The Supermarine Spitfire is a British-designed, singleseat fighter that was flown by several air forces during WW II. Spitfires served on all fronts as an interceptor, photo reconnaissance aircraft, fighter bomber, and carrier-based fighter. First flown in 1936, over 20,000 were built, almost all employing Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. As the war progressed, the Spitfire received heavier armament and more powerful engines until it was twice as heavy and powerful as the prototype. The Spitfire achieved legendary status during the Battle of Britain in 1940, becoming the backbone of Fighter Command through the remainder of the war.
Spitfires and Bomber Command
RECONNAISANCE AND AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY – One of the best known operations undertaken by Spitfires in support of Bomber Command provided photos of the dams slated to be attacked by Operation Chastise. The following morning, a Spitfire brought back photos showing the breached dams. Spitfire reconnaissance aircraft flew hundreds of operations during late 1943 and 1944 to detect V-1 Flying Bomb and V-2 Rocket sites, many of which were camouflaged. Bomber Command aircraft successfully attacked and destroyed many of these before they could become operational.
FIGHTER ESCORT – The majority of Bomber Command’s operations were flown at night so a fighter escort was not an option. As well, Allied fighters had a very limited range during most of the war. June 14, 1944 saw Bomber Command’s first large daylight raid in over a year with 221 Lancasters attacking. The target was the E-Boat (motor torpedo boats) base at Le Havre that continued to threaten shipping that was supporting the D-Day invasion. Bomber Commands leaders were reluctant to fly in daylight and Arthur Harris is said to have regarded the daylight operation as “an experiment.” For this reason the bombers were escorted by Spitfire fighters for the first time. This must have given the airmen, who were not accustomed to operating during the daylight, considerable comfort. Until the end of the war, Spitfires often provided fighter escort for bombers attacking targets in occupied Holland and France.
Spitfires and the Canadians
As in the case of Bomber Command, Canadian airmen were serving in Royal Air Force Fighter Command squadrons at the beginning of the war, and
flew all types of fighters in every theatre of the war throughout the conflict. George Beurling, the most successful Canadian fighter pilot of the war, scored 27 victories in two weeks flying Spitfires over Malta in 1942. Beginning in June 1940, RCAF Fighter Squadrons were formed and Spitfires were used by over a dozen of the Canadian squadrons. One Canadian Spitfire pilot wrote that, “Canadians were among the best in the Allied forces. It was an aircraft that seemed made for Canadians – “it matched their confident and aggressive spirit.”
The Nanton Connection
The museum’s Spitfire will be a faithful reproduction of a Mark IX Spitfire utilizing a collection of original Spitfire parts that have been acquired from a number of diverse locations such as Malta, Australia, New Zealand, Burma, Holland, France, and England.
The Spitfire will be displayed in markings typical of Spitfires which participated in the allied invasion of occupied France During D-Day
Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX Specifications
Engine: Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 Initial Climb: 4100 ft./minute
Wingspan: 36 ft. 10 inches Time to 20,000ft: 6.4 minutes
Length: 31 ft. 3.5 inches Service Ceiling: 25,000
Speed: 408 mph at 25,000 ft. Range: 434 miles
Weight: 5610 lbs (empty) Armament: 2×20 mm cannons
9500 lbs (full) 4×0.303 machine guns
The Warren Twins. The museum’s Spitfire project will be completed to honour Nanton-born identical twins Bruce and Douglas Warren. After learning to fly together at 5 Elementary Flying Training School in High River, they went on to fly Spitfires with 165 and 66 Squadrons. Bruce flew 248 combat operation, Doug 253.
The Twins flew three sorties over Canadian troops at Dieppe. During the Battle of Normandy, they carried out several escort operations, protecting Bomber Command Lancasters that were supporting the allied armies.