Hugh Kennare on the wing of "Mac III"
by Peter Malone
The Spitfire Serial Number MT518 was received by the RAAF at 3 AD, Amberley, in July 1944. It was assembled there and then transferred to 6 AD, Oakey for storage, pending allocation to 79 Squadron. From there, along with a number of other aircraft, it was issued to 79 Squadron in December 1944. It was assigned the code UP-U and F/O Hugh Kennare regarded it as his aircraft. It did not have a name painted on at that stage.
A58-492 at Oakey in January 1944. The aircraft is finished in RAF Day Fighter camouflage and retains its RAF Sky spinner, although the Sky band on the rear fuselage has been over-painted. Note how the green on the rear fuselage has been extended down the fuselage side to cover the original RAF serial. The RAAF serial has then been applied over this in Medium Sea Grey. The retention of the original large diameter, over-wing, roundel can also just be discerned, as can the greater width of the White stripe on the fin flash.
The Spitfire MK.VIIIs, especially those that had been unused for any
Hugh Kennare sitting on the wing root
length of time, were plagued with cooling pipe corrosion and, in mid January 1945, the 79 Squadron aircraft were issued back to 6 AD for a complete replacement of the cooling system plumbing. Reverse-engineered plumbing made in copper by local manufacture CAC was used.
A59-492 was returned to 79 Squadron at Oakey in February. Strictly speaking, as recorded on the RAAF Form E/E.88, and on the ADF website, it was still 'On Charge' with 6 AD, although it was now being flown by 79 Squadron aircrew. Several 79 Squadron pilots' log books clearly show they were flying the Spits in February. It needs to be borne in mind that the administrative section of 79 Squadron was based near Darwin, an advanced echelon was already at Morotai and, most of the aircrew were at Oakey. Clearly there would have been problems with paperwork. In fact the Spitfires taken 'On Charge' by 79 Squadron were not noted as received by that squadron until the day that they arrived at Morotai.
The Wing Leader, Wing Commander R.H. 'Bobby' Gibbes, joined the 79 Squadron pilots at Oakey in late February and, as soon as sufficient Spits were airworthy he departed on 6 March leading eleven 79 Squadron aircraft. Ten of these, including A58-492, arrived safely at Pitoe Strip Morotai on 9 March, A58-507 having been delayed on the way. At this time A58-492 was coded UP-P.
It was not until the end of April that the squadron was somewhere near normal operational strength with some 21 aircraft 'on the books'. In early May some re-organization was done by the squadron and a number of the aircraft were re-coded and pilots transferred between Flights. Kennare and A58 -492 went to 'B' Flt, where -492 became UP-B.
"Mac III' at Pitoe Strip, Morotai, circa May/June 1945. The Spinner is now finished in the Blue used by 'B' Flight. Note how the individual letter 'P' has been modified, apparently by hand, to convert it to a 'B'. The White on the fin flash is starting to flake off near the fin leading edge to reveal the original Red of the RAF fin flash. The replacement 'P' can be seen in the background – note the later style of 'P' that was applied to the newer aircraft after they arrived at Morotai.
Hugh Kennare and his two fitters pose alongside "Mac III".
In mid September Kennare took over a new Spitfire, A58-732, which was christened 'Mac IV'. It was probably not given an individual code as the war was nearly a month over and most squadron members were looking forward to returning to Australia.
A58-492, still carrying its UP-B codes, remained with the squadron till the end, eventually being ferried back to Oakey in October 1945.
"Mac III" with some 'B' Flight pilots and ground crew, circa August/September 1945. The degree of wear-and-tear is now much more apparent, particularly the wing leading edges which have eroded badly and shows signs of the original Yellow coming through. Note also the 'football' under the nose.
Taken at Higgins Strip on Cape York, this photo shows A58-492 on her return flight to Oakey in October 1945. Visible is the way in which the squadron code has been painted on to the roundel to avoid covering part of the serial. This was a common feature on early 79 Squadron Spitfire VIII aircraft. Also visible, due to the extreme weathering of the aircraft, is the original rear fuselage Sky band starting to show through the paint work. The 'whitening' of the Ocean Grey due to several months of standing in the open under the tropical sun is also evident. (Image courtesy of the RAAF Museum in WA)
Changes to the Original RAF Markings made by the RAAF
The markings and finish applied to an individual Spitfire in the RAAF depended on a number of factors, including, the Aircraft Depot that assembled it, the ARD, RSU, or subsequent AD it may have passed through before reaching its allotted squadron, the operational requirements of the area to which it was assigned and, finally, the Wing and Squadron markings that may have been added after the aircraft was delivered to the squadron.
In preparing MK.VIIIs, initially, the ADs usually confined themselves to adding the RAAF serial, removing RAF specific markings and adding RAAF markings. Each interpreted their task in different ways, e.g. 2 AD often painted on the White theatre markings on the empennage and wing leading edges, 3 AD did not. Each had their own methods for re-painting the national markings and thus the size of the resultant roundels differed markedly. Some ADs tended to prefer Black for the serial number, others used the specified Medium Sea Grey. Late in the war, the ADs didn't even bother with any re-painting. After assembly, the Spitfires were dispatched to ARD and RSU Reserve Pools for that work before they were issued to squadrons.
Spitfire VIII aircraft with serials in the MT and MV range were finished in the RAF Day Fighter Scheme of Dark Green and Ocean Grey over Medium Sea Grey. They also had RAF Sky spinners, Sky rear fuselage band, and Yellow leading edges. This is how A58-492, (ex MT518), was finished when received by the RAAF. It should also be noted that it had the camouflage colours extending down the sides of the lower engine cowling and onto the air-intake filter. This pattern around the nose varied depending on the factory from which the aircraft was delivered. On Chattis Hill assembled aircraft, this resulted in what I call the 'football pattern'. (This is an Aussie Rules or Rugby football, not one of those funny round soccer ones!).
The above photo and sketch show the pattern of the camouflage around the nose on Chattis Hill assembled aircraft. The sketch was originally done for A58-517 – obviously the 'F' would not be on A58-492.
At 3 AD, a RAAF serial was applied and the RAF markings replaced by RAAF insignia. The Sky rear fuselage band and Yellow wing leading edges were also painted over. The original RAF camouflage colours of Dark Green / Ocean Grey /Medium Sea Grey and the RAF Sky spinner were retained.
At this time RAAF orders required the RAAF's Blue/White roundels to be in the proportion of 2:5. The orders were vague as to the size to be used, so it fell to the ADs, ARDs, and RSUs to use their own initiative as to how they modified the original makings. How this was done differed not only from unit to unit but also depended on when it was done and, perhaps, the particular 'sprog' that did the work. The national markings on A58-492 were modified as follows:
- Upper wing roundels: The outer diameter of 54" for the Blue has been retained but the Red, and inner potion of the blue, has been over-painted with White to a diameter of 21.5", giving the correct White:Blue portions of 2:5.
- Under wing roundels: The outer diameter of 32" for the under wing roundels was also retained. The Red was painted over and the inner diameter of the Blue reduced to approx 13".
- Fuselage roundels: Again, the original outer diameter of 36" has been retained by over painting the Yellow outer ring with Blue. The Red has been over painted and the inner diameter of the Blue reduced to approx 14.5".
- Fin flash: the Red was over-painted with White leaving a fin flash 24" by 24", with a 13" White stripe and 11" Blue stripe. This asymmetry was not uncommon on RAAF Spitfires.
The original RAF serial has been over painted with Green, (Dark green or Foliage Green?), on both sides of the fuselage. The effect on the port side is quite marked where the Green has been extended over section that would normally be Ocean Grey. The serial has been applied in 8" high numbers in Medium Sea Grey. The unpainted sections due to the stencil structure are apparent on the photos.
Squadron and Theatre Markings
The requirement for White identification markings on the empennage and wing leading edges was dropped by the RAAF in mid October 1944. When the 79 Squadron aircraft were prepared, these were not applied. However a few aircraft from 1 AD and 2 AD had the markings applied earlier and they were retained on those aircraft. A58-492, prepared by 3 AD for 79 Squadron did not carry these markings.
The squadron codes were initially applied at Oakey. The original style of lettering was somewhat 'squared' and there were quite noticeable 'stencil marks'. The codes were in RAAF Sky Blue and were 24" high, 12" wide, with 2.5" strokes.
An enlargement of the codes, giving some idea of their shape and layout.
There is some confusion as to the colour used for the code letters on 79 Squadron aircraft, (and the other Spitfire squadrons), from mid 1944. Many experts state that these codes were White. They base their opinion on the interpretation of black and white photos: trying to identify White or Sky Blue by interpreting the grey scale reproduced in black and white photos is akin to reading the future by stirring tea leaves, in my opinion. The orders pertaining at the time were contradictory.
The first order covering the introduction of the three-letter code system and the colour to be used was issued in early January 1943. It stated: "The colour of the code letters is to be Dope Camouflage Sky Blue, Ident. No. K3/195 for all aircraft". The intent of this order was quite clear and, I believe, generally observed in practice.
At the end of March 1944 A.G.I. Part 3, Section (C), instruction No.1 was issued. The section relating to Spitfires, (Appendix 'B' applicable to Day Fighters, Fighter Bombers, and Medium and Heavy Bombers), called for them to be left uncamouflaged with all identification markings in Black.
This instruction was not popular with the operational commands who regarded the scheme as unsuitable for operational aircraft and, more importantly, did not want to invest the man-hours that would be required in stripping off perfectly serviceable camouflage. Consequently, in June 1944, the RAAF issued a signal stating that aircraft received from overseas in camouflaged condition would retain that camouflage and that aircraft received uncamouflaged would remain in that condition.
Unfortunately this signal did not clarify the colour to be used for the code letters. Clearly Black, as called for in the AGI, was not a preferred option. There may have been a subsequent signal specifying the colour to be used but I have never sighted it. The only other colour to be used for identification markings, other than Black, called for by the AGI was Medium Sea Grey for aircraft finished in overall Foliage Green. Quite clearly this is not the colour used for the codes on the Spitfires. I believe that the squadrons merely continued on using the colour that they knew, RAAF Sky Blue.
A58-508, UP-E. Note the different shade of the White of the roundel and the colour of the code letters. I believe that this helps to confirm that the code letters were not White but were, in fact, RAAF Sky Blue. (Image originally from Koku Fan magazine)
The spinner colour applied to A58-492 has been given as green by Geoff Pentland, who quotes the pilot as giving this colour. When I spoke to Hugh he was less clear on the colour used, saying that it may have been green or blue. Based on the photo below, I believe that the latter is more likely to have been the case.
A line up of 79 Squadron aircraft at Morotai. Four carry what appear to be medium blue spinners. Once again note the difference in colours between the code letters and the White of the roundel. (Image originally from Koku Fan magazine)
The aircraft was named "Mac III". According to the pilot, Mac was his nickname. The colour used for the name is open to some conjecture. I believe that two colours were used, 'Mac' probably being in Yellow and 'III' probably White. The photos below, although enlargements of dubious quality, give some idea of the style used and show the use of two colours. The style is somewhat different to that in the Pentland drawing and, I recommend that you do not use that artwork as a basis for your decals.
Finish: Dark Green / Ocean grey / Medium Sea Grey. 'Football' pattern under nose. No White theatre markings.
National markings: Fuselage: 36"/14.5" dia Blue/White. Upper wing: 54"/21.5" dia Blue/White. Under wing: 32"/13" dia Blue/White. Fin flash: 24" high, 13" wide White, 11" wide Blue stripe.
Serial: 8" high Medium Sea Grey.
Code Letters: 24" high, 12" wide, 2.5" stroke, RAAF Sky Blue.
Spinner: Medium blue.
Name: 'Mac' possibly in Yellow. 'III' possibly in White.