Ordnance Spitfire in the Pacific War

Australia’s highest scoring fighter pilot of WWII, Clive ‘Killer’ Caldwell, helps push his Spitfire CR-C JL394 out of camouflage, Aug. 1943

The Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Indian Air Force and the RAF also used Spitfires against Japanese forces in the Pacific theater. The first Spitfires in the Far East were two photo-reconnaissance (PR IV) aircraft which operated from airfields in India from October 1942.

Clive Caldwell

Japanese raids on Northern Australia hastened the formation in late 1942 of No. 1 Wing RAAF comprising No. 54 RAF Squadron No. 452 Squadron RAAF, and No. 457 Squadron RAAF under the command of  Clive Caldwell. The wing arrived at Darwin in February 1943, and saw constant action until September. The Mk Vc versions received by the RAAF proved unreliable and, initially at least, had a relatively high loss rate. This was due to several factors, including pilot inexperience, engine over-speed due to the loss of oil from the propeller speed reduction unit (a problem resolved by the use of a heavier grade of oil), and the practice of draining glycol coolant before shipment, resulting in internal corrosion of the Merlin engines.

Another factor in the initial high attrition rate was the relatively short endurance of the Spitfire, most of the sorties were, flown over the wide expanse of ocean between Australia, New Guinea and Timor. Even when fitted with drop tanks the Spitfires could not afford to fly too far from base without the danger of running out of fuel over water. As a result, when an incoming raid was detected, the Spitfires were forced to climb as fast as possible in an attempt to get into a favorable position.

RCAF Spitfire 411 Squadron

In the prevailing hot, humid climate this meant that the Merlin engines were often overheating even before combat was joined. The Spitfires were fitted with the Vokes tropical filters which reduced performance: in an attempt to increase performance the filters on several Spitfires were removed and replaced by the standard non-tropicalized air intake and lower engine cowlings which had been manufactured by the base workshops. The experiment proved to be a failure and the Spitfires were quickly refitted with the tropical filters.

Many of the Australian and British airmen who flew in 1 Wing were experienced combat veterans, some of whom who had flown P-40s with the Desert Air Force in North Africa, while others had flown Spitfires over Europe. They were used to being able to outmaneuver opposing fighters and were shocked to discover that the Zeros they were now flying against were able to outmaneuver the Spitfire.

Raid on Darwin (May 2, 1943)

Strength

Japanese                Australians and British

27 Zeros                33 spitfires

25 Bombers

Aircraft lost

6-10                    14

That was just one raid.. For almost two years beginning Feb 1942 the airspace over North West Australia was routinely penetrated by Japanese raids, about 70 in total.

Spitfires in Darwin

By mid-1943 the heavy losses imposed on the Japanese Navy in the Solomon Islands campaign and in New Guinea meant that the JNAF could not keep up its attacks on northern Australia. Other units equipped with the Spitfires in the SW Pacific Area included No. 79 Squadron, No. 85 Squadron RAAF, No. 458 Squadron RAF and No. 459 Squadron RAF.

In the SE Asia, the first Spitfire Vcs reached three squadrons on the India-Burma front in November 1943. Spitfire pilots met Japanese for the first time on Boxing Day, 1943. A pair of Spitfires piloted by Flying Officer Geoffrey William Andrews and Flight Sergeant Harry B. Chatfield attacked a formation of Japanese planes over Chittagong.  Andrews destroyed a fighter and a bomber, damaging a second, while Chatfield shot down another two. On the last day of 1943, Royal Australian Air Force Spitfires destroyed eleven Japanese bombers and three fighters. Churchill complimented the Australian Squadron for their “brilliant exploit”.

Pilots trudge thru the mud at the advanced airbase in Burma after sorties with the Japanese.

Spitfires ensured that the Allies gained and held air superiority during the battles of Kohima and Imphal from early to mid 1944, in which the Japanese attempt to destroy the British 14th Army and invade India was also defeated. By 1945, when the Allies launched offensives into Burma, the Japanese were unable to challenge the Allies’ air supremacy. Spitfires took part in the last major pitched battle of the war involving the Western allies – No. 607 Squadron and No. 273 Squadron flying the MKVIII armed with 500 pound bombs helped destroy a Japan breakout attempt at Sittang Bend in July and early August 1945.

This post  was the suggestion of Dan Antion.

Resources: Pacific Spitfires.com; History Exchange; Wiki; Aviation Profiles.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Atterson – Clark Range, TN; US Army, Japanese Occupation, 11th Airborne Division

Howard E. Cook Jr, – W. Palm Beach, FL; US Navy, pilot

Courtesy of John @ https://lvphotoblog.com/

Frank ‘Slick’ Dercher – Kansas City, KS; US Navy, WWII, USS California

Patricia Felton – Queensland, NZ; RNZ Navy # 46253, WREN, WWII

James Garrison – Johnston, IA; US Army, WWII, PTO, 24th Division, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Clyde Hymel – Garyville, LA; USMC, WWII, PO, Silver Star

Millard “Smoke” Lea – Union City, IN; US Army, Korea, 101st Airborne Division

Robert Malone – Alexandria, VA; US Army, WWII

Paul Niloff – Sherbrooke, CAN, RC Army, WWII, Medical Corps

Ralph Peavy – Liberty, KY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Chuck Yeager – Myra, WV; US Army Air Corps, WWII, mechanic / pilot / test pilot / Vietnam, BGeneral (Ret. 34 y.), Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on December 10, 2020, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 112 Comments.

  1. Always am amazed at the Australian connection to WWII. Since I thought the spitfires were British, I guess it only natural they would have been used in Australia. Of course, the Russian woman made me smile.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, Australia was right there in the thick of it all and Churchill still insisted they maintain a quota of men sent to Europe. They had their own country attacked and with a dire need to be defended.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your like of my most recent post on Rev Chap 22. Please keep up your good work. There are too many young people who have no idea about the things that you bring to the minds of many people, who live all around the world. May God richly bless you.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You think that meme with a Russian woman is a joke? Think again!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I especially enjoyed the “meanwhile in Russia” cartoon . . . made me crack a smile, it did.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I learned something new about the war in the Pacific and the use of Spitfires there

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The courage of those who flew these planes amazes me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It sounds like there were some design issues with this plane, but the pilots learned to get around them as best they could.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The details about the engines on these (e.g., draining the coolant and the resulting overheating and corrosion) were more than usually interesting to me today. Let’s just say the boys who replaced my alternator should have been more careful about replacing some hoses that were important for the water pump and radiator. Sigh. I’m home, my car is seven hours away, and awaiting an engine replacement. It will work out eventually, but believe me — I have great sympathy for Spitfire pilots who had to deal for a time with unreliable engines!

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG, mechanics in Texas don’t know the importance of keeping things cool? Best of luck to you, Linda!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Honestly, I think the original alternator replacement might have been done a little casually. I was stuck hours from home, they wanted to get me on the road quickly, and I’m almost sure someone simply didn’t take the time to crimp the hose clamps and such.
        It’s going to be a pain, but the guy who owns the shop has been very good: paid for the tow, has kept in touch, etc. We’ll see! Some day I’ll write about it all — once it becomes just another humorous tale!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. “Spitfire” is such a good name for a fighter plane.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I wasn’t aware of the attacks on Darwin. Or possibly I’d forgotten. Thanks, G. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I hang my head in shame – I had always thought the raid on Darwen was a one-off. I didn’t realise there had been so many.

    We were very Spitfire-focussed. When my add was in Korea HMS Triumph was still flying Seafires, which were basically a Spitfire with a hook on the back.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Triumph_(R16)

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Great and interesting post of the Spitfire used in 1945 in different lands

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great article! Like others here, I wonder how much of this will be passed on by succeeding younger generations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can only hope, Allen. It seems our school systems aren’t into teaching history much these days.

      Liked by 2 people

      • As a former teacher I am appalled at today’s education standards. We are now 17th in the world for education which is a shame.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I don’t have any children in school, but I think it’s sad and unacceptable.

          Liked by 1 person

          • “These days?” Oh, you mean like when America Was Great? People immigrate from all over the world to get away from the oppressive weight of 1000’s of years of history where they were just surfs. Ive found that most Americans, including native born, dont give a fig about history. I grew up in Florida in the 1950’s in a high school where 99% of graduates went on to college and many became wealthy doctors and lawyers. Not one of my friends gave a fig about history because no one ever made any money just knowing history. So they studied for the test the night before, and forgot everything the next day. But what was taught, was what would be called Fake News today. Florida in the ’50s was viciously segregationist but in 4 years of history in high school I never once heard that the Civil War was about Slavery. It was always “States Rights”. Yeah. Right. The right of states to own slaves, but a teacher could be fired for teaching that. The result of that is that my wealthy doctor and lawyer friends are todays supporters of Making America Great Again. You know, like when Florida stood for States Rights.

            Like

            • Gary, you are leaving one word out of the equation – LEGALLY.
              I hope you’ve gotten your ranting out of your system.

              Like

              • My rant. Your tweet. Which “trumps” which? But I have no idea where “legally” fits into this. “Legally” what?

                Like

                • Immigrants helped make this country – but they entered legally. They didn’t sneak across the border and then demand that the government not only give them benefits, but excuse their crime.

                  Like

                  • “Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/ The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./ Send these the homeless tempest-tost to me/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
                    Most folks coming through Ellis Island were undocumented aliens, like my grandparents fleeing across Europe from pogroms in Lithuania in 1915. Even with all this country’s ills, like the vicious segregation that was taught as “state’s rights” in Florida schools where I grew up, they were not turned away. A few years later, when those without “papers” were fleeing from Europe, they were turned away. Most died in the Holocaust. So which America was Great, and which immigrants were legal? And which immigrants today, fleeing chaos in Central and South America, much of it created by our support for dictatorships for years, are responsible for lowering the standards for teaching history in our educational system? Just wondering….

                    Like

                    • If you came thru Ellis, you did it legally! This is Christmas Eve and I will not spend it arguing the immigrant issue. Find a politically blog to do that in. I can recommend a few if you like.

                      Like

                    • “Now, in 1907, no passports or visas were needed to enter the United States,” he says. “In fact, no papers were required at all. This was a paperless period. All you had to do was verbally give information to the official when you boarded ship in Europe and that information was the only information used when they arrived.”
                      ….but Happy Holidays, anyway….

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • They gave their info – that’s far more than those who sneak across the border!
                      Enjoy the season – take a break from politics!

                      Like

  14. Very interesting read, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I had no idea that the climate could have such an effect on the planes. Of course it makes good sense about the overheating. It must have been very disconcerting for the experienced pilots who were used to much better performance.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Important information for someone focussed on the Spitfire’s impact on the European conflict

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hello GP, I Really Liked The Picture With The Marines Trainings And The ..Don’t Mess With The “Matryoshka” lol (Thanks)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. An excellent post, and thank you. I just read “Darwin Spitfires” and apparently the problem was that the vast majority of the RAF Spitfires, as soon as they saw the enemy, rushed off and started their own one man war. The Zero pilots were of much better calibre, which may have been because they practiced manoeuvres in their spare time.
    Spitfires had limited range because they were designed to defend England by being based in Kent and intercepting enemy bombers over the Channel or the North Sea. In theory that was well under, say, 200 miles range required.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Another good article, GP. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. A few of the WWII landing strips have been preserved in the Northern Territory, some are parallel to the main highway and signage and stories has been placed for travellers to understand the history.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I’m a great fan of the Spitfire and I was also interested that the Zero could outmanoeuvre it. And isn’t it amazing what changing the oil can do.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Was this the only one with drop tanks, GP? It looks like this way, and shows the climate it was built for. Thank you for another great piece of interesting information. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Excellent write up. I have come to enjoy your posts. I had often read, in passing, about the attacks on Australia but never followed up. Thank you for the info.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I guess the Spitfire was built for the Northern climate and Island geography. It is great to read about it, GP. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Fascinating to learn more about one of my favorite planes, the Spitfire. Always pleased to read about the Australians. (I’m making fun of myself when I rhetorically ask, “You mean we didn’t win the war by ourselves?”) The irony in your cartoons is too delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Ah, yes, there was nothing like the Spitfire, even the name spells trouble. The derring-do of the Spitfire pilots portrayed in old movies like The Battle of Britain, Dambusters etc. will always be thrilling. Those men and that little devil of a plane saved the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She was quite an aircraft and asset for the European side of the war, but thankfully in the wide expanse of the Pacific, it was lucky the Australian pilots could make her an asset for them as well.

      Like

  27. This post gives me a wonderful memory of my mother. In the 1940s, she ran the military carpool at O’Hare airport in Chicago. She often saw Spitfires (and plenty of other planes) landing. Fast forward to the 1990s and the Australian War Memorial/Museum. Whenever she visited me in Canberra, we’d often stop by the memorial’s enormous hall of aircraft. She’d walk around telling war stories about each plane and people unwittingly followed her as if she was a tour guide. I can still hear her tales.

    Liked by 6 people

  28. Off topic…

    This series gives a great overview of WWII.

    https://m.imdb.com/title/tt9103932/

    I have seen a lot of documentaries and these have added a lot to what I know about WWII.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Adolph Galland said this to Göring about wanting Spitfires.

    Great post GP on a little known part of the war.

    Spitfire Mk Vs were leftover from Europe after being replaced by newer versions like the Mk IXs. It’s no surprise that they had such a hard time against the Japanese. Again a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thanks so much for this write-up, GP. I’ve long been a big fan of the Spitfire but I mainly read about its service in Europe. It was a bit of a shock to read that the Zero could outmaneuver it. It’s funny to read about the overheating problems. They had worked out those problems, and fuel problems in England as well. The Triumph Spitfire (British-Leyland car) that I owned for 30 years, had chronic problems with overheating. They started two days after I bought the car!

    Thanks again for adding to the story of one of my favorite planes. I hope you have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Chuck Yeager. Didn’t realize he was awarded a Purple Heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Nice tribute to an excellent British fighter aircraft, GP. Still much-loved by pilots today, and regularly flown to commemorate significant anniversaries.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Great post! Another of my historical favorites! I don’t think it is true, but there was a story about Herman Goering that, when he asked one of his Luftwaffe leaders what he needed to beat the British, the man replied, Spitfires! While your post focuses on the Pacific, which I love reading about, it is just a testament to the excellence of that aircraft.

    Liked by 2 people

  1. Pingback: Ordnance Spitfire in the Pacific War – fastlivenostress

  2. Pingback: Ordnance Spitfire in the Pacific War – ASJohn

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