Spitfire Progress – roundels and more!

We’re very pleased to bring you an especially exciting progress report – it feels like a couple of significant milestones have been reached since our last update.


Last time we reported that the greys and green of the Spitfire’s main colour scheme had been applied. Now the RAF roundel, serial number, and squadron code have all been added by spraying paint over carefully applied stencils.

Roundel stencils applied
Stenciling codes and the RAF roundel onto the fuselage
Applying the yellow circle of the roundel
The finished result

Roundels are commonly used on a military aircraft to identify its nation. They were first used during the First World War. The red, white and blue roundel has been used on British aircraft since 1915. The yellow ring was added in 1940 to make the roundels more noticeable against the body of an aeroplane.

The serial number of our Spitfire is RW388. Every aeroplane built was issued its own unique code consisting of a combination of letters and numbers. During the war, gaps were deliberately made in the number registers to make it harder for the enemy to estimate the amount of aeroplanes being built.

Finally, the U4 U painted onto the fuselage is the squadron code. This is the aeroplane’s unique call sign whilst serving with a particular squadron. Our spitfire served with a number of different squadrons over the years, but U4 U was its very first call sign when it joined No. 667 Squadron RAF in 1945.

Reassembling the long lost cockpit

The painting of the cockpit interior and cleaning and lacquering of brass pipework is now complete. This means that many of the objects being refurbished, procured or manufactured for the interior are starting to be fitted. There’s still work to be done – but even at this stage it is the most complete RW388’s cockpit has ever been since it came to the City in 1972.

Below you can see the control column installed (wrapped for its protection) and the port (left) side of the cockpit interior with the gun camera control, the elevator trim tab control and a support structure for two fuse boxes all now fitted.

Control column, hiding behind bubble wrap
Cockpit interior, port side

The image below shows the starboard (right) side of the cockpit with many fittings and items now installed in the newly cleaned and painted interior including a replica ventilation control box, canopy winder and undercarriage chassis selector. Around 50% of the items pictured have always been missing and MAPSL have had the challenge of sourcing them or making replicas.

Cockpit interior, starboard side

Creative replicas include this windscreen de-icer pump – made from the body of a 1940s grease gun!

Replica windscreen de-icer pump

Continuing Research

Finally, we’re working closely with MAPSL and Operation Spitfire to uncover even more information about the history of the aircraft. We’ve identified the names of some of its pilots and we’d love to track down any living friends or relatives.

Crash report identifying F.Lt Kalinowksi

So far we have 3 names, all Polish gentleman:

F/Lt Zbigniew Teofil Kalinowski P0231. Born 07/10/10, died 22/2/85 aged 75, Lincoln

W/O Edwin Malinowski (Malin) 781256. Born 10/11/19, died 8/2/88 aged 69, Nottingham.

FSgt Roman Jozef Przystaijko 706725. Name changed by deed poll in 1958 to Roman Joseph Rolland. Born 17/10/20, died 03/02/86 aged 66, London

If you have any links to any of these men it would be fantastic to hear from you at .

Written by Joe Perry (Curator, Local History)

6 thoughts on “Spitfire Progress – roundels and more!”

  1. Ray Johnson says:

    This is really interesting detail on the continuing restoration of RW388 and the contextual information is engaging. With the gallery construction now showing the impressive size of the structure, there’s a real sense of anticipation for welcoming RW388 back to the City and the opening of the Spitfire Gallery in 2021.

  2. Brendon Cotterill says:

    Everything has gone really quiet around the actual spitfire itself, although the extension seems almost finished. Has progress on the plane been halted because of Covid?.

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

      Hi Brendon,

      Work on the aeroplane is still continuing and the plan remains to bring RW388 back for the summer. However, you’re right that we’re well overdue another update. We’ll get on that very soon!

      If you’re on Facebook you might like to follow the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society who also post updates and photos from time to time.


      1. Brendon Cotterill says:

        That’s good then. Thanks for the reply Joe, will checkout the Facebook posts.

  3. Simon Cornes says:

    I think you’ll find that the brass pump is a fuel primer pump – known as a ki-gas pump and used to get fuel into the engine to get it to start. I don’t think single seat fighters of the Second World War had windscreen de-icing!

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

      Thanks Simon, we’ll look into this. I had thought de-icing systems were in place for at least some Spitfires, possibly not the initial Mk. I, but in later variants.

Leave a Reply

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