Malta Spitfire Vs – 1942: Their Colours and Markings

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Brian Cauchi
Other Publication Information
Softcover, 168 Pages, black and white photos throughout (and some color), color profiles throughout.
Product / Stock #
White (Rainbow) Series No. 9118

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:

  1. modern photos of parts of Spitfires in original colors
  2. serial number blocks of Spitfire Vs
  3. Squadron Code Letters used in Malta, 1942
  4. Air Ministry Official Camouflage Schemes
  5. Spitfires, listed by serial number, for each “Operation”
  6. in-depth profiles of pilots mentioned in the text
  7. copies of official documentation with respect to camouflage
  8. map and photos of Malta showing the airfields in 1942
  9. 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.


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