Tag Archives: Spitfire

A US Navy Pilot’s Comments on the Spitfire and the Seafire

supermarine_seafire

A SUPERMARINE SEAFIRE

Flown from the decks of aircraft carriers during the Second World War and the Korean War, the Seafire was the Royal Navy’s version of the Spitfire.

Over 2,300 Seafires were produced for the Fleet Air Arm, and in 1943 United States Navy pilot Corky Meyer had the chance to fly one of them.

Describing the aircraft’s performance Corky wrote: “Without argument, the Spitfire/Seafire configuration is probably the most beautiful fighter ever to emerge from a drawing board. Its elliptical wing and long slim fuselage are visually most delightful, and its flight characteristics equal its aerodynamic beauty.

“The Seafire had such delightful upright flying qualities that knowing it had an inverted fuel and oil system, I decided to try inverted figure 8s. They were as easy as pie… I have never enjoyed a flight more. It was clear to see how a few exhausted, hastily trained Battle of Britain pilots flying Spitfires were able to fight off Hitler’s hordes for so long and so successfully.”

He concluded by saying that while the carrier based Wildcat, Hellcat and Corsair fighters were workhorses “the Seafire was a dashing stallion”. 

Photograph: Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Spitfire Squadron

A Mark IX Spitfire

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.

John Lloyd and Reginald Mitchell – two aircraft designers from The Potteries

John Lloyd’s AW52 – The Flying Wing

Two of the 20th century’s leading aircraft designers, Reginald Mitchell and John Lloyd, grew up in Stoke-on-Trent.

Both were educated at Hanley High School and served apprenticeships in The Potteries before going to work in the aviation industry.

Made in 1942, the film The First of the Few, starring Leslie Howard and David Niven, told the world how Mitchell raced against time to create the Spitfire while dying of cancer.

Already “a living legend” when the film was released, the Spitfire symbolised Britain’s determination to destroy Nazi Germany.

The film made Mitchell a Potteries’ folk hero. Hanley High School was renamed Mitchell High, the Mitchell Memorial Theatre was built to commemorate his life and a by-pass, Reginald Mitchell Way, was named after him.

John Lloyd’s contribution to aviation history was forgotten.

Between 1942 and 1949, John was at the cutting edge of aviation research working on the flying wing, an experimental tailless jet aircraft. Hoping these experiments would enable him to design an airliner, he constructed a two-seater tailless glider which flew successfully.

Impressed by the glider’s performance, the government allowed him to build two jet-powered flying wings. One crashed while being flown by a test pilot and the other was taken to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough where it was used in tests which helped to develop the V Bomber force and Concorde.

You can find out more about John’s life and the aircraft he designed by reading “John Lloyd – North Staffordshire’s Forgotten Aircraft Designer” at https://spotlightonstoke.com/2010/08/09/john-lloyd-8/