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3 décembre 2009 4 03 /12 /décembre /2009 23:27




Supermarine “Spitfire” Mk IX

Built by Vickers, Ltd. In 1943, this Spitfire Mk IX was used in combat over England and occupied Europe. First flown by Free French pilots, it was later assigned to a British Royal Air Force Squadron and flew missions in support of the D-Day landings—the Allied Invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944.

After the war,it appeared in the 1968 motion picture The Battle of Britain.

After WW II, this Spitfire was converted to a trainer, by adding a second cockpit and bubble canopy behind and slightly above the original cockpit. As a trainer, it served with the Irish Air Force until January 1960. It was converted back to a single-seater in 1980.

The Supermarine “Spitfire” is one of the most famous fighter airplanes of all time. It was the first all-metal, stressed-skin fighter produced by Great Britain. The best of the British pre-WW II designs, the “Spit” was the only British fighter that was in production throughout the second world war. It was one of the key factors in Britain’s success in the Battle of Britain, in the summer and fall of 1940, when Germany tried and failed to achieve air superiority in the skies over England.

Spitfire History

The Spitfire was designed to use the new Rolls-Royce 1,000-horsepower PV-12 engine, which would evolve into the legendary “Merlin” series of 12-cylinder piston engines. The prototype first flew in March 1938, and early Mk (Mark) I Spitfires reached the Royal Air Force 19th Squadron in June 1938. Pilots reported excellent handling and combat maneuverability, though reports noted that the slower Hawker Hurricane fighter and various biplane fighters could turn more tightly than the Spitfire.

Refinement of the aircraft continued steadily. Mk numbers would eventually reach 24.The Mk V, introduced in 1941, was produced in the greatest numbers (6,464) of any Spitfire variant. It could mount eight .303 caliber machine guns or four .303s and two 20mm cannon, and had a centerline rack for a drop tank or a 500-lb bomb.

Some Mk Vs were equipped with tropical air filters for service in North Africa and the Mediterranean. Supermarine, Ltd. (part of Vickers Aircraft, Ltd.) began building “navalized” Mk Vs with folding wings, for the British Fleet Air Arm. The carrier-based Spitfires were dubbed “Seafires.”

The Spitfire Mark IX

The German Focke-Wulf Fw190 single-seat fighter appeared suddenly and in large numbers in the skies over Northern France during the summer of 1941. Britain scrambled to create an airplane equal to this powerful, agile, high-altitude adversary.

The Mk VIII, a much-refined version of the Mk V, was only in the early stages of production, and it was put on hold. Instead, as a temporary stopgap measure beginning in 1942, Vickers fitted Spitfire Mk Vs with a larger Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, a two-stage supercharger and intercooler, and a four-bladed propeller. This stopgap Spitfire, the Mk IX, actually stayed in production through 1944, and was produced in much larger numbers (5,665) than the Mk VIII (1,658). There were three versions of the Mk IX: the LF (low-altitude) had a clipped wing; the F was the standard fighter version; and the HF (high-altitude) had extended wings and a pressurized cockpit.

Spitfires in Action

The Spitfire’s roles included fighter, interceptor, ground attack, high altitude and long-range reconnaissance. “Spits” served in virtually every theater of WW II.

One of the Spitfire’s more unusual missions was to chase flying bombs. The German V-1 unmanned “Buzz Bomb” was a predecessor of the cruise missile. The pulse-rocket powered V-1s were launched from sites in Europe and guided by autopilot to cities in Britain. Since V-1s tended to explode when hit by gunfire from a trailing fighter, RAF pilots developed an unusual technique for attacking the Buzz Bombs. Intercepting a flying bomb over the English Channel or over unpopulated areas, the pilot would put his Spitfire’s wingtip under the V-1’s wingtip. “Jigging” the Spitfire’s wing upward would flip the Buzz Bomb into a snap roll, tumble its guidance gyroscope, and cause it to crash. A successful chase required high speed, good flying skills, and a bit of nerve. Spitfire pilots destroyed more than 300 V-1s in aerial pursuits.

Spitfire vs V1 flying bomb



Mk I

Mk V




Merlin II or Merlin III

Merlin 45, 46, 50

Merlin 61 or 63

Griffon 65 or 66


990 hp or 1,030 hp

1440 (45)
1190 (46)
1230 (50)

1560 (61)
1690 (63)

2035 at 7,000 ft (65)


36’ 10”

36’ 10”

36’ 10”

35’ 10”


29’ 11”

29’ 11”

31’ .5”

32’ 8”

Empty Weight

4,810 lb

5,065 lb

5,610 lb


Full Weight

6,200 lb

6,750 lb

7,500 lb

8,385 lb

Wings *


“a”, “b”, “c”

“c” or “e”

“c” or “e”


31,900 ft


43,000 ft

43,000 ft


362 mph at 18,500 ft

369 mph at 19,500 ft


408 mph at 25,000 ft



“S” Gear
439 mph at 24,500 ft

“M” Gear
404 mph at 11,000ft

Cruising Speed


272 mph at 5,000 ft

324 mph at 20,000 ft

362 mph at 20,000 ft

Speed at Sea Level



312 mph

357 mph

Climb rate

2,530 ft/min

4,750 ft/min

4,100 ft/ min

4,580 ft/ min

The gun wings *

The Supermarine Spitfire was fitted with a series of different wings during its service career. The type of wing generally indicated the armament of the fighter, or the range of guns that a particular aircraft could carry, and was combined with the Mk number to produce a full designation – Mk IIb or Mk Vc.

In each case the number of guns indicates the total for the fighter, not the total per wing.

“a” wing

The Spitfire I was originally armed with eight .303in Browning machine guns, each with 300 rounds. This type of wing was officially designated as the “a” wing on 15 March 1940, to distinguish between machine gun armed Spitfires and cannon armed aircraft. The vast majority of Spitfires in use during the battle of Britain were armed with machine guns.

“b” wing

The eight .303in machine guns of the Mk I Spitfire had given it a great deal of punch when it was designed, but when the Germans began to add armour to their bombers the machine guns were found somewhat lacking. Accordingly experiments were made with the use of 20mm Hispano cannon.

This gave it a great deal of punch when it was developed, but when the Germans began to add armour to their bombers, the rifle calibre machine guns lost some of their effectiveness.

The response was to fit the Spitfire with the 20mm Hispano cannon. This poses a variety of problems, not least of which was the size of the cannon. The only way to fit it in the Spitfire wing was to mount it on its side. A second problem was that the early cannons were prone to jam under the pressure of combat. If one cannon jammed, the recoil from the other one was enough to push the Spitfire off course.

The “b” wing entered service during 1940. No.19 Squadron used it during the battle of Britain, but the cannons were still causing problems. Finally in November 1940 No.92 Squadron was given Spitfires equipped with two 20mm cannon and four 0.303in machine guns. This proved to be a much more effective combination of weapons, and became the standard for the “b” wing.

“c” wing

The “c” wing appeared in October 1941. It was a “universal” wing that could take eight .303in machine guns, four 20mm cannon or two 20mm cannon and four machine guns. Each cannon now had 120 rounds, compared to the 60 of the “b” wing. This wing was used on the majority of Mk V Spitfires, normally with the combined cannon and machine guns configuration. The “c” wing also had the capability to carry two 250lb bombs under the wings, or one 500lb bomb under the fuselage. If machine guns were used, they were used in the outboard position. The “a” and “b” wings were not used after the Spitfire V.

“d” wing

This was a wing used on some photo reconnaissance Spitfires. Instead of guns this wing carried extra fuel, giving the reconnaissance aircraft a range of up to 2000 miles.

“e” wing

The “e” wing was a further development of the Universal. It could carry either four 20mm cannon or two 20mm cannon and two 0.5in Browning machine guns. This time the cannon took the outer position and the machine guns the inner. This was partly because it gave more room for machine gun ammunition and partly because the bombs were carried below the inner gun positions, and there had been some problems reported when both cannon and bombs were on the same part of the wing. The “e” wing appeared in the second half of 1944.

Mk 21/24 wing

The wing used in the Mk 21 Spitfire was significantly redesigned. The leading edge lost its curve, running straight out to the guns. Armament was standardised at four 20mm Hispano Mk II cannon, with 175 rounds for the inboard gun and 150 for the outboard gun. In official documents this was referred to as the “new shape wing”.



Unfortunately, many people especially students are of the opinion that the Battle of Britain was Britain's involvement in the Second World War and the continued bombing that had been sustained from late 1939 until the end of 1944. In actual fact, the Battle of Britain was one of the first major battles of WW2 that lasted officially from July 10th until October 31st 1940.

The Battle of Britain will be known for two very important reasons in the annals of modern history. First it was the only battle to be staged in military warfare that was ever to be fought entirely in the air, even to this day. Secondly it was to turn the tide for the whole future of the Second World War, because if the Battle of Britain had been lost German forces would have invaded Great Britain and would then have had total domination of Northern Europe and possibly have succeeded in being a world power. But, because of the outcome, we shall never know.

After continued successful 'Blitzkrieg' invasions of Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France, Germany, under Adolf Hitler's Nazi rule need only to defeat and complete a successful invasion of Great Britain to stand fast as a world power to be taken notice of. As the last of the tired and exhausted allied personnel had been taken from Dunkirk, Hitler's armies were busy marching towards Paris and the claim that France had been defeated and now belonged to Germany. The British Prime Minister included in his speech at the fall of France:

Germany's swift 'Blitzkrieg' attacks so far had a devastating effect on the enemy and gave them successes in a very short period of time. Hitler and his Generals believed that the same methods would work for an invasion of Great Britain, the only difference being that because the English Channel formed a natural defence between the French and British coasts the Luftwaffe would have to destroy the Royal Air Force both in the air and on the ground. Reichmarschall Hermann Göring, believing that the RAF was weak and demoralised after the defeat in France could be destroyed in just three weeks. Hitler gave him four weeks and made plans for an invasion of Great Britain by mid-August.

Göring's plan was to attack British convoys in the English Channel thus demoralizing the British people, and depriving them of food, coal and supplies while at the same time it would lure the fighters of the RAF into the air where they could be attacked by, what Göring thought to be his superior Messerschmitt Bf109 fighter.

Those early days of July 1940 saw many hard fought combats in the air and casualties were high on both sides. As well as the convoys, the Luftwaffe also attacked Britain's Channel ports as well as spasmodic bombing attacks in the west, the Midlands and along the east coast.

Fighter Command responded well, even though at this stage there was a shortage of fighter aircraft and a desperate shortage of good pilots. At first, a number of pilots from the Fleet Air Arm had been transferred to

Fighter Command but this was not enough to bring them up to full strength. Soon, Fighter Command was strengthened by Belgian, Polish and Czechoslovakian pilots that had fled their respective countries that had been taken over by Germany. The training period for new pilots was shortened to boost squadron strength, but this was to place further burdens on squadron commanders who had to teach 'green' pilots the art of combat and how to survive.

Luftwaffe pilots were now complaining that convoys and ports could have been successfully attacked, but the British fighters were always there. Often they were being scattered by squadrons of Hurricanes and Spitfires before they could attack their targets. Reichmarschall Göring believed that it was this radar that the British were using was informing them of any enemy activity, and that before any attack could be mounted on RAF airfields and other targets inland, this radar would have to be destroyed.

Now into August and the preparation of an invasion drawing even closer, the Luftwaffe was no where near to destroying the RAF as it was in early July. On August 12th at 0730 hours the Luftwaffe made its first all out attack on the radar stations along the southern English coast. Bombs fell on Dover, Pevensey and Rye, while Ju87 dive bombers attacked two convoys in the Thames Estuary. Six radar stations were attacked, but only Ventnor was put out of action. It had been the busiest day since the Battle began with Fighter Command flying 732 sorties.

August was now the height of activity. Squadrons were flying four or five sorties a day, combat action was relentless day after day. Pilots were now becoming exhausted, often being transferred north for rest, but this was not always the case as they were often called into combat to intercept enemy activity that were targeting northern airfields and industry. Down south, came the first signs of attacks on Fighter Command aerodromes.

Manston, Hawkinge Lympne, Croydon, Hornchurch, North Weald, Kenley and Biggin Hill all suffered extensive damage with many lives lost.

The four weeks that Göring had thought that he could destroy the RAF was now well past, and the Luftwaffe was again no closer to achieving victory. The invasion date for mid August now had to be put back to mid-September, after that the unfavourable weather conditions of a British winter would set in. The Luftwaffe was loosing superiority in the air, the young pilots of Fighter Command was now proving far too good a match for them. German aircraft and pilot casualties were now three times greater than that of Fighter Command, but although AVM Keith Park was pleased with these results, he was very much concerned that many enemy aircraft were still getting through and reaching their targets.

Even though it appeared that Fighter Command was getting the upper hand, the experience of flying in battle was playing on the minds of they young pilots as one father stated:

He (son) wondered just how much longer he could take it. Each day someone fails to return, often another empty seat at the table. He was relieved when often they would turn up, apparently they had safely baled out, or injured in a crash landing. But many died horrific deaths, slowly burnt alive being trapped in their cockpits. He thought that he would rather have died instantly, or went in nose first into the ground rather than being burned alive.

He was a changed lad, time took care of that taking him from a young man with a bright future before the war to a man that seemed full of hatred, he said that he felt as if he was a human killing machine and said that if he ever dies, then put on his headstone "Here Lies Another Human Killing Machine".

On leave he could not sleep, or he would scream out in the night. How he died we will never know, he went out on a mission, and never came back, and that's the sad part, we do not even have a grave where we know that he is at last resting in peace.

The Battle was now taking its toll. Although the number of pilots was increasing in numbers those that had fought with Fighter Command since the Battle of Britain began were tired, Hurricanes and Spitfires were being destroyed as fast as new ones were being delivered, and airfields had not recovered since the attacks on the bases had begun. But if anything, there was one glimmer of hope.....the Luftwaffe had not destroyed them as they had planned, late August was the lowest ebb for Fighter Command.

Then, on September 7th 1940 the Luftwaffe turned its attacks on London itself. One hundred plus Heinkel's, Dornier's and Junkers, fully laden with bombloads and escorted by as many Bf109 fighters headed the capital. From 1115 hours until the morning of the next day wave after wave of enemy bombers came across the Channel, the night operations being guided by the huge fires in London's East End. Fighter Command scrambled squadron after squadron but they were outnumbered on every raid. London docks suffered terribly, Silvertown was a blazing inferno, the oil tanks at Thameshaven and Purfleet were ablaze and so was every borough along the Thames to London. This day goes down as the first day of "The Blitz" which was to continue well into 1941.

AVM Keith Park did not like what he saw, but he was a relieved man. "At least they're leaving my airfields alone." The opportunity came to make all the necessary repairs to the Fighter Command aerodromes. Communications were restored, water and gas mains repaired and in the days that followed it gave ACM Hugh Dowding and AVM Keith Park time to build up the squadrons to combat strength with pilots and aircraft. Within a week, Fighter Command was back to almost full strength.

On September 15th 1940, the largest concentration of enemy aircraft ever seen came across the English coast from all directions. One pilot searching for the invaders called out upon sighting them; "It's the whole bloody Luftwaffe!!" The raids continued throughout the day with the Luftwaffe flying over 1,000 sorties against London. 11 Group put up its entire force of squadrons and called for assistance from 12 Group and 10 Group. In all nearly forty fighter squadrons, that's 480 aircraft that were in the air in fierce combat between London and the Thames Estuary, south of London to the South Coast and in areas north of the capital.

Luftwaffe bombers were seen scampering in all directions, releasing their bombs at random. Most of the bombers were without fighter escort as they were forced to return back to their bases. The Luftwaffe lost 59 aircraft further adding to their frustration while Fighter Command lost 26 aircraft and 13 pilots. Considering the days events, this was a good result giving the pilots greater confidence for future combats.

Within two days Adolf Hitler realized that an invasion of Great Britain was now impossible. His Luftwaffe had failed to destroy the Royal Air Force and any landing in Britain was now out of the question. Fighter Command had proven themselves masters of the air, young and inexperienced, outnumbered in both men and machines they added another yet another chapter to the history of WW2, as this was the very first time that Germany had failed to accomplish what it had set out to do, they had been defeated.
September 15th is now celebrated each year in Britain and the commonwealth countries as Battle of Britain Day. Dedicated and courageous, sometimes tired and exhausted they would not be beaten and turned the tide in favour of the Allied forces.

The Battle of Britain was to continue through until October 31st 1940, but after September 15th most raids were on a far lesser scale. The "Blitz" continued with constant night attacks for 57 consecutive days after September 7th, but the bombing of British towns and industrial centres continued until 1944. 2,936 pilots were to take part in this historic Battle of which 544 of them lost their lives, young lives taken in the call of duty. Those that have no known grave are remembered on the RAF Runnymede Memorial near Windsor.

We must never forget what these men did for the cause of freedom, to play their part to rid the world of dictatorship powers. We must teach today's generation that a handful of men fought for the freedom enjoyed today. Wars and conflicts, whether political or religious will continue to happen, but our western world is a place of freedom and democracy.


S/Ldr Jan Zumbach (left) W/Cdr Stefan Witorzenc and F/Lt Zygmunt Bienkowski.

Polish Squadrons in Battle of Britain




Battle of Britain (Movie trailer)



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