5 March 1936: As soon as he was in the air test pilot Joseph ‘Mutt’ Summers knew that the sleek
prototype fighter in his hands was a winner. It was a called a ‘Spitfire’ and not only had it been
beautiful to look at but on this, its maiden flight, the nimble little machine was proving to be fast,
powerful and incredibly responsive, everything that its designer R.J. Mitchell had hoped for. As
he put the Spitfire through its initial paces high over the Solent, Summers began to acknowledge
the distinctive throaty roar coming from the new Rolls Royce Merlin 12-cylinder liquid-cooled
piston engine bolted into the fuselage ahead of him. It was a sound that friendly pilots would
soon come to love and the enemy would fear.
Vickers’ chief test pilot wasn’t the only one impressed with Mitchell’s Spitfire; within three
months of that brief maiden flight the Air Ministry were placing their first order. They were just
in time, because in mainland Europe thoughts were turning to the prospect of another awful war
as Germany’s aggressive new dictator Adolf Hitler, began laying out his visions for a new world
order - The Third Reich.
Hitler’s new Reich would be backed by the most powerful military machine of its day and
already, the previous year, Willy Messerschmitt had unveiled his radically new Bf109 - a
cutting-edge, all-metal monoplane fighter that already threatened to put Germany’s resurgent
Luftwaffe into an unassailable position. Soon to be tried, tested and honed into battle-readiness
during the Spanish Civil War, the Luftwaffe reckoned their Bf109 was superior to anything in the
RAF’s arsenal. But, with the Spitfire, the RAF now had an answer.
When war eventually broke out in September 1939, nine squadrons in Fighter Command were
already equipped with Spitfires, and more would follow. Soon Spitfires and Bf109s would be
duelling on equal terms over France, and in the Battle of Britain the Spitfire would become a
Completed in 1986, Robert Taylor’s masterwork has been selected to serve as a lasting tribute to this iconic aircraft and all who flew her.
Overall size: 23½" x 18¾"
Available in the following editions
Signed by Squadron Leader Allan Scott DFM
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