A Mark IX Spitfire like the one that attacked Rommel’s car
No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron was the first Auxiliary Air Force squadron to fly Spitfires. Formed as a day bomber unit during 1925, it became a fighter squadron in January 1939 and flew Gloucester Gauntlets until May when they were replaced by Spitfires.
On September 1st, Germany invaded Poland. Two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany. The Second World War had begun. No. 602 Squadron and No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron were given the task of protecting the naval base at Rosyth. On the 16th October, German bombers attacked the base. Both squadrons were scrambled to intercept them, and two enemy aircraft were destroyed.
No. 602 Squadron remained in Scotland until August 1940 when it moved south to join No. 11 Group which was defending London and the South East during the Battle of Britain.
In 1941, the squadron and its “cute little Spitfires” starred with Tyrone Power and Betty Grable in “A Yank in the RAF”, a Hollywood movie made as a tribute to the large number of American airmen who had volunteered to fight for Britain.
During 1943, No. 602 Squadron joined the newly formed 2nd Tactical Air Force which had been set up to provide air support for the allied invasion of Europe. Now equipped with Mark IX Spitfire fighter-bombers, 602 Squadron was sent to a front-line airstrip in France shortly after D-Day.
The bomb loads carried by Spitfire fighter-bombers depended on the target they were attacking and how far away it was from their base. Usually, the aircraft carried two 250 pound bombs under its wings or one 500 pound bomb. If the target was only a short distance from its base, the plane could carry one 500 and two 250 pound bombs.
Describing the Spitfire’s role as a fighter-bomber, Flying Officer David Green who flew one during the campaign to liberate Italy said: “Carrying two 250 pound bombs, the Spitfire made a very fine dive bomber. It could attack accurately and did not need a fighter escort because as soon as the bombs had been released, it became a fighter.”
July 17th, 1944 was a beautiful summer’s day in Normandy. During the afternoon, a Mustang reconnaissance aircraft spotted a German staff car and its motorcycle escort speeding along a country lane near Lisieux.
A flight of five Spitfire fighter-bombers from No 602 Squadron, led by Squadron Leader Chris Le Roux, was sent to investigate. Le Roux strafed the vehicle with cannon and machine-gun fire killing the driver. The car ran off the road and crashed into a tree. Its passenger Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the commander of German ground forces in Normandy, was severely injured suffering a fractured skull and severe concussion.
He was taken to a military hospital where doctors successfully fought to save his life. On leaving the hospital, Rommel was sent to Germany to recuperate where he died a few months later in mysterious circumstances.
Copyright Phoenix Trust 2013
Photograph Creative Commons Licence.