Ultimate Spitfires

Published on
February 1, 2021
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Peter Caygill
Other Publication Information
Paper cover, 224 pages (also available in hard cover)
Company: Pen & Sword - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate UK - Website: Visit Site

From the Pen and Sword Website

Peter Caygill is one of Britain's leading aviation history authors. His meticulous research and personal interviews with ex-pilots and aircrew have lead to the publication of many successful books such as Jet Jockeys, Spitfire Mk V in Action and Lightning from the Cockpit. He lives in Darlington, Co. Durham.

The Spitfire is probably Britain's best loved and admired aeroplane. It is also revered around the world. This book looks at the later marques that were modified for various special tasks and differed to a large degree from Supermarine's first early versions that saw action in the early days of World War II. New and more powerful Rolls-Royce engines replaced the well-tried Merlin, but increased the aircrafts performance in terms of speed and operational altitude. Subtle changes to wing design also increased the manoeuvrability and capability of these spectacular models that survived in the operational role until superseded by the introduction of jet-powered flight. The content explains the design details, development and flight testing of twelve models and also contains their operational roles and history. Lengthy appendices will include Griffon-powered Spitfire aces, V1 rocket destruction aces, Griffon-powered Spitfire losses and where the survivors can be found


This publication is broken down into three parts: Part One addresses the design, development and technical side of each Spitfire variant; the center part is the images section, Part Two addresses the use and history of each type. I found the first part to be a bit dry, while offering loads of technical information.

The center section of this publication is filled with black-and-white vintage images of Spitfires in flight and on the ground. All are captioned. All of the images represent original, and not restored, aircraft. The images are reasonably clear and will offer the modeler some detail and weathered effects of aircraft in use.

Part Two has the action during World War II against axis aircraft and the V-1.

Part One Development and Flight Testing

  • Chapter One
    • A Better Spitfire. This chapter offers a lot of technical information on the History of the later Spitfire's development with data on engines, weapons, wing design and fuels required.
  • Chapter Two
    • Spitfire XII. Here the development of the Spitfire XII is discussed in detail. More engine development information and history.
  • Chapter Three
    • Spitfire XIV. The Spitfire II showed much promise, but was limited in performance by the single stage Griffon engine. The Rolls Royce engines further developed the Griffon in early 1943 with a two-stage supercharged Griffon. This improvement provided the power required at higher altitudes. Interesting technical details in this chapter.
  • Chapter Four
    • Spitfire XVIII. The Spitfire XVIII did not appear until near the end of the war, with 300 being manufactured, and all shipped overseas to be used in the fighter-reconnaissance and fighter-bomber roles.
  • Chapter Five
    • Spitfire PR.XIX. Here the discussion focuses on the development of the Spitfire PR.XIX in the photo-recon role.
  • Chapter Six
    • Spitfire F.21/22/24. Major redesigns of the airframe resulted in many challenges and difficulties for Supermarine. The design issues are discussed as well as the solutions.
  • Chapter Seven
    • Seafire XV. The Spitfire goes to war over the sea. The development of the airframe for naval use is covered in these pages.
  • Chapter Eight
    • Seafire XVII. Externally the Spitfire XVII was identical to the XV. The internal and performance differences are described herein.
  • Chapter Nine
    • Seafire F.46/46/47.
  • Chapter Ten
    • Spiteful and Sefang. The original Spitfire design had been tweaked and massaged many times over with upgraded armament, wings, rudders and engines, and the limits of the design and upgrades began to show. In order to take advantage of the engines available with the potential of increased speed and performance a major design element was required. This chapter addresses the application of the laminar flow wing design. A good deal of technical information is included herein and makes for some interesting reading. However, this proved to be the end of the road for possible enhancements of the design.

Part Two Operational History

  • Chapter Eleven
    • Into Service. In early 1943 it was urgent that the first Griffon-powered Spitfires went into service to combat the formidable FW 190's now in service with the Luftwaffe. Several combat stories are included describing kills and losses.
  • Chapter Twelve
    • Anti V-1 Operations. This chapter covers the defenses and intercepts of V-1's by Spitfires, and the tactics used to down these dangerous adversaries.
  • Chapter Thirteen
    • Spitfire XIV in 2nd Tactical Air Force. This chapter was probably the most interesting for me. Plenty of action with dogfights with Bf 109's and FW 190's, ground strafing of rail traffic, motorized vehicles and aircraft. Ground fire also took its toll of the Spitfires and pilots.
  • Chapter Fourteen
    • Top Scorers. This chapter contains the combat narratives of many of the top scoring Spitfire pilots.
  • Chapter Fifteen
    • Spitfires Post War. This chapter discusses how Spitfires and their veteran pilots were used to form auxiliary squadrons and performed various training exercises. Spitfires were often pitted against Meteors and Vampires in training exercises. Spitfires were also assigned peace-keeping duty in Palestine, seeing air combat against Egyptian Spitfires.
  • Chapter Sixteen
    • Spitfires Over Malaya. After the end of World War II, the Malaysian guerrilla forces moved their attention from the Japanese occupation to that of evicting the British who took over after the Japanese defeat. Spitfires and Beaufighters were used in the ground attack mode. This was extremely challenging as 90% of the country is covered by a thick jungle canopy.


  • Appendix One
    • Specifications. This section offers information of the Spitfire variants with dimensions, weights, rate of climb, service ceiling, engine type and armament.
  • Appendix Two
    • Top-Scoring Griffon Spitfire Pilots. The top-scoring ace was R.H. Harries with 10 1/2 German aircraft destroyed, while several claimed a single destroyed.
  • Appendix Three
    • V-1 Aces. The top-scoring ace was N.A. Kynaston with 21 destroyed.
  • Appendix Four
    • Griffon Spitfire Losses-WWII. This section lists the losses with pilot identified and how the aircraft was lost.

Reviewers Comments

For the scale modeler there is an abundance of model Spitfire kits by many manufactures in several scales to pick from, as well as marking choices and aftermarket accessories. I planned to list some of the later marks that are available, but became overwhelmed by the choices. The first few chapters of this publication that cover the various marks are a bit of a slow read, but do offer a good deal of technical information on the issues and problems encountered during the development of each variant.


If you have an interest in the design, development and combat history of the Spitfire, this publication will be of great interest and make a fine addition to your library. Recommended for the Spitfire enthusiast.

I wish to thank IPMS/USA and Pen and Sword Aviation for the opportunity to review this publication.


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