Imperial War Museum | Spitfire DVD

Reviewed by Matt Gannon

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Specs at a glance:

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In discussions in the forums over previous years the inherent value of an old war movie in obtaining detailing information pertinent to a particular plane type has been made apparent. Besides that many of us like to model with a CD or a DVD running in the background. I was curious and to be truthful somewhat dubious as to what I might get inside this DVD case. Boy, was I in for a great surprise.

The DVD is from a group of the Imperial War Museums collection of rare and fascinating films created before and during WW2. The films are obviously of great historical importance as they record and capture so much of the period. I was stunned by the remarkable clarity of the movie images. The lighting seems almost perfect and there are just so many great views. The detail one can glean on the Spitfire is simply phenomenal.

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First Menu Page

The first page of the main menu is divided into several chapters which are like mini movies in themselves. This first page is concerned with the "Daily Inspection Of The Spitfire Mk1". It thoroughly covers the following areas:

I've included some screen captures for you to get an idea of what can be seen on the DVD. I could have captured endlessly given how clear the images were appearing on my screen. There is such a wealth of information here. I don't mean just the individual nuts n bolts of the Spitty but also the people who worked on it, the environment they worked in, the equipment they had and how the servicing personnel interacted with each other. Perfect for that realistic diorama that tells a story.

Of course, if it's only nuts n bolts you are after then you'll find all you could ask for. Panels get opened up before your very eyes and you get to see what's inside. Haven't you just wished in that photo in a reference book, or walking around a museum you could say "could you just unscrew that access panel for me - I want to take maybe 30 photos of that nut in there for my mate's on the website.

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Second Menu Ppage

The second part of the main menu takes you an option which says "play short film". In fact it's two short films which run seamlessly together. One seems to be a film made for the masses during WW2 but the other is a military training film created during the war. Both again, have incredible clarity and perfect lighting and some pretty darned cool Spitfire flying. The first is called "Fighter Pilot" and the second is called "Aircraft recognition Spitfires".

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Fighter Pilot

The first film "Fighter Pilot" is meant to reflect a typical mission in the Battle of Britain. Clearly it's a little contrived from the acting point of view. Its real value lies in the close ups and focus on a particular system or view of the plane.

There is footage of real combat, pre-war two bladed spitfires at dispersal and endless close-ups of the plane. These are perfect for detailed and accurate weathering. Even the top of the canopy and leading edge of the horizontal tail are shown. In another scene a RAF fighter pilot models his flying kit. The camera pans from toe to head almost as if advised by a modeller - then the pilot turns around to the camera and gives us views of his chute. Could it be any better for us?

In another scene that caught my eye the pilot is being helped into his plane and the Sutton harness is bought over his shoulders. You can clearly see how rigid the two sections of shoulder harness area - much like PE. If you were to have this section of PE hanging out a cockpit it would stick out straight as a board - not drape over the fuselage. It's a rivet-counter's way of seeing things but I suspect you'd not derive that detail from a picture- you'd only get it from watching a movie sequence where you gain an appreciation of the nature of the material.

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Aircraft Recognition Spitfires

This is the second film. It gives a summary of the major changes in each Spitfire mark during the war. It does this by talking about what and why the major changes were made, graphically showing you the changes and reinforcing this by commentated video of the various marques doing flypasts. Several environments in which spitfires flew are captured in movie sequences including some unique footage of D-Day. In one scene the whole Squadron of Spitfires is in the air - an armada of Spitfires - what a sight!! Again, the lighting is superb, capturing beautifully the various marques of Spitfires as they barrel roll and zoom over the camera at low level.


Spitfire Frontline Fighter proved to be a great DVD. It is a treasure trove of detailed information to assist modellers. The lighting is superb, the images crystal clear and the narration snappy and well informed. It conveys a volume of visual information that wouldn't be possible in a book. It would be a useful adjunct to any modellers reference library and is entertaining at the same time.

I highly recommend it.

© Matt Gannon 2008

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This review was published on Saturday, July 02 2011; Last modified on Thursday, January 04 2018