No. 485 Squadron RNZAF, a Spitfire unit, was the first RNZAF squadron formed under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme and served in Europe under the operational command of the Royal Air Force.
Manned by New Zealand pilots transferred to Britain, No. 485 was formed in March 1941 at RAF Driffield in Yorkshire. Initially equipped with second-rate Spitfire Mk. Is, it became operational with No. 13 Group. Soon, the aircraft were exchanged for combat-worthy Spitfire Mk. IIs and the Squadron moved south to Redhill and No. 11 Group to join the summer offensive over the continent. By July 1941, the squadron had scored its first victories and suffered its first combat fatalities.
Starting in August 1941, the squadron gradually re-equipped with Spitfire Mk. Vbs, many of them funded by the New Zealand Spitfire Funds and carrying the names of New Zealand Provinces. This was the type with which they served until mid-1943, by which time the Mk. V was totally outclassed by first-line enemy fighters. Fortunately, in July 1943, as No. 485 moved to Biggin Hill, one of Fighter Command’s best known bases, they were also allowed to take over No. 611 Sqn’s Spitfire Mk. IXs. At the time, this high-performance variant of the Spitfire was still in short supply and it was customary to rotate the available aircraft among squadrons.
The period of July through November 1943 saw severe air battles against the still-strong Luftwaffe fighter force. On the 22nd of August, the squadron had its black day. During a high cover escort mission for American Marauders, two enemy fighter squadrons attacked head-on, momentarily shooting down four New Zealand Spitfires.
The photo, probably taken during the described period, is a commemorative group portrait of No. 485 pilots with Sir Bill Jordan, New Zealand’s High Commissioner in London.
In November 1943, the squadron returned to Drem in Scotland for a rest, switching back to the obsolete Spitfire Vbs. They would not get the highly regarded Mk. IXs until February 1944, back in Hornchurch and serving as part of 135 Wing together with No. 122 and 222 Squadrons.
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