Barwell Spitfire

The Barwell served with RAF 74 Squadron during World War 2, paid for by generous donations made by the people of Barwell.

barwell spitfire
The Barwell Spitfire

The Barwell Spitfire MkVb W3173 Code 'PR-S' was built at Eastleigh in Hampshire by Vickers Armstrong (Supermarine) Ltd. and fitted with the Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 series engine. The weapons consisted of two Hispano cannons and four Browning .303 machine guns which were fitted in the wings.

3rd May 1941 The first time the Barwell Spitfire flew.

4th May 1941 The Spitfire was flown to No. 9 Maintenance Unit at RAF Cosford in Shropshire for storage.

31st May 1941 The Barwell Spitfire would be begin its life at 609 Squadron at RAF Biggin Hill in the London Borough of Bromley, 12 miles south-west of Central London. The Commanding Officer was Squadron-Leader Michael Robinson who led his squadron in conjunction with 92 Squadron and 74 Squadron. The Burbage Spitfire was also attached to 74 Squadron at this time, both of the Spitfires may have flown on the some of the same operations together.

Pilot-Officer Seghers (Croix de Guerre) a Belgian was a regular pilot of the Barwell Spitfire while it was stationed at 609 Squadron.

The mascot of 609 Squadron was Wing Commander William B. Goat, it was said that 'no pilot would dare to chance his luck by failing to salute the 'Wing Co' each morning'.

11th July 1941 1:50pm Seghers took off from RAF Biggin Hill on a bomber escort, during this operation he would take the Barwell spitfire to its first victory when he attacked and shot down a German Lufftwaffte Messerschmitt BF109 fighter over Le Touquet in France.

28th July 1941 The 609 Squadron moved to RAF Gravesend in Kent.

24th September 1941 The 609 Squadron moved back to RAF Biggin Hill.

While stationed at RAF Biggin Hill the Barwell Spitfire would be continuously involved in attack sweeps and patrols.

31st October 1941 The 609 Squadron was withdrawn from the front line and moved to RAF Duxford in Cambridgeshire. The aircraft maintenance log shows an entry for this date at the Air Fighting Development Unit.

April 1942 Towards the end of the month the Barwell Spitfire would fly its last operation with 609 Squadron due to the Squadron replacing the Spitfires with Hawker Typhoons which were Fighter-bombers.

May 1942 The Barwell Spitfire was used for development and substitution work. This new role involved trying out various inventions, such as reflector sights for night-fighters, new propeller blades and cameras. Pilot practice would become another role for the well-used aircraft.

20th March 1943 The aircraft maintenance log shows the Spitfire went to De Havilland which was at Hatfield in Hertfordshire. There may have been some maintenance, it was known that the Spitfire MkVb had their propellers upgraded from the three blade to the four blade propeller.

The Rotol propellers would give a reasonable speed increase at an altitude of 20,000 feet, along with an increase in the altitude the aircraft could fly at.

Other modifications consisted of the gun heater intensifier systems on the exhaust stacks, which would direct additional heated air to the gun bays.

28th July 1943 The Barwell Spitfire had further upgrades and modifications. the Vb series were the first Spitfires given the capability of carrying a drop tank to increase the amount of fuel the aircraft could carry. Small hooks were fitted to the underneath the wing centre-section, just forward of the inboard flaps, the drop tank would be fitted to the hooks, and once the fuel in the drop tank was used up the tank would be able to be released clear of the fuselage.

28th November 1943 The Spitfire was flown to No. 3501 Servicing Unit at RAF Cranfield in Bedfordshire, for a major service.

4th February 1944 The Barwell Spitfire was sent to 129 Squadron at RAF Peterhead in Scotland, which was commanded by Squadron-Leader C.Hain. The Spitfire would take a role in providing training for pilots that would undertake anti-shipping and escort missions in the North American P-51 Mustang fighter.

5th September 1944 The Barwell Spitfire ended up at No.53 Operational Training Unit RAF B Flight at RAF Llandow in Wales.

27th September 1944 A French Pilot took off in the Spitfire on training, the engine failed at 300 feet between Kirton-in-Lindsey and Hibaldstow in Lincolnshire and landed short of the runway. The Pilot aborted the landing in a field as labourers were working there, he was commended for his efforts. The Spitfire bounced and overturned, the Pilot survived, but was seriously injured with a fractured spine. This would be the day that the Barwell Spitfire would have its last entry recorded in the log.

Like the Hinckley Spitfire, it had a long and useful life and had one kill of the Messerschmitt BF109 to its credit.


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