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A SPITFIRE CHRONOLOGY


1895- Birth of R.J. Mitchell

1913- Yacht dealer Noel Pemberton Billing wins a wager that he can get his Royal Aero Club certificate (flying license) within 24 hours of first sitting in an aeroplane. His 500 pounds winnings help him set up his own aircraft company "Supermarine" to specialise in the production of flying-boats.

1914- Called up as a reserve officer in the Navy, Noel Pemberton Billing helps organise a bombing raid by British Naval aircraft on a German Zeppelin Airships in their "sheds" next to Lake Constance.

1916- On being elected to Parliament after an election campaign that focused on improving Britain's performance in the air, Noel Pemberton Billing has to sell Supermarine, lest he be accused of vested interests. Hubert Scott-Paine takes over Supermarine.

1917- R.J. Mitchell joins Supermarine as Scott-Paine's assistant.

1918- R.J. Mitchell promoted to be Assistant Works Manager

1919- F.G. Hargreaves, Supermarine's Chief Designer leaves. R.J. Mitchell is appointed in his place.

1920- R.J. Mitchell is appointed "Chief Engineer" at Supermarine

1922- Supermarine Sealion wins Schneider trophy.

1923- American Curtiss wins Schneider trophy.

1925- Supermarine S4 gains world seaplane speed record but crashes before it can take part in Schneider contest.

1927- Supermarine S5 wins Schneider trophy.

1928- Supermarine is taken over by Vickers. RJ Mitchell is made a Director of the company.

1929- Supermarine S6 wins Schneider trophy.

1930- Air Ministry issues spec f7/30 for a new fighter aircraft.

1931- Supermarine S6b wins Schneider trophy outright for Britain. Later that year it raises the world speed record to 407.5 mph. Beverley Shenstone joins Supermarine.

1933- Supermarine type 224 flies. In August RJ Mitchell has an operation to stop the spread of cancer.

1934- Mitchell starts design of the type 300 - the Spitfire.

1935- Supermarine type 224 rejected in favour of Gloster Gladiator.

1936- First Spitfire flies on 5th March (some sources suggested the 6th - now discounted). On 3rd June Air Ministry orders 310 Spitfire Is.

1937- RJ Mitchell dies. Design work passes to Joe Smith.

1938- First deliveries to RAF squadrons.

1939- Second World War starts. First kills by Spitfires come on 16th October when two Ju 88 bombers are shot down attacking ships off the Rosyth Naval base*. First unarmed photo reconnaissance by a Spitfire on November 18th.

1940- Spitfire earns fame in the Battle of Britain. 19 squadrons in service with the RAF at the start of the battle. German failure to establish air superiority means Hitler has to call off the invasion of Britain. In September Supermarine factories near Southampton are attacked and damaged forcing dispersal of the production effort. Castle Bromwich (Birmingham) starts production.

1941- Use of metal ailerons improves the high speed control of the Spitfire. Fighter Command Spitfires go on offensive. The Mk V gives the RAF the advantage until the appearance of the Focke-Wulf 190 late in the year. Spitfires start to go overseas, including Malta and Russia.

1942- The use of "bob  weights" on the elevator controls improves longitudinal stability, leading to safer operations with increased weights in the rear fuselage, redesign of the elevator improves it still further. The Spitfire is used in large numbers in the air battle over the raid on Dieppe, in terms of sorties flown, the largest air battle ever to take place. The Spitfire Mk IX starts to give RAF pilots the edge on the FW-190. Spitfires are supplied to the USA in large numbers. Seafires and Spitfires support the allied landings in North Africa. Spitfires are rushed to the Far East to help fight the Japanese.

1943- Spitfires used extensively in the Mediterranean, Far East and Australia. It`s use as a fighter-bomber grows.

1944- Spitfire Mk XIVs used against the V1 flying bombs. The Spitfire gives air protection to the allied armies for D-day and the invasion of Europe.

1945- The end of the war in Europe. Seafires go to the Pacific as part of a British task force to help invade Japan. The atomic bomb makes invasion unnecessary.

1947- Last Spitfire comes off production line, in all 20,351 Spitfires and 2,408 Seafires were produced.

1948- Spitfires fight on both sides in the first Arab-Israel war. Spitfires used against communist guerrillas in Malaya.

1950- Seafires take part in Korean War.

1952- Last RAF Spitfire operational fighter sortie.

1954- Last RAF Spitfire operational photo reconnaissance sortie.

 * Most sources state that the first kills by Spitfires were two Heinkel III s  shot down attacking the Forth rail bridge. In his book "Birth of the Few" (ISBN 1 85310 972X) Henry Buckton shows that the aircraft were in fact Junkers 88s and that they were tasked with attacking Royal Navy Ships off Rosyth, in fact they were specifically forbidden from attacking the Bridge or any targets on land.


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