Spitfire Into the Jet Age

Spitfire Site

It is universally acknowledged that over the years the Spitfire had become RAF’s maid of all work, but some of its uses still come ...

It is universally acknowledged that over the years the Spitfire had become RAF’s maid of all work, but some of its uses still come as a surprise.

This Spitfire was used to generate airflow whilst testing the early jet engines constructed by Frank Whittle and his company Power Jets Ltd. The picture has been possibly taken at Bruntingthorpe during 1943-1944. The Spitfire is a well-worn Mk. IX sans its cannon armament, with registration code possibly in the NH range.
[Paul Sibson coll.]

5 Comments | Add New

By John Brown  |  2010-12-19 at 14:00  |  permalink

Based on the upper wing roundels I would be inclined to date the photo to post January 1945, the type C roundel suggests that NH??? was ex-2TAF. Interestingly the type C roundels seem to have been freshly painted, rather than adapted from the type B. ( For comparison, see ‘ Spitfire in blue, Smallwood, H, Osprey 1996, pp 84, 91, 92 )

By Tim Prosser  |  2010-12-19 at 17:21  |  permalink

I disagree. The proportions of the upper roundels indicate modified Type B. From January, 2nd T.A.F. were largely using Type C1 on upper and lower surfaces in an effort to reduce ‘friendly fire’ incidents. The U.S.A.A.F., typically thinking they were the only ones in the war, were firing at anything sharing the same airspace. The addition of the yellow outer ring proved very effective at making the R.A.F. roundels more visible and examples are known to have still been in use into 1946. The normal Type C, indeed introduced from January 1945, was not restricted to use by 2nd T.A.F., being seen on many home-based types…Coastal Command Beaufighters, for example.

The ‘worn’, or faded, appearance of this aircraft is attributable to the use of orthochromatic film. Had the photograph been taken on panchromatic film, the aircraft would appear much the same as any other Spitfire…in fact, in rather good condition, judging from closer examination, which would seem to indicate limited use.

By John Brown  |  2010-12-19 at 19:53  |  permalink

My boob! The captions in ‘ Spitfire in blue ‘ consistently refer to ‘ C type ( red, white, blue and yellow ) roundels, I failed to spot that it should be ‘ C1 type… ‘ Several photos do in fact show the yellow ring on the upper surface roundel, although two pictures of PL892 ‘ H ‘ of 16 squadron ( apparently taken on the same day ) are rather ambiguous. They appear to show type C upper surface roundels, but there are hints of an outer ring, albeit recorded as virtually the same tone as the upper surfaces, which would take the roundel out to the same position relative to the aileron gap as with the known C1’s.
I’m happy to accept that NH??? carries C type roundels repainted from B type, and the wing paintwork certainly looks in very good condition. I wonder if she might be one of the NH block a/c used for trials at Farnborough ( MH230/236/403 )?

By Editor  |  2010-12-20 at 12:34  |  permalink

Thanks John and Tim for interesting comments. Although I received a photo captioned “1943”, I’d agree that the C-type roundels would suggest otherwise.

Tim, I got puzzled by your suggestion that the photo had been taken on ortho film. I’m not sure. IIRC, the roundel colours tended to come out pretty dark on ortho material and besides, the yellow of the fuselage roundel appears just as light as it should be – unlike “black” as should be the case with ortho film.

As for the wing wear, I’d say that the dark shades around panel lines are telling the tale – this plane is not new, and was possibly stored out in the open for a longer time.

Lastly, anyone has a guess about the piece of aileron visible in the front of the picture?

Regards and keep up the good (commentary) work!

By Steve Sauve, Ottawa Canada  |  2010-12-21 at 18:03  |  permalink

There was a large online ‘bunfight’ I was involved in on another modelling website, over these kinds of tones seen in Spitfire photos.

I don’t buy the ortho film theory, as the red and yellow tones typically tend toward the very dark/almost black when shot on ortho. A blue filter and panchromatic film would explain the lightening of the blue and the Ocean Grey, and it helps explain the darkening of the yellow and red in the roundels.



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