Lot 277 - 1941 Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IIa
|Chassis Number||CBAF 534|
|Estimate||£120,000 - £150,000|
The Spitfire is the most famous British fighter aircraft in history. It became a symbol of freedom during the summer months of 1940 by helping to defeat the German air attacks during the Battle of Britain. It was the highest performing Allied aircraft in 1940. The immortal R.J. Mitchell-designed Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire fighter evolved from the world air speed record-setting, Schneider Trophy race-winning, Supermarine seaplanes of the 1920s and early 1930s. The crowds at the 1936 RAF Display at Hendon had a first glimpse of the prototype Spitfire but it was not until August 1938 that production Spitfires began to enter service. By the outbreak of war, a year later, nine squadrons were equipped. In spite of vigorous demands from France, the Commander in Chief of Fighter Command refused to send any Spitfires to France during the German Blitzkrieg of 1940. The wisdom of that decision was clearly shown. By July 1940 RAF Fighter Command had nineteen Spitfire squadrons available. Once the RAF modified their tactics to properly counter the Luftwaffe, the Spitfire proved to be the only British fighter capable of meeting the Messerschmitt Bf109E on equal terms. Often the outcome of a combat depended more on the quality of the pilot than his aircraft. The 1940 Battle of Britain Spitfire Mk.II was powered by a 1,240hp Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk.XII engine, providing a top speed of some 354mph at 17,550ft plus the ability to climb at a rate of 3,025ft per minute. The Spitfire has since become woven into the fabric of world history as an icon of its age.
This particular Mk.IIa Spitfire was donated in January 1941 by the Borough of Lambeth Spitfire Fund. The name Borough of Lambeth was given after the group who had raised funds in 'The Walks Own Spitfire Fund'. There was talk that it would be called the Lambeth Walk after the popular song of the same name but authority won with the more austere name 'Borough of Lambeth'. This aircraft was manufactured at the Castle Bromwich Aeroplane Factory (number 523) in February 1941 and dispatched for service, being taken on charge with 39 Maintenance Unit, Colerne on 1st March 1941 with serial number P8088. From Colerne, P8088 was delivered for active service on 21st March 1941 to 66 Squadron, Exeter. On the 9th April, 1941, P8088 was then stationed at 118 Squadron, Ibsley, Hampshire where it was given the call sign NK-K. While stationed at Ibsley it was flown by the well known wartime pilot and civilian author Alec Lumsden. It was Lumsden who attributed the nose art depicting Captain A.R.P Reilly-Ffoull (Really Foul), a character from the wartime cartoon strip 'Just Jake' and featuring 'Jane', a young lady who was forever losing items of her clothing. 'Just Jake' ran for 14 years in the Daily Mirror newspaper from 1938 and was drawn by Bernard Graddon. It is also mentioned that on the 18th April, Lumsden added the name of his girlfriend, Bette, to the door of P8088. No red tape or time wasted back in those days! In Alec Lumsden's Pilots Log Book, records indicate the exact dates when the nose art and the name Bette were added to the Spitfire. On 16th April 1941, The 'Borough of Lambeth' was painted and on the 17th April, he received a telegram from Bette saying ""Good luck to Bette the Spitfire"".
After its four month service with Ibsley, NK-K passed to another airfield, Middle Wallop, Stockbridge, Hampshire on 6th July 1941 and then onto 152 (Hyderabad) Squadron at Portreath, Cornwall three days later. On the 27th August that same year, P8088 moved to 19 Squadron at Perranporth, Cornwall as part of an emergency detachment of Spitfires from Squadron 19 from Matlask, Norfolk. But later, on the 31st August, the engine failed on a night landing at Matlask, North Norfolk. It overshot, ran through a barbed wire fence and tipped onto its nose without injury to Pilot Officer N.D.O. Devereux.
P8088 was taken to Exeter for repairs on the 7th September 1941 and was ready for collection by the 16th May, 1942. She was then flown to 33 Maintenance Unit, Lyneham on 3rd June 1942. On the 21st September that year, P8088 was issued to 61 Operational Training Unit, Rednal and on 19th May 1943 she sadly suffered Category B damage (Beyond repair on site, i.e. repairable at a Maintenance Unit or at a contractor's works) when Pilot Officer J.H. Gielstrup (Danish) stalled when landing after the engine failed, collapsing the undercarriage on impact. By the 17th July, P8088 was repaired and went into storage at 6 Maintenance Unit, Brize Norton on 19th July. On the 1st August she was then passed to Central Gunnery School, Catfoss. 22nd February 1944 saw NK-K taken to Heston Aircraft Co., Heston Aerodrome, Middlesex (just east of Heathrow Airport, the M4 now cuts through the middle of what was the aerodrome with the motorway services near junction 3 being built on the land) for repairs and was ready for collection on the 26th May, 1944 and delivered to 9 Maintenance Unit on the 14th June. The 1st July, saw P8088 allotted again to 61 Operational Training Unit and on 16th September, 1944, NK-K crashed into the ground at Lower Heath Coppice, Prees, Shropshire, killing Flight Sergeant John Cashel Barry RAAF, 22 years old from Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia. He was buried in Chester Regional Cemetery.
In 1944/45, P8088 was recovered by Cosford recovery team and stored for spares and scrappage. In 1978, further parts were recovered from the crash site by the Wartime Aircraft Recovery Group, Heritage Aircraft group. The remains were then passed on to Ibsley museum, Ringwood, Hampshire and displayed. The museum was closed down in the mid 1980's and the Spitfire display and boxed remains subsequently passed to a collector and ex-Cosford recovery team member, Mr Harrington, who then put it into storage. Over recent years NK-K has attended a number of events allowing a large number of people to enjoy it, sit in it, as well as generate some revenue for some worthy charitable organisations. The original aircraft has been modelled by Airfix and Revel in a 1/48th plastic kit as well as a 1/18th version made by 21st Century Models; although this is now apparently quite a collectors' piece having gone out of production many years ago. Microsoft Combat simulator also has a version of NK-K which has been beautifully recreated for computer gaming.
The vendor has supplied a CD Rom which contains all the photographs of the aircraft, copies of technical drawings and a carefully noted inventory of every component in the project to help with identification as well as a copy of the original telegram from Bette to Captain Lumbsden and extracts from his pilots log book showing the dates of when the nose art was added and entries such as;
- May 17th 'Dogfight' 20,000ft
- May 18th Submarines spotted
- May 19th, Minor prang, Removed wing tip, to Cowley (repair Unit).
- May 25th Red1 Dogfight!
- May 26th Chased Black JU88, lost in cloud.
One can only imagine the frenetic workload these pilots had to live through compared to our average 21st century day at the office. The 2004 Museum display board reads;
This aircraft of 61 OTU Rednal, Shropshire crashed at Lower Heath, Prees on 16th Sept 1944.Before joining 61 OTU it saw operational service with 66, 118, 152 and 19 squadrons.
P8088, 'Bette', is supplied with a Civil Aviation Authority Certificate of Registration number G-CGRM/R1 which means that hopefully, one day, NK-K will be restored to a flying condition and the roar of a Merlin and its perfect flowing lines will once again grace the sky's over 'England's green and pleasant land'.
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