Spitfire floatplanes in the Mediterranean

Discussion in 'Fiction' started by Stonewall, Sep 19, 2013.

  1. Stonewall

    Stonewall New Member

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    I remember reading a series of fictional books written about Spitfire floatplanes operating in the Mediterranean in my youth.
    I must have borrowed these from the school library in the 1960's time period.
    I have searched every way that I know on the internet with no results .

    I am hoping that some one here has read the same books and still remembers the titles and author .
    Or knows a better search method for older books.

    Thank you.

    Glenn
     
  2. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Actually, Spitfire floatplanes did operate in the Mediterranean. I don't know the books you refer to, but three were sent to Egypt to operate against transports operating around the Greek Islands. I'll dig out some more info.
     
  3. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    #3 nuuumannn, Sep 19, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
    Aha. This is going back a while for me. Many years ago when I lived in the UK I used to know an old chap who worked in a photo archive and knowing my interest in aviation would often show me pictures of aeroplanes he had come across. I remember he showed me one of a Spitfire on floats surrounded by some guys in tropical dress; i.e. just shorts, no shirts. It was taken somewhere in Egypt, possibly Great Bitter Lake, where the three Spitfire Vs that I mentioned earlier were tested. He was given the photo by an old guy he knew and had said he was one of the guys in the picture and he wanted me to tell him if I had any knowledge of Spitfires on floats. I said I could look it up and found a few references in books for him. I refered him to "Spitfire the History" by Morgan and Shacklady, which gives information about how many aircraft were converted and where they were sent in the Med. One thing the book doesn't mention is what the guy who gave the photo to the old feller I knew had said about the photo.

    He and his colleagues were enlarging an opening aft of the cockpit in the side of the Spitfire large enough to enable a person to be carried aboard. He was not told that they had to fit a person aboard the Spitfire, just that it was to be done. Rumours certainly flew about regarding flights to Yugoslavia with the Spitfire landing on lakes in the country, but nothing concrete was ever told to him whilst he was in the RAF. He never did find out exactly why the hole was cut out, but years later he came across Churchill's memoirs, which mentions a mission to Yugoslavia in support of guerilla activity against the Germans led by Marshal Tito, by a prominent British officer with Foreign Office training. This chap was to visit Yugoslavia clandestinely to establish links with Yugo partisans in an attempt to establish which party would rule the country after the Germans had been extricated and whether they would be friendly to the British or not. How the chap was to get to and from Yugoslavia was not given in Churchill's memoirs.

    When this guy read this he thought that it wasn't entirely implauseable that a man of very small stature could squeeze into the cavity behind the cockpit of a Spitfire for a round trip of nearly 2,000 miles, but it seemed far fetched. The Spitfires that were sent were to engage in combat with German transport aircraft and were to be refuelled by submarine at forward operating areas, which makes the flights to Yugoslavia from Egypt more achieveable with the Spitfire's range. Many years later the chap went to the former Republic of Yugoslavia for a holiday in the lakes area. Whilst there he decided to ask around if anyone remembered the area from the war. He met a few locals, including a village priest who did remember seeing float planes landing on the lakes, but didn't know what it was about, nor did he enquire, not that a Yugoslav priest could tell a Spitfire from another type of floatplane.

    Anyway. I've recounted this story from an article that I have stashed away that was written for a local community magazine in Scotland, where I used to live. Perhaps something will be released to the public that might put all this into perspective, but whether there is a link between this guy's activities during the war and Yugoslav partisans or not, it certainly makes a fascinating story!
     
  4. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Fascinating stuff Grant !
     
  5. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    That really is!
     
  6. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "...Churchill's memoirs, which mentions a mission to Yugoslavia in support of guerrilla activity against the Germans led by Marshal Tito, by a prominent British officer with Foreign Office training...."

    James Fitzroy MacLean? "Eastern Approaches", his book.
     
  7. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    That's the fella. I'll never forget that story. The old guy who worked in the archive sadly passed away a year ago, he was an unassuming and lovely Scotsman who invited me to dinner on occasion and tried, unsuccessfully as it was, to get me to hook up with his daughter! I don't actually know if that was his intent, but to the both of us it felt like it! The discomfort was palpable! The house he lived in in North Berwick had been used as accommodation for WAAFs working at a local Y Service (I think it was Y Service, it might have been a radar station) station at Tantallon Castle. He also showed me a terrific picture of a Heinkel He 111 being dragged tail first on its undercarriage, with its wings missing, through North Berwick's main street. The Heinkel was taken like this all the way to Turnhouse, where it was refurbished and became AW177 with the RAF.
     
  8. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Aha! I knew I'd find it! This is the picture Iain showed me! Its taken just outside his house! That's right, I remember now why he showed me.

    PHONEY WAR 1940 (HU 104736)

    Here's the aircraft that crashed near North Berwick; there's the Bass Rock in the background

    [​IMG]

    And this is the Heinkel after refurbishment as AW177:

    [​IMG]

    Sorry; I'm hijacking this guy's thread.
     
  9. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #9 stona, Sep 19, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
    I can't help with the books you read but I can give a little information on the three aircraft that were sent to Egypt.
    The first converted VB serial W3750 was converted by Folland aircraft at Hamble who fitted the Supermarine designed floats. 21 distinct modifications were required, some of them major changes to structure (like strengthening the lower longeron) and skinning (increased thickness from ribs 1-8 aft of main spar). The main spar was reinforced and the auxiliary spar replaced with a redesigned item to take the floats. This entailed a redesign of the fuselage frame to which it attached. The rear fuselage was substantially altered. It was not a matter of bolting on some floats as some here might have you believe! It was certainly not a straight forward job.
    Initial performance was surprisingly good and encouraged the Air Ministry ordered two more VB conversions, EP951 and EP754.
    All three arrived at No. 52 MU on 27th September 1943 for packing and shipping to the Middle East aboard SS Penrith Castle. The intention was for the aircraft to operate against Ju 52s flying from Greece to Crete. They were to be supplied from RN submarines.
    Training started on the Great Bitter Lake in Egypt and problems were encountered immediately. Engine torque caused the aircraft to bury one float underwater on the take off run, rendering the water rudders useless. During landing the tail section was submerged towards the end of the run. Corrosion was a problem too, W3760 had to have an entire replacement tail section sent out from England.
    The float Spitfires never saw operational service. Not only were there the technical problems but the RN submarine service proved unable to support them. By November they were back in Alexandria. By the summer of 1944 they were back in the UK and struck off charge in December that year.
    These images are in Egypt.

    [​IMG]

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  10. Stonewall

    Stonewall New Member

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    #10 Stonewall, Sep 21, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
    On the Twelve O'clock High forum Orwell1984 found this comic.
    4155_front.jpg


    By:Ferg Handley


    issue
    4155




    The Aegean Sea, lying between Greece and Turkey is a huge expanse of bright blue water peppered with tiny islands. In 1943, the area was so far away from any British air base that Axis pilots there had nothing to worry about.

    Until, that was, a British planner decided to stick a pair of floats on a Spitfire and set up a secret base slap bang in the middle of it. For pilot Johnny Cooper the fun was about to begin


    It is not the same book but this is the concept.

    I will attempt to contact the author and see if he knows the original books.

    I remembered this book again upon recently reading the Spitfire floatplane tests in Egypt .

    "During training on the Egyptian lake, the pilots found that the floats leaked more than hoped and the aircraft had to be hauled out of the water to allow the floats to drain."
    http://aviationtrivia.blogspot.ca/20...-reginald.html



    Glenn
     
  11. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The Supermarine floats were a lot better than the earlier ones tried, initially from a Blackburn Roc. These were also tried on Hurricanes.

    Alfred Price suggests that one of the reasons these aircraft never went operational in the Mediterranean is that the Germans at this time had re-entered the Dodecanese in force and ejected the British from Leros and Kos, thus denying them a concealed base of operations.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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