Presentation Spitfires

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Of all the Spitfires which were presented during World War 2, only one is known to still be in existence, Mk.IIb P8332 SOEBANG, which ...
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Of all the Spitfires which were presented during World War 2, only one is known to still be in existence, Mk.IIb P8332 SOEBANG, which is in residence at the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa. It was presented by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and named after a Netherlands East Indies location, along with over 100 others, of which many have yet to be identified. Mk IIa P8092 ELLAND (Yorkshire), was held in storage from 1944, for eventual museum display. This did not come to fruition, and its eventual fate is unknown.

Each donor of the £5,000 (or multiples of) target figure received two photographs and a small plaque, very few of which still exist. Such is the way that Britain regards it’s heritage.

The Air Ministry laid down strict rules regarding the representation of the name, most of which were ignored, and markings tended to follow the whim rather than the rule. At first, any such details were supposedly to be contained in a 9 inch by 6 inch rectangle, though this would obviously be too short for a lengthy name. The early names were in dull yellow script, but this soon gave way to light grey, white and, in some cases, black. The small rectangle was soon forgotten, and large coats of arms (2ft 6ins), began to appear, transfers being provided by the donor. Some names were chalked on simply for the benefit of photographers, but by 1942 the light grey 2-inch lettering had become standard. Aircraft built at the Castle Bromwich factory could originally be distinguished by their presentation names being in italics, but by 1941 the use of italics had been dropped. Some aircraft had other presentation details added, obliterating the original names, but very few of these names were intact at the end of the war.

Sqn/Ldr R.M. Milne, 92 Squadron, in the cockpit of his Spitfire Mk. V, Digby, 2 December 1941. Reportedly the name NEW YORKLIN was chalked on solely for the benefit of American press photographers. The United States were not yet in war and Britain needed all the good publicity it could get on the other side of the Altantic.
[Crown Copyright]

The town of Stamford’s Spitfire Fund had sent a cheque to Lord Beaverbrook and wanted a photograph of “their” Spitfire. A transfer of the name STAMFORD along with the coat of arms was taken to nearby Wittering where it was applied to P8505 J.G., it being much easier to cover up “J.G.” than THE OLD LADY (P8509) or HUNTLY COCK O’ THE NORTH (P8644) amongst others which were there at that time. Whether it remained as STAMFORD or reverted to “J.G.” is open to speculation, but the local Mayor was happy with his photograph.

By the end of the war, well over fifteen hundred Spitfires are known to have carried presentation names, and allowing for those still not traced, donations totalled something in the order of £8,000,000 (around £175,000,000 in present-day values). Sadly, the serials of nearly two hundred of these are unknown, largely because most of the relevant official documentation was scrapped in the early post-war years. The only surviving evidence of a presentation name may therefore be on a snapshot in an old photograph album, and then sometimes only when examined under a magnifying glass.

More then 2,200 presentation aircraft are known to have existed, these including 1,574 Spitfires and 331 Hurricanes, and there may well be others which we have not yet tracked down. Our lists include 5 Ansons, 1 Auster, 6 Beaufighters, 3 Blenheims, 1 Bolingbroke, 1 Boston, 5 Cornells, 18 Defiants, 1 Flamingo, 9 Fortresses, 4 Fulmars, 1 Goose, 1 Halifax, 2 Hampdens, 28 Hudsons, 12 Lancasters, 3 Lockheed 12As, 12 Lysanders, 1 Mitchell, 10 Mosquitoes, 2 Oxfords, 1 Proctor, 2 Rapide, 26 Stirlings, 5 Sunderlands, 2 Swordfish, 1 Tempest, 4 Tiger Moths, 2 Tornadoes, 32 Typhoons, 1 Walrus, 48 Wellingtons, 14 Whirlwinds, 16 Whitleys and 15 unidentified types.

A Spitfire Mk. II EAST INDIA SQUADRON from No, 65 Squadron in at Kirton-in-Lindsey, 1941. Many Spitfires Mk. II of that unit carried this presentation marking.  It’s format, two rows of letters within a yellow 9 inch by 6 inch rectangle, conform to the early official attempt to standardise the presentation markings.

A number of squadrons were given names acknowledging that their aircraft were donated entirely by a particular donor country or organisation, and close examination of photographs of such aircraft may well reveal names and serial number identities. These squadrons included:

  • No.18 (Burma)
  • No.35 (Madras Presidency)
  • No.43 (China-British)
  • No.44 (Rhodesia)
  • No.46 (Uganda)
  • No.56 (Punjab)
  • No.65 (East India)
  • No.72 (Basutoland)
  • No.74 (Trinidad)
  • No.79 (Madras Presidency)
  • No.82 (United Provinces)
  • No.87 (United Provinces)
  • No.91 (Nigeria)
  • No.92 (East India)
  • No.97 (Straits Settlements)
  • No.99 (Madras Presidency)
  • No.102 (Ceylon)
  • No.110 (Hyderabad)
  • No.114 (Hong Kong)
  • No.122 (Bombay)
  • No.123 (East India)
  • No.124 (Baroda)
  • No.125 (Newfoundland)
  • No.126 (Persian Gulf)
  • No.129 (Mysore)
  • No.139 (Punjab)
  • No.131 (County of Kent)
  • No.132 (City of Bombay)
  • No.139 (Jamaica)
  • No.149 (East India)
  • No.152 (Hyderabad)
  • No.154 (Motor Industries)
  • No.164 (Argentine-British)
  • No.165 (Ceylon)
  • No.167 (Gold Coast)
  • No.174 (Mauritius)
  • No.183 (Gold Coast)
  • No.193 (Fellowship of the Bellows – Brazil)
  • No.213 (Ceylon)
  • No.214 (Federated Malay States)
  • No.218 (Gold Coast)
  • No.219 (Mysore)
  • No.222 (Natal)
  • No.234 (Madras Presidency)
  • No.237 (Rhodesia)
  • No.245 (Northern Rhodesian)
  • No.247 (China-British)
  • No.249 (Gold Coast)
  • No.250 (Sudan)
  • No.253 (Hyderabad State)
  • No.257 (Burma)
  • No.263 (Fellowship of the Bellows – Argentina)
  • No.264 (Madras Presidency)
  • No.266 (Rhodesia)

This article first appeared in the Autumn 1999 issue of D.C.O, the magazine of the Spitfire Society. Used here with permission of Ray Sturtivant’s family.
For more information, see also the book Gifts of War: Presentation Aircraft in Two World Wars by Henry Boot and Ray Sturtivant, ISBN-10: 0851302483

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By Geoff Berriman RAFA  |  2017-10-22 at 09:37  |  permalink

Thanks. Just what I needed.

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