Aircraft recognition model, (silhouette), (spotter), Mustang P-51H, wood/cardboard, made by James Walker Ltd, England, date unknown
This is one of thousands of models of different types of aircraft that were made for training purposes, particularly during wartime. It lacks surface detail because aircraft spotters had to learn to identify planes very rapidly by their overall shape and essential features such as number of engines. Air crew and anti-aircraft gunners had to know friend from foe so they could target the latter and not the former. Trained spotters were also needed to raise air-raid alarms for civilians, so people could rush to shelters, and for factories, whose output would be unnecessarily disrupted if the spotter raised a false alarm.
The importance of aircraft recognition was acknowledged by the magazine Flight and the Aircraft Engineer. During the Second World War the magazine produced a regular article called 'Friend or Foe' which helped its readers identify aircraft. Books of silhouettes were also produced for spotters on the ground. In the absence of these aids acute spotters on searchlight crews could locate an aircraft gliding with its throttle back by observing its exhaust flashes.
Based on a British Air Force plane, the Mustang had been adapted for the United States forces and was heavier and less manoeuvrable than the British version. By 1942 the earlier Mustang P-51B/C was in full production, but the United States began a program to adapt the Mustang to British specifications. In 1944 the improved P-51H came into production. This model was not only more manoeuvrable, but it was also the fastest piston-engine fighter produced in the Second World War.
Geoff Barker, March 2007
Smith, G., (editor), Flight and the Aircraft Engineer, London, Vol. XXXIX, January 1941- Vol. XL, December 1941
Perowne, Major, L., 'Spotting by Night', in Smith, G., (editor), Flight and the Aircraft Engineer, London, Vol. XXXIX, January 1941- Vol. XL, July 31, 1941
This aircraft recognition model was made by James Walker (Architectural Decorations) Ltd in Acton, England.
Aircraft recognition models, such as this one, were used to train spotters, gunners and aircrew in the rapid identification of aircraft, especially during World Wars I and II.