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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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