The Markings Don’t Always Tell the Whole Story – BM635

Spitfire Site

Click to enlarge images Spitfire Mk. VB in the markings of 309th Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force USAF, photographed at Membury ...

Click to enlarge images

Spitfire Mk. VB in the markings of 309th Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force USAF, photographed at Membury Airdrome (High Ercall), England on 15 March 1943.

Another Spitfire of the 309th squadron, WZ-R, has been previously presented here, together with a short history of that unit.

Although the serial number is partially obscured by the tail band it is known that this machine was, in fact, BM635. Manufactured in Castle Bromwich, it was delivered (new) to the 309th in June 1942. In September of that year, the 78th FG prepared to go to Africa in preparation for the Operation Torch, leaving their aircraft to 67th OG at Membury. Provided that the date of the both photographs stated in the archival record is accurate – which is also indicated by the backdrop of the photographs indicating early Spring – it would mean that the 309th markings have been retained in service with the 67th.

Of note is the highly weathered and faded state of the aircraft’s paint cover, with the US stars placed on top of the hastily overpainted RAF roundels.

The later operational career of this aircraft has been somewhat difficult to establish. Various sources mention that it served with Nos. 65, 315 (Polish) Squadrons and later also No. 345 Free French squadron until it was scrapped in early 1945.

[US National Archives]

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By FedUp N TN  |  2010-03-09 at 17:02  |  permalink

The 309th FS was indeed part of the 31st FG. Part of the reason for confusion between the 31st and 78th Fighetr Groups is that the same set of squadron codes (MX, HL, and WZ) were used by both groups. The 31st used them while assigned to the 8th AF in the UK, and continued to use them in the 12th AF in North Africa and on to Italy. Meanwhile, the same codes were assigned to the 78th FG when it became active in the 8th AF in Mustangs.


J P Vincent, 309th TFS, 1970

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