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Malta Spitfire Vs - 1942: Their Colours and Markings


nmayhew
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Malta Spitfire Vs - 1942: Their Colours and Markings


by Brian Cauchi
£19.90 from MMP Books

 

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"Finding the Unicorn" or at least one man's attempts to, is what this book could have been titled. For WWII armour fans, it is the almost mythical African Tigers, and more specifically the Grail-like quest to establish their colour, that generates enough heat and light to power a small modelling convention. Aircraft enthusiasts have their own unicorn: the colour of Spitfire Vs sent to Malta during the relatively brief but frenzied period from March to October 1942. That is the hunted - but what of the 'hunter'?

 

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Those new to modelling, and especially those new to construction in the larger scales may not have heard of Brian Cauchi. But for those who modelled 1/32 aircraft in its slightly less fashionable days (which is not that many years ago), the Cauchi name is synonymous with expert scratch building, Malta and Spitfires.

 

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The book is 168 pages of A4 format, and looks at whether Spitfires delivered to Malta during 1942 had their factory camouflage schemes and colours altered to better blend in over the deep blue Mediterranean that surrounds Malta. It is an attempt to look not just at the 'whether' - most will agree that some Spitfires on Malta are definitely not in factory schemes - but also at the when, where and with colours. In his quest, Cauchi has drawn together an impressive collection of WWII photos from the period; these are in of themselves fairly few and far between - Malta and its inhabitants were somewhat 'pre-occupied' for a couple of years! Interestingly, all but one of these I think is in black and white, so straight away the interpretation games begin. In addition, he also managed to speak to a large number of combat veterans from the conflict, and looked at official documentation and communiques from the period in question.It is worth pointing out two things here, which I hope will help the reader of this review determine whether this book is for him or not.

 

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Firstly, it is definitely not a dry academic text. Whilst it does examine all the evidence in almost forensic detail, it is also quite clearly written with the modeller in mind - indeed, Cauchi admits that a veteran's comments on a Malta Spitfire model proved the very catalyst for the whole project. The main chapters of the book are populated not only with exquisite colour profiles of aircraft pictured, but also with accompanying descriptions and interpretations of the colours used and particular features that plane has etc. I am also a big fan of the format: the profiles are typically on the same or facing page as the photos they represent, rather than the standard presentation (Osprey and pretty much everyone else) of profiles all clumped together, where you then have to ferret around the book trying to find the picture upon which it is based, if indeed it is there at all.

 

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Secondly, the author is open and honest about not really arriving at one single concrete assessment, or even interpretation, of how these aircraft were repainted. So, if you are looking for a "they were definitely colour x and y", you might be disappointed, frustrated, or a bit of both. Personally, I find it quite refreshing that a topic which has so divided opinion - especially modelling opinion - can be treated in such an even-handed manner. The reader is treated almost to a pros and cons walkthrough of each possible scenario, and why the author has arrived at the conclusions he has.

 

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The book is broken down into seven chapters which include the Methods of Overpainting these Spitfires, Veteran's Testimonials, and an in-depth look at The Mount of an Ace (Spitfire Vc BR498 PPoH). The two most important and interesting chapters for me, and the ones which take up about half the book, are Delivery Operations and Squadron Operations. The former examines in turn the various carrier-borne ferry operations to supply Malta with its lifeblood of Spitfires.The second, as its name implies, looks at things from a squadron perspective. In both of these, numerous aircraft are picked out in photos, examined, discussed and profiled - simply a modeller's dream!

 

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Conclusion

Whilst I appreciate the subject matter is fairly narrow, the Battle of Malta is certainly significant in WWII. Even if you only had a passing interest in say the Spitfire, or the war in Africa / The Mediterranean, there is certainly enough to prompt further research. On the other hand, if either the aircraft or the campaign is 'your thing', this book is simply a must. The author's credentials to write such a book are second to none in my opinion, and I really find the format refreshing and to my taste. The only thing I could really suggest to improve it would be a selection of decals to model the aircraft picked out in the profiles - there is certainly enough material in here to make at least three sheets in my view. Hopefully Jerry Crandall at Eagle Editions is watching??

 

Highly recommended.

 

With thanks to MMP Books for the review sample. To purchase directly, click THIS link.

 

Nicholas Mayhew

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I think he's played it very safe with this book, very few Spits on Malta were left unpainted. The ones that are obviously still in the desert scheme are the aircraft that didn't last long to be repainted, there's years of Caruana profiles and aviation paintings tht have built up an image of Desert scheme spits in Malta.

 

It's futile to try and pin them down to a single colour because even if an Official colour was used it would have been thinned down and applied so roughly that it wouldnt be a true representation of itself. He also hasn't accounted for the very dark schemes the spits sported late in 42/43 when they went on the offensive.

 

Fascinating subject and fair play to him for tackling it. Ill wait for part two of Tony O'Tooles book ;)

 

Good review tho Nic.

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  • 1 month later...

Just got this for £13 on ebay, after a proper read id say there's some very good research in there but a lot of fence sitting. Its not a topic you can be definitive about to be fair and he does cover the dark schemes at the end of the book. Well worth buying for the veterans testimony and hes collected the best pictures available in one volume including some that ive never seen published.

 

Definitely spot on with the "Finding the unicorn" comment Nic.

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