ON Tuesday the Silver Spitfire took off from RAF Lossiemouth on the third stage of its round-the-world tour. Pilots Steve Brooks, 58, from Burford, Oxfordshire, and Matt Jones, 45, from Exeter touched down on Monday at RAF Lossiemouth after her initial stage from Goodwood.

They are now well into their 27,000 mile expedition around the world over the next five months.

It is the first such journey by a restored Spitfire and will stop at 100 locations in more than 30 countries including the Faroe Islands and Iceland – yesterday’s destinations – Greenland, Canada, the USA, Russia, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, several Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and France.

The Silver Spitfire – it’s not actually silver but burnished aluminium – was originally a Mark IX, registration number MJ271, which was completed at the Vickers Supermarine factor at Castle Bromwich in 1943.

The following year the aircraft saw service with 118, 132 and 401 squadrons, flying 51 combat missions in all before she was transferred to the Royal Netherlands Air Force in 1945. They took good care of MJ721, who eventually came back to Duxford for the long work of restoration.


WHERE to start? Its chief designer Reginald Joseph Mitchell worked for Supermarine Aviation, a company that had won great acclaim in the internationally renowned and hugely popular Schneider Trophy seaplane races in the 1920s and early 1930s. Mitchell’s Supermarine S6 won the Trophy in 1931 and soon afterwards, with Supermarine now owned by the Vickers Armstrong group, the call went out from the British Government for a competition to design a single-seat monoplane fighter aircraft. Despite rejection at first, Mitchell adapted the S6 and designed the Spitfire according to the Air Ministry’s demands for a 300mph-plus fighter that would attack bombers as they approached the UK – no one thought that Germany would have airfields in France to use their fighters to protect their bombers.

Mitchell gave the Spitfire its classic shape and designed the aircraft to fly high and fast using the powerful Rolls Royce Merlin engine. In effect the Spitfire was a gun carriage, carrying eight Browning machine guns that were lethal especially at close range. Mitchell’s clever design meant the Spitfire could dive from on high to rake the German aircraft below, the manner in which moist Spitfire ‘kills’ were achieved. Mitchell died in 1937, not living to see the success of his aircraft.

The Hawker Hurricane was already in production when the Spitfire began to roll off the production line in 1938, and between them these two aircraft would bear the brunt of the Battle of Britain.


THERE is a classic scene in the 1969 film Battle of Britain when Luftwaffe commander in chief Reichsmarschall Hermann Göering is chastising his pilots for failing to win air superiority over England without which Hitler’s planned invasion of Britain cannot proceed.

He asks what would help them, to which a brave major replies: “Give me a squadron of spitfires.”

The scene was based on a true incident in which the legendary German ace, Adolf Galland, said exactly that to Göering.

Galland thought Germany’s Messerschmitt 109 was the better all-round aircraft, but realised that the Spitfire’s manoeuvrability and high-flying ability gave it a distinct advantage as a defence fighter.

Contrary to legend, the Spitfire did not win the Battle of Britain on its own.

There were far more Hurricanes in the Battle and they shot down more attackers, but increased production of the Spitfire made a crucial intervention in the Battle, coupled with the German decision to attacks towns and cities – their bombing raids were tailor-made for the speed and attacking ability of the Spitfire.


THE Spitfire was the only British aircraft to be produced before, during and after the war. It went through many variations, though the basic design remained the same.

Japan’s Mitsubishi Zero, Germany’s Focke-Wulfe 190 and the USA’s P-51 Mustang were superior all-round performers on paper, but nearly all who flew them said Spitfires were better to fly.

More than 20,000 were built, and Spitfires served in the RAF and various other air forces till long after the war.


PROPAGANDA, mainly. Churchill knew how close run the Battle of Britain had been and he wanted to create a legend about a great weapon winning the Battle, so the Government’s spin doctors bigged up the Spitfire, assisted by an enthusiastic press and film industry.

From the First of the Few movie about Mitchell’s race to design the Spitfire winning the Battle, to modern-day documentaries about the aircraft, successive generations have been told about how brilliant and iconic the Spitfire was and is.

And given its role in World War II, it deserves that status.