Earl Shilton Spitfire

The Earl Shilton Spitfire served with RAF 603 Squadron during World War 2, paid for by generous donations made by the people of Earl Shilton.

earl shilton spitfire
The Earl Shilton Spitfire

The Earl Shilton Spitfire MkVa X4665 was built at Eastleigh in Hampshire by Vickers Armstrong (Supermarine) Ltd. and fitted with the Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 series engine. The weapons consisted of eight Browning .303 machine guns which were fitted in the wings.

6th May 1941 The first time the Earl Shilton Spitfire flew.

9th May 1941 The Earl Shilton Spitfire was used on a film called 'Ferry Pilot', prior to service. The camera crew positioned themselves high up on the edge of the Chilterns overlooking RAF Benson during the morning. Hugh Bergel then flew the Earl Shilton Spitfire for 40 minutes, diving down on the camera, coming up at it from a valley, doing tight turns around it and generally seeing how close he could get to it without actually knocking it off its tripod. That sequence is often shown in TV and cinema clips. Once the filming was done, the Spitfire was flown to No. 38 Maintenance Unit at RAF Llandow in Wales for storage.

16th May-1941 The Earl Shilton Spitfire would be begin its life at 64 Squadron at RAF Turnhouse near Edinburgh in Scotland for air defence duties protecting the Scottish coast. The Spitfire was reassigned to 603 Squadron at RAF Hornchurch in Essex where Squadron-Leader F M Smith was in command.

Pilot Officer Blackall would become the regular pilot of the Earl Shilton Spitfire. The Spitfire would be used for carrying out patrols, escorting bombers and making offensive sweeps. The 603 Squadron would fly sweeps and patrols with 54 Squadron and 611 Squadron which were led by 'Wing Co' Farquhar.

16th June 1941 The 603 Squadron was moved to Rockford (near Southend) from where the Squadron was assigned numerous daily operations that were designed to keep the German Luftwaffe busy in France, which in turn would reduce their effectiveness on the Eastern Front.

The Earl Shilton Spitfire, like the Burbage Spitfire, would not see a long service like the Barwell Spitfire and especially the Hinckley Spitfire, which would see the end of the war.

14th July 1941 At 9:30am Sergeant A.C. Hunter took the Spitfire on a mission along with 11 other Spitfires to escort six Bristol Blenheim bombers on a raid at Hazebrouck in France. After joining the bombers south of Gravelines (between Calais and Dunkirk in France), they were attacked by BF109's, Sergeant Hunter was seen to go down trailing a line of smoke. Sergeant Hunter managed to bail out of the burning Spitfire which would hit the ground at Gravelines, he was captured and would spend the rest of the war in a German Prisoner of War camp at Stalag 357 Kopernikus in Poland.

1942 The Earl Shilton Spitfire would live on through the cinema when the 30 minute film 'Ferry Pilot' was released.

Ferry Pilot (1941) - An account of the Air Transport Auxiliary which provided personnel to fly newly completed aircraft from factory to service airfield. The Earl Shilton Spitfire flown by Hugh Bergel was used in the making of this film which appears at 10 minutes in to the film.

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