A picture of Wing Commander Ian Richard Gleed in his Spitfire decorated with a cartoon image of 'Figaro' the cat swatting a swastika and palm tree, Tunisia, 1943. Gleed was given the nickname 'Widge' – short for 'Wizard Midget', apparently due to his tendency to call things 'Wizard' (like people today describe things as 'Wicked'), and his short stature (he was 5 feet 6 inches / 1.65m). He mentions his RAF nickname in his part-fiction, part-autobiographical book but claimed not to know how he got it (although that may be irony as his commanding officer calls him 'Widget' on the same page).
Ian Gleed adopted Figaro as his mascot for his brand new Hawker Hurricane, P2798, which he was issued on his arrival at 87 Squadron in France in May that year (although he wrote that the mascot was already painted on, which suggests he had used it before going to France).Figaro shattering a swastika with his paw became the then Flight Lieutenant Gleed's unofficial coat of arms. Wing Commander Gleed used the Figaro badge on all his personal aircraft up to and including the day he died. He saved the original doors decorated with his Figaro emblem from two of his Hurricanes, P2798 and Z3779. A fragment of the Spitfire in which he died, AB502, containing the Figaro, was recovered from the crash site by a childhood friend who was also serving in North Africa at the time. All three were kept by Wing Commander Gleed's family until they donated them to the RAF Museum in 1971.
Figaro was a cartoon cat that first appeared in Walt Disney's animated film, Pinocchio. Although a relatively junior character in the film, he seems to have been featured prominently in some of the film's posters.The film was released in February 1940.
A tribute to Gleed's Figaro appeared on the decal sheet that came with the Ma.K.Combat Scheme Card File from SF3D To Ma.K. #2, only this time he's sporting an Excimer laser.
Labels: Merc Insignia