An entire complement of Spitfires Mk. IXC of No. 485 (New Zealand) Squadron lined up at the USAAF Station 112 Bovingdon in Hertfordshire on 30 March 1944.
Manned by pilots of the Royal New Zealand Air Force No. 485 (NZ) Squadron RAFwas formed on 1 March 1941 as the first of the seven UK-based New Zealand squadrons formed during the war under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Among them, No. 485 was the only Spitfire unit; the other New Zealand fighter squadron based in Britain (No. 486) operated Typhoons and Tempests.
Starting in February 1944, No. 485 was relocated to RAF Hornchurch after a period of rest. Equipped with new Spitfire Mk. IXs, the unit became part of No. 135 Wing of the 2nd TAF, together with Nos. 22 Sqn and 222 Sqn.
Interestingly, during this period No. 485 Sqn undertook bombing and air-gunnery practice with a new Mk. IIC gyroscopic gunsight. The new gunsight dramatically increased an average pilot’s chances in deflection shooting, but there was little chance to try it in action before D-Day, as the squadron was mainly engaged in bomber escort missions and saw few enemy aircraft.
Although it could be established that this photograph had been taken by American personnel at Bovingdon, the reason for the presence No. 485 at the airfield is not explained. Bovingdon was a B-17 operational training base and the home of 1st Combat Crew Replacement Center for B-17 units of the 8th Air Force. Perhaps the squadron was there with a friendly visit for the benefit of Bovingdon’s trainees. Bovingdon was a main work-up centre for fresh American aircrew, who did not yet have first-hand combat experience.
The squadron letters of NO. 485 were “OU”. Interestingly, some of the Spitfires on the photo feature broad chord rudder, while some have the early type of this item. Upon close scrutiny there is also a variety of “flat” and “blown” top engine cowlings. It was customary for squadrons moving to No. 11 Group to take over the aircraft of a squadron being relieved, eventually taking a chance to replace some war-weary aircraft with new ones.
[US National Archives]