The following are answers and explanations to the trivia quiz in your Spitfire kit. These explanations are taken from various sources and summarized to the best of our knowledge. We hope you had fun with our trivia challenge!
R.J. Mitchell designed the Spitfire and its predecessors, the Sea Lion II, the S.5, S.6, S.6B. He died in 1937 and the design of his immortal aircraft was taken over by his chief engineer Joseph Smith.
The first Spitfire flight was in March 1936, and Mitchell passed away from cancer aged 42, in June 1937.
Noel Pemberton Billing set up a company, Pemberton-Billing Ltd, in 1913 to produce sea-going aircraft. It also used the title Supermarine, Southampton. Upon election as an MP in 1916 Pemberton-Billing sold the company to his factory manager and long time associate Hubert Scott-Paine who renamed the company Supermarine Aviation Works Ltd. The company became famous for its successes in the Schneider Trophy for seaplanes, especially the three wins in a row of 1927, 1929 and 1931. In 1928 Vickers-Armstrongs took over Supermarine as Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers) Ltd and in 1938 all Vickers-Armstrongs aviation interests were reorganised to become Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd, although Supermarine continued to design, build and trade under its own name, Vickers Supermarine Ltd.
The Spitfire was designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft to defend Britain. Its design enabled the aircraft to reach higher speeds than its contemporary fighters, such as the Hawker Hurricane.
R.J. Mitchell was born in Staffordshire, England. After leaving Hanley High School in Stoke-on-Trent, he gained an apprenticeship at a locomotive engineering works. At the end of his apprenticeship he worked in the drawing office at Kerr Stuart and studied engineering and mathematics at night school.
In 1917 he joined the Supermarine Aviation Works at Woolston, Southampton. Mitchell was appointed Chief Designer in 1919, age 24. He was made Chief Engineer in 1920 and Technical Director in 1927. He was so highly regarded that when Vickers took over Supermarine in 1928, one of the conditions was that Mitchell stay as a designer for the next five years.
(Shrew- a small feisty mole-like mammal)
It is claimed that RJ Mitchell wanted to call the plane the Shrew (from Shakespeare's play ‘The Taming of the Shrew’) or the Scarab or snipe. Mitchell is quoted to have said that it was, "Bloody silly to call it by the same name as a previous failure". Although RJ Mitchell was a board member of Supermarine company, the decision was not taken by him, and instead went to the board of the parent company Vickers.
Sir Robert MacLean was the Chairman of Vickers (Aviation), responsible for buying Supermarine in 1928. He was the director of Vickers-Armstrong at the time he gave his eldest daughter Annie Penrose, born 3rd July, the nickname ‘little spitfire’; which in the 1930s was a name given to a girl if she had a spirited, fiery personality. This is where the Spitfire aircraft took its name from.
The word Spitfire dates from Elizabethan times and refers to a particularly fiery, ferocious type of person, usually a woman. The name had previously been used unofficially for Mitchell's earlier failed prototype design Supermarine Type 224 in 1934.
Fighter planes at the time we generally given names indicating speed and aggression such as (Fury, Gladiator, Gauntlet, Whirlwind, Hurricane etc.) and "Spitfire" more or less fell into this general category.
Along with the name he gave to the Spitfire; he and Arthur Sidgreaves had decided to start the project that led to the Spitfire, known initially as the Supermarine Type 300. The Air Ministry placed a contract for the aircraft on 1st December 1934 for £10,000. On 3 June 1936, Vickers Supermarine Ltd received an order for 310 Spitfires for £1.25m. The Spitfire name was confirmed by the Air Ministry on 10 June 1936. The first production Spitfire K9787 flew on 15 May 1938 from Eastleigh.
The Supermarine Type 300 K5054 Spitfire Prototype K5054 was the Air Ministry registration name given to the (Vickers) Supermarine Type 300 prototype.
Work on Spitfire K5054 started in December 1934. Its maiden flight, flown by Joseph ‘Mutt’ Summers, was at 16.30 on 5th March 1936 from Eastleigh Aerodrome in Hampshire. The flight lasted just eight minutes. Summers flew the new aircraft four times before handing testing over to test pilots Jeffrey Quill and George Pickering. K5054 Spitfire was given a certificate of flight worthiness on April 2nd 1936.
Minor modifications and refinements were made to the Type 300 prototype as suggested by flight trials over the following months. An order for 310 Supermarine Spitfire Type 300 Prototype K5054 was made on June 3rd 1936. When these rolled off the production line, they were known as Mark I Spitfires. Further developments to K5054 were used in the production of the Mark II and Mark III.
Supermarine Type 224
The first Supermarine 'Spitfire' - the gull winged Type 224 was not a success, but should be considered a valuable stepping stone to the Type 300 that followed.
It had a fixed undercarriage and open cockpit design favoured by most designs of that period. The design was hampered by its cooling design of the 660 horse power Rolls Royce Goshawk engine.
The fighter contract was eventually awarded to the Gloster SS.37 (Gladiator) biplane because of its climb rate advantage over the monoplane designs.
In 1934 the Supermarine Type 224 design was stopped. Successive specifications were sought from the air ministry to cover the refinements. Eventually this lead to the superb Type 300 that followed.
The first Spitfire I to enter service with the RAF arrived at 19 Squadron, Duxford, on 4 August 1938 and over the next few weeks aircraft were delivered at the rate of one a week to 19 and 66 Squadrons (also based at Duxford).
The Spitfire entered RAF service in 1938 and remained there until 1955. It continued service in other countries around the world up to1961.
R.J. Mitchell designed a series of highly successful racing seaplanes for the Coupe d'Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider, commonly called the Schneider Trophy.
These races were held twelve times between 1913 and 1931. It was intended to encourage technical advances in civil aviation but became a contest for pure speed over a triangular course.
The four seaplanes that Mitchell designed prior to the Spitfire were all champion aircraft in 1922, 27, 29 and 31. These aircraft utilized the revolutionary elliptical wing and were extremely fast and manoeuvrable.
They were the Supermarine Sea Lion II, Supermarine S.5, S.6 and S.6B.
The elliptical wing design was first used in the 1920s, applied to the Bäumer B II "Sausewind" of 1925.
The Heinkel He 70, predecessor to the Heinkel He111, may have been influential to Mitchell by its unique elliptical wing design. The He 70 was fast communications mail delivery plane and a reconnaissance bomber for the German Luftwaffe in the 1930s.
In addition, the Imperial Japanese Navy used an elliptical wing very similar to that of the He 70 on their Aichi D3A dive bomber, and the external wing outline of the excellent 1930s era Mitsubishi A5M carrier fighter was almost identical to that of the Spitfire, in spite of being brought into service well before the Spitfire.
Total built = 1. First flew in 1934.
Total built = 1,577. From June 1936 to August 1940
Total built = 920. First flew in 1939.
Total built = 2. Flew in 1939.
Mark IV & PR IV (photoreconnaissance)
Total built = 2. First flew in 1941.
Total built = 6,787. In service from August 1939 to October 1941.
Total built = 97
Total built = 140
Total built = 1,654. First flew in1942.
PR VIII (photoreconnaissance)
Total built = 70. First flew in 1942.
First flew October 1941. Total built = 5,665.
Total built = 16. First flew May 1942.
Total built = 464. First flew August 1941.
Total built = 100. First flew in August 1941.
Total built = 26. First flew in August 1942.
Total built = 957. First flew in July 1942
Total built = 1,053. First flew in May 1942.
Total built = 300. First flew December 1942.
Total built = 225. First flew in June 1943.
Total built = 2. First flew in April 1942.
Total built = 121. First flew in March 1942.
Total built = 264. First flew in June 1942.
Total built = 78. First flew in June 1943.
Other variants incuded:
Supermarine Seafire and Spiteful
Total variant types: 26
The No.74 squadron Spitfires jumped an unfortunate pair of Hurricanes during the Battle of Barking Creek. This resulted in the death of one of the young pilots who became the first British pilot fatality in World War II.
Spitfires from England were used over Dunkirk. Even though there where no Spitfires on the ground in France, Luftwaffe personnel constantly reported seeing the aircraft. It seemed that the Luftwaffe was terrified of the new fighter. This trend continued throughout the war, with Luftwaffe crews reporting being downed by Spitfires when they had really downed by other aircraft. This became known as "Spitfire Snobbery".
The exposed glycol system enabled ground troops to disable a Spitfire with as little as one good bullet. If the glycol system was hit the Spitfire engine would seize up. This was a major disadvantage during the last two years of World War II, when Spitfires roamed the German skies at low altitudes. So much enemy fire would be thrown up that it was extremely likely that a lucky gunner could disable a Spitfire.
The Ju-86R was a high-altitude version of the Ju-86 bomber. It conducted recon runs from 41,000 feet. This was at a higher service ceiling than all the RAF fighters. On September 12, 1942 a stripped down Spitfire battled with one of these bombers flying at 43,000 feet. This was the highest air battle of the war.
Throughout its various developments, the Spitfire was able to deliver various payloads. One of the most important design improvements of the Spitfire was the universal wing (added into the Mk.V variant). This design could accept all armament configurations, the most widely used being two 20-mm cannons and 4 machine guns. The Mk.V was only an interim type and could not face the newest generation of Luftwaffe fighters. After the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, beer barrels were sent over to help the moral and thirst of the soldiers.
The Spitfire became famous during the Battle of Britain. Its unique capabilities kept it in production throughout the war. It served in full combat squadrons across Britain and overseas. These included a Mk.V Spitfire's sent via aircraft carrier HMS Eagle to the defence of Malta. Because of the dusty conditions, a large filter had to be fitted to the aircraft, increasing drag. The Spitfire Mk.V also served in Africa alongside Hurricane Mk.IIs.
Total built = 6,787
The Mark V first flew in August 1939 and is considered the most famous of all Spitfires.
The Mk V was produced in greater numbers than any other single mark of Spitfire. It was the main version of the fighter during 1941, replacing the Mk I and II in service in time to take part in the first British counterattacks over France. During the summer of 1941 it held an advantage over the Bf 109, but in September 1941 the Fw 190 made its operation debut, and the Mk V found itself outclassed. Despite this, it remained the main RAF fighter until the summer of 1942, and the low level LF.Mk V remained in use into 1944.
To identify their aircraft, wing leaders were permitted to use their initials instead of unit code letters. He is one of the most famous RAF pilots, credited with 22 aerial victories, four shared victories, six probables, one shared probable and 11 enemy aircraft damaged.
In 1930, Bader graduated from Cranwell and was posted to a fighter squadron. In attempting a low level aerobatic display in December 1931, he crashed. Both Bader’s legs were amputated below the knees. Bader was still able to fly with his tin prosthetic legs. However, he was retired from the RAF.
Upon the outbreak of WW2 in 1939, Bader re-joined the RAF. By mid 1941, he had shot down twenty three German planes, the fifth most prolific record in the RAF.
On 9 August 1941, Bader collided mid-air with another plane over France. He was captured by German forces and sent to the Colditz prison. He remained there until the end of the war.
After the victory of the Battle of Britain, the first patrols over France since its fall in December 1940 were deployed. The patrols were carried out by pairs of Spitfires and were known as ‘Rhubarbs’.
The Arab-Israeli war saw some RAF veterans return to the trusty Spitfire. They fought against Egyptian Spitfires and greatly aided in the Israeli victory.
The last combat operations carried out by Spitfires was by the Burmese air force supporting Chinese and Burmese troops in operations against the CIA backed Kuomintang nationalists during 1960/61.
A total of 81 Mk 24s were completed, 27 of which were conversions from Mk 22s. The last Mk 24 to be built was delivered in February 1948 and were used until 1952 by 80 squadron. Some of the squadron's aircraft went to the Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force where they were operated until 1955.
Introduced into service in 1946, the F Mk 24 differed greatly from the original Spitfire Mk I, was twice as heavy, more than twice as powerful and showed an increase in climb rate of 80 percent over that of the prototype, 'K5054'. These remarkable increases in performance arose chiefly from the introduction of the Rolls-Royce Griffon engine in place of the famous Merlin of earlier variants. Rated at 2,050 hp (1,530 kW), the 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled Griffon 61 engine featured a two-stage supercharger, giving the Spitfire the exceptional performance at high altitude that had been sometimes lacking in early marks.