Aircraft recognition model, (silhouette), (spotter), Mustang P-51H, wood/cardboard, made by James Walker Ltd, England, date unknown
The importance of aircraft recognition was acknowledged by the magazine 'Flight and the Aircraft Engineer'. During the Second World War the magazine produced regular articles called 'Friend or Foe' which helped its readers identify aircraft. Books of silhouettes were produced for spotters on the ground. Aircraft recognition models were painted grey as it was just the outline shape that spotters needed to remember; they could be set up at different heights to test recognition more realistically than silhouette drawings could. Acute spotters could locate an aircraft gliding with its throttle back by observing its exhaust flashes, and they could recognise the sounds of different aircraft.
It was not just the armed forces that had to know friend from foe in an instant. Factories in areas prone to enemy bombing employed spotters so that they only shut down production when an enemy aircraft was approaching. If the staff had dived into bomb shelters whenever they heard a plane approaching, production could have been crippled.
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.