Aviation Classics Magazine: Issue 3 - Supermarine Spitfire
Welcome to Aviation Classics, a new series of high-quality glossy publications centred on the world’s greatest aircraft, the events in which they played crucial roles and those who flew, maintained and supported them.
“I have often wondered who the genius was who christened it Spitfire. It was a name that resounded round the free world in those dark days of Hitler’s tyranny, and perfectly symbolized the mood of Britain’s defence.”
Powerful words from Sir Douglas Bader’s book Fight for the Sky, in which he later also wrote: “…in the dark days of the German domination of Europe, the word ‘Spitfire’ became synonymous with eventual freedom to the citizens of the occupied countries across the English Channel and North Sea. It was a symbol that good would triumph over evil.”
Perhaps these two brief extracts from one of the best-known fighter aces of World War Two help to explain why the Spitfire became such a famous British icon. But of course in his book Douglas Bader also sings the praises and traces the service of the Hurricane – which along with the Spitfire bore the brunt of the defence of Great Britain as the RAF went up again and again as massed waves of Luftwaffe bombers and fighters tried to gain air superiority, ready for a planned German invasion of southern England in summer 1940.
As 2010 progresses there will be many moving commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Spitfires and Hurricanes will be in great demand at airshows, and the remaining ‘Few’ will rightly be shown great respect wherever they are in attendance.
It is the Spitfire that we focus on in this issue of Aviation Classics; that most quintessential of British fighters. Within these pages numerous aspects of its story are covered, including: the Supermarine racing floatplanes for which monoplane technology was advanced; the very first example of the breed; the type’s arrival into RAF service; combat in the Battle of Britain; fighter sweeps to occupied France; its conversion to the photo recce role and for Naval operations; and even its part in the formation of the RAF’s commemorative unit.
We also feature a selection of the world’s Spitfire warbirds, including some from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand, and get a behind-the-scenes look inside a UK workshop from which some of the finest Spitfire restorations have emerged and which is currently in the process of restoring a Mk.I to its authentic early configuration – a sight not seen in the air for around 70 years.
But of course the story of any aeroplane is not complete without looking at the people involved. RJ Mitchell, Douglas Bader, ‘Johnnie’ Johnson, Alex Henshaw, Geoffrey Wellum, Al Deere and ‘Sailor’ Malan all feature in this issue, and while not a complete list it does offer a cross-section of personalities and influences.
Having thoroughly enjoyed compiling the content of the first three editions of Aviation Classics looking at some of the best-known types from World War Two, I decided that the time is now right to put together one of the ‘surprises’ I mentioned to you in my previous editorial. Therefore, for the next issue we will turn the clock back to World War One, when military aviation was still in its infancy and aerial combat was a new concept of war. I am really looking forward to working on the exciting features that are planned.
Meanwhile, I do hope you enjoy the contents within this issue as we look at RJ Mitchell’s masterpiece and would like to again thank all of you who have supported Aviation Classics and sent in such kind and encouraging words about the series so far.
Table of Contents
8 Birth of a legend
10 P7’s new colours
18 Spitfire test pilot
24 Shuttleworth’s ‘missing’ gem
26 Historic Aircraft Flight
28 BBMF’s newest recruit
32 Goodwood’s Spitfire years
38 Spitfire ‘sky spies’
48 Alone and unarmed
54 Shark’s mouth ‘Spit’
56 Keep ’em flying
57 Rolls-Royce Merlin advertisement
58 Spitfire metamorphosis
62 Kiwi tribute
66 Early warbirds
70 ‘Sailor’s’ top guns
74 The chosen squadron
84 Seafires in action
90 Inside the ‘Spit’
94 Spitfire sisters
96 Spitfire fighter sweep sortie
103 Spitfire masterclass
112 The oldest ‘Spit’
118 Mk.Ia cutaway
120 Shadow factory
126 Desert ‘Spits’