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The Spitfire Site

A Tribute to Britains Finest Fighter

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Author Topic: Spitfire guns  (Read 4166 times)
TheHaze
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« on: October 25, 2011, 04:49:03 AM »

I'm writing a book about WWII and the invasion of France in May 1940.  I need to know if the Spitfire guns were able to fire on the ground without the engine running.  Does anyone know?
« Last Edit: October 25, 2011, 05:07:10 AM by TheHaze » Logged
Jaybee
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2011, 12:01:54 PM »

The Spitfire's guns were fired pneumatically, using compressed air from two cylinders charged to 300psi - though this was reduced to 200psi by a reducing valve. The cylinders were kept filled by the Heywood compressor on the engine, though there was also provision for refilling from an external source ( they also provided compressed air to operate the flaps and brakes ). So, yes, the guns could be fired without the engine running, this was usually done when testing them at the butts, providing the cylinders were charged. Of course, with the aircraft in the normal position - tail down - the bullets would travel upwards, at a guess anyone on the ground more than 4-5 yards in front of the aircraft would be safe, if severely frightened!
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TheHaze
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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2011, 01:40:20 PM »

This will work perfectly for my story then.  The scenario is a downed plane, which had land hard and quickly from a shot up and burning engine.  The pilot couldn't eject because his seat belt wouldn't release.  This caused him to land onto a dirt road, which tore away the wheels, causing the plane to lay flat on the fuselage.  The guns would then be aiming lower to the ground and it would be at least possible to be fired from that position for the purposes my story.  Thanks again for responding Jaybee, can I use some of the details you provided to this post?
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Edgar Brooks
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« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2011, 04:34:02 PM »

Don't use the expression "eject." Pilots "baled out," and it's very unlikely that his seatbelt wouldn't release, since the Sutton harness was only held together by a "pin," with a hole in it, through which a clip was slipped, and easily pulled free. Far more likely would be a jammed canopy, keeping him in place; this was why the crowbar was fitted into the door, but it wasn't supplied until 1941. Also, pilots would land with wheels up, more often than not, since there was less chance of the wheels snatching, or a leg tearing off, and throwing the aircraft onto its back.
Edgar
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Jaybee
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« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2011, 06:32:05 PM »

As your story will be set around May 1940 Edgar's point about a jammed canopy is a good one. It wasn't until late 1940 that Martin Baker developed a modification to allow the canopy to be jettisoned, prior to that pilots had to slide the canopy back in order to bale out. Feel free to use anything I've mentioned.
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JamesF
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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2011, 12:57:29 PM »

Yes agree with Edgar, highly likely to have landed wheels up, normal practice in a forced landing to avoid aircraft going over onto onto its back.  Great description in Larry Forresters book "Fly For Your Life" about Bob Tuck being shot down in France.  He squeezed off a final burst just before touch down, by chance sending a round right up the barrel of a 20 mm anti aircraft gun which was firing straight at him, whilst he was trying to get her down.  Peeled the barrel of the AA gun back like a banana!  The Germans were pretty peeved at him for gunning their mates, Tuck could see this, and lent back against his Spitfire's fuselage to delay them seeing the 29 Swastika kill markings....They were so impressed when they saw the gun barrel peeled back that they whole dark mood changed to them slapping him on the back, saying "Goot shot Englander!" 
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