George Aitken flew KH-L – Pat Murphy’s Tribute to George

Dean Black had started a little quiz a few years back on this… I called it the KH game. It was a way to find all the letters of the alphabet with the KH code.

Pat Murphy had stumbled on my blog and had written a comment on an Easter Sunday. With that comment the throttle on this blog opened wide.

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I am used to be startled on this blog and on my others blogs I am writing about WWII.

How I started writing about WWII is quite interesting.

It started with the story of a Canadian destroyer sunk on April 29, 1944. I had never heard of it before even though I thought I was quite knowledgeable about WWII when I started getting interested in WWII in 1958 as a young boy coming from school. The blog Lest We Forget and its French version Souvenirs de guerre led me to meet Georges Stewart virtually and then later in person.

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While staying at a B&B in Hamilton I met a young man whose grandfather was a Spitfire pilot.

me-and-my-spitfire

Walter Neil Dove

This is how this blog about RCAF 403 Squadron started in September 2011. A few years later a new chapter opened up with Pat sharing what he knew about Spitfires and the pilots who flew them.

And Pat knew a lot!

And he sent me lots of stuff since that Easter Sunday.

I did not know who Pat Murphy was before he wrote a comment.

Pierre, I very much enjoy your 403 Squadron information, do you have an email address so that I can provide some information to you. I have searched your website for your contact info/ email and can’t seem to find it. I have a Canadian Spitfire display in a museum here on Vancouver Island complete with some 403 Squadron Spitfires that you might find interesting. Recently I’ve included a Spitfire flown by Doug Lindsay of 403 Squadron to the display. I met Doug at his home in Red Deer Alberta a few ago when I was having him sign some limited edition aviation prints for the Y2-K Spitfire restoration project. Doug provided me with the details for his model Spitfire when I called him a few weeks ago. The display also features a model of George Aitkens Spitfire, George provided me with his details as well.

Pat Murphy Vancouver Island Military Museum Nanaimo B.C.

When you don’t know someone they in fact don’t exist.

Just like George Stewart and his navigator Paul Beaudet who flew 50 operations together.

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Just like George Aitken and his Spitfire.

Flying Officer George Aitken 403 Sqn RCAF

Just like this museum in Nanaimo.

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Or this pilot’s Spitfire…

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George Aitken is not a little known Spitfire pilot anymore.

GEORGE aITKEN

He is not only a post on this blog that I wrote in March 2012.

George is much much more than that…

UNCLE GEORGE

Much more…

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And what about that model airplane of KH-L?

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Pat had written this…

Pierre,

I forgot to mention the details behind the reason George Aitken had roundels on his wheel covers. He was visiting an American bomber base at one time and he noticed that some of the bombers had a large star painted on the wheel covers of the bombers, George thought it looked good and when he returned to his own base he mentioned it to his ground crew. The next few days were very rainy and all operations had been cancelled. When opps went back on he noticed that his ground crew had painted the roundel on the wheel covers of his Spitfire, I believe it was the only RCAF Spitfire to wear such markings. When George saw the markings applied to his model he was most pleased.

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A comment about the Spitfire

This comment  was made on one of my other  blogs.

The Spitfire’s tactical strong points are probably among the most poorly understood of WWII fighters. It is generally an overrated but capable design. Here are some salient points of its tactical advantages/disadvantages.

#1: It did not turn that well (inferior to both the Hurricane and the FW-190A in prolonged turning, according to RCAF pilot John Weir, and many combat accounts demonstrate this very well, including those by top ace Johnny Johnson): The Spitfire’s wing for some reason displayed poor lift while turning, but excellent 3 axis control while stalling: This, combined with overly light elevators, allowed it to stall and turn itself to point “inside the circle”, in effect allowing to briefly shoot “across the circle” while stalling: The powerful 20 mm wing guns often made this brief advantage pay off. Most of the time, with an average 2% hit rate, the target had to be shot at a long time, which made turning dogfights far more important in WWII than is generally acknowledged.

The Spitfire sustained turns poorly, so much so Russian tactics had to be adapted when they used this aircraft (they even tried removing the outer guns to help it), the Russians being forced to use instead dive and zoom tactics to which the Spitfire was well adapted (as did most users of the Spitfire, including the RAF). However, its light elevators did allow some harsh initial turns at high speed, giving the impression of a high turn rate after a dive, again helpful in diving attacks.

#2 It rolled poorly: This is well established, but less well-known is that it was actually one of the poorest of all WWII fighters in roll at higher speeds: This was not so pronounced at high altitudes, because the thinner air was more forgiving to its flexible wings, and its low lateral stick leverage.

#3 It was a great diver: For extreme high speed dives from high altitudes, it was one of the better WWII propeller fighter aircraft, superior in diving speed even to the US fighters, until denser lower altitude air was encountered, where its lack of wing rigidity allowed US fighters to overcome it. Again this was a feature favourable to diving and zooming attacks, which is how it was actually used.

#4 It was an extremely good climber: Little emphasized is that the +25lbs boost LF Mk IX probably had the highest climb rate of any WWII piston engine fighter below 20 000 feet. Again a feature helping vertical fighting and dive and zoom tactics.

As a fighter it was forgiving to novice, and its engine kept up with the pace of development: Its short range severely reduced its usefulness.

One on one it was a match to the Me-109, but much inferior to the FW-190A in overall maneuverability, particularly for roll and sustained horizontal turns, but far superior on the vertical plane where the 190 was very poor. It roughly matched the P-51, and far outclimbed the P-47, but like the FW-190A, the P-47 was better on sustained horizontal turns, which is why almost all combat accounts have the big fighter obsessively used in turns, especially vs the Me-109, while the Spitfire climb and dived.

As to the airframe cost in man-hours, I would point out that the relevance of this may depend on the industry: With an excess of labour and a lack of machinery, and especially materials, it might make sense to go for a labour-intensive design that is economical in materials: The engine is the most costly item in any case… Pilot training is also much more costly in time, and the pilot was always more valuable than his machine. In any case, whatever the case may be, the Spitfire did not provide any large superiority except for its climb rate, and maybe its handling at very high altitudes (25 000 feet plus).

Gaston

About Jimmy Abbotts

This comment…

Hello,

I’m enjoying to read something about the Spitfire KH-H.

My later grandfather witnessed the downing of this aircraft and he described it with nearly the same words. He was a German soldier who had sentineled the crashed Spitfire. And he took a picture of the KH-H.

I saw this picture in my grandfather’s  photo album and he told me the story behind…

Additionally to the posted story he stated:
– it was a dogfight between English and German fighters
– the Spitfire was in a position to fire at a Bf109
– suddenly a Bf 110 appeared behind the Spitfire  and startet to fire, the Spitfire  began to smoke
– the Spitfire  came down very smooth with something  “at it”, surprisingly it was the pilot
– the aircraft “landed” in a field, the pilot had a broken leg only
– in the hospital the pilot wanted to meet the German pilot who shot him down (this was granted)

With best regards

R.L.

More from Georges Nadon’s collection – Redux

This should get some people’s attention…

 

122 squadron 1942

 

Dear Sir,

My name is Mehdi Schneyders and I live in Belgium. I am a colored half Belgian – half South African, and a R.A.F. enthusiast as well. There are three Belgian pilots on this picture concerning No. 122 Squadron :

– First row ( standing ), first from the left : Léopold ” Coco ” Collignon.
– First row ( standing ), the short one next to the civilian : Léon Prévot.
– Second row ( seated on one wing ), fourth from the right : Raymond ” Van ” Van de Poel.

Posted to No. 350 ” Belgian ” Squadron, two of them ( Prévot and Collignon ) are becoming the C.O.’s of the unit. Van de Poel died on collision with another pilot.

Landing a Spitfire onto an Aircraft carrier

Another interesting post.

Excerpt

Rene Mouchotte had defied orders to escape from France and join the Free French in Britain in 1940. He was now a Squadron Leader in command of No. 65 Squadron, the first foreign national to command an RAF Squadron.

On the 24th December they had begun practice for landing on aircraft carriers – taking off and landing from a marked out runway. Then they moved to a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm station at Arbroath for training at sea, on HMS Argus.

Mouchotte was impressed with the Royal Navy. ‘What a difference after the RAF. Cleanliness, discipline, mess like a grand hotel, trained waiters, very good food, comfort etc.’.