One of the most famous—and beautiful—fighters of World War II, the Spitfire was Great Britain’s counterpart to the German Bf 109. The aircraft was designed by R.J. Mitchell, an inspired creator of racing aircraft between the wars. The Spitfire’s distinctive elliptical wings contributed to the fighter’s superlative aerodynamic characteristics. The plane’s powerful and sleek Rolls-Royce Merlin and Griffon engines rounded out the design, making for a speedy and agile fighter.
Pilots loved the airplane, calling it “a ballerina in flight.” Over the English Channel, Spitfires often clashed with German Messerschmitts during the Battle of Britain. The Spitfire was the most extensively produced of all the Allied fighters. In total, some 20,351 Spitfires and 2,408 Seafires were built, serving until the mid-1950s.
History of the Artifact
This airplane was allocated to the Royal Air Force (RAF) No. 312 Squadron (a Czech unit) on September 11, 1942. Squadron Leader Tomas Vybiral was piloting this plane when he led his squadron on a daring wave-top raid against enemy shipping at St. Peter Port, Guernsey. On that day, his plane was hit by flak just behind the cockpit, narrowly missing Vybiral. After extensive repairs, the Spitfire served with other RAF units during the war.
The RAF used the plane as an instructional airframe, gate guard, and display aircraft after World War II. It was classified as scrap and sold to a museum in Canada in 1964. The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum purchased the plane in 1999.
Did you know?
The Spitfire was the only Allied fighter to remain in production throughout the war.