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A few weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email containing a unique photos of various Spitfires.
To me, that would be intriguing enough, but you can image my surprise when I found out that these were sent personally by one of the surviving Battle of Britain pilots…
At the age of 19, Tim Elkington was one of the youngest RAF fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain. His flying career had begun only a year previously, as he enlisted as a Flight Cadet in Cranwell. Tim obtained his RAF commission on 14 July, 1940, joining No. 1 Squadron at Northolt in the early stages of the battle. He was lucky to avoid the fate of many novice pilots who perished during their initial combat missions. On August 15th, Tim claimed a Messerschmitt Me 109. In turn, he was himself shot down and wounded on the 16th in a Hurricane P3173.
After a period of convalescence, Tim rejoined No. 1 Squadron at Wittering, moving to Kenley in 1941. He was subsequently posted to No. 601 Squadron in late May of that year and stayed with that unit through July.
He then joined No. 134 Squadron forming at Leconfield and bound for service in Russia. The squadron embarked on HMS Argus and took off from the carrier for Murmansk. They arrived at an airfield in Vaenga on 7 September and began operations soon afterwards, flying Hawker Hurricanes. In early October, they commenced training the Russian pilots – the main purpose of their mission. At the end of that month they handed over their aircraft over to the Russians and returned to Britain.
No. 134 Squadron reassembled in the UK on 7 December 1941 and soon moved to assigned to RAF Eglington in Northern Ireland to begin working-up on Spitfires.
This photo, showing Tim’s Spitfire Mk. VB, was taken in Eglington. The newly arrived Mk. VBs had replaced the war-weary Mk. IIAs which were initially used in the squadron’s conversion training. Tim recorded his first flight in this aircraft on 17 January 1942. He described it as “the fourth of my O’s” – after the individual letter of the aircraft he flew.
Unfortunately, neither the photo nor the consultation with Tim lead to a positive identification of the the serial number of this aircraft. However, having cross-checked with the available records, I believe that this was BL490.
Built in Castle Bromwich in December 1941, the Spifire Mk. VB BL490 was delivered factory-fresh to No. 134 on 16 January 1942. Tim’s operational duties on this aircraft included training and convoy escort over the Irish Sea. Tim also recalls flying two scrambles to intercept, albeit with no ensuing combat. Also,
“One of our near operational tasks was searching for my flight
commander (Jack Ross) who hit the sea when we were on Shipping
Shortly into 1942, plans have changed for No.134 Squadron, which returned to Baginton and began preparations for another move overseas, this time to the Middle East. Ever adventurous, Tim decided to leave the squadron, volunteering to serve with the Merchant Ship Fighter Unit.
The Spitfire BL490 was briefly taken over by No. 81 Squadron in May, then by No. 121 Squadron. On 23 June 1942, it hit water and ditched into River Blackwater, Essex.