During the early years of the Second World War, Lord Beaverbook who was the Minister for Wartime Production had the idea of 'Presentation Aircraft'. The idea was part of a morale boosting exercise in Britain. A price list was created that did not represent the actual cost of the aircraft, but considered an amount of money for a donor to raise. The price structure was set out at £5,000 for a single-engine aircraft, £20,000 for a twin-engine aircraft, and £40,000 for a four-engine aircraft.
Many towns and cities across Britain did their bit to raise funds for the war effort. The Newbury Spitfire Fund originated when eight local women, each with a Christian name beginning with one of the letters of the work Spitfire, heard bombs falling in the distance and promptly started a collection. Mrs E. Charrington of 'Wormstall' in Newbury, was the Chairwoman of the Newbury and District Spitfire Fund.
October 1940 The residents of Newbury contributed £9,711 8s 2d, including later funds after the official close date had past. The Hungerford Spitfire Fund had raised £828 17s 7½d, these additional funds may have also been taken in to account. Newbury raised enough funds for two Spitfires to bear the name of the town, displayed in four-inch yellow characters on the engine cowling of the aircraft.
Both Spitfires to bear the name of Newbury were built by Vickers Armstrong (Supermarine) Ltd. at Eastleigh in Hampshire. The Spitfires were Mark Vb which were fitted with the Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 series supercharged V12 engine. The weapons for the Vb series consisted of two Hispano cannons, and four Browning .303 machine guns mounted in the wings.
Newbury I (R7292) was issued production number 1555, and Newbury II (R7296) was 1561. The aircraft factory at Eastleigh was also used to complete the final assembly of both Spitfires, before flight testing and delivery to the Royal Air Force.
Newbury I - Spitfire Vb (R7292)
31st March 1941 The Spitfire flew its first flight and would undergo rigorous flight tests.
4th April 1941 The Spitfire was flown to No.9 Maintenance Unit at RAF Cosford by the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) to the RAF fighter stations ready to go into combat.
26th August 1941 Delivered to No.71 (Eagle) Squadron based at RAF North Weald in Essex. The Squadron was the first 'Eagle Squadron' to be manned by American volunteers, they took part in sweeps and bomber escorts over northern France.
20th September 1941 R7292 engaged in a dog-fight between Hazebrouck and the French coast, Flying-Officer R.O. Scarborough opened fire and damaged a German Luftwaffe Messerschmitt BF-109F fighter. During December 1941 the squadron moved to RAF Martlesham Heath in Suffolk.
27th March 1942 The aircraft suffered Category E damage in a flying accident. The damage was re-categorised by the Air Service Training at Hamble in Hampshire on 8th April 1942, and repair work started eight days later. By 28th July 1942 repair was completed and R7292 was ready for collection, it was delivered to No.33 Maintenance Unit at RAF Lyneham in north Wiltshire on the same day.
2nd August 1942 Joined the 308th Squadron of the 31st Fighter Group USAAF based at RAF Westhampnett, near Chichester in West Sussex.
11th August 1942 R7292 was transferred to No.91 (Nigeria) Squadron at RAF Hawkinge in Kent. The Spitfire was given code DL-T, becoming the personal aircraft of Flight Lieutenant Alan J. Andrews DFC & Bar (60748) and personalised with the name 'Corol or -' because his wife was expecting a baby and they had agreed on the name Carol for a girl, but could not decide on a boy's name.
14th October 1942 Damaged when involved in a flying accident, the repairs were carried out on site at RAF Hawkinge from 19th October 1942.
1st November 1942 Re-joined No.91 Squadron at RAF Hawkinge. The aircraft saw a busy time flying on coastal patrols to intercept the Luftwaffe bombers and fighters crossing the British coastline, also known as Jim Crows. More daring missions were Rhubarbs, which were of dropping below low cloud level searching for opportunity targets such as railway locomotives and rolling stock, aircraft on the ground, enemy troops, and vehicles on roads. Other mission were sweeps and bomber escort.
10th March 1943 The Spitfire suffered damage when Flying-Officer Y.P.M. Seydel broke the port oleo leg on take-off, and then had to make a belly landing. R7292 went for repairs at No.1 Civilian Repair Unit at Cowley in Oxfordshire on 21st March 1943, once the repairs were completed, the aircraft was collected on 8th May 1943 and delivered to No.39 Maintenance Unit at RAF Colerne in Wiltshire on 23rd May 1943.
2nd July 1943 An upgrade to the aircrafts fuel system and wing stiffening was done at Vickers Armstrong, then flown to No.9 Maintenance Unit at RAF Cosford on 4th October 1943.
27th October 1943 The Spitfire was given the code UZ-R and was assigned to No.306 (City of Torun) Polish Fighter Squadron at RAF Heston, to be used for bomber escort work.
The pilot of the Newbury Spitfire Flying-Officer G. Sologub was involved in a collision with another Spitfire (AB254) flown by Flying-Officer A. Pietrasiak while landing at RAF Hawkinge. R7292 was beyond repair on site, and was therefore declared Category B damage.
18th November 1943 The Spitfire was sent to be repaired at No.1 Civilian Repair Unit at Cowley, the repairs were completed and the aircraft was ready for collection on 5th February 1944.
22nd February 1944 R7292 was flown to No.33 Maintenance Unit at RAF Lyneham.
27th May 1944 On delivery to RAF Shoreham in West Sussex, Warrant-Officer R.M. Maurel made a heavy landing, damaging the aircraft. Repairs was carried out on site, and was completed by 29th June 1944.
3rd July 1944 The Spitfire was assigned to No.345 (French) Squadron at RAF Shoreham, and was flying mainly heavily escorted bombing raids known as Ramrods. 20th August 1944 The drop tank fell off while Flight-Lieutenant R. Caenfeinlie was taxying, which resulted in damage to the tail wheel. 25th August 1944 Repairs started and were completed by the next day.
20th November 1944 R7292 was assessed and declared as Category B damage, beyond repair on site. The aircraft was sent for major repairs but was re-categorised E as a write off, and struck off charge. The Newbury Spitfire had reached the end of its life on 8th December 1944.
Newbury II - Spitfire Vb (R7296)
3rd April 1941 The Spitfire flew its first flight and would undergo rigorous flight tests.
4th April 1941 The Spitfire was flown to No.9 Maintenance Unit at RAF Cosford by the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) ready to be allocated a squadron.
4th May 1941 The Spitfire was assigned to the No.91 (Nigeria) Squadron at RAF Hawkinge in Kent, carrying out reconnaissance missions. Two days later, the aircraft was placed in No.42 Group Deposit Account.
9th May 1941 Reassigned to Air Service Training at RAF Perth in Scotland.
15th June 1941 R7296 arrived at No.6 Maintenance Unit at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.
2nd November 1941 Assigned to No.611 (West Lancashire) Squadron based at RAF Hornchurch in Essex. The Spitfire was engaged in sweeps and bomber escorts until the squadron moved north to RAF Drem in Scotland on 12th November 1941. R7296 was left to be passed on to another based at the same location.
14th November 1941 The Spitfire was transferred to No.64 Squadron at RAF Hornchurch, to take part in offensive fighter sweeps and bomber escorts over northern France.
26th March 1942 While on a mission over northern France and five miles west of Dunkirk, pilot Sargent J.K Stewart was involved in a dog-fight which resulted in him shooting down a German Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf FW-190 fighter.
22nd May 1942 The aircraft was given code JH-J and joined No.317 Squadron, a Polish Fighter Squadron based at RAF Northolt, London that was under the command of Stanisław Skalski.
10th June 1942 Wing Commander Stefan Janus, the Northolt Wing Leader who was attached to No.317 Squadron for maintenance purposes, had his personal Spitfire (EN916) coded JH-J for Janus, so R7296 had to be re-coded to JH-I.
15th July 1942 Flying-Officer T. Szymankiewicz, was engaged in a battle with a Focke-Wulf FW-190 over the sea off Boulogne in northern France. He opened fire and destroyed the FW-190, resulting in a victory for the Spitfire. R7296 suffered Category A damage while on a non-operation sortie when flown by the same pilot, the repair was done on site a RAF Northolt.
3rd August 1942 Sent to Rollason Aircraft Service at Croydon, Surrey.
11th August 1942 A major inspection was undertaken when the aircraft was sent to the Civilian Repair Organisation, Heston Aircraft Ltd. repairs commenced two days later. The work on R7296 was completed and awaiting collection on 8th September 1942, when it was delivered to No.33 Maintenance Unit at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire the same day.
1st October 1942 Assigned to No.41 Squadron at RAF Llanbedr, Gwynedd in Wales and issued code EB-B.
Spitfires missing on training mission
22nd October 1942 During the morning, the Newbury II Spitfire was being prepared for 22 year old Flying Officer Ronald Harrison (119918). Also being prepared was Spitfire 'Nigeria - Abeokuta Province' BM573 for 23 year old Flight-Lieutenant Frank Gillitt (108132), and Spitfire BL518 for 20 year old Flying Officer Thomas Scott (115515). All three pilots were Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR).
At 11:20am The three Spitfires took off from RAF Llanbedr on a cloud training exercise. They flew 20 miles south over the Irish Sea at Aberdovey and made radio contact with RAF Llandedr at mid-day, this was to be the last radio contact.
2:30pm An air search was initiated when RAF Llandedr declared the Spitfires were overdue. Due to the extensive cloud layers ranging from a cloud base at 800 feet at sea level to 18,000 feet, the search was unsuccessful with no radio contact and nothing being found.
23rd October 1942 The weather conditions were so bad that the aircraft taking part in the air search was unable to take off.
24th October 1942 The weather conditions had improved enough to allow the aircraft taking part in the air search to take off.
At 1pm the air search made radio contact with RAF Llandedr to report the that three missing Spitfires had been sighted, wrecked and burnt out near the Welsh coastal town of Towyn.
On route back to RAF Llandedr, they had flown in to the side of the 2,077 foot mountain at Tarrenhendre in the bad weather conditions. The pilots would have had near-zero visibility on impact, they would have died instantly.
Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb
The Spitfire was the design of Reginald J. Mitchell (1895-1937) of Supermarine, for the Royal Air Force. The Supermarine Spitfire was a British single-seat front line fighter aircraft, with a length of 29ft 11in and a wingspan of 36ft 10in. The aircraft were made at Vickers-Armstrong at a cost of £9,500 each, but as the production lines lengthened, the cost reduced to about £5,000.
During the early part of 1941, the Vb (Type 349) series became the main production version of the Mark V's. They were powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 series supercharged V12 engine, that produced 1,470 hp and gave a speed of 371 mph. The Merlin 45 gave the aircraft a climb rate of 3,250 ft/min, and a ceiling height of 35,000 ft.
The standard armament for the 'B Wing' consisted of two 20 mm Hispano Mk II cannon (60 round drum magazine per cannon), and four .303 in Browning Mk II machine guns (350 rounds per gun) in the outer position of the wings. A gun heater intensifier was introduced, this was piped heat to the gun bays that ran from the rear exhaust stacks.
An upgraded 'blown' cockpit hood was fitted to give the pilot an increase in head room and visibility. The cockpit hood was fitted with an integral bullet resistant windscreen and flat side screens.
The Vb was the first series of Spitfire able to carry drop tanks underneath with wing centre-section, this gave the ability of carrying a more fuel to stay flying for a greater amount of time. Once the fuel in the drop tank had been used, the pilot would release it from the aircraft.
3,911 Spitfires of the Vb series were produced, out of a total of 6,479 Mark V's during the Second World War.
Peter R. Arnold (Spitfire Historian)
Wojtek Matusiak (Polish Spitfire Historian) photos of No.317 Squadron Spitfire's JH-J and JH-I
Gifts of War: Spitfires and Other Presentation Aircraft in Two World Wars by Henry Boot and Ray Sturtivant
Air History website at www.airhistory.org.uk/spitfire
Spitfire Pilot & Aircraft Database at www.allspitfirepilots.org