually were only about 25 built. The design was based on the Mk V, optimized for low level operations with the Merlin 32 engine; some using the a wing and others the b, all had the inner armament removed and only retained the outer two .303 guns in each wing. The cannon bulges were removed, so all had the same appearance, externally (although I could be wrong on that point).

R7335, G3.K, was assigned to 718 Naval Air Squadron, FAA, NAS Henstridge in 1943. It carried a dark camouflage scheme, considered to most likely be the low level scheme of Extra Dark Sea Green and Extra Dark Sea Grey with PRU Mauve undersides. Given the low contrast of the upper surfaces, and that it was assigned to a NAS it could have been Dark Slate Grey instead of Extra Dark Sea Green, but since the under surface is dark I decided to paint it in the Low Level Scheme. It's also a very unique looking scheme on my shelf.

The Model

I started with the Airfix Mk I/IIa kit, their newest tooling. All the bits are there for a Mk Va, so the only mods I needed to make the PR XIII was to drill out the camera apertures, fill in the guns and a PR canopy. I used a 1/8th inch bit and used the PR XIX as a template. The apertures were then filled with white glue to keep paint on the outside, and not allow it to get inside the fuselage.

The next PR mod was to fill the inner two pair of gun panel lines. I used putty thinned with liquid glue; once dry I sanded it all lightly until smooth. Finally, I had to source a PR canopy with an armored windscreen.

I have the Falcon Spitfire set of vac canopies and found a pair of armored windscreens. After some trimming I checked the fit and the rear portion didn't quite work. So I trimmed it off and used the rear panels from the Airfix kit. The windscreen was still a bit off but by filling in with acrylic glue along the edges it looked right. The canopy didn't like the Humbrol acrylic paint, but after another coat of Future it started to take.

For paints I mixed Extra Dark Sea Grey using recipe of Hu123:50 + Hu34:6 + Hu25:3. Okay, I didn't count drops, but that equates to adding 1.5 ml of Hu34 and about 0.75 ml of Hu25 to a pot of Hu123 (older 12 ml pot). I used a digital color swatch from Nick Millman that was with other colors to eyeball the PRU Mauve, starting with a homemade recipe for PRU Pink (pot of Hu34 with 2 drops Hu60 and 4 drops Hu40); and adding PRU Blue (Hu230) in a ratio of 6 ml Pink to 2 ml blue to 0.5 ml Red (Hu60). All very easy if using standard pots; I just took half of the PRU Pink I'd mixed and transferred it to a mixing jar, then added 2 ml of PRU Blue and 0.5 ml of Hu60 Red. Finally, Extra Dark Sea Green is just Model Master European I Dark Green, FS 34092. It's a very close match to my RAF Museum color sample (exact, to my eye). All paints were acrylics.

The decals are from Model Alliance, sheet 72131. I had no difficulty with them, they went down beautifully on a coat of Future; I used Revell's decal softener.


This was a very easy conversion, although I took longer than I should because I wasn't looking forward to the canopy. I'm starting to wonder why I am reluctant to work with vac canopies, I'm always happy with the result. I also had difficulty finding a good Extra Dark Sea Green. Ultimately I waited until my wife could bring a bottle on one of her visits.

Thanks for looking...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

East of Scotland IPMS Dundee Show

Saturday, 3 August 2013

As far as I can tell there are 4 model shows within a 4 hour drive (one way) of where I live here in Cumbria. Bolton, Cosford, Birmingham and Dundee. Well, 5 if you include Telford, but technically I'd go regardless of how far it is -- I may never be this close again!

I got here too late for Bolton, Cosford was a great show but Birmingham was in the "too hard" category due to timing. So I decided to make it to Dundee.

Dundee is a small show, but there were some very nice models on display. I was very impressed by the Airliner SIG, as well as the Great War SIG. And on the competition tables the models were all outstanding. I'm glad I'm not a judge!

Well, here are some photos. I hope you enjoy!

Okay, I have to say, this Turkish ship-of-the-line, is only about an inch long! Amazing!

Thanks for looking...