High Altitude Desert Spitfires

Discussion in 'Aircraft Pictures' started by BorderWarrior, Jul 4, 2010.

  1. BorderWarrior

    BorderWarrior Member

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    My Grandfather was a Cpl Aircraft Fitter in the desert during most of the war, amongst his many postings he was assigned to the maintenance of two secret Mk IX Spitfires that were modified to take out the German high altitude reconnaissance aircraft that flew over daily, and were out of reach of our aircraft at the time.

    These Spitfires were stripped down to the bare minimum to save weight and the engines were tuned and operated from forward airfields and at the time were highly secret. The cockpits were pressurised to get to the same altitude as the German aircraft and no doubt shocked them as they were taken out, they sent over another three aircraft that were also shot down and the flights stopped for a while then they reappeared flying at an even greater altitude, which required further modifications to the Spitfires.

    The next time the Spitfires engaged the enemy the guns jammed, this led to the discovery that the rounds were oversized and had blocked the breech the first time they were fired.

    It also revealed that there was a saboteur in the USA where the ammo was produced who was deliberately making them to the wrong size and was subsequently arrested, their fate is unknown to me, maybe someone over the pond knows more?

    My Grandfather recalled that it made there job a nightmare making up the ammo belts as each individual round had to be measured to ensure they were correct!

    Eventually the reconnaissance flights stopped after they kept getting shot down, I dont know about the number of one of the Spits but the one in the photo is JK980 and I found the following info on her from the production pages:

    JK980 IX CBAF M63 :15MU 28-3-43, 47MU 8-4-43, Empire Barrie(Cargo Ship) 2-5-43, Casablanca 17-5-43, Middle East 1-7-43, Armee de l'Air 25-7-46

    So from this it can be seen that she survived the war and was transferred to the French, where it is possible she was one of the Spitfires sent to Vietnam to deal with the insurgents at the time?

    Maybe someone has more info on these aircraft?

    Hope the photos are of use.Grandad is on the right hand side, second in next to armourer and on the right in the frontal shot.

    Steve
     

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  2. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting BW!!!:thumbright: You have something there to be very proud of.:cool: Oh, and welcome to the forum sir.:)
     
  3. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to the forum. Re the US ammunition it wasn't a traitor it was just rubbish ammo. Malta destroyed there despite the shortages of all types of ammunition.
     
  4. BorderWarrior

    BorderWarrior Member

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    Thanks Aaron! Yes I have quite a collection of his photos from the war, he joined up in 1938 and after training signed on at his first Station, arriving on the afternoon of September 3rd 1939 to be told by the Station Warrant Officer " Congratulations Mitchell, you're now at war!" One of many stories he had to tell me, and I followed in his and my other Grandfathers footsteps and joined the RAF in 1989, and served for 12 years.

    Sadly he passed away last month after a long and happy life and his entire working life was spent working on military aircraft, post war on Royal Navy aircraft as a civilian.

    Will put other pics on here as I upload them.

    Cheers, Steve
     

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  5. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Welcome to the fun farm Steve. Some great pics of rare aircraft there. Not sure about JK980 being presurised (in that photo anyway), as the canopy retains the runners. On the field mods, the canopy was fitted and locked externally, to seal the unit, and the entrance flap sealed. I've been known to be wrong though!
    Look forward to seeing more pics if you can post them.
     
  6. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Glider, I'd heard some stuff in a similar vein over here, especially with Brewster Aircraft. In that case, it was more an act of incompetence that had links to Labor Unions that were connected with the Commitern.

    But I wouldn't write off the possibility of sabotage but incompetence is definitely a probability as well.
     
  7. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Great pics and story! And welcome to the foum.

    If its possible, a good size for pics is about 800 px wide - otherwise they intrude on the next thread! :)
     
  8. Snautzer01

    Snautzer01 Well-Known Member

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    could it be these?
     

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  9. BorderWarrior

    BorderWarrior Member

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    Similar scenario, the ones my Grandad worked on were to deal with the flights which came over from Italy and crossed the coast over Benghazi and Alexandria. All good info though thanks.
     
  10. Mike Williams

    Mike Williams Active Member

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    Hi Steve:

    Those are wonderful photos and the information interesting. Thanks for sharing!
     
  11. antoni

    antoni Banned

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    JK980 - 1944/45 loaned to GR.II/33 'Savoie'. Sold to FAF 25-7-46. Esc. 4.serv 21-3-47 - 6.49. Coded 4.S-10. Used for training and communication. Repair and salvage unit 11.4.50. SOC 2.9.50, confirmed 20.11.50.
     
  12. BorderWarrior

    BorderWarrior Member

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    Thanks Mike will be putting up further photos as I scan them:D

    Antoni, Excellent many thanks, good information there.
     
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