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Supermarine Spitfire


Battle of Britain Memorial FlightFormed in July 1957 the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight commemorates the Royal Air Force’s Finest Hour.  The iconic Vic formation of a Lancaster, Hurricane, and Spitfire is seen at air-shows, military, and Royal events all over the United Kingdom in the summer months, and will always be the stars of any air show.  Of those three great aeroplanes, the most affection is afforded to the seek and elegant Supermarine Spitfire, and any small boy who has seen a low flypast by a single Spitfire will long remember the simple beauty of its elliptical winged form and the low, whistling drone of the supercharged 27 litre, (1,650 cu in) Rolls-Royce V12 Merlin engine.

SpitfireBorn out of racing seaplanes and the ugly Supermarine type 224, the Reginald J. Mitchell designed single-seat fighter has probably had more column-inches written about it, and more film shot, than any other British Aircraft.  In all some 20,341 Spitfires of every marque and variant were built over a 12 year period, beginning with its first flight on 5th March 1936.  That’s more than any other British combat aircraft, before or since.   In contrast the Spitfire’s great rival, Messerchmitt Bf 109, was in production from 1936 to 1958 and 34,852 were built.  Ironically some Bf 109s used a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the Hispano Aviacion 109 ‘Bouchon’ is often seen in movies and on TV.  You can even buy a brand new Bf 109, built in Bavaria.

churchillThe Spitfire’s Finest Hour was undoubtedly during the Battle of Britain.  This was Europe’s Last Stand, and England’s battle for survival against the expanding power of Hitler’s Germany.  The Battle of Britain really began when war was declared on September 1939, but is usually taken to cover the period of strategic air war over England from July 10th 1940 to May 10th 1941.  The heaviest fighting took place between July 10th 1940 and October 31st 1940.  Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his Finest Hour speech to the House of Commons on June 18th 1940.  An equally historic Churchillian moment was his Never was so much owed by so many to so few speech made on 20 August 1940.  It should be remembered that Churchill was carrying the load of Britain’s continuing defiance in the war at that time.  Many, including Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, wanted to negotiate a peace deal with Hitler.

The role of the Spitfire during the Battle of Britain has passed into legend, with some believing that it won the battle, almost on its own.  Other respectable historians take a wider view and stress the importance of Radar, RAF Fighter Command’s brilliant command and control system, the steadfastness of the men at the top, and the Spitfire’s partner aircraft, the Hawker Hurricane.

Aguably, the very best Spitfire of all was the Spitfire Mk IX, which entered service in 1942.  Dispassionately, the Spitfire wasn’t the best single seat fighter of the Second World War, most aircraft historians and aero angineers would probably give that award to the North American P-51 Mustang.  Nor was the Spitfire the RAF’s most influential fighter during D-Day and the 77 days following, that accolade going to the Hawker Typhoon.

The Hawker Hurricane was the RAF’s most numerous single-seat fighter during the Battle of Britain, and the Hurricane was responsible for more enemy ‘kills’ than was the Spitfire.  The Hurricane was also cheaper to buy, easier to build, much easier to repair after battle damage, and much more forgiving on or near the ground than was the thoroughbred Spitfire.  However, the Hurricane had its limitations.  Fighter Command’s normal tactic was to have the Hurricanes go after the Luftwaffe bombers, while the Spitfire flew top cover against the Bf 109’s. The Spitfire was a match for the little German fighter, but the Hurricane could not often meet the Messerchmitt on equal terms.  Quite simply, the Bf 109 was better than the Hurricane.

In easily understood terms, the Hurricane was built with a separate chassis, (frame), like a Ford Model T, whereas the Spitfire was a complex duralumin / aluminium-alloy monocoque, like a Le Mans winning Ford GT40.  Both British aircraft used the same 27 litre V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, initially producing about 1,030 hp.

  1. Supermarine Spitfire  IIA  355 mph @ 20,000 ft  Ceiling 37,000 ft
  2. Hawker Hurricane Mk.II   330 mph @ 20,000 ft  Ceiling 35,900  ft
  3. Messerchmitt Bf 109E        350 mph @ 20,000 ft   Ceiling 35,000 ft

109 and spitfireArguments continue to this day as to whether the Messerschmitt Bf 109 or the Supermarine Spitfire was ultimately the better aircraft.  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that with the Spitfire the Battle of Britain was won.  Without the Spitfire, the Royal Air Force would most likely have lost the Battle of Britain.  In that case there is little doubt that Britain would have sued for peace in advance of a German invasion of these islands.  Hitler may then have occupied parts of mainland Britain, or not.  The important point is that, without the United Kingdom’s continued resistance to the Axis forces, history would be very different.  It is even possible that Hitler would not have invaded Russia when he did, and that Japan would not have attacked Pearl Harbor.

StpaulsblitzCertainly, if for want of the Spitfire the Battle of Britain had been lost, the Luftwaffe would have established air supremacy over Europe.  The British Empire would have fallen easy prey to Italy, Germany and Japan.  For the want of the British Empire there would have been no strategic bombing of Germany, no possibility of a second front and no possibility of D-Day happening on June 6th 1944.  If the Luftwaffe had not been badly hurt over Southern England in the summer of 1940, it may well have held air superiority over Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans well into the 1950’s.  The shape of the modern world would be very different from that which we know today.

mig_sabreThe next time a duel in the skies took place that was comparable to the between the Spitfire and the Bf 109 was during the Korean War, when the North American F-86 Sabre took on the MiG 15.  Both of these aircraft were jet powered, but remember the Luftwaffe had the world’s first operation jet fighter in 1944, the incomparable Me 262.

Conclusion;  Without the Supermarine Spitfire, the Battle of Britain may well have been lost to Goering’s Luftwaffe flying the Bf 109.  Consequently, the shape of the modern world would probably be very different.

Uncontrolled Truth Is Dangerous


Charles poking bearA storm is brewing in the teacup of British ~ Russian diplomatic relations, after Prince Charles, (The Prince of Wales and heir to the throne), allegedly likened Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler.  Angry Russian diplomats are demanding urgent face-to-face talks with the Foreign Office.  All this is over the Russian President’s actions in seizing parts of Ukraine, and the similarity with Hitler’s seizure of territory in Eastern Europe in the 1930s.  This has left the leaders of Britain’s political parties flailing around to find a line which both supports the second most senior royal after the Queen, while also trying to placate a country which lost at least 30 million souls in playing a major part in the defeat of Hitler in WWII.

It seems that Prince Charles’ offending remark was an off-the-cuff comment to a Canadian lady, Marianne Ferguson, who fled the then city of Danzig, (Gdansk in Poland), in the face of annexation by Hitler’s armies.  Danzig turned out to be a good place to have left.  The Prince is alleged to have said, ‘And now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler.’

Oh dear, not quite true and not very diplomatic Sir.

LugerIn some ways the remark from Prince Charles is fairly correct.  There are parallels between the way the Russian Bear is acting today and the way Nazi Germany acted in the 1930s.  However, saying it out loud, when you know your every remark will be picked-up by the media, may not be the smartest play in the book.  The comparison may be true, (on some levels), but is it useful?  There is an axiom; Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.  Events in Eastern Europe today have some disturbing echoes of what happened before both the First and Second World Wars.  Just because something is true doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to say it aloud.

churchillThere is another axiom; It’s always best not to poke the bear.  A hibernating bear is in a non-violent state, but poke it with a sharp stick and it’s going to wake-up unhappy. There isn’t much to be gained by telling a bully that they are a bully, unless you are prepared to do something forceful.  Most serious people in the West think that Russia is being a bully at the present, but then most of the West does not understand Russia, never has and possibly never will.  Comparing Putin to Hitler is possibly one of the greatest insults one could throw at the leader of Russia.  The Great Patriotic War was brutal beyond the understanding of the rest of the allied armies, cost Russia 30 million lives, and laid waste the land between Berlin and Moscow.  At the time, even Churchill had to swallow his thoughts about Stalin’s Russia, and Churchill was not known for keeping his peace in the face of self-evident truths.

Churchill had already been a lone voice in the wilderness when he warned Britain of the dangers of Hitler’s Nazi Germany in the 1930s.  Churchill knew what kind of a Russia Stalin ruled.  However Churchill did not coin the phrase; The Iron Curtain to describe Stalin’s annexation of Eastern Europe until 1946, after WWII had already been won.  There is a time so tell the unpleasant truth, and there is a time to stand mute.

guy-fawkes-maskThere is a third axiom to apply here; The truth is rarely pure and never simple.  The truth can be stated in a myriad of different ways, and each one can be true.  But the most dangerous truths are those said thoughtlessly ~ in wine, in anger, in jest, in haste…,  Most of all, truths said needlessly can be dangerous.  Your significant woman may have some very annoying friends, people you may hate and despise, but it is usually better not to keep telling her that.  It’s usually better if you don’t point out to her friend that he is a scruffy dirt-bag sleaze with a poor command of English.  It may be true, but is it useful to point it out?  Probably not.  The guy isn’t going to change, your woman isn’t going to dump an old friend just because you think he’s an idiot, and you are not going to make her think any better of you for being correct but cruel and tactless.

SDC11767As an example, one of the worst things a man can tell his woman is that he’s been using a hooker, (especially if it’s the same hooker several times over).  Most women feel betrayed, belittled, inadequate, angry and ashamed if their guy informs them that he has needed to satisfy himself elsewhere.  So, even if you have been meeting with a prostitute, why would you need to tell your woman that?  Being hurtful, even by telling the absolute truth, is not necessarily a good idea.  So why poke that particular bear?  Who are you telling this particular tale for?  If it’s just to hurt your woman, in the midst of an argument, then that is not the action of a manly Renaissance Man.  Behavioural scientists will tell you that arguments are not only pointless, they are also dangerous.  Dragging up something nasty in an argument is a sure sign that you have sunk to the level of dirt-bag sleaze.

There are some occasions that you would have to admit to having sex with a hooker.  If you have contacted a Sexually Transmitted Infection, (STI), from said lady of the evening, then you may need to inform your significant other that she should see her own doctor, and why.  However, even if your using the services of a sex worker is a sign that your significant relationship is over, there is no need to shame your ex-Lady by bringing it up in the goodbyes.  Be compassionate, let her walk away with pride and dignity.  Be a man.

SlappingThe reason a guy would hit his significant other with the prostitute cautionary tale is that it’s going to hurt her, and there will be no adverse consequences for him.  His significant other is now well on the way to being an ex, and all he wants to do is make her pay, and that’s not the action of a good guy.  Prince Charles will be stoutly defended by most of the British Establishment, there are few adverse consequences for him in making that particular Hitler / Putin remark, but perhaps it was not a wise action from the heir to the throne.

The hard truth is;  Sometimes nothing but the truth will do.  But a strong manly man knows when to stand mute and keep his thoughts to himself.


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