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Special High Altitude Spitfires


M20gull
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How easy is it to get distracted?  Nothing to do with this subject I looked up other Spitfires with a Port Sudan link and in late 1942 28 Mk I Spitfires (including two conversion to Va) were dispatched to Port Sudan where it looks like they were supplied to 73 OTU based in Egypt.  Some of the airframes were pre-war! Mk Is and Vas  in desert colours?

 

The only other one with a Port Sudan link is the sad case of AR276:  9MU 5-1-42 Crosby Co 21-2-42 SS441 20-3-42 Middle East 17-6-42 Hit bank on take-off Port Sudan CE 17-6-42 SOC 19-6-42 FH6.05  What a short career!

Edited by M20gull
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Mk.Is intended for Turkey but sequestered ended up in Desert camouflage and HK serials, like many other oddments collected in the Middle East.  3 examples?  I've seen one photo.  These are different from a later batch that did go to Turkey.                       

 

 

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15 minutes ago, Graham Boak said:

Mk.Is intended for Turkey but sequestered ended up in Desert camouflage and HK serials, like many other oddments collected in the Middle East.  3 examples?  I've seen one photo.  These are different from a later batch that did go to Turkey.                       

 

 

Actually to correct that, 3 Mk.Is were supplied to Turkey from a pre-war order. Due to a lack of spares the Turks had to cannibalise one of them to keep the other 2 flying. In 1942 the Turks agreed to supply the 2 survivors to the RAF in Egypt in exchange for later supply of Mk.Vs.  As said they were given HKxxx serials.

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Work on the assumption no Malta Spitfire fighter went to the Middle East or vice versa before the end of 1942.  Also export dates can be departure or arrival.

 

BP980 and 989 June dates are probably from an inventory report.  Similar for 1 August date for BP988 and BP986 May date.

 

Looking at the 145 squadron records online AIR 27/985/32 at the UK National Archives there is no W flying with 145 squadron in early July 1942.  W147 on 11 July.  On the final page, number 28, the aircraft listed are AB502, BP491, BP865, BP895, BP959, BP984, BP987, BR467, M339, N201, P277, R136, T583, V522 and Z135


BP984, 987 and 988 probably went round the cape, given they were on the same ship and one ended up at Port Sudan.

BP980 and BP989 delivered to Malta from USS Wasp, Operation Bowery.

 

There were 47 Spitfire I shipped to Port Sudan in late 1942 but 19 on Peter Mearsk were lost at sea.

 

Spitfire exports April 1940 to December 1945, excluded are 6 to Canada, 48 to Portugal,  1 to Turkey and 9 to USA.  Mediterranean includes Malta, North Africa, MAAF and MAC.  India includes ACSEA.  Some "months" are 4 weeks, some 5.  The Ministry of Aircraft Production export figures start to give Spitfire mark numbers towards the end of 1942 but do not use the same time intervals as the export report, around 50 pages to data input but not done yet.  The MAP figures are a mixture of 4 and 5 week periods, and aircraft not in production are under "other". Six Spitfires arrived in Australia in mid August 1942, then 62 in October, showing the diversion of the first shipment.

 

Month / Australia / India / Med. / Middle East / Russia
Feb-42 / 0 / 0 / 16 / 4 / 0
Mar-42 / 0 / 0 / 16 / 49 / 0
Apr-42 / 0 / 0 / 79 / 8 / 0
May-42 / 0 / 0 / 111 / 26 / 0
Jun-42 / 48 / 0 / 60 / 8 / 0
Jul-42 / 0 / 0 / 36 / 7 / 0
Aug-42 / 65 / 0 / 39 / 36 / 0
Sep-42 / 17 / 0 / 91 / 109 / 0
Oct-42 / 22 / 0 / 282 / 52 / 14
Nov-42 / 10 / 0 / 36 / 161 / 35
Dec-42 / 6 / 0 / 77 / 147 / 101
Jan-43 / 21 / 0 / 213 / 42 / 0
Feb-43 / 7 / 2 / 150 / 75 / 0
Mar-43 / 25 / 0 / 0 / 120 / 0
Apr-43 / 7 / 2 / 0 / 5 / 0
May-43 / 25 / 1 / 327 / 0 / 0
Jun-43 / 19 / 27 / 265 / 0 / 0
Jul-43 / 1 / 50 / 287 / 0 / 0
Aug-43 / 11 / 11 / 203 / 0 / 0
Sep-43 / 25 / 58 / 220 / 0 / 0
Oct-43 / 11 / 22 / 173 / 0 / 0
Nov-43 / 46 / 13 / 53 / 0 / 0
Dec-43 / 24 / 80 / 121 / 0 / 0
Jan-44 / 12 / 38 / 66 / 0 / 0
Feb-44 / 44 / 76 / 79 / 0 / 6
Mar-44 / 8 / 73 / 76 / 0 / 34
Apr-44 / 41 / 57 / 25 / 0 / 56
May-44 / 16 / 61 / 0 / 0 / 62
Jun-44 / 30 / 16 / 57 / 0 / 16
Jul-44 / 0 / 50 / 120 / 0 / 51
Aug-44 / 27 / 43 / 153 / 0 / 40
Sep-44 / 23 / 34 / 92 / 0 / 50
Oct-44 / 35 / 107 / 63 / 0 / 100
Nov-44 / 32 / 7 / 42 / 0 / 85
Dec-44 / 2 / 8 / 31 / 0 / 155
Jan-45 / 15 / 70 / 36 / 0 / 99
Feb-45 / 0 / 44 / 73 / 0 / 90
Mar-45 / 24 / 26 / 27 / 0 / 22
Apr-45 / 1 / 53 / 88 / 0 / 170
May-45 / 1 / 32 / 45 / 0 / 30
Jun-45 / 0 / 27 / 28 / 0 / 121
Jul-45 / 0 / 46 / 11 / 0 / 0
Aug-45 / 0 / 70 / 3 / 0 / 0
Sep-45 / 0 / 63 / 4 / 0 / 0
Oct-45 / 0 / 4 / 2 / 0 / 0
Nov-45 / 0 / 63 / 4 / 0 / 0
Dec-45 / 0 / 56 / 2 / 0 / 0
Total / 701 / 1390 / 3982 / 849 / 1337

 

If you want an idea on code numbers and ship names check out Morgan and Shacklady Spitfire the History
versus
Spitfires website http://www.airhistory.org.uk/spitfire/home.html
versus
ADF serials website http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a58.htm

The web site has the latest data versus ADF serials which has not updated.

 

The SS<number> appear to be RAF code designations.  Using site like convoyweb and the dates in the histories you can often work out which convoy was involved, but not which ship(s)

 

After pulling the ship names/codes out of the abbreviated Spitfire histories and trying to find code matches, the following is for those wanting to try and figure out ship names, code numbers and (possible) matches.
SS117    Part of Operation Bluff VII
SS1225    ?
SS1353    ?
SS1356    Lafian or Silver Larch
SS1961    Chanda
SS1964    Waipawa
SS1965    Port Wyndham
SS1966    Typo for SS1965
SS1968    Typo for SS1961
SS1972    Ajax
SS1973    Suffolk
SS2019    ?
SS2024    Alder Park
SS210    Melampus
SS2135    ?
SS230    ?
SS237    Alphard
SS2448    Martaban
SS2495    Tanela
SS2545    Clan Forbes
SS255    ?
SS256    ?
SS2561    Samsacola
SS257    ?
SS258    ?
SS267    ?
SS268    J D Yeagar (one SS268 entry probably wrong date)
SS273    Joyce Kilmer?
SS274    Joyce Kilmer?
SS275    Joyce Kilmer?
SS276    Joyce Kilmer?
SS2820    ?
SS2850    Highland Prince
SS2861    Samsacola
SS290    Copacabana
SS362    Typo for SS652?
SS437    SS R.437?
SS440    ?
SS441    ?
SS483    ?
SS485    ?
SS5    Empire Franklin
SS514    ?
SS517    ?
SS601    Typo for SS621
SS612    ?
SS617    Brisbane Star
SS620    ?
SS621    ?
SS622    ?
SS623    ?
SS625    ?
SS626    ?
SS627    ?
SS628    ?
SS630    Typo for SS620
SS632    Typo for SS652
SS634    ?
SS646    ?
SS647    ?
SS652    ?
SS653    Empire Haven
SS657    Harpolycus, Fort Parkejox
SS658    Fort Hudson’s Hope
SS661    Harmatris
SS670    Fort Livingstone?
SS671    Fort Livingstone?
SS672    Fort Livingstone?
SS679    Essex Trader, Orient City?
SS680    Fort Rupert or Orient City (or SS682)
SS682    Fort Rupert or Orient City (or SS680)
SS685    Empire Barrie
SS686    ?
SS687    Fort Douglas
SS702    ?
SS703    Argyll
SS705    ?
SS707    ?
SS708    ?
SS710    La Pampa
SS717    Fort Chesterfield
SS722    Fort Thompson
SS732    Empire Prss
SS751    Empire Grebe
SS808    Marstand
SS98    ?
SSK55    SS622?, SS634?

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6 hours ago, Geoffrey Sinclair said:

Work on the assumption no Malta Spitfire fighter went to the Middle East or vice versa before the end of 1942.  

 

A very shaky assumption I'm afraid: at least two aircraft left Malta late August/early September having served on 601 Sq and are then list with WDAF Spitfire squadrons.  BR184 and BR363.  It may be possible to find other 601 Sq. aircraft that left Malta early as opposed to being destroyed, but I've no guarantee of finding them all anyway.  We could also expect a shuffling of aircraft between units so than Malta offloaded their older more tired airframes and kept the better ones, so a search would have to include all squadrons on Malta.  BR174 and BR232 (Beurling's UF.S) are listed as serving with 601 and then 249.  I had assumed them to be ones prepared to go that went u/s but other interpretations come to mind.  I see no reason to doubt that 601 Sq pilots flew to Egypt in their Spitfires.  The idea, after all, was to reinforce a WDAF that was short of Spitfires but comparatively flush with pilots, so anything else would not make sense, 

 

Thanks for the correction on the source of the HK Mk.Is, but the key point was the existence of other Mk.Is in DS.

Edited by Graham Boak
Typos for BR184 read BR384, for BR174 read BR175. Apologies.
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@Geoffrey Sinclair thank you for the detailed answer. I can see me getting more distracted than ever.

 

The point about inventory dates is not something I had considered but certainly makes a lot of sense.  

 

Regarding the 145 Squadron 'W', my mistake, the date should have been 2-8-42 and I have corrected my original post.

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All this digging around in the 1942 ORBs has paid off for me.  Looking ahead to early 1943 a small number of Spitfires were allocated to the Australian 451 Squadron for high level interceptions.  I will come back to them later.  The reason for picking this up now is the reference above to the ADF serials website http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a58.htm which covers all aircraft allocated to Australian squadrons.  On that website there is reference to another special aircraft BR363 as follows:

 

BR363    Mk.Vc T (Spec)  ff 2-5-42 39MU 5-5-42 47MU 7-5-42 10.6.42 Middle East 1.8.43 103MU modified with extended wing tips, RR Merlin two stage superchargers and four blade prop. Type B roundels and desert finish. Used by High Altitude Interception Flight Aboukir, Issued to 451 Sqn RAAF 0443 to 05.43 123 Sqn, 94 Sqn SOC 31-5-45.

 

This compares with the Spitfires website which has:

 

FF 2-5-42 39MU 5-5-42 47MU 7-5-42 Empire Conrad 20-5-42 flown off Eagle to Malta 3-6-42 601S FTR Sgt Lusty missing 31-8-42 [451S 123S 94S SOC 31-5-45]

 

There is no reference to modifications on the Spitfires website but this is a Special Spitfire operated by a Squadron in August 1942.  The 601 ORB has for 14.8.42 "1 Spitfire, specially modifiied for high altitude flying, took off to intercept an enemy aircraft (probably JU86 with pressure cabin), followed aircraft for some time but ran short of petrol and landed at Aboukir".  The only aircraft this can be from the detailed records is BR363 flown by Sgt Lusty.  On 21.8.42 Sgt Fasfan F (name is quoted; I think it shold be Farfan) crashed BR363 on landing "due to an error of judgement"; on this link mention is made of BR363 having an accident on 21.8.42 with 601 Sqn at LG154 where it made low approach and hit 45 gall petrol drum 25 yds from boundary knocking off stb u/c, caused further damage on final touch down.  It cannot have been too bad as it started flying again on 27.8, flew to Aboukir and back on 29.8, took part in 2 sweeps over Alamein on 30.8 before the entry on 31.8.42 "Sgt Lusty KJ Up18:35 Did not return".  Well Sgt Lusty obviously did, flying again on 12.9.42 but no sign of BR363 with 601 Squadron in September.  I presume it went back to Aboukir for repair.  The link to the accident details on 21.8.42 suggests that the 31.8.42 entry should be BR470 but I have not found evidence to back that up (I may just not have looked far enough yet).

 

The adf-serials data introduces a new engine modification "RR Merlin two stage superchargers" and I suppose this could have been done before or after its stay with 601.

 

I have not seen any photos of this aircraft.

 

 

Edited by M20gull
Spelling of Farfan
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2 hours ago, Graham Boak said:

A very shaky assumption I'm afraid: at least two aircraft left Malts late August/early September having served on 601 Sq and are then list with WDAF Spitfire squadrons.  BR184 and BR363. 

BR184 is listed as lost off Malta on 2 July 1942.

 

BR363 is listed as lost on 31 August 1942, Sgt Lusty, 601 squadron.  Shores et al. say he was in BR636, which is wrong.  BR470 and BR363 are both listed as missing that day in the Spitfire online histories.  601 squadron records say BR363.  Looking at the squadron records the aircraft was around on 1 July, flown in from Aboukir, I cannot locate the June records file on the archives site, the one that gives serial numbers.  The summary notes the Squadron Leader and 3 pilots arrived in 23 June, reporting 3 pilots lost over Malta and on 24 June that a Spitfire arrived from Malta to Heliopolis, running out of fuel and was damaged, whether that was for the squadron or not or whether it was a fighter is unclear., A pair of PRU Spitfires had been sent by air from Gibraltar to Malta in the week ending 26 June, no idea if one or both flew on to Egypt. 610 Squadron operations began on 1 July.

 

At the end of Operation LB in mid May 1942 it looks like all Spitfires sent to Gibraltar had been sent to Malta.  Empire Conrad arrived with 32 more on 27 May.  BR363 was reported as one of 31 Spitfires flown to Malta as part of Operation Style, 3 June 1942.   BR232 was on Empire Conrad and NOT sent to Malta but was with 601 squadron on 1 July 1942 at Alamein.

 

Rommel reached the Alamein line on 1 July 1942.  Which means any aircraft flying from Malta after that has to make Alexandria, 850 to 900 miles.  Leaving before Rommel attacked the Gazala line on 26 May is still 550 to 600 miles.

 

So if BR363 did go via Malta it was there for a maximum of around 3 weeks.  Departing in June.  Or else there is an untraced Malta Spitfire while BR363 and BR232 went to Takoradi.  Malta the Spitfire Year does not mention BR363.

 

I can really do without this web site's idea of time outs while composing messages.  It is set up for a quick reply, not one that checks data before sending.

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Thank you for the corrections;

BR363 However is reported on Malta in the July 1st census: The aircraft delivered to Gibraltar on the Empire Conrad were delivered to Malta in Operation Style, on the 3rd June

BR384 ditto.  This is what I should have typed not BR184

BR232 ditto.  It was flown from HMS Eagle by Plt Off J.H. Curry RCAF

BR470  Not a Malta Spitfire

I would point out that once an aircraft arrived at Gibraltar the only possible destination is Malta.  Through convoys did not exist at this time.  Aircraft intended for the Middle East were offloaded at Takoradi and flown along the ferry route.

 

BR175 (not BR174) was delivered in Operation LB and served with 601 Sq and them with 249.

BR636 was converted to a Mk.IX and did not leave the UK

 

Do you wish for an extended list of those aircraft listed in STH as having been delivered to Malta and served with 601 Sq?

 

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Fine: Leaves Malta in the morning, arrives Aboukir in the afternoon.  There seems to be a regular monthly census on Malta, but who knows now just what date it is taken to be (presumably) collated that day?

 

There remains the possibility of errors in the recording system, but which is the error?

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16 hours ago, Graham Boak said:

BR363 However is reported on Malta in the July 1st census: The aircraft delivered to Gibraltar on the Empire Conrad were delivered to Malta in Operation Style, on the 3rd June

BR384 ditto.  This is what I should have typed not BR184

BR232 ditto.  It was flown from HMS Eagle by Plt Off J.H. Curry RCAF

BR470  Not a Malta Spitfire

Empire Conrad arrived at Gibraltar on 27 May with 32 Spitfires, all bar BR232 have Malta in their online histories.  31 were sent on operation Style, flying off on 3 June.
The next shipment was 32 Spitfires on Hopetarn, arriving 2 June, all bar BR449 have Malta in their online histories.  32 were sent on operation Salient, flying off on 9 June.

 

So the question is which Spitfire was not sent and was it sent later?  it would be good to correct the lists at


Also note the reports of 5 extra Spitfires sent on operation Calendar appear incorrect, based on an assumption each pilot sent had an aircraft.  Wasp transported 47 Spitfires each time.

 

16 hours ago, Graham Boak said:

I would point out that once an aircraft arrived at Gibraltar the only possible destination is Malta.  Through convoys did not exist at this time.  Aircraft intended for the Middle East were offloaded at Takoradi and flown along the ferry route.

Be careful, the out bound ships that called in at Gibraltar did not always go straight back to Britain, or Spain then Britain.

 

The transfer of Spitfire fighters from Malta to Egypt. 

 

https://maltagc70.wordpress.com/category/1942/june-1942/  23 June 1942, departures One Beaufort, one Beaufighter, nine Spitfires, seven Wellingtons to LG 224; two Wellingtons to Shallufa; one Lodestar to Heliopolis.  Malta the Spitfire Year by Shores et. al. reports 8 Spitfires from A flight 601 squadron, with a Beaufighter as navigation escort departed 23 June 1942 and 601 records note the arrival of 4 pilots that day.  Shores says B flight departed by end of month.    Neither the web site nor the book report further Spitfire departures in June.  601 squadron records do not seem to note when the B flight pilots arrived.  It is interesting that a ferry flight to Egypt as long or longer than the flights from the carriers to Malta goes unremarked everywhere, compare that with all the details on the ferry flights to Malta.

 

Looking at the 601 record of operations for the first two days in July, and assigning BR232 as ex Malta, of the 11 serials read through the National Archives watermarks 7 are ex Malta BR136, BR175, BR192, BR232, BR363, BR384 and BR459, leaving one more.

 

So 8 out of over 220 Spitfire fighters sent to Malta by early June ended up in Egypt in late June.

16 hours ago, Graham Boak said:

Do you wish for an extended list of those aircraft listed in STH as having been delivered to Malta and served with 601 Sq?

 

Probably worth posting here for people to look at.

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An aside in relation to BR363:

 

I was going back to check the references in 601 squadron ORB as I had only looked in detail at the beginning of July for the Malta connection and then August for the crash and the "did not return". Looking at the entry for 16 July there is a flight for BR363 piloted by Sgt Dipersio "crashed on take off".  The summary states that this aircraft was burnt out and the pilot killed, together with the pilot of the Hurricane he crashed in to.

 

This seems at odds with the rest of the ORB as BR363 was flying the next day.  I checked further and to illustrate the inaccuracies of records this link, Remembering WWII Nova Scotia Casualties Querino Di Persio, confirms that it was another of Malta Spitfires BR459, not BR363. 

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I will start this post with a plug for the March issue of Scale Aircraft Modelling with the second part of Paul Lucas's article on high altitude schemes.

 

Further to my post on BR363, 601 was not the only squadron operating special Spitfires in August 1942.  The Operation Record Book for 145 in August is not the tidiest but on 9.8.42 (which I think should be 10.8) there is reference to "Two Spitfires arrived, these were to be used to intercept high flying recco aircraft, and were to operate without cannons or R/T".  These two, referred to as "stripped Spitfires", were sent up separately the following day to intercept a Ju 86 at 36,000ft.

 

One of them is BR234 (as used by Genders in September) and the other one is BR487 (which appears later on in various places).  BR234 is not mentioned again in the ORB, but BP985 makes three appearances including one scramble.

 

There is only one interception mentioned in the ORB on 20.8.42 and this is well-described.  The second Spitfire in the formation is referred to here as the "Marker" which, flown by F/Sgt Ker, reached 36,000ft and waved the stripped Spitfire in to engage 6,000 ft above.  Sgt Duigan in the stripped Spitfire climbed to 40,000 ft, closed to with ten yards of a Ju 86 (yes, it does say ten yards; I was expecting it to get close because it only has limited armament but...).  The guns were frozen and only one bullet fired so Sgt Duigan tried to ram the Ju but lost height in the slipstream and returned to base.

 

From the ORB I would identify the Marker as BP847 and have no suggestions as to whether this is modified in any way.  36,000 feet is just about the ceiling of a Vc even in temperate climes.

 

The stripped Spitfire is harder to identify; Duigan's aircraft in the list next to Ker's is BR467 but the flight times given are identical to an earlier entry in the list (there were four scrambles earlier in the day) so I would not hesitate to call that as incorrect and surmise that the correct serial is BR487.

 

This is a period when the squadron was at Idku for a period of "training and rest"!

 

Once again no photos that I have seen.

 

Aside: On 3.11.42, flying EP254 the South African Sinclair Duigan, now a Pilot Officer, did not return from operations on what looks like a very hectic day.  He became a prisoner of war ending up all the way away in Stalag Luft III.

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Wasp delivered 47 Spitfires to Malta but that's not all she loaded.  I have identified 50 Spitfires on Calendar, of which  BR126 landed on again but was delivered in Bowery. BP958 diverted to French North Africa, to some criticism from the other pilots.  I have identified 46 on Bowery  BR246 is also arrived on Malta later (AFAIK) but appears to be (as far as can be discerned!) in a Calendar scheme - but distinguishing this from a Takali overpaint is probably impossible as the two schemes were much the same.  Bowery deliveries were in Temperate Sea Scheme, which differs so much in different lights/filters/films that it is very difficult to discern at times.

 

The distance from Malta to "Egypt" varied considerably depending upon the success of the 8th Army at the time.   One squadron of Hurricanes was flown from Cyrenaica/Libya at the peak of one advance.  This would not have been possible earlier or later.  However presumably Malta stores retained the tanks used on the ferry.

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A quick aside on the biographies of the "Three Musketeers of the Strato" (not my invention).

 

I have posted already a link which gives a potted biography for George Eric Clifford Genders: link.  Genders collected a DFM for his service in Greece before his spell at 103 MU and an AFC after the war.

 

Arthur George William Gold was awarded two AFCs, one of only 26 to receive the bar during WW2.  There is a discussion here which provides some hint of what must have been an interesting career.

 

George William Henry Reynolds who was awarded a DFC for his service with 103 MU is more elusive.  Does anyone know more?

 

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1 hour ago, Graham Boak said:

Wasp delivered 47 Spitfires to Malta but that's not all she loaded.  I have identified 50 Spitfires on Calendar, of which  BR126 landed on again but was delivered in Bowery. BP958 diverted to French North Africa, to some criticism from the other pilots.  I have identified 46 on Bowery  BR246 is also arrived on Malta later (AFAIK)e ferry.

Just be aware the source for the figure of 47 loaded is a report on Operation Calendar, dated 22 April 1943, by Commodore C.S. Daniel, Commander Force W.  Daniel was embarked in HMS Renown and his Force W provided the escort for Wasp.  A copy of his report is with the records of USS Wasp.  A copy of which is owned by the person who told me.

 

So which one in the Bowery list I have given the URL for is not on your list?

 

1 hour ago, Graham Boak said:

The distance from Malta to "Egypt" varied considerably depending upon the success of the 8th Army at the time.   One squadron of Hurricanes was flown from Cyrenaica/Libya at the peak of one advance.  This would not have been possible earlier or later.  However presumably Malta stores retained the tanks used on the ferry.

The date is given, 23 June, the destination is given, LG224, Cairo West.  On 24 June Rommel crossed the Egyptian border.

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Sorry, Geoffrey, but I hadn't realised that you gave a link to a list of the ferry missions.  If you mean the Spitfire website I found that this was very much based on the same information as STH, which I had already mined, so I hadn't thought of it as an independent source.  The allocation of aircraft to missions is based on their delivery to Abbotsinch/Renfrew in time for Calendar/Bowery and the gap of any other shipping record, backed up where possible by their noted presence on Malta between these two deliveries and any comment from elsewhere.

 

Looking critically at my list, there are six that are not linked to Abbotsinch but are recorded on Malta before Bowery.  However BR242 is linked to Abbotsinch but not recorded on Malta until considerably later.  So much later, in fact, as to be post-Bowery too, but it must be a suspect.  If I moved her, then that gives 47 delivered to Malta on Calendar, one retained and one diverted.  BR242 was not delivered to Abbotsinch until early April, but then neither were others on Calendar.  I believe that there are comments to the effect that 50 Spitfires were set aside for Calendar.  I find it interesting to note that the majority of the Spitfires delivered on Bowery were delivered to Scotland before the arrival of the Calendar batch on Malta, suggesting that the intention was always to send four squadrons worth rather than the second delivery being somewhat spur-of-the moment because of immediate heavy losses from the first delivery.   The commonly told story of "only two left before you arrived" isn't accurate, although the record to hand do not show how many of the Spitfires still on the island were still serviceable!  Losses certainly were considerable in this period.

 

However, I think we have diverted rather too far from the tale of where the high altitude Spitfires in Egypt, and where they came from.  If you want to continue please send me a PM and I'd be happy to do so.

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We now have an interesting challenge. In Brian Cull's excellent Fighters over the Aegean there are two photos of high-flying Spitfires. One is a familiar photo of BR114.  The other one is an unidentified Mk V that I am sure I have seen elsewhere but cannot find. I am not going to post a copy of the photo so I am stuck with discussing it without being able to illustrate what I am talking about, so bear with me.

 

What I see is a Mk V, apparently a special version as there is no visible cannon.  Compared to what we know about the special Spitfires this one has an apparently standard cowling over the oil tank, a three-blade prop and a radio mast.  All of this suggests to me a very early special and therefore probably BP985 but I certainly welcome input from people familiar with the photo.

 

Modelling this aircraft with its patchy rubbed-down paintwork would be quite something, once you've established a paint scheme.

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Before moving on to events from September 1942 onwards I thought I would have a look at how much of an improvement would need to be made for a Vc to catch the ceiling of a Ju86P2.

 

The tropical Vc according to Shacklady has a ceiling of 36,500 feet.

 

According to weaponsandwarfare.com the ceiling of a Ju80P is 39,300 feet so the Spitfire needs to gain about 3,000 feet.

 

The changes that were made were:

  • higher compression ratio
  • four blade prop
  • wing tip extensions
  • reduced armament and removed armour
  • additional weight reduction - radio, battery, reduced fuel load, etc.
  • removal of Vokes filter

Assigning an additional ceiling to each of this is going to be arbitrary but I'll try.

 

A Spitfire IX has about a 20% increase in power at altitude compared to the Vc and a ceiling of 42,000 feet,  The higher compression ratio should add about 3% power increase and the propellor change must make some difference, so lets say a total of 5% which could add 1,000 feet.

 

The reduced armament and removed armour was measured explicitly by 124 squadron when they started using the Mk VII.  Removing the cannon and armour increased the ceiling of the VII From 42,900 to 44,000 feet, so let's call that another 1,000 feet.

 

So you would only need another 1,000 from the remaining changes, which doesn't seem unreasonable.  

 

We're not going to get near to 50,000 but we should be able to reach the Ju86P.  Both aircraft would of course benefit from the denser air of the tropics.

 

There is one interesting point in the weaponsandwarfare link above,  They claim that some Ps were converted to R1 which is at odds with my earlier comment based on Wikipedia that R1s only existed as prototypes; if they were being used then you might need another 10,000 feet.  I cannot see the Vc doing that.  

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5 hours ago, M20gull said:

Assigning an additional ceiling to each of this is going to be arbitrary but I'll try.

 

A Spitfire IX has about a 20% increase in power at altitude compared to the Vc and a ceiling of 42,000 feet,  The higher compression ratio should add about 3% power increase and the propellor change must make some difference, so lets say a total of 5% which could add 1,000 feet.

 

This may be where some of Greg's videos may help.

This one takes a P-51 as example, but the engineering principles are valid.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_0sIVURe0M&t=0s

 

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A copy of the wartime RAF Middle East booklet arrived today.  The first page is essentially the same as the description of the two Reynolds flights. What struck me is that on 24 August he managed to get to 40,000.  On the second flight, which I believe to be 10 September, he reached 50,000 spending an hour above 45,000. I think that requires more than the modifications identified so far.

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Beware of quoted ceilings.  They tend to be compared with the service ceiling: the maximum that an aircraft could reach until its climb rate fell below a useful value.  In my day, that could be 250ft/min.  This would have been lower in the 1940s.  The absolute ceiling is always somewhat higher, if you are prepared to just sit there.  The aircraft will keep getting lighter, for one thing.  I suspect that the hour above 45000ft was entirely spent trying to reach 50,000ft, and even then remember that altimeters work on pressure measurements and these are calibrated against a "standard atmosphere".  If was a low pressure day at altitude, the the Spitfire would not be as high (geometrically) as its instruments were saying.  This assumes the hand of the propagandist hasn't featured.  Really, this kind of quoted one-off value can only be interpreted as "very high indeed".

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Read a piece by a Danish test pilot. He wrote that the way to fly to the absolute ceiling was to climb until all fuel was used and glide down. But then it was an absolute disgrace to motor in to a landing in any case.

 

Personally, I know a thing or two about climbing to altitude, having been a skydiver, and especially once sitting in a C-172 unable to get to the 10000 feet we wanted. The pilot looked very relieved when we announced that 8900  feet was enough, I believe that the variometer showed between 50 and 100 feet/min and a quick look at the fuel gauges showed that we were down to fumes. Enough was enough, the door was off and we were frozen stiff.

 

Back on topic, such yarns as the JU-86 interceptions always was improved once on the ground and in the bar.

 

Fascinating stuff, though and right on my BR114 track.

 

/Finn

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