Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk. XI
No. 1 Fotorekognoseringsving (photo-reconnaissance wing)
In September 1946, UK Government agreed to supply Spitfires to the reborn Royal Norwegian Air Force. The subject of this contract were enough Spitfires LF Mk. IXE to equip three “day fighter squadrons” together with additional three photo-reconnaissance Spitfires PR Mk. XI for “photographic flight”.
The PR Spitfires arrived in Norway by air on 31 July 1947. After inspection at Kjeller, they served temporarily with No. 331 Squadron RNoAF at Gardermoen near Oslo. It took another two years for the projected photographic flight to emerge as an independent unit, but finally, the 1. Fotorekognoseringsving (photo-reconnaissance wing) was established in August 1949 at the same airfield, taking over the three aircraft.
The depicted aircraft, A-ZB RAF serial number PL979 was manufactured by Vickers Armstrong and delivered to the RAF on 17 October 1944. It commenced active service with No. 1 Photo Reconnaissance Unit at RAF Benson in January 1945, then with No. 4 Squadron. The latter unit squadron operated with the 2nd Tactical Air Force from airfields in France, Belgium and Holland.
Following the end of hostilities, No. 4 Squadron was disbanded on 31 August 1945 and from 6 September PL979 served with No 2 Squadron in occupied Germany. Soon it was put into storage in which it remained until its delivery to Norway.
PL979 served with distinction with 1. Fotorekognoseringsving until its disbandment in March 1954, suffering only one accident (belly landing due to engine cut on take off) during its many years of service. On 25 March 1954, 2nd Lieutenant Amund Klepp piloted this aircraft on the last ever operational flight by a Norwegian Spitfire.
Allegedly, the pilot then purchased the aircraft for one Norwegian krone (!).
A-ZB is preserved today at Forsvarsmuseet Flysamling in Gardermoen, now the location of Oslo’s international airport.
The exact shade of the blue colour of the Norwegian PR Spitfires is still the subject of debate.