There is a story behind the picture. The machine shown, SZ*X belonged to the no. 316 (Polish) Fighter Squadron, a unit consisting entirely of exile Polish personnel. In March 1943 the squadron received the new Spitfires Mk. IX. However, after the reorganisation of the RAF in August 1943 that year the unit was assigned to the newly-formed Air Defence of Great Britain. In this role it converted back to the LF Mk. VB for low-level defence and convoy escort duties. The sqadron was relocated to to Acklington, Northumberland, and then Woodvale in Lancs.
The pilots weren't enthusiastic about these old aircraft. The received Mk. Vs were long-used airframes somewhat uprated by the maintenance units. The performance wasn't a match for the Mk IX.
Having more time than usual in this second-line assignment, the squadron's mechanics tested several ideas. Some of the unit's aircraft were laboriously polished by hand to a very smooth finish to gain speed. Indeed, the increase was deemed worth the trouble and the practice was sporadically adopted also by other Mk V units. SZ*X was on of the aircraft on which the idea was tested.
The "polished" Spitfires served with the squadron only until April 1944, when the new Mustang Mk. IIIs were received, and the unit moved back to southern England. No. 316 used it's Mustangs effectively against V1 flying bombs.
Knowing this background information, let's have a look at the photo. The smooth quality of the finish is apparent. Even the camouflage edges appear to be extra sharp on the aircraft - as all modellers will know, polishing helps to remove overspray! Otherwise the scheme is entirely conventional with Dark Green/Ocean Grey upper and Medium Sea Grey lower surfaces. The spinner and the tail band are painted Sky, propeller blades black, wing leading edges yellow interrupted by red patches over the gun ports. A conventional mid-war RAF day fighter scheme!
Still, there are some points of interest in the markings. The size and style of letters SZ*X is non-standard. Letters are painted in Sky. The serial number which is known to be BL 479 is painted only in small letters on top of the tail band.
There is a visible square patch just behind the letter X on the fuselage, a supposed result of a field repair, and painted only in primer.
The movable portion of a canopy frame is painted in what appears to be grey color, lighter than Ocean Grey. Perhaps even this part was replaced during the unit service.
Bob Sikkel added:
Hi, I have a couple of comments about this shot. The
square patch above the 'X' on the fuselage covers the identification flare port, probably
doped fabric as was done on the gunports.
This well-known photograph shows a Hawker Hurricane Mk IIc, serial no. BE500 of No. 87 Squadron, in early british night fighter camouflage of matt black overall.
Olav Hungnes contributed with more comments:
This Hurricane picture appears in the book The
Royal Air Force of World War Two in Colour, and the caption for this has the
A classical study of Vickers Wellington in beautiful color.
Olav Hungnes described this picture as:
I have another in-flight colour pic of Z1572 VR-Q,
in the book The Royal Air Force of World War Two in Colour.
The camouflage is a standard earlier Mosquito scheme of Dark Green and Ocean Grey upper surfaces with Medium Sea Grey undersides, but the photograph does not reflect the colors properly because of it's brownish tint. The spinners are painted Ocean Grey.
Note the massive coal-black stain developing behind on the engine nacelle behind the exhaust shroud and oil dripping everywhere!
On the upper surface of the wing you can see lot of wear and tear on the paint. A large rectangular patch in grey color has been added just over the back of the port engine nacelle. Another patch can be seen just in front of the serial number - a gray belt of primer color, probably a result of some major repair to the tail. Standard RAF roundels of late war variety are carried and the code letters RK-K are painted in insignia red. Furthermore, there are five mission marking rectangles painted in white at the front fuselage just behind bombardiers' side window. There is also a non-standard feature to this otherwise very standardly camouflaged aircraft. The leading edges of the radiators between the engine nacelles and the fuselage are painted in black color.
Note that the exhaust stain is much softer than on the previous picture because of non-shrouded exhausts.
Classic beauty! This well-known photo presents a Spitfire PR Mk XIX - a late photo-reconnaissance mark with Rolls-Royce Griffon engine. It is probably a factory-fresh machine photographed during a trial flight. What makes the photo interesting is the PRU Blue camouflage - a unique shade of blue used by RAF reconnaissance aircraft to conceal them against sky background at altitude.
The roundels are of low-visibility type with no white ring. The propeller blades are black with yellow tips. Other interesting feature is very noticeable stenciling on the port wing, reading LOCATION FOR WING STEADYING TRESTLE. These stencils were typical for all Spitfire marks.
For a modeller, there are further interesting things to note. The inside of the radiators and details like pitot tube are all painted in the same color as the rest of the aircraft. The exhaust pipes are not stained in rusty-black as many modellers would be tempted to render them, but rather in pale color, and the discoloration is very uneven. Furthermore, note a massive oil leak developing under the wing center and further back the fuselage - typical for even brand-new Spitfires of all marks!