5/8 Scale Baby Spitfire donated to project

In memory of Peter Knobel, who built the Baby Spitfire. Our sincere thanks to Jann Knobel, Peter’s wife, for the donation of the baby Spitfire.

On Monday 20th June 2022, a team comprising SAAFM Technical staff, Col Tony and Shirlee Smit, FSgt Marco Geddes and FSgt Herman Groenewald, FSAAFM Clive Godfrey and Ian Grace travelled to White River to collect Wing Commander Peter Knobel’s 5/8 scale Spitfire that was donated to the SAAF Museum by Peter’s wife, Jann Knobel.

The Origin of “Baby Spitfire

Wing Commander Peter Knobel:  The late Peter Knobel built the baby Spitfire (Rhodesian Air Force rtd), having had the exciting privilege of flying the one and only Spitfire MkXXII that was painstakingly restored by the late Jack Malloch, owner and CEO of Rhodesian Air Services (later became Air Trans Africa then Afretair) and friend of Peter.  

The Baby Spit” construction commenced while Peter was still a Wing Commander in the Rhodesian Air Force, then moved with him and his wife Jann to Nelspruit, South Africa.  It was kept in a hangar in Nelspruit for many years, where Peter intended to complete her and then fly her. Before being moved to White River, the Motor Museum wanted to complete the restoration and display the Baby Spitfire.  Col Smit recommended that Jann donate it to the SAAF Museum, where it would be completed and treasured by aviation enthusiasts.

After Peter passed away, Col Tony Smit, an air force colleague and a personal friend of the Knobel family, proposed to Jann Knobel that the Knobel family consider offering the baby Spitfire for display at the SAAF Museum, to which the family agreed. 

The loading of the Baby Spitfire:  Col. Tony Smit presenting a Spitfire painting to 
Jann Knobel in appreciation of the Spitfire donation.  The SAAF Museum Team that went to White River to collect her:  Left to right:  Clive Godfrey, Shirlee Smit, Tony Smit, Jann Knobel, Marco Geddes and Herman Groenewald.  

Baby Spitfire arrival at AFB Swartkop

On Saturday, 25th June, Baby Spitfire was delivered to the Spitfire Restoration Project Hangar.  In the photo below, Marco Geddes drives Baby Spitfire to the Spitfire workshop. (Photograph by Julian Pokroy)

A work party was requested amongst the FSAAFM and Spitfire Project social media, to which we had an incredible response at very short notice.
After delivery of the Baby Spitfire, she was transferred to a fuselage trolley and placed in the Project workshop. Photographs – Julian Pokroy

The intention is to assemble the baby Spitfire and manufacture engine cowlings. On completion, she will be placed on display at the South African Air Force Museum.

The Spitfire Restoration Project would like to thank Jann Knobel for her incredibly beautiful and generous donation. We also thank Col Schoeman (Swartkop Base Officer Commanding), Lt Col van Zyl, Lt Col Somers, Maj N. Ntshangase, FSgt Marco Geddes, FSgt Herman Groenewald, Col Tony and Shirlee Smit, Clive Godfrey, the Friends and ALL who assisted on Saturday.

Further, we wish to thank Fred Viljoen and the team at Castorbridge Lifestyle Centre for their hospitality and assistance loading the baby Spitfire at Castorbridge. Lastly, we wish to thank Mark, Stephen and Peter Jackson from Leading Edge Aviation in Nelspruit for their assistance and help.

This was a massive undertaking: to the SAAF, SAAFM, FSAAFM and all involved, THANK YOU!!!!

Thank you, Peter (RIP), Jann, and Knobel Family

Photo by Julian Pokroy