"Achtung Spitfire!!" The shrill, nerve-tingling words screamed over the intercoms that never failed to bring fear and trepidation to the Luftwaffe bomber crews, and a rush of adrenalin in the German fighter pilots. More than any fighter in the history of aerial combat, the Spitfire has set aviators' emotions racing. And, after 65 years, she does to this day!
Like her great adversary, the Messerschmitt Bf109, the Supermarine Spitfire gained legendary status, both fighters becoming timeless symbols of the opposing nations that contested the skies of Europe during World War II. Drawing first blood in the Battle of Britain, their six-year duel continued without interruption till the end of the war.
Being directly descended from Mitchell's pre-war, all-conquering Supermarine racing seaplanes, the little all-metal fighter arrived in the RAF squadrons in 1939 - just in the nick of time! Only 9 squadrons had received their gleaming new Spitfires at the outbreak of war, 19 squadrons being operational at the outset of the Battle of Britain.
Distinctive with its thin, aero-dynamically advanced elliptical wings and the unmistakable roar of its 12-cycle Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, this graceful, agile, fighter was from the start, close to perfect fighting machine. So fine was the Spitfire's design no fewer than 40 variants were developed, more than any other British fighter in history. Unlike its Me109 rival, which sprouted bulges, bumps, and cowls in its quest for performance, the Spitfire grew ever more sleek and beautiful with each step in her illustrious career. In her final cloak she was a masterpiece.
Robert Taylor's spellbinding painting, Wings of Glory, Paying tribute to Mitchell's immortal fighter, features the Mk XIX Spitfire of the RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Powered by the Roll-Royce Griffin engine providing maximum speed of 450 mph and a 44,000 feet operating ceiling, this lovingly restored aircraft thrills generations of aviation enthusiasts with her spectacular aerobatics at Europe's summer air shows.
Captured here in a magnificent study by the world's foremost aviation artist, this most beautiful of fighters gives a virtuoso performance; high among the clouds, alone in her magical element, she dances an aerial ballet like no other could.
Squadron Leader Nevill Duke DSO OBE DFC* AFC CzMC
Neville Duke joined the RAF in June 1940. Posted to 92 Sqn in April 1941, he flew a Spitfire as wingman to 'Sailor' Malan. In Nov he was posted to 112 Sqn in the idle East. By early Feb 1942 his victories had risen to 8 confirmed and 3 probables. After a second tour in the desert with 92 Sqn he flew a third tour, still flying Spitfires, with 145 Sqn in Italy - scoring his final victory in Sept 1944 to become the top scoring Allied Ace in the Mediterranean theatre. He flew over 486 sorties, and achieved 28 victories. After the war Neville joined Hawkers as a test pilot, becoming Chief Test Pilot in 1951. On 7 Sept 1953 he captured the World Air Speed record flying a Hunter at 727.63 mph.
Wing Commander John Freeborn DFC*
Joining the RAF in Jan 1938, he was posted to 74 Sqn, part of the Hornchurch Wing, and one of the first to be equipped with Spitfires. In action over Dunkirk in May 1940, his Spitfire was shot down and crash-landed. He managed to get pickup up by a Blenheim and back to England. In action throughout the Battle of Britain, in August he was promoted to flight commander. By the end of Nov he had been with his squadron longer than any other Battle of Britain pilot and had flown more operational hours. He became flight commander with 602 Sqn in Dec 1942 flying Spitfire Vbs, and commanding officer of 119 Sqn in June 1943. In June 1944 he was appointed Wing Commander Flying of 286 Wing in Italy. John Freeborn scored 17 victories.
Chief Test Pilot Alex Henshaw
Alex Henshaw perhaps understands the Spitfire better than any other living pilot today - for he was Vickers Chief Test Pilot on spitfires at the new Spitfire factory at Castle Bromwich during World War II. By the end of the war he had personally test flown a total of 2360 different Spitfires and Seafires - more than ten per cent of the entire production. It is often stated that those lucky enough to haven seen Alex handle the Spitfire in flight, that it is an experience that can never be forgotten, he was acknowledged as a virtuoso in aerobatics.
Squadron Leader Basil Stapleton DFC
Born in South Africa, Basil Stapleton joined the RAF in Jan 1939, being posted to 603 Sqn flying Spitfires. He first saw action off Scotland, sharing in the destruction of two bombers, before the squadron was posted south to Hornchurch during the height of the Battle of Britain. By Nov 1940 his tally had risen to 6 and 2 shared victories and 8 probables. In March 1942 he was posted to 257 Sqn as flight commanders. In August 1944 he commanded 257 Sqn flying Typhoons, taking part in the Arnhem operations. In December 1944, whilst attacking a train, debris hit his aircraft forcing him to land behind enemy lines where he was taken prisoner of war.
Overall Print Size: 27" Wide x 21 1/4" High.
Image Size: 20 7/8" Wide x 14 1/4" High.
FREE Companion Print
by Robert Taylor
Overall size: 16 1/4" wide x 13 1/2" high.
A delightful study of a beautiful fighter aircraft. This colorful Companion Print, initialled by the artist and issued with matching numbers, shows a MkVb from 92 Squadron during the summer of 1941, above the green fields of southern England.