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PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2010 2:46 am 
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I was recommended to join this forum as being the best place likely to help me. I am on a quest – here are the details and the reason why:

On 8 November 1941 a Spitfire Mk Vc serial number AA963 rolled off the production line at the Supermarine factory at Eastleigh in Southern England. It was test flown later that day. This Spitfire was then christened “Borough of Southgate” as it was presented to the RAF and bought from funds raised by the citizens of the London Borough of Southgate, a working class suburb of North East London, which had suffered badly at the hands of the Luftwaffe during the 1940/41 Blitz. The fact that the people of Southgate had managed to raise the money to buy ‘their’ Spitfire was remarkable as this was a predominantly poor area, and it was testimony to their spirit and determination to get back at Goering’s air force that they succeeded in just a few months.

Image

(Photo of AA963 fresh off the factory)

This ‘presentation’ Spitfire was technically quite unique, as it was one of the very first Mark V’s to carry the ‘C’ wing armament option which dispensed with Browning machine guns and carried a total of four x 20mm Hispano cannon instead. (This 4 x cannon option quickly proved to be unsuccessful in combat and later aircraft were usually armed with a mixture of cannon and mg’s). However AA963 never had an opportunity to prove her worth in combat as she was crated up in mid-December 1941 and sent to the port of Liverpool to wait for a ship to the States.

The reason for this was that after the events of 7 December 1941, a request was made by President Roosevelt to Winston Churchill for ‘one of the latest Spitfires’ to tour the US and assist in fund raising for the War Bond Drive. Spitfire AA963 arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 10 March 1941 and was shipped on to Wright Field for assembly and evaluation. After being briefly displayed at Chicago Municipal Airport in April 1942 she then joined a US War Bonds promotional tour called the ‘Cavalcade of the Air’, which commenced with a flypast over New York on 13 June 1942 in the company of a British Beaufighter, P39 Aircobra, P40 and a captured Messerschmitt bf109E (RAF serial AE479. This bf109 aircraft was flown all over the US before being pranged by a US Navy pilot in November 1942, ultimately being rescued post-war from a Canadian junk yard then transported back to the UK where it is currently on display at Duxford museum). The ‘Cavalcade’ tour covered many US cities over a period of 3 months, including St Louis, Washington and Kansas City.

I have many gaps in the precise ‘Cavalcade of the Air’ itinerary and would very interested if any of your readers could supply any information of this era of Spitfire AA963’s US service. My last ‘sighting’ of AA963 was at Lincoln AFB in Nebraska in mid-1943, where I believe she was being used as a non-flying instructional airframe for fighter aircraft mechanics under training. At this time there were US fighter squadrons using Spitfire Mk V’s in the European Theatre of Operations under the ‘Reverse Lease Lend’ scheme and it is logical that a Spitfire Mk V airframe would come in handy for mechanics to train on before an overseas tour of duty.

Image

(Last known photo repainted in USAAC colours but still bearing her RAF serial - presumably at Lincoln AFB)

What happened after Lincoln AFB is anybody’s guess – the trail has gone well and truly cold. If anybody reading this is able to shed some light on the missing details of AA963’s service, I would be extremely grateful, as I started my quest to track her down when I was a cadet at No 85 (Southgate) Squadron and my Commanding Officer gave me the first photos taken at the factory on the day she first flew. I was born in Southgate, and was a pilot for many years. It is my intention one day to write down the full history of this aircraft and present it to the people of Southgate, my home town. I now live in Auckland New Zealand. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Barry

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:20 am 
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Welcome to WIX Barry!

This is a fascinating subject I have never heard about before. I'd never heard of the "Cavalcade of the Air" touring the U.S. either. The unique types involved make it especially interesting. I look forward to hearing more about your search for the history of AA963.

Good luck.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2010 3:43 pm 
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To: Ztex - Moderator

Hi, I realised I made a mistake on putting this post in the maintenance hangar section when I should have put it in the main 'Wix Hangar' section of this website. Can anyone assist me in transferring it over please?

Cheers

Barry

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2010 6:13 pm 
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And for those interested, a link to a few more of Barry's pics of AA963: :wink:

http://spitfiresite.com/2009/03/aa963-i ... hotos.html

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 6:00 am 
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This could be the Spitfire that Bob Tuck is described as flying in the USA in the book "Fly for Your Life". As far as I know the only surviving "Presentation" Spitfire is Mk IIB P8332 in Ottawa, Canada which, in my opinion - especially considering it's deplorable condition - should be returned to England, restored, and placed in the RAF Museum.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 7:30 am 
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Barry,

I've been researching Nebraska Army Air Fields for a number of years and am not certain that last photo of AA963 was taken at Lincoln. The buildings in the background are of a more permanent construction than used at Lincoln and are oriented differently. I don't think Lincoln had any trees that tall in the cantonment area, either.

Perhaps she had been moved to one of the permanent mechanic schools by the time this photo was taken? I'll do some more research and if I can help pin down the location I'll be sure to post.

Scott


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:32 am 
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Dan Jones wrote:
This could be the Spitfire that Bob Tuck is described as flying in the USA in the book "Fly for Your Life". As far as I know the only surviving "Presentation" Spitfire is Mk IIB P8332 in Ottawa, Canada which, in my opinion - especially considering it's deplorable condition - should be returned to England, restored, and placed in the RAF Museum.

Dan


As I'm living in Ottawa at the moment I can say with confidence that the condition P8332 is in is hardly deplorable. It hasn't seen the outside in 46 years and has always been in museums. The current museum it is in (the National War Museum) is a beautiful place that was purpose built about 5 years ago. The Spitfire is as close to flying as it's going to get. (it's about 15ft above the ground on a special cradle) I do see pictures of the old display at the National Science and Technology Museum(over 15 years ago) but you haven't been able to touch the aircraft without special permission in well over 20 years and the museum(s) staff keep excellent care of their collections. These are not shoestring museums...

I'm not sure why you suggest that it should be in a RAF museum. The RCAF flew them as well. Initially under the umbrella of the RAF and then independently as the RCAF.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 6:15 pm 
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Dan,

Thanks for tip re: Bob Tuck's book. I'll hunt it out of my library and look for the mention. Incidentally I met Bob a few times, mostly when he used to pop into the Mess at RAF Manston for a drink and a chat, and once we met by chance at a pub in Kent near where he had his mushroom farm at Eastry, Kent. Always amiable, always very smartly turned out and an excellent raconteur - a true gentleman. At the pub he told me that I had just missed out on meeting one of his close friends by a couple of days - Adolf Galland. They used to visit one another frequently alternating between UK and Germany. This would be about 1971/72 when I was stationed at Manston. Bob Tuck might have flown either of the other two Mark V Spitfires that were sent to the USA during the war. AA963 was the third one sent over there, although the other two were based at NASA Langley for most of the time, or at least until somebody bent them so they became relegated to non-flyable condition. The other two Mark V's were - R7347 and W3119 (photos attached).

Image

(R7347 - used for testing and evaluation of the stall characteristics and flying qualities while at Langley).

Image

(W3119 - Extensive evaluations at Langley including different exhast configurations)

The full reports of this testing can be read at the NASA Langley Technical Reports server.

Scott,

Excellent feedback on Nebraska as I was only assuming it was taken there as the Wright Field 'Foreign Aircraft Status Board' had it downgraded to classification 26 (which means non-flying instructional airframe only) from September 1943 and location at Lincoln (photo attached).

Image

(Wright Field Foreign Aircraft Status Board)

To add a bit of interest here is a nice pic of the Beaufighter X7718 that accompanied the 'Air Cavalcade' in the summer of 1941. It was taken by the famous aviation photographer Rudy Arnold, who should get credit for this image. The pilot, Captain William J Wrigglesworth USAAC is enjoying the view. I am assuming that he flew the Beau when they toured the US.

Image

I've got heaps more warbird pics in my archives - mostly wartime. Do you think that anyone would be interested if I posted them?

Cheers

Barry

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They say the three best things in life are 'a good landing', 'a good orgasm' and 'a good bowel movement'. Landing on a carrier at night you usually get to experience all three at the same time.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:46 pm 
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Gidday All,

Just following on from my last remark of the previous post. Here are a selection of pics from my 'archives'. I started collecting aircraft pics when I was about 12 (in the 1960's). I would write 'begging letters' to aircraft manufacturers and they would willingly oblige an enthusiastic kid with free pics. This was in the days when a lot of the smaller independent manufacturers still existed before takeovers and mergers with the big corporations. I don't know how many I've got but there are hundreds maybe. It's probably about time I started sharing them. Please let me know.

Image

Image

Image

And if you like British ones - here are some taken in wartime mostly at the Hawker factory at Dunsfold,

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

That's all for now Folks!

Barry

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 11:35 pm 
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markcia wrote:

As I'm living in Ottawa at the moment I can say with confidence that the condition P8332 is in is hardly deplorable. It hasn't seen the outside in 46 years and has always been in museums. The current museum it is in (the National War Museum) is a beautiful place that was purpose built about 5 years ago. The Spitfire is as close to flying as it's going to get. (it's about 15ft above the ground on a special cradle) I do see pictures of the old display at the National Science and Technology Museum(over 15 years ago) but you haven't been able to touch the aircraft without special permission in well over 20 years and the museum(s) staff keep excellent care of their collections. These are not shoestring museums...

I'm not sure why you suggest that it should be in a RAF museum. The RCAF flew them as well. Initially under the umbrella of the RAF and then independently as the RCAF.



Well, I'm not saying it's in deplorable condition due to it's current keepers, I'm saying it was put in deplorable condition some sixty odd years ago when it was turned into a portable attraction. For example:

1) if you were to pop the bonnet I'd wager the old, electric motor that used to spin the prop is still in there, not an engine.
2) the very unoriginal metal, Ham Standard prop it currently wears (probably on the electric motor shaft).
3) the incorrect spinner off of a ..... :?: (anybody???)
4) the wings that were cut off the fuselage and then made to quickly reattach for exhibition.
5) the mainwheels off of a ..... :?:

The last time I saw the airplane it was displayed sans it's right wing and moved up against a wall with a mural of an airfield painted behind it. I say it's deplorable because we are not only talking about what is, for all intents and purposes, the sole surviving Spitfire Mk IIB, but (and more importantly) the world's sole surviving RAF Presentation aircraft. The Canadian War Museum is an absolutely first class museum and very deserving of having a Spitfire in it, just (in my opinion) not that one, and not in that condition. Bring it home, have it restored properly by someone like Arco in Duxford (not to fly (EVER!) just restored correctly and then put on display in Hendon.

PS: I too am a Canadian.

Dan Jones
Lacombe, Alberta

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Last edited by Dan Jones on Sat Aug 07, 2010 7:21 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 11:41 pm 
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seagull61785 wrote:
Dan,

Thanks for tip re: Bob Tuck's book. I'll hunt it out of my library and look for the mention. Incidentally I met Bob a few times, mostly when he used to pop into the Mess at RAF Manston for a drink and a chat, and once we met by chance at a pub in Kent near where he had his mushroom farm at Eastry, Kent. Always amiable, always very smartly turned out and an excellent raconteur - a true gentleman. At the pub he told me that I had just missed out on meeting one of his close friends by a couple of days - Adolf Galland. They used to visit one another frequently alternating between UK and Germany. This would be about 1971/72 when I was stationed at Manston. Bob Tuck might have flown either of the other two Mark V Spitfires that were sent to the USA during the war. AA963 was the third one sent over there, although the other two were based at NASA Langley for most of the time, or at least until somebody bent them so they became relegated to non-flyable condition. The other two Mark V's were - R7347 and W3119 (photos attached).

Image

(R7347 - used for testing and evaluation of the stall characteristics and flying qualities while at Langley).

Image

(W3119 - Extensive evaluations at Langley including different exhast configurations)

The full reports of this testing can be read at the NASA Langley Technical Reports server.

Scott,

Excellent feedback on Nebraska as I was only assuming it was taken there as the Wright Field 'Foreign Aircraft Status Board' had it downgraded to classification 26 (which means non-flying instructional airframe only) from September 1943 and location at Lincoln (photo attached).

Image

(Wright Field Foreign Aircraft Status Board)

To add a bit of interest here is a nice pic of the Beaufighter X7718 that accompanied the 'Air Cavalcade' in the summer of 1941. It was taken by the famous aviation photographer Rudy Arnold, who should get credit for this image. The pilot, Captain William J Wrigglesworth USAAC is enjoying the view. I am assuming that he flew the Beau when they toured the US.

Image

I've got heaps more warbird pics in my archives - mostly wartime. Do you think that anyone would be interested if I posted them?

Cheers

Barry


Just off the top of my head, I want to say that he flew that Spit at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 07, 2010 3:25 pm 
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Thanks Dan,

He could have flown AA963, as the dates match. But then again both of the other Mk V's (W3119 and R7347) were in a flyable condition and also spent some time at Wright Field during that period. I suppose the only sure way would be to check his log book. Also the armament was different - both W3119 and R7347 were Mk Va's with 8 x Brownings and AA963 was a Vc with 4 x cannon. I can't find my copy of 'Fly for your Life' so cannot read the passage he wrote and get any clues on this.

A complete copy of Bob Tuck's pilot log book was reproduced a few years ago as part of the series "After The Battle". If anyone has a copy I would really appreciate them looking for an entry around October 1941 and resolving this.

Thanks again for your help.

Cheers

Barry

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 07, 2010 3:46 pm 
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To add just a little more to the Lincoln AAF portion of the story, I've seen several mentions over the years of a small scrapping operation near the end of the war in the Lincoln area. It appears that some of the Class 26 airframes stayed at Lincoln and were destroyed in '45. Mention has been made of several early P-40s and a few Lightning Mk Is being dismantled.

The mechanic school at Lincoln was pared back and later transferred to the other "permanent" stations but I don't have the exact dates close at hand. I believe late '43 to mid '44. The field was transferred to 2AF and supported the Heavy and Very Heavy Bombarment schemes. A high altitude chamber was later installed to support the B-29 training program.

It may be that AA963 met her end there, but I still don't think the photo of her in Air Corps markings was taken at Lincoln. Too many things about the buildings and terrain behind the apron have me thinking that picture was taken elsewhere. I am going out on a limb a little, but the scenery and building construction method makes me think it could have been Keesler.

Either way, the chart with active and inactive airframes is a really neat find and I appreciate being able to study it!
Scott


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 07, 2010 4:10 pm 
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Thank you Scott,

I thought the Keesler mechanic school specialized in B24 maintenance, whereas the Lincoln training school catered more for single engined 'pursuit ships'? Also I have been reading about how some of Lincoln's foreign types plus many more from other bases were sent to Freeman AFB at the end of the war. I believe General Hap Arnold (or a member of his staff) played 'God' and made the decision on which ones would go to the new USAAF museum and which ones would be scrapped at Freeman. There are also stories of many of these being buried somewhere on Freeman while others were sold off to local civilians (but not all were scrapped as a few survived in local private 'collections').

You might also find this one useful. It shows all of the foreign aircraft on inventory at the end of the war.

Image

Cheers

Barry

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 11, 2010 10:17 am 
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Lincoln was (that being the keyword) a Pursuit Mechanic School. I will have to find the appropriate documents to get accurate dates, but the Mechanic School dwindled down to nothing sometime in '44. The station was transferred from Training Command to Second Air Force and was then used to support the Bombardment program. Whether any of the Class 26 airplanes ever left, I can't say. She may have been scrapped in Nebraska along with the other airframes I mentioned in an earlier post. Keesler popped into my head more because of the more permanent buildings and trees in the photo you've posted. I'm 99.9% sure Lincoln didn't have that style building and the topography isn't right.

I wonder if the photo was taken prior to AA963 being transferred to Lincoln? I'm starting to think that is a more likely scenario the more I consider the situation.

Next trip to Maxwell I'll have to start researching Lincoln. Perhaps I'll run into a treasure trove like the one I found in the Amarillo file.

As an aside, I have a Lincoln AAB "Get Acquainted" book from its time as a Mechanic School. No photos of the Spitfire--mostly early P-40s, some P-38 and P-39 stuff, and a couple of P-35 pictures.

Scott


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