Spitfire Gallery Texts – We Want Your Feedback

This is the first in a series of opportunities to help shape the way we will explore the Spitfire in our new gallery.

I’ve spent much of my lock down working from home and concentrating on one topic in particular – Spitfires! It may seem far away now, but 2021 will see the opening of our new Spitfire Gallery. So we are already busy writing and creating content for exhibitions, events, and education workshops that will take place in our Spitfire’s new home. But we want your help.

The Spitfire is a design icon and a world-famous aircraft – but it’s also a subject that can get very complicated, very quickly. For example, there were 24 different marks of Spitfire produced, with many more modifications and variants on top of that. For example, there were around 700 changes between the Spitfire Mk.I and Spitfire Mk.V alone!

With this in mind, I’ve drafted two sets of labels that use different types of language and levels of detail. We would love to hear which styles you preferred and why. Each text is presented in the form of a standalone text, and in a mocked-up panel design.

Style 1

Spitfire RW388

This Spitfire was built in Birmingham in May 1945. Aircraft were given unique serial numbers. Our Spitfire is called RW388.

This type of Spitfire is a ‘Mark 16’. The Spitfire design changed many times during the war and there were 24 ‘marks’ in total. This was important because fighter planes had to adapt to different jobs.

RW388 is designed to fly at lower heights. The wings are ‘clipped’ so they are shorter than the standard Spitfire wing. This makes it easier to turn and roll when flying.

We think RW388 was never equipped with guns because it was made so late in the war. It was supposed to have two machines guns and two cannons.

RW388 was donated to the City by the RAF in honour of Reginald Mitchell. He was born and raised locally and went on to design the Spitfire amongst many other successful aircraft.

Merlin Engine Parts

The objects in front of you are parts of Merlin engines. They were designed and built by Rolls Royce.

Merlins proved themselves to be strong and reliable. They were fitted to many different Second World War aircraft, including Spitfires. The designs of the engines were constantly improved throughout the war.

Rolls Royce built around 150,000 Merlin engines. However, there was such demand for the engine that other companies were licensed to build them too. The engine in our Spitfire was built by an American company called Packard.

These parts have sections cut away so you can see inside. The engine works by burning air and fuel to move the pistons up and down. This movement turns a shaft that makes the propeller spin.

Style 2

Supermarine Spitfire MK.XVI (LF) RW388

Spitfire RW388 was built at the Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory in May 1945 and assigned to 667 Squadron with the call sign U-U4.

The Spitfire Mk.XVI came about when the Mk.IX was adapted to accommodate the Merlin 266. The engine in RW388 was tuned for performance at lower altitudes and gives the aircraft its ‘LF’ designation – which identifies it as a low-altitude fighter. Late-war fighters were more frequently engaged in air-to-ground attack, increasing the amount of low flying.

The Spitfire has clipped wingtips to improve roll rate and a low-back and ‘bubble’ canopy, which contrasts the ‘high back’ of earlier Spitfires.

RW388 could be armed with two Browning machine guns and two Hispano cannons. However, evidence suggests it was never fitted with any weapons due to entering service so late in the war..

RW388 was donated to the City by the Royal Air Force to commemorate the area as birthplace of Spitfire designer, Reginald Mitchell.

Rolls Royce Merlin Engines – Sectioned

The Rolls Royce Merlin is a liquid-cooled, V-12 piston engine, first designed in 1933. Merlins proved to be durable and reliable engines and were fitting to a wide range of Second World War aircraft including the Avro Lancaster, Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire.

Much like the aircraft it powered, the Merlin engine was altered and improved throughout the war. These parts come from a ‘60 series’ Merlin, which were the first to feature a two-stage two-speed supercharger which increased speed and performance at altitudes. 

Rolls Royce built almost 150,000 Merlin engines. Packard, in the United States, were given a license to build Merlin engines to help meet demand. The American built engines were given a ‘2’ prefix. So the Packard version of the Merlin 66 was the Merlin 266, which was fitted to the Spitfire Mk.XVI, such as RW388.

Air and fuel are mixed in the carburettor then pressurised in the supercharger. Finally, the air-fuel mix is ignited to drive the pistons and turn the aircraft’s propeller.

Tell Us What You Think

Your comments and feedback will help us refine our text style for the new gallery. What did you like about these two styles, and perhaps more importantly, what didn’t you like?

We’ve created a survey for you to let us know what you think. It should take no more than 2 minutes to fill out once you’ve read the texts above.


As always, you can also let us know what you think in the comments below, through social media, or get in touch with us on .

Written by Joe Perry (Curator, Local History)

13 thoughts on “Spitfire Gallery Texts – We Want Your Feedback”

  1. Carol Eyden says:

    I can’t read the writing on the bluey/grey background at all. I think at all times it should be the clearest print possible. My eyes aren’t that good and I’m not the only one. I think it’s Style 1 but I’m even having trouble understanding exactly what you mean. Maybe a line between each one would help.

    1. Joe Perry (Curator, Local History) says:

      Thanks for your comments Carol, we’ll have a think about how better present our examples next time we run something like this.

  2. Tim Edwards says:

    I think for general consumption v1 is more accessible and engaging. Obviously for enthusiasts they’ll want more detail, so maybe this could be online?

    1. Joe Perry (Curator, Local History) says:

      Thanks for your comment Tim – using online/digital options is definitely on the cards

  3. Kath Reynolds says:

    I prefer style 1 but with some of the additional info from style 2.
    I too think spacing, font and colours are crucial for people to read the information with ease. I’m not known for my patience (!) so if it was too hard to read, I’d give up!
    Overall I think the level of information is good – could there perhaps be a referral to books/websites if you want to read more? Will there be a panel on Mitchell himself? I think people would appreciate this.

    1. Joe Perry (Curator, Local History) says:

      Thanks for your comments Kath. There will certainly be other panels on Mitchell, these are just two examples that we’ve drafted first.

  4. mark white says:

    I’m glad our “spit” is being refurbished and put into a new exciting home, i do think it faces the wrong way though, also, it would be far better if there were more interactive activities to explain its ancestors roll for all to use especially in modern times where the pc ect is in use in many like minded museums.

  5. Timothy Coley says:

    Have you thought about QR codes to take people to websites with more information? Although I no longer live in Stoke I feel the Spitfire is a crucial bit of it’s history that should go on being recognised.

  6. David Watts says:

    Well done for the inclusion of RW388 in your display. Personally, I prefer Style 2, but that’s only because I’m an old codger and know a fair bit about Spitfires.
    However, that said, I think it should be Style 1, as I think it will be easier for young people to appreciate and understand. They are the ones who need to be reminded of the valuable role the Spitfire played in WWII, so getting distracted by technical details won’t help.
    May I also wonder, that even though weapons were not provided for this machine, would it be more realistic and thought provoking to provide dummy barrels in the wings? Without them, the poor old Spit looks rather forlorn.
    Finally, will you be displaying the ammunition that was used in the guns? There is a big difference between a .303 bullet and a 20mm cannon shell, so I think it would be useful for people to see that.
    Anyway, good luck with the exhibition and hope it won’t be affected too much by lock downs, etc.

    1. Joe Perry (Curator, Local History) says:

      Thanks so much for your feedback and kind words David.

      In answer to your other questions, there will be dummy cannon fairings in place although no real weapons will be fitted. We do have some 20mm cannon shells in the collection and we’re looking for some .303 examples to go alongside them – as you say the difference is quite dramatic!


  7. John says:

    Didn’t the mark 16 have the Griffin engine?

    1. Joe Perry (Curator, Local History) says:

      Hi John, the Mk XVI is essentially a Mk.IX but instead of a Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 engine, the airframe was adapted to carry an American-built Packard Merlin 266.

  8. Colin Beadle says:

    Out of the number of Merlin engines you quote, a few years ago there was a documentary on U.S. TV about the history of Packard. The company was approached by the British Government to produce the RR Merlin engine when the North American P51 Mustang became operational which improved its performance significantly when a Merlin engine was installed. It was realised that Royce would not be able to keep up with American production, so the British Government approached Packard to produce the Merlin engine.
    Packard agreed and took Henry Royce’s quotation to heart: “… take the best that exists and make it better… Accept nothing nearly right or good enough.” Packard significantly improved the Merlin’s performance and throughout production made further modifications. It might be worth researching how many Spifire marques had a “Packard Merlin” engine installed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *