Presentation Spitfire LF Mk. IX “EL QUEQUEISQE”. Photograph most probably taken at the point of delivery from CBAF.
[Rafael Ruiz coll.]
Click to enlarge image
Recently I came in possession of a black and white picture of a Spitfire called EL QUEQUEISQE. I was immediately puzzled by the coincidence of this name with a Salvadorian football team (El Quequeisque was a professional football club in Nueva San Salvador – Ed.). It inspired me to perform further research, and I eventually found pieces of an interesting story behind the picture.
The airplane serial number is ML?17 and it was donated to the RAF by a Salvadorian gentleman of British ascendancy. This is the true story as far a I have been able to collect it from local sources.
Walter A. Soundy was a multimillionaire born in El Salvador in 1896 as the son of Arthur Treacy Soundy of London, England, and Mary Deinenger from Germany. Through education, he became proficient in various aspects of running the family’s business which was built mainly on coffee farming, but also became thoroughly interested in archaeology and nature. But he also became known as a generous person and humanitarian, undoubtedly motivated in his deeds by the poverty of the local campesinos.
One of the many assets of the Soundy family was the sizeable San Antonio El Quequeisque coffee plantation, located north of Santa Tecla, on the San Salvador volcano. Walter became famous through donating it to its farmer workers. Eventually, El Quequeisque became a work of his life, and he was actively involved in improving the living and social conditions of the farmers.
One of the visible results of Soundy’s involvement was creation of a football team under the name El Quequeisque, comprising of campesinos from the plantation. It proved to be more than just an ordinary local football initiative. After competing several years in the national football cup, El Quequeisque became the only team to this day to win the cup for 5 consecutive years – 1941 through 1945. Thus, during the war, El Quequeisque became more or less a household name throughout the Salvadorian country.
At the same time, war raged in a distant Europe. In 1943, Soundy financed the donation to the RAF Spitfire Fund on behalf of the local British Club. With Soundy’s financial contribution, the British club and shared interest in football, the choice of name for the presented aircraft was probably easy.
Walter Soundy was not himself interested in aviation, but it is my perception that the attached picture shows him seating in the cockpit (note the “civilian” sunglasses – Ed.), probably during the official moment of the plane’s delivery to the RAF. It is known that Soundy went to the UK at the time and enlisted with the British Army. He became a prisoner of war while serving in Europe.
After the war, Walter Soundy returned to Salvador. He married but had no children. He continued his generous activities until his death in 1975. Many years before his death, he signed his testament: to establish, after his death, a perpetual trust in favour of the most needy people in the state of La Libertad. The main inheritance left to the Trust was the El Quequeisque farm. Both the farm and the trust are active until this day.
So much for the story behind the name. What happened to the Spitfire named El Quequeisque? In my mind, I can imagine a Scottish radio operator trying to pronounce that name over the radio, but it probably never happened…
(Ed.) From the editorial side we can add a few more details to the story of this remarkable sponsorship.
The serial number of El Quequeisque is only barely discernible in the photo, but close analysis coupled with some Photoshop tricks reveals that it was, in fact, ML117.
It identifies the aircraft as Spitfire LF Mk. IX, powered by Merlin 66 and produced by Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. The aircraft left the plant on 24 March 1944, going to No. 8 Maintenance Unit. On 28 May 1944, it was issued to No. 1 Squadron, which at the time was converting to Spitfires from Typhoons. This kind of conversion known to be a rather difficult matter for the pilots due to the widely different characteristics of the two aircraft. It might have contributed to the fact that already four days later, on 2 June, ML117 was damaged to category AC, meaning beyond the repair ability of the unit. This way, ML117 missed the Squadron’s subsequent engagement in anti-Diver patrols (combating the German V1 flying bombs), during which the unit tallied 39 missiles destroyed.
In the meantime, El Quequeisque probably remained “under repair” at No. 86 Maintenance Unit until 22 April 1945, when it returned to operational status, again with No. 1 Squadron. At that time the Squadron was converting very slowly to Spitfires Mk.21, but still with Mk. IXs on strength. The war was all but over and the Spitfires were only used operationally to cover the Channel Island landings. With the conversion to the latest Spitfire mark completed in July, ML117 was relegated to ‘maintenance airframe’ status and allocated to 321ATC. It never flew again.
Any further information or pointers about the fate of this aircraft will be greatly appreciated.