The third most produced Mark of the famous Spitfire, the Mk VIII served exclusively outside of Great Britain. That mainly means Mediterranean , Pacific and CBI.
Let’s take a look at the late Merlin powered type.
I’ll start with the mandatory Spitfire disclaimer, so much of its production was a jumbled mess that you can add a “most”, “but” or “I think” to virtually every sentence that follows.
The 60 series Merlin was used in three, more or less similar, Marks of Spitfire. With the Spitfire Mk V in production Supermarine was planning on a remodeled airframe with a number of aerodynamic improvements in addition to the latest Merlin from Rolls-Royce. The extra power of the new powerplant (70% more power than the Mk I Spitfire) meant a strengthened airframe and enlarged rudder. There was also a retractable tailwheel and several less noticeable tweaks. The new Mark would have either a Merlin 66, 61 or 70 depending on if it was boosted to optimize low, medium or high altitude. There were enough changes it would require some downtime to switch over an assembly line.
As so often happened, Summer of 1941 led to some shocking developments in combat. The then current Spitfire Mk V was encountering a new German type, the Fw 190, that could completely outperform it. The RAF couldn’t wait while the new Mk VIII tooled up, so Supermarine was ordered to put the new engine on a Mk V fuselage, no changes aft of the firewall. The first of these new “Mark IX” Spits were converted from existing Mark Vs. This simple change added 70 MPH to the type’s top level speed, and included a number of warning placards about overstressing the airframe. The Mark IX would ultimately be the second most produced of all Spitfire variants. I’ve seen it listed as the most produced version in some sources, but I think they are combining that total with Mark XVI Spitfires. The Mark XVI is identical to the Mark IX, except for using a Packard Merlin (usually listed as a “260” series engine). This distinction truly only matters to the mechanic, who needs to know if he’s using Metric or Imperial gauge tools.
Ultimately the Mark IX would be modified in production, until late build examples had all the changes intended for the Mark VIII except for the retractable tailwheel.
Due to the hurried introduction of Mark IX, it took until mid-1943 for the Mark VIII to enter service. Over 1600 were built, so it was a major and important type. All Mark VIIIs were the same except for the altitude boost of the engine. They all even used the “c” wing, in theory that means either 4 x 20 mm cannon or 2 x 20 mm cannon and 4 x .303 machine guns for armament. But I *think* all VIIIs were built with the second of those options. I also think this all means the Mk VIII was the most evolved form of the Merlin-engine Spitfire; although some might argue for a late-build Mk XVI, the last Merlin Spitfire in production.
This aircraft was assigned to No. 155 Squadron in Burma, the last two years of the War. Readers may recall I previously featured a Curtiss Mohawk Mk IV also assign to that squadron. In January of 1944 they were re-equipped with the Spitfire Mk VIII. Those two types represent their Wartime equipment. The most famous pilot to pass through the squadron was James H “Ginger” Lacey. He was the second most successful ace in the Battle of Britain with 18 kills in Hurricanes (+5 in the Battle of France). He switched to Spitfires afterwards and scored two more kills before taking an instructor position in 1942. In 1943, still as an instructor, he was assigned to India. In November of 1944 he was posted back on operations, flying several weeks as an observer with 155 Sqn prior to taking command of 17 Squadron. He scored one more kill in Asia for a total of 26 confirmed, making him one of the very, very “Few” who flew operationally from the first day of the War to the last. In April, 1946 he became the first to fly a Spitfire over Japan.
This was the regular mount of F/Lt Paul Ostrander. He flew a tour of duty with 155 Sqn from July 1944 to May 1945. The symbol on the nose is a “Chindit”, the badge of the Long Range Penetration Group commanded by Orde Wingate. They performed long patrols deep behind enemy lines, and 155 Sqn often provided close support for them.
This the Eduard kit. It is a true beauty. As a “profipack” it comes with pre-painted photo-etch parts and painting masks. Really a complete package, speaking for myself I can’t imagine ever buying any aftermarket other than a decal sheet for this kit. It is significantly more complex and fiddly than the older Tamiya kit, but Tamiya only ever did the Mark I and Mark Vb. Eduard has provided us with every other major Mark (plus the Mark I and Vb). The level of detail is stunning. Of course that also means its a slower process than the Tamiya, but never really in a “bad” way. Fit/engineering are excellent throughout, just a lot of tiny pieces.