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M20gull
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Yes the ground crews, including the Admin Office who wrote up the ORB were taking the long way via the Cape. Thus there is no mention of 601s activities on Malta in the ORB. They probably only re-united when the aircrew flew their machines across to N.Africa.

 

Same situation occurred the year before when 260 Sqn flew off a carrier to Malta and then on to M.E while the Ground crews took the scenic route onboard ship to Egypt. In the meantime 260 Sqn was involved in the Syrian campaign (flying Hurricanes) being serviced for 3 months by the Ground crews of 450 Sqn which had arrived without pilots or aircraft.

 

450 shipped to the M.E as a complete unit apart from pilots and airframes which were planned to be supplied through RAF channels under an 'infiltration scheme'.  But because they arrived at a time of crisis there were none available. They were available to be married up with the 260 Sqn contingent however to form what was referred to as 260/450 Sqn which took part in the Syrian campaign and remained there for a time.

 

The Syrian operations are thus recorded in the 450 Sqn ORB (as they were the ones writing up the records) and are not in the 260 ORB. After about 3 months, when 260 Sqn was re-united with their own ground crews, 450 then had to endure about six months of doing things such as sorting captured Vichy equipment, operating as an Aircraft Repair Depot etc till they got their own aircraft (Kittyhawk Mk.Is) and pilots in Feb 1942. 

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Malta Spitfire serial number discussion.

 

RAF Squadrons by Jefford reports 680 squadron flew Spitfire VI February to August 1943.  Similarly 601 squadron is noted as aircrew to Malta, ground crew to Middle East in April 1942, reunited at Maryut (Alexandria) 23 June 1942.  It is highly unlikely any Spitfire fighters sent to Malta were sent to North Africa before late 1942, just some pilots.

 

Agreed the Merlin 61 shipment dates suggest BR234 (disposal date 18 September 1942) did not receive a Merlin 61 before the aircraft was lost but looking at the aircraft card would be best to eliminate the possibility.  Interestingly it and BR235 (SOC 29 June 1944), sent to Takoradi at the same time, are both marked VcF in the delivery logs, no idea what the F is for, T was tropical.  BR243 is marked VIPc, again no idea about Pc., SOC 30 July 1943, stayed in Britain, BR247 is a VIF.

 

BR114 was Category E 31 August 1944.  BR363 Malta 10 June 1942, SOC 31 May 1945.

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I have a list of serials of Spitfires on Malta, collected from a series of published sources.  Contact me offline for an Excel copy.  I can't claim it to be 100% accurate by delivery, but do believe it to be close.  Unfortunately linking aircraft to unit is more difficult, with 601 being one of the less helpful units.

 

According to Shores etc. Malta: The Spitfire Year, a Beaufighter of 252 Sq led a detachment of 89 Sq Beaufighters to Malta on 22 June.  It returned to the Western Desert the following day leading eight Spitfires of 601 Sq A Flight.  At this stage things were relatively calm on the island, but there was only one squadron of Spitfires in the WDAF... B Flight remained operational for a while, I haven't found a date or details of its transfer to North Africa.  At least one aircraft stayed behind, as UF.S was reported as being flown by by Buerling of 249 Sq after this date.  As this is commonly presented as being in desert camouflage (justification unknown) I presume that it was intended to go with the unit but remained.  However, being at Luqa, 601 does not seem to have been quite as eager to repaint its aircraft as the Takali units, so perhaps it was a later delivery that remained unchanged.

 

601 Squadron had been operational on Malta since its arrival in Malta in Operation Calendar on April 20th, with the first large batch of Spitfires to reach the island and two reinforcement squadrons, 601 and 603.  One of its most successful pilot was Dennis Barnham, who later wrote One Man's Window about his experiences, one of the more graphic accounts of the stresses of wartime flying.  There is a current thread running about modelling his aircraft as used in a photo-shoot on the island.

 

PS This list is also available (in tidied-up form) in Brian Cauchi's book on Malta Spitfires for Stratus/MMP.

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On 2/16/2021 at 4:23 PM, Denford said:

...but not sure now how to correct earlier postings!

 

Click on the three dots at upper right corner of the post.  That'll give you "Edit" as an option.  Also, the "plus sign" next to "Quote" at the bottom left is for "Multi-quote"- that allows you to (as I've done here) respond to several things in one post.  (If you then change your mind about one of the quoted sections, hover over the quote's header (date and person) and a little "which way do we go?" thingy appears at top left corner.  If you click on that little box, you can then drag it up or down to move the quote, or you can hit "delete" to make the whole quote go away.) 

[Edit: Just in case I offended anyone, this was meant as helpful tips, not lecturing on "the right way to do things".  And I also originally thought I was replying to M20gull, but no matter- them's that knows won't care, and them's that don't might benefit!]

 

On 2/17/2021 at 7:56 AM, Graham Boak said:

The Mk.46 didn't have the Coffman starter - I have corrected my original posting to remove the ambiguity.  However I have seen that there was some other change at the front of the engine for which the small blister was re-adopted.  I'm sorry that I didn't make note of this, but the two Mk.V books I've been reading recently are the new Wingleader one (which lacks reference to the Mk,Vc changes but is otherwise very good indeed) and the Wojtec Matusiak's latest Stratus book on the Polish use of the Mk.V, so I'll bet it is in one of them.  Both well worth buying and reading anyway.

 

Graham, I know that it comes up in Wojtek's book, because he and I talked about it.  I believe that the explanation is something like: Merlin 46 and 47 used a common crankcase, which included the <something- mounting pad? bulge? rough shape in the casting?> for the pressure-pump drive, not used on the 46. [EDIT: This explanation is apparently wrong (thanks Graham!), so I'll have to re-examine the re-appearance of the bump.]

 

On 2/19/2021 at 10:27 AM, M20gull said:

@Geoffrey Sinclair

 

I think your data on the Merlin 61 / Mk IX exports suggests that BR234 can not have had a Merlin 61 fitted if it was the plane lost on 6-9-42 as the first Merlin 61s allocated for shipment abroad were in September 1942.

 

I didn't read the fine-print as I skimmed through this thread, but I suspect "M61" is one of the many anomalies carried over from the 'Spitfire the History' aircraft data.  There are a number of Mk.Vs that are claimed to have Merlin 61s fitted in there, and I've never really tried to figure out how that crept in.

Edited by gingerbob
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Didn't the early RR Hucknall converted Mk.IX - from Mk.V airframes - have a longer cowling and lengthened/changed engine bearers from fr.5 forward?

Common conception says the 61 is longer due to the 2-2 supercharger. 
That's major reconstruction. Not that I would put it past 103MU, but it sounds like a bit of a stretch (pun intended).

 

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Catching up with these various issues (thank you all for your input):

 

Mk VIs - I have updated the earlier post to correct the dates and add reference to the departure date of the last aircraft from 680.  That means there were three aircraft that ended up in a PRU role with 680 but only one successful op between them.  The three being BS106, BS133 and BS149

 

Merlin 61s - I have looked at the production database and there are a few other Vs that do not make a lot of sense.  The only doubt is that some of the conversions to Mk IX were done in the same timeframe as prepping BR234 for export.  I still cannot see just one being sent to Australia though.

 

601 and Malta - I have looked at the 601 ORB.  On 23.6.42 there is reference to "A surprising telephone message from RAF Aboukir stating that S/Ldr Blades DFC and 8 pilots had arrrived from Malta".  This is presumably the escorted 'A' Flight.  Operations started on 1.7.42.  Of the aircraft listed on the first three days I have identified six as Malta arrivals from the thread referenced further up: BR136, BR175, BR192, BR363, BR384 and BR459.  In addition there is BR232 which was on the Empire Conrad.  On 24.6.42 there is mention of an unidentifed "Spitfire that force landed owing to shortage of petrol en-route from Malta to Heliopolis".  Spitfires and Malta is a subject I have been meaning to catch up with.  I have some unread books already but looks like I might be acquring some more reading material...

 

Compression ratio - the increase was obtained by skimming the cylinder heads

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Thanks Bob: I looked again and it is there on page 3!  The text links it to the M46, "it featured a protruding gear in that position".  The caption is to a Spitfire from an early production batch featuring a surplus Mk.II cowling panel.  Or to allow the M46.  However, a look at the Wingleader photo of the Mk.VI shows a bulge that is shorter and deeper than that on the Mk.II.  Therefore I've yet to come across a Mk.V showing this stubbier bulge - if they are indeed a feature of the M46 then they should be visible on all Aussie examples, but two quick looks only came up with views of the port fuselage noses.  Must look again.  One other question arises, however - if this is linked to the feed to pressurise the fuel tank, why isn't it visible on Mk.IXs and all later variants?

 

Looked again in Kookaburra's RAAF Cam & Markings - no clear views.  Amazing how many ways there are to photograph a Spitfire without showing this area - it being on a dark camouflage colour and having a prop blade artfully posed in just the wrong place do not help. But a couple of views were not clear enough but cast doubt.  Darwin's Spitfires (a superb book - must reread) however came up trumps.  A beautifully close-up of the area and no bulge.  So there'd be none on any Middle East Mk.Vc either, even if they had M46s (as many did),  If anyone wants to point to (I think non-existant) early examples of Aussie Mk.Vc with the M45, he will not be popular!

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I was looking for something else on Spitfire, the History when I came across the section on BP985. There is a date given of 4.5.42 for arrival at Aboukir, which seems a little early but does make it the first one.

 

The mods described are:

- raised compression ratio by working on the cylinder block and liners, which sounds hard work

- 4 blade Dr Havilland 45/1 Hydromatic prop

- Aboukir filter with 9.5 gallon oil tank

- armour removed

- cannons removed leaving just the inner machine guns

- extended wing tips

 

Nothing striking other than the reliance on a pair of 0.303 Brownings.

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3 hours ago, Graham Boak said:

Must look again.  One other question arises, however - if this is linked to the feed to pressurise the fuel tank, why isn't it visible on Mk.IXs and all later variants?

The feed to the fuel tank pressurisation is from the discharge of the vacuum pump, on all but the earliest Merlins this is mounted on the front of the engine directly driven off the crankshaft. It sits just above the horizontal and extends out just beyond the crankcase side to starboard- the CSU unit sits in a mirror position to port. Both sit well inside the cowling. The fairing for the Coffman starter covers the extended gear casing over the drive onto the spur gear - ie above and outboard of the vacuum pump.

https://airpages.ru/eng/draw/merlin25.shtml

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The vacuum pump was there on the earliest Merlin III aircraft, and the bump for its position can be seen on Hurricanes but not on Spitfires with their wider nose.  This is on or very close to the position of this bump on the Mk.VI.  If not related to an additional offtake from the vacuum pump for high altitude flying then it is a remarkable coincidence, and remains to be explained.  

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13 hours ago, M20gull said:

I was looking for something else on Spitfire, the History when I came across the section on BP985. There is a date given of 4.5.42 for arrival at Aboukir, which seems a little early but does make it the first one.

Be careful whether dates are arrival or departure when it comes to overseas movements.  BP981 to 988, except PB983, all have dates of 9 May 1942, most have India crossed out and replaced by Middle East.  All were built in early to mid April 1942.  As I read the individual history BP985 arrived in the Middle East on 1 August 1942.

 

According to the export reports the first Spitfires for the Middle East were sent in February 1942.  Some 138 by end August not counting the diversions from Australian Orders.(Exports to Malta/Mediterranean came to 357 in the same time period.)

 

Takoradi reports receiving its first five Spitfires in the week ending 10 April 1942, and sending the six first to the Middle East in the week ending 1 May 1942, leaving 8 at Takoradi, 6 more departed week ending 15 May.  (The week ending 14 February and 14 March reports are missing from the file) The Middle East reports 8 Spitfires arrived by sea ex UK on week ending 29 May 1942.

 

145 Squadron moved to Gambut (roughly halfway between Bardia and Tobruk) on 24 May 1942 and first flew Spitfire combat sorties on 1 June 1942.

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STH gives dates of departure and ship names, with arrival date (or first  logging at least) at the destination.  From this convoy identities and hence departure/arrival times can be obtained.   In the case of these Spitfires some care is needed because the authors have assumed the abbreviation Tak is Takoradi when it is very often Takali  - in this the convoy destination will be Gibraltar.  I believe that the convoy designator will normally be different for Gibraltar convoys and those heading further south, but as convoys can split this is possibly not entirely reliable.  Malta appears to have done a census on the 1st of each month, so it is necessary to link this to known carrier delivery dates.  Operation Spotter delivered Spitfires to Malta well in advance of the dates above, but in view of Malta's quasi-independence from ME Commands this perhaps doesn't count!

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OG/HG convoys were to/from Gibraltar.

 

OS/SL convoys were to/from Freetown. Some ships were destined for other West African ports like Takoradi. From Freetown ships dispersed to go around the Cape of Good Hope to the Middle and Far East, either alone or in other convoys, or across to South America.

 

The “Winston Specials”, convoys in the WS series intended to go around the Cape, carried large numbers of personnel to all points south and east of Britain as well as stores and sometimes aircraft. They generally had a mix of destinations. So sections of these convoys regularly detached to Gibraltar, Takoradi, Freetown, Cape Town & Durban often with ships joining as well as leaving at these intermediary ports. This all depended on the destination of the RN/RAF/Army personnel aboard. 

 

You can track convoys and their constituent ships and ports of arrival arrival and departure over at Convoyweb.

http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/index.html

 

Edited by EwenS
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1 hour ago, Graham Boak said:

This is on or very close to the position of this bump on the Mk.VI.  If not related to an additional offtake from the vacuum pump for high altitude flying then it is a remarkable coincidence, and remains to be explained.  

It's quite close (but no cigar, as they say). The vacuum pump sits hard up against the spinner backplate with the head level with the frame supporting  the lower and side cowlings, and is entirely within the spinner diameter. Fitting a discharge pipe within the confines of the cowling wouldn't be a problem.

The bump on the MkVI is slightly higher and further aft, in approx the same position as the bulge for the Coffman starter on the MkII. Unsurprising really, as it's covering a gearcase extension from the spur gear for the power take-off to drive the Marshall blower for cabin pressurisation, which, if not the same as the gearcase extension for the Coffman starter is very similar. (Lumsden states the M47 had a universal crankcase with a mounting plate capable of mounting either a Coffman starter or cabin blower).

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52 minutes ago, Dave Swindell said:

Morgan/Shacklady Spitfire The History

Thanks for that.  The Royal Australian Navy has its merchant ship movement cards available on its web site, since few convoys were run and the RAAF cards provide good ideas of where and when a ship arrived it is possible to put names to ships, including those with code names and note the variation in ship name spellings, for example, Spitfire shipments,

 

Kitailana Park = Kitsilano Park

Narbaba = Narbada

Port MacQuarra = Port MacQuarie

Teeside Park = Leaside Park

Clan Farquaha = Clan Farquhar

 

LS1964 = Waipawa

LS1966 = Port Wyndham

LS1972 = Ajax

LS1973 = Suffolk.

LS2495 = Coptic

 

I suspect the code numbers are an RAF designation, not naval.

 

19 minutes ago, gingerbob said:

 

Sinclair Tracks Heverything?

Habitual?  Haecceity? Handicraft? Hellacious?  Hermeneutic? Herniate?  Heroic?  Heterodox?  Highlight? History?  Hoard?  Homologous?  Hors Concours?  Hypermnesia?

This completes today's spell checker test.

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59 minutes ago, Geoffrey Sinclair said:

Thanks for that.  The Royal Australian Navy has its merchant ship movement cards available on its web site, since few convoys were run and the RAAF cards provide good ideas of where and when a ship arrived it is possible to put names to ships, including those with code names and note the variation in ship name spellings, for example, Spitfire shipments,

 

Kitailana Park = Kitsilano Park

Narbaba = Narbada

Port MacQuarra = Port MacQuarie

Teeside Park = Leaside Park

Clan Farquaha = Clan Farquhar

 

LS1964 = Waipawa

LS1966 = Port Wyndham

LS1972 = Ajax

LS1973 = Suffolk.

LS2495 = Coptic

 

I suspect the code numbers are an RAF designation, not naval.

 

Habitual?  Haecceity? Handicraft? Hellacious?  Hermeneutic? Herniate?  Heroic?  Heterodox?  Highlight? History?  Hoard?  Homologous?  Hors Concours?  Hypermnesia?

This completes today's spell checker test.

The Admiralty merchant ship movement cards are also available at the National Archives for free at the present time.

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The index in STH has the first five, but includes both Teeside Park and Leaside Park.  It also has Suffolk and Port Wyndham but not the others.  I have not tried to tie these to specific serials, although this could be done from the text.

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2 hours ago, Graham Boak said:

but includes both Teeside Park and Leaside Park

Wartime Standard Ships Oceans, Forts and Parts only lists Leaside Park, no Teeside Park, so It's likely Teeside is a misinterpretation of Leaside as suggested by @Geoffrey Sinclair

Likewise Kitsilano Park is listed, not Kitailana Park

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On 21/02/2021 at 09:54, Geoffrey Sinclair said:

Be careful whether dates are arrival or departure when it comes to overseas movements.  BP981 to 988, except PB983, all have dates of 9 May 1942, most have India crossed out and replaced by Middle East.  All were built in early to mid April 1942.  As I read the individual history BP985 arrived in the Middle East on 1 August 1942.

 

According to the export reports the first Spitfires for the Middle East were sent in February 1942.  Some 138 by end August not counting the diversions from Australian Orders.(Exports to Malta/Mediterranean came to 357 in the same time period.)

 

Takoradi reports receiving its first five Spitfires in the week ending 10 April 1942, and sending the six first to the Middle East in the week ending 1 May 1942, leaving 8 at Takoradi, 6 more departed week ending 15 May.  (The week ending 14 February and 14 March reports are missing from the file) The Middle East reports 8 Spitfires arrived by sea ex UK on week ending 29 May 1942.

 

145 Squadron moved to Gambut (roughly halfway between Bardia and Tobruk) on 24 May 1942 and first flew Spitfire combat sorties on 1 June 1942.

In the interest of finding out when BP985 might be in Egypt and to improve my understanding of the data I have been looking at the movements for BP980 to BP989 as this covers three aircraft that will feature in this topic.  My observations and questions are as follows:

 

I have grouped these planes by their method of arrival in the Middle East.

 

BP980    FF 7-4-42 39MU 8-4-42 Renfrew 27-4-42 ff Malta 8-6-42 SOC 13-8-42
BP989    FF 13-4-42 8MU 14-4-42 RAF Abbotsinch 26-4-42 ff Malta 8-6-42 229S Engine exploded crashed in sea off Malta 16-10-42
“Renfrew” should be “RAF Renfrew”, another depot for Malta deliveries. These are both Operation Bowery, sailed on USS Wasp from Scapa Flow on 3-5-42; flown off 9-5-42.  Surely their first flight Malta cannot be as late as 8-6-42?

 

BP983    FF 8-4-42 6MU 10-4-42 47MU 15-4-42 Ripley 26-4-42 Takoradi Middle East 20-6-42 FACB 17-7-42 Taxied into Hurricane El Ballah 17-11-43 to 4382M
MV Ripley (as used later for the Mk VIs) was on Convoy OS.27 which departed Liverpool on 2 May 1942 arriving Freetown on 19 May 1942 (From http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/) and presumably heading for Takoradi.  IWM has a picture of this one labelled “T-B', of No. 249 Squadron RAF, in flight over Egypt, 1942 at the time of its transfer from Malta to North-West Africa, where it joined No. 92 Squadron RAF.”  145 had a ‘V’ 983 from 2-7-42 to 17-7-42 (the FACB) and a new ‘V’ from 20-7-42.  Must be repaired; then shipped to Malta?


BP984    FF 10-4-42 6MU 12-4-42 82MU 18-4-42 SS483 9-5-42 Middle East SOC 23-9-42
BP987    FF 11-4-42 6MU 12-4-42 82MU 17-4-42 SS483 9-5-42 Port Sudan 1-8-43 SOC 29-8-46
BP988    FF 11-4-42 6MU 12-4-42 32MU 17-4-42 SS483 9-5-42 Middle East 1-8-43 Crashed in forced landing 1m SW of Sorman West FAC3 26-8-43 
All on SS483 (what is this? notes suggest Special Service boat).  BP984 with 145 Squadron from 31-7-7-42.  BP987 features later in this story in Egypt into 1943; flown by HV Freckleton (again more later) in 145 Squadron from 27-7-42.  BP988 was with 601 Squadron from 26-6-42.  Are these arriving via Takoradi?

 

BP981    FF 7-4-42 39MU 8-4-42 47MU 17-4-42 SS485 9-5-42 India Middle East 145S 'ZX-N' 451S Missing presumed crashed in sea 18m N of Rosetta Egypt 4-4-43
BP982    FF 8-4-42 6MU 10-4-42 47MU 16-4-42 SS485 9-5-42 India Middle East 1-8-42 CB ops 22-8-42 Malta 602S 7-3-43 FAC2 1-11-43
BP985    FF 10-4-42 6MU 12-4-42 47MU 20-4-42 SS485 9-5-42 India Middle East 1-8-42 mods at 103MU Aboukir for high alt interception Engine cut forcelanded on beach and overturned El Gamil 7-10-44 SOC 27-10-44
BP986    FF 10-4-42 6MU 12-4-42 47MU 20-4-42 SS485 9-5-42 India Middle East C3 ops 22-10-42
All on SS485 and shown as “India” which should be crossed out.  BP981 will be discussed later; flies from 2-8-42 with 145 Squadron as ‘W’ (first entry does look like N but all subsequent are W).  BP982 flies with 601 Squadron from 29-7-42.  BP 985 – Shacklady says this is at Aboukir on 4-5-42; is this possible?  BP986 flying with 145 Squadron as ‘X’ from 25-7-42
 

Edited by M20gull
Poor typing
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The picture of T-B is not a Malta picture but taken in Egypt when the aircraft was operating at an OTU.  This is one I had considerable trouble trying to fit into Malta/249 but obtained this information from a now forgotten source - as I was only interested in aircraft on Malta it fell off my radar.  Perhaps it was Brian Cauchi, but that's a bit of a guess.  My listing doesn't have any BP98x Spitfires on Malta.

 

The SS numbers relate to specific merchant vessels, I presume some alternative code but I've never been able to find out more.  Nor tried, to be honest.  SS could simply be Steam Ship.

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