The Supermarine Spitfire has been a favourite of aviation enthusiasts and model builders since its first appearance in 1936. In spite of all of the books magazines and websites which have appeared there is one thing which is still capable of confusing model builders; namely the various configurations of the aerial masts and aerial wires.
When the Spitfire I first entered service in late 1938 it was equipped with a TR 9 High Frequency (HF) radio transmitter/ receiver. This required an aerial wire and a mast. The first design of mast was a rod, about 68 cm tall; this was fitted to the initial production batch of 310 Spitfires, starting at K9787 through to L1096. A fine wire ran from the T/R equipment up the mast and emerged from the top. The other end of the wire was anchored to a small post on top of the rudder. The base of the mast was secured to a teardrop shaped insulator which appears to have been a dark brick-red colour, possibly made out of Bakelite or similar material. Many of these early Spitfires were still in squadron service during the Battle of Britain.
FY-Q and FY-L of No. 611 Squadron show the initial style of rod aerial mast fitted to the first 310 Spitfire Is.
Detail of the rod antenna mast and the earliest type of antenna attachment point on top of the rudder
The second design of mast, which first appeared on N3023 was of a more complex tapered air foil shape 67.2 cm (26.45 in) tall This pattern was used for the large majority of Spitfires. A small triangular prong was fitted to the rear, serving as the anchor for the wire which now emerged from a point just behind the mast.
The tapered, aerodynamic mast with the triangular prong. The wire behind the mast is barely visible on the lower photo.