During World War Two towns across the country clamoured to sponsor Spitfires and Scunthorpe was no exception.
The sum required to have a named Spitfire was £5,000 – a Scunthorpe Spitfire Fund group was formed and the money was raised by 1943. One of those who help raise funds was Florence Spooner who during the early days of the war organised dances at The Crosby Hotel. The dances had music played by a band from Hemswell Aerodrome.
The Spitfire was a Mk Vc JK453 and was one of a batch of 989 aircraft built under contract by Vickers Armstrong at their Castle Bromwich factory and delivered to service between December 1942 and April 1943.
The presentation took place on a Saturday to mark the final day of the pre-Service Youth Organisation event of the town and involved members of the Air Training Corps, Army Cadets, Civil Defence Messengers and Sea Cadets. They meet at the ARP Training Centre in Cole Street at 2:45pm and moved off via the High Street to the Youth Centre at 3pm.
These young people had invited an airman from the town, Squadron Leader Robert Wareing DFC and Bar to take the salute from them as they march past the Youth Centre.
Squadron Leader Wareing is reported to have been the first serviceman from Scunthorpe to be decorated during World War Two – more of which can be read here – Robert Wareing DFC & Bar
These pre-service youths organisations had been responsible for a collection of copper and silver to ‘Sink the Dinghy’ which was on display in a water tank outside the Youth Centre. The collection had raised over 150 which was to be presented the following night as a gift in a concert in the Ritz Cinema.
The Spitfire was first taken on charge by 45 Maintenance Unit (MU) at RAF Kinloss on 11th February 1943 and transferred to 215 MU at Dumfries an 24th February. The aircraft was partly dismantled in Dumfries and packed for shipment aboard the SS Fort Lement, which left for Takoradi in West Africa on 12th March 1943.
The ship arrived on 20th April 1943 and the aircraft off-loaded , re-assembled and test flown before leaving for the Middle East on 30th April. Fighter aircraft were flown out to Egypt and the Sudan in stages using a chain of airfields built across Africa – it was too dangerous to move aircraft through the Mediterranean because of German and Italian air attacks.
Scunthorpe’s Spitfire arrived in Egypt on 6th May 1943 and went into store with 132 Maintenance Unit at Kilo 8 airfield in the Canal Zone. It was later moved to 72 OTU at Abu Sueir, where by chance one of the mechanics working on it was R H Fowler who hailed from Scunthorpe.
Whilst on deployment here the aircraft would have been “tropicalised” – most Mk V Spitfires were fitted with a Vokes Multi-vee filter to block the entry of sand and dust to the engine. Once modified the aircraft had a distinctive deep scoop located below the engine.
In mid 1944 the Scunthorpe Spitfire joined No10 Squadron, South African Air Force (SAAF) which was just being formed at Almaza near Cairo. The SAAF played a major part in the air offensive in North Africa during the struggles with the Italians and Rommel’s Afrika Korps so it is reasonable to believe Scunthorpe’s Spitfire would have been involved in convoy and other patrols along the coast and out into the Mediterranean.
The unit moved to Minnik in Syria on 2nd July 1944 and on 28th August Scunthorpe’s Spitfire was transferred to 94 Squadron RAF based at Savoia in Libya. Just three days later the squadron moved to Amriya in Egypt and on 19th September to Kalamaki, near Athens in Greece. At this stage it would most certainly have been involved in ground attack and reconnaissance sorties in support of Greek partisans.
The Scunthorpe Spitfire is also known to have served with 9 Squadron too but details are quite sketchy. From October 1944 it seems to disappear from official records – it may have been scrapped or used as spares as a result of an accident.
Although Scunthorpe’s Spitfire JK453 met its end far from home our town should be proud of it aeronautical contribution to the war effort.