Enigma Bare-metal Spitfire

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Click on the image to enlarge This photo was taken at a post-war air display in Toronto, Canada in August 1946. The bare-metal Spitfire ...

Click on the image to enlarge

This photo was taken at a post-war air display in Toronto, Canada in August 1946.

The bare-metal Spitfire Mk. Ia R7143 was one of just a few Spitfires to serve in Canada during the war. It had the oblique camera port indicating the photo-reconaissance role, but due to the many conversions during its life it was something of a hybrid rather than “pure” Spitfire mark. Here’s its story.

R7143 was built in February 1941 as eight-gun Spitfire Mk. I with Merlin III engine. Serving with No. 1416 Flight at Benson, it was converted to Mk. PR Mk. IV in April, 1941, receiving a Merlin 45 engine and gunless PR wing. Five months later, it was sent to Rolls-Royce where it was converted again to the “pure” fighter Mk. Va. Returning to Benson, it served with No. 140 Squadron.

In this new role the aircraft lasted until about the end of the year 1941. In early 1942, it was again converted to a Mk. PR VII type G. This designation denotes the low-level, short-range armed reconaissance conversion initially known as the PR Type G, then redesignated to PR Mk. IG, and finally to PR Mk. VII type G.

Still in Benson, the aircraft suffered the Category B flying accident. P/O F.J. Blackwood while on formation practice flight landed at Benson in bad visibly, resulting in the misjudgment of the field and runway. He tried to skid R7143 around to prevent striking boundary hedge resulting in undercarriage collapsing.

After the repair, the aircraft went to No. 47 Maintenance Unit at Sealand where all guns were removed.

The aircraft was one of the three Spitfires delivered to Canada on February 10, 1943. There it was assigned to No. 13 Squadron based at Rockcliffe, Ontario.

In September 1944, another landing accident lead to a prolongued repair which lasted until June 1945. At the time of the photo the aircraft, serviceable again, was assigned to No. 9 Transport Group.

Transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy in September, 1947, it soldiered on with Air Search Rescue duties. Finally, it became the instructional airframe at RCN Air Electrical School at HMCS Stadacona. It was reduced to scrap in 1949-50 by the school staff. [Pat Murphy coll.]

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