Modification XXX – Beer-Carrying Spitfires

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Modification XXX

Beer-Carrying Spitfires

In the lighter moments of World War II, the Spitfire was used in an unorthodox role: bringing beer kegs to the men in Normandy.

[All images Crown Copyright]

In the lighter moments of World War II, the Spitfire was used in an unorthodox role: bringing beer kegs to the men in Normandy.

During the war, the Heneger and Constable brewery donated free beer to the troops. After D-Day, supplying the invasion troops in Normandy with vital supplies was already a challenge. Obviously, there was no room in the logistics chain for such luxuries as beer or other types of refreshments. Some men, often called “sourcers”, were able to get wine or other niceties “from the land” or rather from the locals. RAF Spitfire pilots came up with an even better idea.

The Spitfire Mk IX was an evolved version of the Spitfire, with pylons under the wings for bombs or tanks. It was discovered that the bomb pylons could also be modified to carry beer kegs. According to pictures that can be found, various sizes of kegs were used. Whether the kegs could be jettisoned in case of emergency is unknown. If the Spitfire flew high enough, the cold air at altitude would even refresh the beer, making it ready for consumption upon arrival.

A variation of this was a long range fuel tank modified to carry beer instead of fuel. The modification even received the official designation Mod. XXX. Propaganda services were quick to pick up on this, which probably explains the “official” designation.

A staged shot of the Mod. XXX tank being filled.

As a result, Spitfires equipped with Mod XXX or keg-carrying pylons were often sent back to Great-Britain for “maintenance” or “liaison” duties. They would then return to Normandy with full beer kegs fitted under the wings.

With the larger beer kegs attached to the bomb pylons, the Spitfire had very little ground clearance.

Typically, the British Revenue of Ministry and Excise stepped in, notifying the brewery that they were in violation of the law by exporting beer without paying the relevant taxes. It seems that Mod. XXX was terminated then, but various squadrons found different ways to refurbish their stocks. Most often, this was done with the unofficial approval of higher echelons.

In his book “Dancing in the Skies”, Tony Jonsson, the only Icelancer pilot in the RAF, recalled beer runs while he was flying with 65 Squadron. Every week a pilot was sent back to the UK to fill some cleaned-up drop tanks with beer and return to the squadron. Jonsson hated the beer runs as every man on the squadron would be watching you upon arrival. Anyone who made a rough landing and dropped the tanks would be the most hated man on the squadron for an entire week.

In his book “Typhoon Pilot”, Desmond Scott also recalls Typhoon drop tanks filled with beer but regretted that it acquired a metallic taste.

Less imaginative techniques involved stashing bottles wherever space could be found on the aircraft, which included the ammunition boxes, luggage compartment or even in parts of the wing, with varying results. Champagne bottles in particular did not react well to the vibrations they were submitted to during such bootlegging trips.

Do you know of other similar attempts to bring supplies to the frontline? The author would be interested in any anecdotes or photos of similar events. Thanks for sharing!

This article has been originally published at www.gaetanmarie.com

5 Comments | Add New

By Graham Donning  |  2012-02-12 at 13:34  |  permalink

The beer containers were actually casks and not kegs.

By Colin Forsyth  |  2012-03-19 at 03:42  |  permalink

My grandfather who flew with the RCAF 403 squadron said that the first time someone tried to bring beer, it was spoiled by the dope used in the fabric of the 90 gallon drop tanks. The next time, they got it right. They would also try to fill the plane with bread since all they ate in Northern France was hard biscuits, potatoes and tea.

[…] Leave It To The English To Have Their Priorities Straight During the war, the Heneger and Constable brewery donated free beer to the troops. After D-Day, supplying the invasion troops in Normandy with vital supplies was already a challenge. Obviously, there was no room in the logistics chain for such luxuries as beer or other types of refreshments. Some men, often called ‘sourcers’, were able to get wine or other niceties from the land or rather from the locals. RAF Spitfire pilots came up with an even better idea. […]

By Rich Marcks  |  2012-05-19 at 02:44  |  permalink

I want to build a model (Tamiya 1/32) of a Beer Carrying Spitfire. If anyone knows which squadron, which codes, insignia, (etc.) of these fine planes, and has photos of said such, then wow! Let me know and send… steaks, whiskey and of course beer await you here in Tuscaloosa, the Center of the Universe With a Perfect Disguise.

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