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A rather well known Spitfire LF Mk. Vb, W3834 YO-Q of No. 401 (Canadian) Squadron, summer 1943, probably photographed in Redhill.
In January 1943, No. 401 Squadron withdrew from first line operations with No. 11 Group, exchanging its Spitfire Mk. IX for the old and tried Mk. Vs. These aircraft were retained when the unit resumed operational flying from Redhill in July and Staplehurst in August. During this period, YO-Q was flown F/Lt Thomas Karl “Ibby” Ibbotson. Sadly, it was to be Ibbotson’s last aircraft – on 21 July he died in the motorcycle accident. The new pilot of YO-Q was F/Lt Oscar Mahaffy Linton.
W3834 had a long and successful career, and at the time when the photo was taken was rather worn out. Produced by Supermarine in Eastleigh in September 1941, it was one of the fourteen Spitfires presented to the RAF by the Canadian Holt family through the “Who’s for Britain Fund”. Like many other privately-funded Spitfires, by the time it received an inscription “Holt XII” on its fuselage. The aircraft first entered service with No.266 Squadron at Martllesham Heath, then with No.154 Squadron at Fowlmere.
Damaged in an accident on 12 April 1942, it was sent to Air Service Training Ltd at Eastleigh. There, along with many other second-hand Mk. V airframes, it received a low-altitude Merlin 45M engine and clipped wing tips, becoming LF Mk. Vb. Because of this provenance the low-altitude Spitfires gained a rather unfavourable nickname “clipped, cropped and clapped” among the units using them.
Following the conversion, in August 1942, W3834 was allotted briefly to 5th Squadron of the 52nd Fighter Group, USAAF at Eglinton, Northern Ireland for convoy patrol duties.
No.421 Squadron RCAF in Fowlmere became the next owner of the aircraft in March 1943, followed by two other RCAF units: No.416 Squadron in May and No. 401 in July. It was during this period that the aircraft received a large emblem on the port side of the fuselage, with the coat of arms for the Corps of Imperial Frontiersmen.
Despite its age, W3834 was regularly employed in day to day operational work of the squadron including large number of escorts to bombers.
There are many interesting details in this photo, such as a non-standard camouflage pattern of the aircraft’s forward fuselage, or the shark-mouthed Tiger Moth parked in the background.
W3834 survived the war and was struck off charge on 17 September 1945.
[Library and Archives Canada]