Friday, May 20, 2016

The Legendary Spitfire

Old Knights and old Warhorses must never be let lie forgotten. The era of the noble Knight in his armour astride his beast, sword in hand has long past - as well known in the Tavern where I now serve good Ale instead of inflicting ailment.

The Centuries pass and the last one saw the rise of a new sort of Knight and a new Warhorse. We must not let them sink into the oblivions of time either. So it was especially pleasing to have a fine chap come in touting his new book.

The photography in this book is astounding. As they soar across the sky, it is hard to believe more than three-quarters of a century has passed since these glorious fighting machines were helping repel the mighty Luftwaffe. Almost equally incredible is how pin-sharp these photographs are of some of the remaining 55 airworthy Spitfires, as the planes show off the elegance and manoeuvrability that made them the stuff of legend.

Photographer John Dibbs captured the remarkable images, which have now been published in a book, in a plane flown within 15 ft of the Spitfires by former RAF pilot Tim Ellison.

But first, let's not overlook the Hurricane. In fact let's underlook one ! 

Now, back to these Gentlemen to whom we offer gratitude for their work in reminding us, and we all raise our tankards to them.

Many of the 55 airworthy ones were once quite broken.

This one was found in the shifting sands near Calais and was 'left' there by its pilot, Sqdn Ldr Geoff Stephenson. He then surrendered and became a prisoner of war. After multiple escape attempts from other PoW camps, he was sent to the infamous Colditz Castle. Following the war, Stephenson served as the personal pilot for King George VI.

He was killed in Florida in 1954, aged only 44, in an accident while test flying a plane as part of an exchange tour with the U.S. Air Force. 

Spitfire N3200 remained on the beach and soon sank into the tidal sand. It was forgotten about until unusually strong currents revealed its remains. 

It was rediscovered and salvaged from the beach in 1986. It was restored to flight in 2014 — with the markings worn when it was downed.

It was not the only rediscovered plane. Many were buried in overseas places, joining the Steeds of many eras. Some were found propped up in poor condition in odd places. 

The oldest airworthy Spitfire in the world and the only one still flying to have actually fought in the Battle of Britain, Spitfire P7350 was first flown into action by 21-year-old Polish Pilot Officer Ludwik Martel.

He was a former cadet officer in the Polish Air Force who arrived in England in early 1940 following the Nazi invasion of his home country the year before.

Martel made his first ‘kill’ in another Spitfire, while on patrol with 603 Squadron when he shot down a German Messer-schmitt 109 over the Channel about six miles east of Dover. 
On October 25, 1940, while with 603 Squadron, ‘P7’ was damaged in a combat and by the subsequent forced landing.

The aircraft was hit by cannon fire in the left wing and Martel was wounded by shrapnel in the left side of his body and legs. But he still managed to bring the aircraft back down through cloud and then — in pain and fighting to stay conscious — he landed it in a field near Hastings.

The Spitfire was sold for scrap in 1948 for £25 — but luckily its historical significance was recognised. It was later donated to the RAF Museum at Colerne near Bristol — before being restored to take part in the 1969 epic war film Battle Of Britain.

Tally Ho, what !

Want more? 

Go straight to the top and order the book. Hahaha. Take the advice of another Old Knight.... Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum, 94, who was the youngest Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain and was awarded the DFC, writes in the book’s foreword of the first time he flew a Spitfire. 

‘She seemed to just slip through the air and flow about the sky, responding eagerly and lightly to every demand made of her by control input... 
We were as one.’ 

He added: 'This book contains detailed photographs of the very highest quality taken by John Dibbs. This book is a must for all those who have a love and admiration for the Spitfire.'

Spitfire — The Legend Lives On by John Dibbs and author Tony Holmes (Osprey, £30). 

Finally, for translation into German.......

We shall drink to that.



  1. My mum was an airfield nurse and tended quite a few of the boys who flew these beasts ... many did not make it. My uncle was a polish pilot who flew them and survived ... he was also a marvelous violin player of gypsy tunes. Although the spit gets a lot of attention there were far more Hurricanes in the conflict and although not as fast they came in a great variety and were far more robust than the spits. "They flew Hurricanes" by Adrian Stewart gives a marvelous account of the planes and the men who flew them. Another good read is Spitfire the autobiography by John E Lewis. I have many other relatives who were in the RAF either as aircrew or support ... all those involved have my gratitude and great respect.

    1. Many thanks for that and I hope you like the drinks in the bar. All on the House for you. Yes, the Hurricane was the workhorse and the Spit took the beauty prize. But both fine planes and all the young chaps, Knights all, are Honoured in the Tavern. You come from 'sound stock'. :)

  2. I have recently translated from the dairies of some Russian soldiers from WWII an incredible story. It concerns an American pilot who joined the Canadian air-force and ended up flying alongside the RAF based in England. He was shot down, washed up on a French beach and ended up fighting with the French Resistance. Finally captured by the Germans he escaped from a transport train in Poland and made his way east until he ran into forward Russian units.

    He was interrogated by the NKVD who soon lost interest in him, but he was adopted by a Russian tank crew who had lost their driver / mechanic. He was a good mechanic. He fought again, this time with a Russian tank crew; probably the only American ever to have done so.

    In June of 1944, just before the commencement of the massive series of offensives named Operation Bagration, he was resting up with his crew in a forest in Belarus. He befriended a Russian tank man from Rostov who taught him to play chess. That man was Sergei Voreskov - my Grandfather.

    Anyway I thought you might like to read the full story and maybe your members here would like it. If you want to PM me your email address on Antimisandry I will send it to you.

    There is no record of what kind of plane he flew though. Maybe it was a Spitfire.

    1. That is a story that would make a fine film. It is astonishing the convolutions that occur in a long extended battle. I will contact you. Meanwhile having a drink at work is OK in the Tavern. Hahahaha

  3. Interesting information about the people and the spitfires. The photos are stunning!!

    HaHaHa at the last video ;-)


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Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..