1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk VC
By 1940 the Mark V Spitfire had been developed around a Mark II airframe, strengthened to receive the latest Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 and 46 engines, and went on to be produced in greater numbers than any other variant of this legendary aeroplane.
The Mark V and its derivatives were designed to improve the flying characteristics of the Mark II. Some were designed for ground attack with bombs, machine guns and cannon, and some with all cannon armament. All these variants capitalised on the Spitfire`s excellent manoeuvrability.
In 1941 the Mark V began operations with the RAF to become the mainstay of Fighter Command`s offensive operations across occupied Europe. The first `tropicalised` variants of the Mark VC were shipped to the Mediterranean. In March 1942 they flew from the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle and landed on the besieged island of Malta. Other squadrons were deployed in North Africa, India and Australia where they were operated by the Royal Australian Air Force in the Pacific East Indies.
A number of squadrons were used by the United States Army Air Force and other Mark Vs were shipped to Russia and flown by pilots of the Soviet Union. Yet more were supplied to Portugal and to the Royal Egyptian Air Force.
The Collection’s exhibit
This aircraft was built by Westland Aircraft at Yeovil as a Mark VC and issued in 1942 to No 310 (Czech) Squadron based at Duxford. It undertook escort duties to USAAF bombers, including the famous ‘Memphis Belle’, of the 91st Bombardment Group during 1942-43. In post war years it was used as an instructional airframe at Loughborough College and was acquired by the Shuttleworth Collection in 1961, together with the Collection’s Sea Hurricane, in exchange for a Jet Provost.
The aircraft was returned to flight for the Battle of Britain film. A major overhaul was carried out in the early 1970s. The aircraft was airworthy from 1977-2005, then removed from service for overhaul.
The aircraft was displayed for many years in the clipped wing configuration which further improved manoeuvrability at low levels, bearing the livery of No.310 (Czech) Squadron while on operations in 1942-43. In mid 2000 the elliptical wingtips were refitted when the aircraft took part in the filming of Pearl Harbor, in which it played a fictitious member of an Eagle Squadron.
In 2005 the Spitfire was due for a major overhaul but, as the previous significantly major overhaul had been as far back as 1975, after careful inspection the decision was made to undertake a complete strip down and rebuild to original specification. In fact areas of the structure still showed evidence of wartime repairs.