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Thread: RAF Spitfire Escorts 1944/45

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    Default RAF Spitfire Escorts 1944/45

    Hi,

    Towards the end of 1944 RAF heavies of Bomber Command were escorted by squadrons of Spitfires. Were these squadron's part of the 2nd TAF and based on the continent, or were they UK based. A number of documents record the Spitfire escorts as No.11 Group, which given the limited operational range of the Spitfire seems dubious?

    Any info appreciated.

    Steve
    No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron Association Historian
    No.623 squadron Research

    ~~IN TIME ~~

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    Blimey Steve surely we've discussed this before? ;-)

    Initially the escorts were provided by Spitfire units mostly from ADGB/FC based in Britain but gradually the Spitfires were replaced by Mustangs as they became available. Because of the range limitations on the Spitfires the targets attacked in daylight tended to be in the Ruhr. As the frontline advanced on the ground the range of the ops could be increased by arranging for the Spitfires to refuel in Belgium. As an example the first daylight operation was flown on 27 August 1944 to Homberg. Escort to the van of the bomber stream was provided by Nos 124 and 303 Sqns from the Westhampnett Wing and No 504 Sqn from Manston (11 Group); escort to the centre of the stream was provided by No 135 Wing (from ALG B.17 in 2nd TAF) with Nos 33, 222, 349 and 485 Sqns; escort to the rear of the stream was provided by the Nos 1 and 165 Sqns from the Detling Wing (11 Group); target cover and withdrawal escort to the van was provided by Nos 229 and 312 Sqns (12 Group); target cover and withdrawal escort to the centre of the stream by Nos 64, 126 and 611 (10 Group) and target cover and withdrawal escort to the rear by Nos 91 and 322 Sqns from Deanland (11 Group). Planned to about 200 Spitfires in total.

    Steve

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    Hi Steve,

    Yes we have, but a recent batch of material from the NA records Spitfire, NOT Mustang escorts as being provided by No.11 Group, the date is March 1945!! It just seemed rather strange that with numerous airfields available in Holland, Belgium and France escorts where still provided by UK based Spitfire squadrons, hence question.

    Steve

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    OK I geddit that is unexpected. I don't have the 11 Group detail for March 1945 do you have squadron numbers for the Spitfires?

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    Steve,

    No squadrons are recorded. only that escort was provided by Spitfires of No.11 Group. I gather that the Spitfires of the 2nd TAF were not used?

    Regards

    Steve

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    The Spitfires of 2 TAF would be busy on 2 TAF business. Bombers operating out of the UK would have required escorting to and from the UK, and would rely upon UK-based squadrons to do this. Let's face it, By this stage UK fighter squadrons otherwise largely unemployed.

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    Hi Graham,

    So, UK based Spitfires are used, supplemented by RAF Mustangs. So the Spitfires would have landed in Belgium / Holland to refuel, correct?

    TUIA

    Steve

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    Steve
    Can you provide a specific date?
    I would rather see the 11 Group Daily Synopsis first but I would say by March 1945 it would be "escorted by Mustangs supplemented by Spitfires". Off the top of my head by Mar45 there would be 12/13 sqns on Mustangs. The last Spitfire sqns to convert were 154 in Feb45 and then 442 and 611 in Mar45. Depending what the target was then, yes, it is likely that any Spitfires involved would refuel in Belgium usually Ursel. I don't recall ALGs in Holland being used. It seems that it was not unprecedented for 2TAF units to be involved but I've never tracked that.
    Steve

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    It would depend how deep they were going. Spitfires did have belly tanks to extend their range, so they wouldn't be as totally limited as they were in 1941 operations over Northern France. However, I intended to point out that Spitfires would be perfectly capable of escorting the bombers on the initial and return stages even of deeper raids, with the Mustangs taking over for the intermediate stages. Which I suspect is what is meant by "Spitfires supplemented by Mustangs".

    I've seen references to Spitfire fighter-bombers refuelling in the Low Countries on triangular missions, during the operations against the V2s, but not the bomber escorts. However, the escort missions are not the best written-up of the war, so it could have happened: it seems a logical possibility to me too. However, the UK units refused Spitfires with the aft tanks because of instability with aft fuel meant they couldn't fight with fuel remaining in these tanks, yet they could penetrate so deeply that normal internal fuel would not be enough for combat and return home. This suggests that dropping into 2 TAF bases to refuel was not considered a useful option.

    Anyone suggesting that the rejection of the aft tanks without compromise was because they were "Not Invented Here" is of course an irredeemable cynic. However, Jeffrey Quill apparently wrote that the aircraft was acceptable at part fuel in these tanks - it would be interesting to know just what that implied about fuel levels and whether what was acceptable to an experienced test pilot was quite the same to a first tourist. Postwar use of these tanks was first restricted to a limited fuel level, and then abandoned completely. Peacetime flying conditions are of course considerably different to wartime ones.
    Last edited by Graham Boak; 19th August 2018 at 14:09.

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    Default Spitfire escorts

    Hello Steve

    B.67 Ursel in Belgium was used by Fighter Command for re-arming and refuelling.

    From "Runways to Victory" by Peter Celis - a former Belgian Air Force F.16 pilot.

    "In late November '44 424 Re-arming and refuelling unit was sent to B.67 to set up a servicing point for Fighter Command squadrons (mainly Spitfires) going offensive over the continent, usually staging over from Manston (hence the ref you have seen to to 11 Group) for a few days. The requirement was to be able to refuel up to 10 squadrons at a time. In the next weeks Fighter Command squadrons going or returning from Germany regularly used B.67 as a transit airfield..."

    cheers

    Allan
    Allan Hillman

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