Malta Spitfire Vs - 1942
Their Colours and Markings
In the desperate battle for Malta in 1941-2, when German and Italian bombers pounded the island, the arrival of Spitfire Vs helped turn the tables in favour of the Allies. Flown from RN and USN carriers, and some even direct from Gibraltar, the Spitfires significantly enhanced the defenses. For many years arguments have raged about the precise colour schemes carried by these aircraft – in this new book Brian Cauchi looks at all the evidence, from photos and personal memories through to surviving parts of these aircraft, and presents his personal interpretation of the many colour schemes, official and otherwise, carried by these hard-pressed and hard-working warplanes.
The island of Malta was a major target in the Mediterranean, and the defense of the island was paramount to maintaining control of the region. Initially defended by Gladiators and Hurricanes, the arrival of Spitfires marked a shift in air superiority over the island. This newest title from Mushroom Model Publications focuses on those Spitfires and their fascinating camouflages.
While there have been plenty of books written on the defense of Malta, the author has decided to take a slightly different approach, examining the camouflage and markings of the Spitfires of Malta. These aircraft wore some of the most interesting schemes found on Spitfires, with little in the way of firm verification of the actual colors used. The book features an in-depth written discussion on the different schemes, and this discussion is further accentuated through the ample usage of photos. Taking all of that information together, the book presents the colors and markings in a series of color profiles.
As an example of how all of this information is presented, the documentation of BR246, a Spitfire VC(T) from 249 Squadron is depicted in a photo and a color profile. The text provides the general history of the aircraft, while the profile caption provides detailed yet vague color information. I say vague because nothing has been documented as to the exact colors used. In this example, the text notes that the "heavily weathered aircraft was overpainted in a single medium shade probably on board the USS Wasp", and since that was a US Navy aircraft, surmises that the color was non-specular blue gray. Many of the aircraft covered here are presented in similar vague descriptions, but the research is very logical and the results are very likely the correct interpretation of the colors and markings.
For anyone interested in the air war in the Mediterranean or interesting Spitfire camouflages, this is an excellent book to have.
IPMS USA.org 2014-02-07
Paul Mahoney, IPMS# 8943
The title of this one says it all. This book is dedicated completely to covering the markings and colors of Spitfire Mk Vs on Malta in 1942. Not all aircraft on Malta, not all 1942 Spitfires, and not anything else – JUST Spitfire Vs, JUST in 1942 and JUST those based on Malta!
The author is a modeler himself, and the introduction to the book briefly describes how he came about researching and writing about this topic. In brief, he had been corresponding with WC ‘Laddie’ Lucas (leader of 249 Squadron on Malta during much of 1942). The author had decided to build a Spitfire model for WC Lucas, and the subject of markings came up. The author had planned on painting a standard desert camouflage scheme on the Spitfire, and Lucas responded by saying none of the aircraft he remembered were painted in this manner. This evolved into several years of discussion and correspondence over just how exactly the Spitfires on Malta were marked. From that beginning, a full-blown research campaign was conducted and this book is the product thereof. As a modeler, I found this little section particularly interesting.
The softcover book is in a large format (A4 size), and pages are all of a matt finish on heavy stock. Photos and color profiles are to be found on almost every one of the 168 pages.
Without spending much time on the history of the 1942 air campaign over Malta, the book dives right into the subject of camouflage. Each delivery of Spitfires to Malta took place via aircraft carrier and had a specific ‘Operation’ code-name. Chapter One is dedicated to a discussion of these operations, and camouflage patterns that developed as a result. The standard British desert scheme of mid stone and dark earth over azure blue was found to be completely inappropriate for the blue/gray backdrop of the sea surrounding Malta. The author discusses very logically the quick remedies applied to cover up those ‘stand-out’ schemes with something more suitable for blending in with the ocean. Photographic evidence is presented where possible, and color side profiles drawing on those photos accompany much of the text. Each of these Operations seems to have had its own variants of camouflage – early-on stocks aboard ship might have been applied over the desert colors. Later, some Malta-bound Spitfires were painted in non-desert schemes at the factory (think standard RAF Northern European Camouflage, or FAA camouflage colors). Still others might have received an overpaint in Gibraltar or even locally in Malta. And some still did turn up in that desert scheme.
Chapter Two is a brief one, and specifically discusses those aircraft delivered via Gibraltar, and what schemes might have been applied there prior to arrival in Malta.
Chapter Three is titled “Squadron Operations” and covers exactly that. Each of the seven Spitfire squadrons that served on Malta in 1942 is covered. To start, there is a brief synopsis of the combat operations of each squadron. This is followed up by several pages dedicated to the colors used by each unit, again with many photos and profiles. Some color photos are present in this section as well. There is excellent coverage not only of the camouflage, but also the unit and aircraft markings of each Squadron.
Chapter Four is titled “Other Relevant Examples” and contains photos of Spitfires that cannot be attributed to a specific unit, but still show camouflage schemes or markings worth having a look at.
Chapter Five has some very good model-painting information, being titled “Methods of Overpainting.” Each of the many different styles of overpainting is described in detail. This should be extremely helpful to the modeler attempting one of these schemes. The author describes in depth the multiple variations of this ‘re-camouflaging.’ Within this chapter there are sections dedicated to “one color topsides”, “overpainting just the middle stone areas,” “very dark undersides,” and much more.
Chapter Six, “The Mount of an Ace,” discusses the various schemes and markings applied to one particular Spitfire Vc, Serial Number BR498. Photos and color profiles are provided to illustrate the text.
The final Chapter is “Veterans’ Testimonials” and includes excerpts of correspondence between the author (and others) and some of the Malta Spitfire pilots. They were there!
There is a well-done “Summary of Findings” that does indeed summarize all the discussion about markings and camouflage discussed throughout the book. I think the author’s conclusions are quite logical and well-documented. As such, he builds a compelling case for his assertions regarding the camouflage of the Malta Spitfires.
Finally, there are some very useful appendices: modern photos of parts of Spitfires in original colors serial number blocks of Spitfire Vs Squadron Code Letters used in Malta, 1942 Air Ministry Official Camouflage Schemes Spitfires, listed by serial number, for each “Operation” in-depth profiles of pilots mentioned in the text copies of official documentation with respect to camouflage map and photos of Malta showing the airfields in 1942 color chips for all the variations described in the text
This is quite an impressive work, and will be of great use to anyone considering building a Malta Spitfire model. The author has painstakingly analyzed every photo in this book and drawn conclusions as to how it’s subject was camouflaged. There is a very logical discussion explaining his thoughts on what types of blues and greys might have been used in an attempt to better blend into the environment, or at least just to cover up the desert schemes that stood out so starkly. Highly recommend!
Thanks to MMP Books for providing the sample and to IPMS/USA for allowing me to review it.
Reviewed by Steven Eisenman
F i r s t R e a d
This new, and much anticipated, monograph on the colour and markings of the Spitfires on Malta in 1942 could have been titled “Fifty Shades of Grey – Malta”. As with the actual Fifty Shades of Grey, not everyone might like this monograph.
You will probably not like this monograph if you like precise answers, verifiable conclusions, exact FS and Munsell colour equivalents, or exact matches in Model Master or Humbrol paints.
You will probably not like this monograph if you do not like speculation, conjecture, or the expression of one’s opinion.
You will probably not like this monograph if you believe that nothing can be discerned or gained from the analysis of black and white, and often fuzzy, photographs (The veritable Fifty Shades of Grey). This will be especially so if that analysis is used in an attempt to determine colour.
What Brian Cauchi has done, in this most intriguing monograph, is to assemble, as best he could, a photographic chronicle of the evolution and styles of the camouflage applied to the Spitfire Vs delivered to defend Malta. Using these photographs, he has organized the monograph into two primary parts.
The first part puts the photographs in the context of the sequence of the Spitfire delivery operations. The analysis is done of photographs of the aircraft before being loaded on the carrier, on the carrier and then upon delivery. The problem, which the author readily admits, is that after Operation Bowery the quantity and quality of photographs falls off dramatically, to almost none.
For the second part, the photographs are arranged by RAF Squadron. Here the pictures are analyzed with regard to how the aircraft looked in service. But even here, the number of photographs available is limited.
Mr. Cauchi then takes the limited resources available to him and, with his own experience, knowledge and judgment, attempts an analysis of each of the pictures to determine what was done to the airframe in order to camouflage it to meet the demands of air warfare over Malta. These resources include the limited RAF documentation available, first person accounts and other secondary sources.
In carrying out this analysis there are two crucial issues that become the core of the monograph. The first is that Spitfires in the Desert Scheme of Dark Earth and Middle Stone was an anathema to the RAF on Malta. It was virtually the work of the devil, although it continued to exist on many aircraft. Malta was not a desert and the air war was carried out over the deep blue Mediterranean.
The second is based on a secret cypher telegram from RAF H.Q. Malta to the Air Ministry Whitehall and RAF Gibraltar dated 7 April 1942. The telegram simply requests: “All Spitfires aircraft for Malta be sea camouflaged either before leaving U.K. or at Gibraltar as this will expedite getting them on to the line on arrival here.” Note that the telegram does not use initial capital letters for “sea camouflage”.
For Cauchi, the quest is first to determine whether the request for the application of a “sea camouflage” before delivery was actually complied with, which it appears it was not. Also, it is a quest to find out if the reference to “sea camouflage” was intentionally ambiguous or did it mean the “Temperate Sea Scheme” (TSS). The reference to a “sea camouflage” with the use of dark greens and greys appears to go back as far as 1935, but the specific requirement for painting aircraft for the FAA in TSS, Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey, appears in August 1940. So the concept of the TSS was known at the time of the telegram. Although, the development of an Air Diagram for “Sea Camouflage” that incorporated EDSG and DSG was used in 1939. (See: “Fleet Air Arm Camouflage and Markings 1937-1941”, by Stuart Lloyd). Was the reference to “sea camouflage” like the Pirates Code, more a guideline than a rule? Could even Dark Green and Dark Earth fall within those guidelines?
Since, it seems that the specific intent and meaning behind the use of the term “sea camouflage” cannot be known, Cauchi goes picture by picture to try to determine if, in fact, the aircraft was re-camouflaged, what scheme and colours did it carry, and did it fall within the ambiguous “sea camouflage”.
As you go with the author on his quest you may often find yourself at odds with him. With one picture you can be in full agreement on his assumptions and opinions. With another you my cock an eyebrow, as a wave of doubt passes through you. Is that a dark over paint or is that merely the result of dust coupled with a sudden rainstorm? In other words, mud covered. Are there two colours on the aircraft? Or, is it the effect of a thinly applied unknown dark colour allowing the Middle Stone to show through?
Speaking of over painting, one thing I came to realize was that camouflage was more important than speed. One airframe could have as many as four coats of paint applied, and some of those coats may have been brush applied. A Temperate Land Scheme aircraft could be repainted in the Desert Scheme at the factory, then have a dark colour applied over that and then retouched up again in large sections. That will surely reduce one’s air speed a couple miles per hour at least, especially as the paint may be quite flat.
The author also raises the issue of underside colours and the possible use of Mediterranean blues. It also seems that Sky Blue (not Sky Type S) was around more and longer than I thought.
One personal observation about the author’s coverage of the painting of the Spitfires during Operation Calendar; the author, while addressing the colours that might have been used, does not take into consideration the amount of paint available on a USN aircraft carrier to repaint 30 Spitfires, as no additional paint was reported to have been put onboard.
The remainder of the book includes veterans’ testimonials and a series of appendices, which includes, among other items, Spitfire V serial number blocks, delivery listings and pilot profiles.
I believe that many thought this would be the monograph that would provide answers. In fact, it raises many more questions and provides new grounds for new disagreements. That being said, the author is to be congratulated on his attempt to bring all the issues to the fore in one place.
As there appears to be no definite and final answers, for the readers going along with Cauchi’s quest, the trip becomes an intellectual exercise. I do not think the author would, or could, say that the reader was definitely wrong in the conclusions or opinions the reader held, after reading this monograph, that are contrary to the author’s. I see only an agreement to disagree.
Air Modeler No. 48 2014-02-07
Model Airplane International No. 95 2014-02-07
In 1942, any pilot serving the RAF was dreaming to go to Malta, because it was there where action, fame and glory could be found. That year, the Spitfire was sent to replace the Hurricane to defend the island. Under constant pressure, the Spitfire units suffered heavy losses but eventually won the game. In 1942, the Spitfires arrived in batches, and often were sent to combat the same day of their arrival. Due to operational requirements, camouflage was not seen as a priority and several schemes following more or less the current regulations were used in the same time. This is a study that has always fascinated modellers and various speculations arose since the beginning in trying to know whether a particular aircraft was painted in a certain way or not. Brian Cauchi is offering here other theories, all very well justified, and sometimes backed by recollections from people who were on the island at that time. As these were written over 50 years after the facts, so they must be taken with caution because memory is not infallible. Now all that remains a theory, the debate is far from being settled, but in the light of new material, this book certainly provides new food for thought. Each profile in colour is based from a photo which is published, giving to the reader the chance to make his own opinion on it. While some captions are incorrect (as Spitfire serialled AR471 instead BR471 instead – i.e. book Brian Cull and Operations Record Book of 126 Sqn, the AR471 having flown - and lost - with the 229 Sqn only), it remains without a doubt an excellent book that will please more than a Spitfre enthusiast.
Phil H. Listemann
Amazon.co.uk customer review 2014-02-07
A first class book
26 May 2013 By Robert L Doudle
I have always been fascinated by the Battle for Malta and the air battles that ensured, this book is very well researched and presented and is an excellent buy for Military History buffs and modellers alike.
SAMI 06/2013 2014-02-07
Model Aircraft 06/2013 2014-02-07
Amazon.co.uk customer review (3rd) 2014-02-07
5.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive treatment but still no answer! 9 Jun 2013
By Mr. Stuart Sanders
A very detailed treatment of the problem of the colour(s) in which Spitfires operated from Malta were painted.
After an excellent review of the possible answers the conclusion though was a bit of a let down, and can be summarized in three points :
1. There was no standard.
2. In the absence of reliable artifacts we will probably never know what colours individual Spitfires were painted.
3. People who were there had more urgent concerns than what colour to paint their aircraft.
Once interesting, but overlooked issue is what was the purpose of camouflaging the Spitfires in the first place. The author clearly think that it was to camouflage the aircraft while in the air, but even in Malta 1942 aircraft spent a lot more time on the ground than they did flying but the usefulness of camouflage in concealing the Spitfires on the ground is not mentioned at all.
"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'?
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 scratchbuilding, Malta and Spitfires.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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??
With thanks to MMP Books for the review sample. Nicholas Mayhew
Amazon.com customer review 2014-02-07
5.0 out of 5 stars
A much needed reference book. July 25, 2013
There's been a lot of debate over Malta Spitfire camouflage colors and this book is the best attempt to date to solve those mysteries. The author does his best using official documents, photos, testimonials, and just good detective work to offer the best ideas of how these aircraft were painted for Malta operations. Some may be frustrated that there are still gray areas but that's not likely to change as the history will always be a bit murky. There are dozens of color profiles, numerous excellent black and white photos along with a good operational history. He also includes color photos of aircraft remains, pilot profiles, delivery listings and history and other goodies. If you're interested in the Malta Spitfire operations you'll want to have this book in your library.
“It was never my intention to write a book about this subject, or any other subject for that matter, and it was only the way a number of particular events unfolded that resulted in this published work.”
You may not realize it but the precise colors and markings on Spitfires deployed to Malta actually is a really hot topic. Well, in certain circles.
Look at a map and you’ll see that Malta is an island. Islands have a habit of being surrounded by water. Water, or rather the sky reflected in it, is blue. Many of the Maltese Spits arrived in a desert livery of Dark Earth and Middle Stone. So, were they overpainted? And to what? And what does it matter anyway? Since painting a warplane is not about art but camouflage there must be bureaucratic processes applicable here. There must be guidelines, charts, numbers, acronyms, uniformity, purpose. So why do the surviving black and white photos show such bewildering variety? What happened to the TSS (“Temperate Sea Scheme” to me and you)?
YSpitfires are plenty interesting, the battle for this strategically important spot in the Mediterranean in the context of the war in Africa is plenty interesting (you can’t really watch Casablanca without giving a thought to Malta), but even if none of those factors ring your bell, the book is also interesting simply as an intellectual exercise, a case study in framing a problem and in forensic photo analysis. In fact, it is the latter group that will get the most out of this book—because author Cauchi, after taking 14 years of shaking every tree and fielding many learned hypotheses, concludes that all, or much anyway, is grey, not literally but metaphorically. Modelers who read this book with paintbrush/gun in hand, will end up, to coin a phrase, watching paint dry. Not because the book is boring, far from it, but because it’s . . . complicated. Still, Cauchi’s process is presented in an eminently impressive and really engaging way. He is of course very well known in scratch-built modeling circles, especially the larger scales, and probably the most capable investigator to ferret out this particular subject. The book is also very cleverly designed so in that regard too it is interesting.
YCauchi examines piles of photos, analyzes reams of interviews (many excerpted here), scrapes paint off of surviving aircraft parts, and runs it all through the mill of his knowledge of context and minutia. The reader gets to look over his shoulder as Cauchi weighs it all and forms opinions.
YThis particular book is in the publisher’s White Series, which, although written with the modeler in mind, is far more context and background rich than MMP’s other series. It uses, for instance, fewer color profiles, tech drawings, and detail illustrations of nuts and bolts. Instead there is much more emphasis on descriptions of operational and logistical matters and field operations. Lots of Appendices too, from all sorts of numbers to delivery listings and pilots’ profiles. The color profiles are placed, by the way, right where they relate to the text or to actual photos of the airframe in question. This not at all common practice is much more useful than the dreadfully unimaginative way of bundling them all at the back of a book.
YThere is a lot to think about here and the journey is more interesting than the destination.
YCopyright 2013, Sabu Advani (speedreaders.info).
Amazon.co.uk customer review (4th) 2014-02-07
Airfix Model World 03/2014 2014-02-07
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