Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVIe

The final Merlin-engined Mark of Supermarine’s famous product entered service in October 1944 and remained in service until well into the post-War period.

Let’s look at a late War Spitfire.

The Spitfire Mk XVI came about purely because of concerns Rolls-Royce couldn’t meet demand for all the Merlin and Griffon engines being used by a variety of aircraft types as the War reached its climax.
Packard Motor Company in the US was starting to produce license built Merlins, identical to the current 60 Series except for Imperial gauge tooling in place of Metric. These were tagged as 260 Series engines. The Spitfire Mk IX had become the main British fighter at the mid-point of the War, and more of it was always needed.

The Spitfire Mk XVI used an “e” wing, which featured a 20 mm cannon in the outer location. The inner location could mount a 20 mm cannon or .50 machine gun, but all were initially built with the machine gun. Additionally it had bomb racks under each wing.

The simplest description of the Spitfire Mk XVI is that it was a Mk IX with the Packard Merlin engine. There are a few other specific comments we can make about the type however, mostly related to the RAF having specific needs by the time the type entered service; that is, later Mk IX and Mk XVI Spitfires were used primarily for close support. The first feature is very slightly enlarged upper nose cover and under-wing radiators; this accommodated a revised accessory lay-out and became standard on later built Mk IXs too. All Mk XVIs used the Merlin 266 engine, this was specifically boosted for low altitude service which makes them all technically “LF” fighters. Related to the LF aspect, they were all produced with the low-altitude clipped wing (this improved speed and rate of roll). [Although the Mk XVI shown here had the normal type tips fitted, perhaps pilot preference, for shorter take-off runs and better turning performance] All Mk XVI also had the pointed style rudder.
Finally, all Spitfire Mk XVI were produced with the “e” wing. By late-War all Mk IX were also being built with this wing. Specifically, this did away with the fittings for two .303 Brownings in each wing and instead offered an option on the inner gun mount of a 20 mm cannon or .50 machine gun. All Mk XVI were produced with the 20 mm cannon on the outer mount, and a .50 on the inner mount.
Readers familiar with the type may know there was one other feature common to most Mk XVIs that isn’t shown here, but of course there’s still one more Spitfire “on my workbench” for this theme build… [gee, did I just spoil something?]

This particular Spitfire was flown by Squadron Leader Henry Zary of RCAF 403 Squadron in the closing weeks of the War. Henry Zary was a New Yorker who joined the RCAF in 1941. Summer of 1944 he scored 4 kills in a Spitfire Mk IX. At the end of 1944 403 Squadron switched over to all Mk XVI Spitfires; because the need for different tool kits and spare parts it would always be one or the other, never mixed. I’m not sure when Henry Zary was made commander of that Squadron, but he was by the end of the War, and it was in this aircraft, on April 21, 1945 that he scored his 5th and final kill.

Henry Zary with an earlier Spitfire.

Of course this is the Eduard kit again. A funny thing, they did the late Merlin Spitfire (VIII, IX and XVI) about ten years ago and the earlier Spitfires (I, II and V) just recently. A lot of parts and parts break down is identical or very similar between the kits. But a few tweaks, mostly about ease of assembly, have been made during the long gap. I found it most noticeable in the exhausts, the assembly process used on these late Merlin Spitfires is almost comically fiddly and ridiculous. The more recent kits are vastly improved in that regard.
But overall not a big deal, this is a well engineered and well made kit. Especially with all the extra goodies in this dual-combo boxing like canopy masks and photo-etch instruments and other details.

Late in the War, Mk IX and Mk XVI Spitfires were mostly assigned to the 2nd Tactical Air Force which provided close support for the fighting in Northern Europe. They often provided fighter cover for the heavier ground pounders (like Typhoon shown here) but were heavily oriented towards ground targets. Air Defense of Great Britain and dedicated fighter cover over Europe was mostly flown by Tempests and Griffon-engined Spitfires (Mk XIV).

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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12 Responses to Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVIe

  1. Pingback: Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVIe | RCAF No. 403 Squadron

  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    I have a blog on 403 Squadron.

    • atcDave says:

      Dang Pierre, somehow I didn’t know that! You’ve got a lot of great stuff up. Do you have a personal connection to the squadron?

      I didn’t see any mention of their last wartime CO, Henry Zary. I know he actually scored most of his kills with another squadron, and was in fact, an American. But by making ace on April 21 he was actually the last American Ace against the Luftwaffe of World War II.
      Do you know when he was assigned to the squadron? Or when he made Squadron Leader? There seems to be very little about him on-line. I understand he passed away in 1946.

      • Pierre Lagacé says:

        I will get back to you tomorrow.

      • Pierre Lagacé says:

        ZARY, S/L Henry Paul Michael (J9261) – Distinguished Flying Cross

        – No.421 Squadron
        – Award effective 19 September 1944 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 2274/44 dated 20 October 1944.

        American in RCAF.
        Born 23 November 1918. Home in New York City; enlisted Ottawa 26 February 1941 and posted to No.1 Manning Depot. To “P”, 23 March 1941. To No.3 ITS, 15 May 1941; graduated and promoted LAC, 3 July 1941; to No.11 EFTS on that date; may have graduated 20 August 1941 but not posted to No.9 SFTS until 30 August 1941; graduated and commissioned 21 November 1941.

        To “Y” Depot, 22 November 1941. To RAF overseas, 13 December 1941. Disembarked in Britain, 26 December 1941. To No.5 Personnel Despatch Centre, date uncertain.

        Taken on strength in Egypt, 8 March 1942. To No.282 AMES, 16 May 1942. To Headquarters, Levant, 10 September 1942. To No.22 Personnel Transit Centre, 17 September 1942.

        Promoted Flying Officer, 1 October 1942. To United Kingdom, 24 October 1942. To No.5 (Pilots) AFU, 14 January 1943. To No.53 OTU, 23 February 1943. To No.421 Squadron, 27 April 1943.

        Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 21 November 1943. To Repatriation Depot, 25 August 1944. To RCAF Overseas Headquarters, 17 September 1944 for leave in Canada. Embarked from Canada, 24 November 1944; disembarked in Britain, 5 December 1944. To No.83 Group, 22 December 1944. To No.416 Squadron, 28 December 1944.

        Promoted Squadron Leader and posted to No.403 Squadron, 17 February 1945.

        Repatriated 7 July 1945. Released 11 October 1945.

        Died at Ste. Agathe, 11 February 1946 of pulmonary tuberculosis. Award presented to next-of-kin, 14 January 1947.

        Aerial victories as follows: 10 July 1943, one Bf.109 damaged, Elbeuf; 19 September 1943, one Bf.109 damaged, Poix; 8 May 1944. one Ju.88 damaged, Montdidier; 28 June 1944, one Bf.109 destroyed; 25 July 1944, three Bf.109s destroyed (all the preceding with No.421 Squadron; the following were with No.403 Squadron); 21 April 1945, one Bf.109 destroyed; 25 April 1945, on Me.262 damaged plus one Ju.88 damaged (both on ground, Hagenow).

        RCAF photo PL-19872 (ex UK-5442 dated 7 October 1943) shows two Americans in RCAF – F/O J.D. Browne (left, Florham Park, New Jersey) and F/O H.P.M. Zary (right, New York City).

        Photo PL-30142 shows him beside his Spitfire. PL-43536 (ex-UK-20809, 15 April 1945) shows him with a captured German car; PL-43537 (ex UK-20810, 15 April 1945) has caption that states he was a laboratory instructor at New York University before enlistment.

        This officer is a most distinguished fighter whose keenness to engage the enemy has always been apparent. In July 1944, he took part in an engagement against a superior force of enemy fighters, three of which he shot down. This officer has completed a large number of sorties and has destroyed six enemy aircraft.

        NOTE: Public Record Office Air 2/9159 has recommendation drafted about 25 July 1944 when he had flown 149 sorties (232 hours 40 minutes on operations). His total flying time was given as 603 hours ten minutes. The document noted that he had joined No.421 Squadron on 4 May 1943. On July 25, 1944, Flight Lieutenant Zary was leading a flight of No.421 Squadron when at least 40 enemy fighters were sighted above and preparing to attack. The squadron commander instructed his pilots to break into the attack and a general dogfight ensued during which Flight Lieutenant Zary personally destroyed three enemy aircraft. He is a keen and aggressive Flight Commander whose cheerful spirit and excellent fighting qualities have contributed in no small measure to his squadron’s success. He has now destroyed at least six enemy aircraft and damaged two. In addition he has also carried out a large number of successful attacks on enemy mechanical transport. Training: On recruitment, interviewing officer wrote: “Ambitious, energetic type. Clean cut with fine education. All round athletic and good student. Excellent recommendations. Should be an outstanding pupil.” (F/O T.G. Holley, 5 February 1941). Course at No.3 ITS was 16 May to 21 June 1941. Courses in Mathematics (72/100), Armament (70/100), Signals (100/100), Hygiene and Sanitation (39/40), Drill (96/100), Law and Discipline (41/60). Placed 30th in a class of 175. “Good educational background, neat, alert; very pleasant person, splendid type of American; commission material.” Course at No.11 EFTS was 3 July to 20 August 1941. Fleet Finch aircraft (31.50 dual, 52.50 solo, of which 11.50 on instrument flying; logged 13.10 in Link). Scored 85 percent at 20-hour test and 84.4 percent on final. “This man started like fire. Was learning very quickly at the beginning but he gradually slowed down as far as learning fast is concerned. Likes aerobatics. Instrument flying is below average. This man has very cocky manners, but when it comes down to flying he is not. Was forced down through engine failure on a take-off, and made a good job in keeping straight. His log book keeping has been full of mistakes all through the course.” (P.M. Boisvert, CFI, 22 August 1941). Ground training in Airmanship (143/200), Airframes (79/100), Aero Engines (89/100), Signals, practical (99/100), Theory of Flight (62/100), Air Navigation (132/200), Armament, oral (179/200), and graded 185/200 in “Qualities as an Officer.” General remarks by CGI were, “Very keen, likeably man, ambitious, attentive and cooperative in class. Conscientious in study. Popular among other students.” Placed seventh in class of 28. Course at No.9 SFTS was 1 September to 21 November 1941. Harvard aircraft (35.55 day dual, 62.00 day solo, 3.05 night dual, ten hours night solo; 20.55 on instruments, 20.00 in Link). “Good sound pilot with no outstanding faults.” (F/L E.T. Webster, 21 November 1941). Rated in the following fields – Formation Flying (above average), Navigation Ability (average), Night Flying (average), Determination and Initiative (above average), Instrument Flying (average). Ground courses in Airmanship and Maintenance (141/200), Armament, written (74/100), Armament, practical (76/100), Navigation (120.150), Meteorology (45/50), Signals, written (43/50), Signals, practical (98/100). “Above average student, hard worker. Conduct and deportment good.” Placed fourth in a class of 52. At the conclusion, W/C E.M. Mitchell (Chief Instructor) wrote, Very quick to learn, exceptional spirit. Eager to fly.” Course at No.5 AFU was 14 January to 21 February 1943. Passenger in an Anson (2.55) followed by Master aircraft (3.40 day dual to first day solo, total 16.00 day dual, 15.55 day solo, 2.45 night dual to first night solo which was total night dual, 50 minutes night solo – spent nine hours in formation, 2,55 on instruments, 6.30 in Link). Flying tests in General Flying (290/400), Applied Flying (140/200), Instrument Flying (160/250), Night Flying (70/100), Link (30/50). “Trained in Canada. A good average pupil. Navigation good, holds courses well but could improve in map reading and pinpointing. Formation satisfactory – I.F. sound all round, maintains course and heights, turns good. Night flying good. Is inclined to forget minor details, i.e. checking undercarriage lights. Fit to fly operational aircraft at night without further dual after day experience on type. Is a keen pilot, full of dash and initiative. Confident in handling his aircraft.” (S/L P.J. Halford, 21 February 1943). Further notes: Accident, 21 December 1943, Spitfire BS200, Lympne aerodrome. Taxying for a sortie, hit very soft mud and tipped up on propellor. “That particular part of the aerodrome being unserviceable, but no sign indicated.” On 24 December 1943, S/L E.L. Gimbel (CO of No,403 Squadron), wrote, “The two other aircraft taxying on the aerodrome were able to take off without much difficulty, F/L Linton being one of them, and he noticed this one particularly bad spot of mud and avoided it by going around, whereas the other pilot and F/O Zary went through it. The other pilot was fortunate enough to make his way through the mud without being caught, F/O Zary being less fortunate bogged himself and put the aircraft on its nose. In my opinion the accident could have been avoided with a little more care on the pilot’s part.” On repatriation in August 1944 he stated he had flown 243 operational hours (165 sorties) and had a total of 640 hours flown. Application for Operational Wing dated 14 September 1944 claimed 160 sorties (243 hours ten minutes), May 1943 to August 1944. Assessment from No.421 Squadron dated 19 July 1944 when he had flown 590 hours: “A very capable pilot and Flight Commander who has discharged his duties to the best of his abilities. Settled down to the job after being with the squadron for four months and has never looked back. An excellent type to work with on operations.” (S/L W.A.G. Conrad). Assessment dated 15 June 1945 when he had flown 731 hours 35 minutes of which 85 hours had been in previous six months: “Squadron Leader Zary has done a good job of work flying against the enemy. He has destroyed at least seven enemy aircraft and accounted for numerous motor transport. As a squadron commander he was popular with those who served under him and he deserves much of the praise due to 403 Squadron for their valiant efforts during the closing months of the war in Europe.” (W/C J.F. Edwards). To this is added the following: “A good operational squadron commander who has done excellent work with the squadron as well as personally; rather weak on the ground.” (G/C P.S. Turner, 17 June 1945, considering Edwards’ assessment too high).

        ©2023 Airforce Association

      • Pierre Lagacé says:

        My personal connection?
        Long story…

      • atcDave says:

        Dang, you delivered! Sounds like he was well regarded in the air, but less so on administrative and technical issues. Seriously, great find.
        Interesting he never transferred to the USAAF, he must have been quite happy with what he was doing/where he was at. Also noted he was not Squadron Leader for very long at the end of the War. Looks like he never came home after the War.

      • atcDave says:

        I saw on your blog you had a friend who had a vast store of photos and personal records for the Squadron. That is a good connection right there!

      • Pierre Lagacé says:

        Greg Bell’s grandfather was Walter Neil Dove who was a Spitfire pilot. Greg gave me permission to share all he had kept of his grandfather’s mementoes.

  3. jfwknifton says:

    A colourful kit, beautifully made.

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