by Robert Taylor
When the Luftwaffe unleashed the Fw 190, the unsuspecting Spitfire pilots of RAF Fighter Command were at serious disadvantage – but it wasn’t for long!
Under clear skies, a light breeze from the south-west blew across the grass airstrip. It was Thursday 5 March 1936 and K5054 – the prototype of R. J. Mitchell’s beautiful Spitfire fighter – was about to make its maiden flight.
Vickers Chief Test Pilot ‘Mutt’ Summers climbed into the cockpit and fired up the new 12-cylinder, liquid-cooled Rolls-Royce Merlin engine which roared into life with an unmistakable and soon-to-be-familiar sound. It was just after 4.30pm when Summers fully opened the throttle and K5054 surged forward and took to the air, the shape of its thin aero-dynamic elliptical wings soon apparent to all on the ground below. One of the most perfect fighting machines of all time had been born, and not a moment too soon because the dark clouds of war were gathering over Europe and the Spitfire would be on the front line during the nation’s darkest hour – the Battle of Britain.
So perfect was Mitchell’s design that no fewer than 40 Spitfire variants were developed, more than any other British fighter in history and the only one to remain in production before, during and after the war. But there were obstacles along the way, none more so than in late 1941.
‘The Fw190 certainly gave the British a shock’ wrote Douglas Bader, and RAF Fighter Command was soon forced to scale back their sweeps over France whilst the engineers from Supermarine and Rolls-Royce raced to catch up. It took months, but by June 1942 the first of a new variant began arriving which, everyone hoped, was the answer to the Fw190 – the Mk.IX Spitfire.
One of the first units to re-equip was 64 Squadron, chosen by the world’s foremost aviation artist Robert Taylor for his classic masterwork, depicting the day when the Mk.IXs hit back. It was 30 July 1942 over Boulogne when 64 Squadron, acting as top cover, spotted a group of a dozen Fw190s about 2,000ft below them. Bouncing the enemy from above, Don Kingaby, one of the RAF’s most iconic fighter Aces and the only airman to be awarded three DFMs, advanced further into the record books by downing one of the Fw190s. It was the first victory for the new Mk.IX Spitfire which would also become the first Allied aircraft to shoot down an Me262 jet.
Overall print size: 29” wide x 23 ¼” high Image size: 22 ½ wide x 15 ¾” high
Released on the 100th Anniversary of the RAF as a tribute to all those who flew the Spitfire, RAF Pilots who flew this magnificent aircraft in combat during WWII have signed each print, giving great meaning to this historic release.
THE ANNIVERSARY EDITION
Each print in every edition is individually numbered and personally signed by the artist, together with two prominent pilots who flew Spitfires in Europe during WWII:
Sqn Ldr ALLAN SCOTT DFM – 124 Sqn / 6 victories
Flt Lt KURT TAUSSIG – 225 Sqn