Robert Stanford Tuck's Spitfire Mk Vb

 

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 To see the Spitfire pictures click here.

One of my favorite books about a WW2 personality is Larry Forrester's Fly For Your Life, the biography of Robert Stanford Tuck, Britain's leading ace when he was shot down over France in January 1942.  His flying exploits and leadership abilities are legendary. The story of his escape from POW camp and return home are almost beyond belief. 

Apparently "Tuck's Luck" was a well-known phrase in the RAF 1940 - 41.  For example there was the time the fog covered all of England, he got lost, ran out of fuel, and finally pancaked on to a farmer's field.  The farmer rushed over to congratulate him on such a fine landing.  Tuck said it was routine, really, nothing to it.  But the farmer insisted...getting just under those high tension wires was a great feat of flying.  Tuck had never seen the wires! 

During the Battle of Britain he flew MkI Hurricanes and Spitfires.  Later on in April 1941, while commander of No. 257 Burma Squadron, he took charge of a cannon-armed Mk IIc Hurricane Ser No Z3152. (It's a source of some frustration that no pictures of this plane appear to have survived. There's a nice kit of the Mk IIc on the market.)   Still later Tuck switched to a cannon-armed MkVb Spitfire which is the model represented here. His Mk I and IIc Hurricanes are on my 'to do' list.

Tuck's victories started in May 1940 while flying cover for the evacuation of Dunkirk.  I own a facsimile of his flying log published by After The Battle and here are the victories Tuck listed:

Flying a Spitfire in No.92 Squadron:
1, 2, 3      23rd May 1940; one Me 109 in a morning sortie, two Me 110 in an afternoon sortie
4, 5          24th May 1940; Two Do17s
6              25th May 1940;  Do 17
7, 8          2nd June 1940; One He111, one Me 109
9              13th August 1940;  Ju88
10, 11      14th August 1940; Two Ju88s
12            18th August 1940; One Ju88
13            25th August 1940; One Do17

Flying a Hurricane I as CO of No.257 Squadron:
14            15th September 1940; One Me 110
15            23rd September 1940; One Me 109
16            4th October 1940; One Ju88
17            12th October 1940; One Me 109  (This victory was in a 92 Sqdn  Spitfire while Tuck was visiting)
18            25th October 1940; One Me 109
19, 20      28th October 1940; Two Me 109
21            9th December 1940; One Do17
22            12th December 1940; One Me 109
23            29th December 1940; One Do17
24            2nd March 1941; One Do17Z
25            19th March 1941; One Do17
26            9/10 April 1941; One Ju88

Flying a Hurricane IIc as CO of No.257 Squadron:
27, 28      21 June 1941; two Me 109

Flying a Spitfire as Wing Leader, Duxford:
29            31 August 1941; one Me 109


When Tuck was shot down he had 29 white swastikas under the windscreen.  I believe the official record was refined after the war and may be somewhat different than the list above due to the availability of German notes and records. 

The model was built from Tamiya's 1994 release of the Mk Vb in 1/48th scale.  It went together easily with no fit problems.  Decals were Third Group Decals sheet 48-011. They went down easily with no silvering. 

The camouflage pattern is documented in many places.  The reference used here is the venerable Ducimus publication Camouflage & Markings, RAF Northern Europe 1936-45, Supermarine Spitfire.  In addition to the 5-view color rendition of a Mk Vb from the 303 'Kosciuszko' Squadron, there's a dimensioned drawing of the color scheme by James Goulding.

After this web was published I received an informative note from Tom Cleaver.  "One thing about Tuck's Spitfire, mostly just consider this information on RAF colors - that airplane was originally Dark Earth/Dark Green/Sky, and was repainted in August 1941. At the time, there was a shortage of Ocean Grey, and many of the airplanes were painted with Dark Sea Grey, or with the "officially approved alternative" of Night and White mixed - which resulted in some very strange shades. Tuck's airplane is one of those with a darker grey, either Dark Sea Grey or the Mixture. It shows up darker than other Spits beside it in the junkyard in photos after it was shot down. The way to tell this is one of the "repainted" airplanes is that it didn't have a serial - those were frequently not re-applied when an in-the-field repaint was done. You might be interested to know that several of us "Spit Boffins" collaborated last year to help create the new "Spitfire: Aces of the Empire" sheet that will soon be out from Victory Decals, with the artwork done by Jennings Heilig. Just about every mark of Spitfire that saw combat gets the treatment, and the markings are as accurate as can be gotten nowadays. Tuck's is one of them."  Thanks, Tom.

I first read Fly For Your Life many years ago.  A recent re-reading left me shaking my head once more at the events of Robert Stanford Tuck's life.  Perhaps in every war there's a survivor who can tell a riveting story.

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This site was last updated 11/26/07