Spit or ME ?? Rumors revealed and busted !

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1st Lieutenant
Feb 6, 2005
The Spitfire achieved fame in the Battle of Britain. It was seen as the aircraft that had saved Great Britain from Invasion. In fact it was the Hurricane that bore the brunt of the Battle of Britain, equipping 32 Squadrons to the Spitfire`s 19.

However it was the Spitfire that gained the respect of the Luftwaffe, a force accustomed to having it`s own way.

The Spitfire and Hurricane were, in truth, a great team. The Spitfire had the performance and speed to take on the German fighters, and it's widely spaced "blunderbuss" machine-guns were ideal for fighter-v-fighter dogfights. The rugged, reliable Hurricane was available in numbers that ensured the R.A.F. did not lose a battle of attrition. It's closely grouped machine-guns were good for bringing down German bombers.

What of the Spitfire`s opponent the Messerschmitt 109? Which was the better aeroplane? It is now agreed that the average 109 was some 10 mph faster than the average Spitfire in 1940. Also in theory the 109 was more manoeuvrable, having a tighter turning circle. It also had the advantage of a direct fuel-injection system for it's engine, which meant it could do negative G manoeuvres that a Spitfire would have difficulty following. (See the section on the Merlin engine) The 109 was also equipped with cannon armament. Most armchair aviators would conclude that the Messerschmitt was the better design. However the Spitfire is remembered as the Victor, and rightly so......

SPITFIRE= 345 MPH. Bf 109 = 354 MPH.

You will no doubt see maximum speeds for the Spitfire quoted as being around 365 mph, this is without much of the equipment on board a Spitfire would have carried into battle in 1940. Foremost amongst the extra weight was a sheet of armoured metal behind the pilot. Ask most Spitfire pilots what they would prefer, the armour or a few extra mph and most would plump for the armour. With armour fitted it was rare for the pilot of a Spitfire to be killed outright by the machine-guns or low-velocity cannons of a 109. With his Spitfire shot to bits around him the Spitfire pilot could bale out or crash-land to fight another day. His biggest danger was his fuel tank catching fire or exploding. There was no problem with losing a Spitfire, fighter production had been pushed to new heights by Lord Beaverbrook, Churchill`s Minister for Aircraft Production. A Spitfire pilot would find a new aircraft waiting for him back at his airfield. It was pilots the British were short of in 1940, not aircraft.

A Spitfire pilot will tell you the Spit could turn inside the 109. A Messerschmitt pilot will tell you the 109 could turn inside the Spitfire! The truth is that both designs were capable of turning circles that would cause the pilot to "black-out" as the blood drained from the head. The pilot who could force himself to the limits without losing consciousness would emerge the victor from a turning battle, and the Spitfire pilots had supreme faith in their machine. The British aeronautical press told them that the wings came off the 109 in a dive or in tight turns, untrue but based on some early wing failures in the 109`s predecessor the Bf108.

However the 109 had a distinct advantage in manoeuvrability and turning circle at low speeds. The design of the 109, with it's leading edge slats gave a lower stalling speed. The 109 was very forgiving if stalled, with no tendency for a stall to develop into an uncontrollable spin, something that the Spitfire was prone to. Thus a Messerschmitt pilot was more at home at low speeds than his British counterpart.

Both the Spitfire and Messerschmitt became harder to control at high speeds, with greater and greater strength needed on the control column as the speed increased. However the problem was much worse in the Messerschmitt and in the high speed fights that developed in the Battle of Britain the Spitfire had the advantage. It was found that the fabric covered ailerons of the Spitfire caused the increase in force needed on the control column due to the bulging of the fabric at high speed. When metal covered ailerons were fitted the handling of the Spitfire at high speed improved greatly. Unfortunately this discovery did not take place in time to help British pilots in the summer of 1940.

The Spitfire had eight Browning machine-guns spread out along the wing. These each had 300 rounds of normal bullets, tracer, incendiary or armour- piercing (the last type only effective against the thinnest of armour). The guns were configured so that the bullets converged on a single point some distance in front of the aircraft. At first this distance was over 400 yards, however pilots soon found that the best results were obtained if they made it 250 or 200 yards instead. The use of eight machine-guns meant that even the novice fighter-pilots thrown into the battle by the British had a chance of hitting something if they could get into firing position. On the other hand the 109`s armament favoured the marksman. The 109 had two machine guns of similar performance to the British Brownings, but mounted in the nose and synchronised to fire through the propeller. These had magazines of 1,000 rounds each, which meant the German could keep his finger on the trigger over three times longer than his British counterpart, but at the end of that time he would have still expended 400 less rounds than the Spitfire pilot. The Messerschmitt was also equipped with two 20mm cannon, but they had a low velocity, poor rate of fire and only 60 rounds per gun. Against British bombers they were devastating, but the manoeuvrable and swift Spitfires and Hurricanes were a difficult target.

The Spitfire pilot had a much better view out of his cockpit than his German opponent. The bulged canopy had not been fitted to improve vision, it was to stop pilots bumping their head when taxiing over rough ground! The Messerschmitt canopy, on the other hand, was box-like, with lots of framework to impede view. It did have a couple of good points, it had a very good "clear view" panel that was not obscured by rain or oil thrown back from the engine, and it was made of a better quality of perspex than the Spitfire`s, which was prone to scratches. The Spitfire canopy could be slid back for a better view while taxiing and during take-off. This was impossible in the 109 due to the canopy hinging to the side.

The two machines had similar outward retracting undercarriages of narrow track. The 109`s was always a source of problems and as much as 5% of 109`s were damaged due to take-off or landing problems with the undercarriage.

The two aircraft were evenly matched. Victory went to the best pilot, or the one who had the height advantage or just saw his opponent first. In this respect the Spitfire pilot had the advantage of being part of a much wider weapons system. The Spitfire was linked by radio to control centres that could monitor the battle with Radar. This control could place the Spitfire squadrons where they were needed most. The British strategy and disposition could be changed at a moments notice, while the German plans were effectively unable to be changed when their aircraft left the ground.

The Spitfire was kept for home defence until the danger of Invasion had largely passed. From 1941 onwards they were released for service elsewhere. Over a thousand were given to the Americans and many went to Russia. In the far east they served against the Japanese where they found a worthy adversary in the A6M "Zero" long-range fighter that, like most Japanese fighters, excelled in manoeuvrability. To fight it Spitfire pilots had to adopt a "slash and run" policy and use their superior speed and diving superiority to fight, and avoid classic dogfights.

One of the epic chapters in Spitfire history was in the defence of Malta. Flown off aircraft carriers or flown from Gibraltar with enormous "slipper" fuel tanks underneath, the Spitfire helped to fend off the attacks on the brave island by the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica. In the Western Desert Spitfires arrived quite late, but found themselves doing good work as the Allies took all of the southern shore of the Mediterranean and then attacked Sicily and Italy. The Spitfires began to carry bombs to harass the enemy ground forces. Up to three bombs could be carried, up to a total of 1,000 lbs.

It was here that the Spitfire met the Macchi c202 Folgore. Its designer had built the Italian seaplanes that had raced against Mitchell`s S5 and S6 in the Schneider trophy. The Macchi had the rakish lines of a thoroughbred, but there had been no Italian equivalent of Sqdn Ldr Sorley to insist on a heavy armament, so it went to war with only two machine-guns and failed to stem the tide of Allied victory.

The Spitfire was, and is, to many pilots the ultimate fighter and flying- machine. All who flew her loved her, and it will be a sad day indeed if there ever comes a time when there is no example of R.J. Mitchell`s immortal fighter able to take to the air and be at home amongst the clouds.
The Jug Rules! said:
Hmmm... from what I have heard of the 109, she is very twitchy, and prone to get into some messy spins.

Well what you have heard is false ! (If were talking 1940 mod. 109's and beyond)
I don't quite get the title of the thread though. And it was 11 Squadrons of Spitfire, from all the sources I've read.
I am not knocking the Beau...The joke was more about the Defiant.
I know it was great plane...It does tend to get overlooked though.
plan_D said:
I don't quite get the title of the thread though. And it was 11 Squadrons of Spitfire, from all the sources I've read.

Haha !! :D 11 Spitfire squadrons ?! You must be kidding me ?

Every book in the world will tell you there were 19 squadrons if they are correct :!: I bet that google will even tell you that !

So wich book ever said that there were 11 spitfire squadrons in 1940 ? :happy1:
I dont know how accurate this is, but according to www.battle-of-britain.com the squadrons in the BoB are as follows

35 Hurricane
17 Spitfire
9 Blenheim
4 Beaufighter
2 Defiant
1 Gladiator
1 Sea Gladiator
1 Martlett
1 Fulmar

Sound wrong to me though...But I could have just counted wrong.
And where exactly are your sources? You never have provided any, on any subject.
plan_D said:
And where exactly are your sources? You never have provided any, on any subject.

Oh no ? Well i think you've got a very short memory then ;)
I think you're a moron. Now provide them, or shut up...again.
Another source for BoB squadrons and a/c, http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/Alley/5443/fcob8.htm

It also gives the bases and the commanders
to summerize:

as of Aug 1940

sector name - squadron

Biggin Hill - 610
Kenley- 64
Hornchurch - 54, 65, 74, 266
Middle Wallop - 609, 152
St. Eval - 234
Pembrey - 92
Duxford - 19
Coltishall - 66
Kirton-in-Lindsey - 222
Digby - 611
Church Fenton - 616
Catterick - 41
Usworth - 72
Turnhouse - 602
Dyce - 603
plan_D said:
I think you're a moron. Now provide them, or shut up...again.

15, deffidently 15 :!:

You could have instead said that you politely disagree ! ;)
According to you every history book states 19, yet two other people have said otherwise not including me.
I'll go with 15, as it says each squadron. You're a moron, Soren...it's so beautiful that it rolls off the tongue.
15 ? where did 15 come from ? You said 11 squadrons ! ;)

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