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Author Topic: A Spitfire VC "Special" puzzle  (Read 5376 times)
NZTyphoon
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« on: November 16, 2012, 11:52:37 PM »

I recently came across an interesting image of a Spitfire VC "Special"  AB5--? flown by Russ Matheison (rank unknown) of 66 Sqn in 1942:
 

This photo is interesting in several ways; not only does it show one of a handful of Spitfire VC flown in the European theatre but it is one of a small number of VC "specials" built by Supermarine. According to http://www.spitfires.ukf.net/home.htm this could have been:

AB512    Vc    2545    M46    Special FF 31-1-42 5MU 13-2-42 66S 8-3-42 VASM 6-5-43 mods 315S 1-7-43 611S 6-7-43 heavy landing cartwheeled Coltishall CE 31-12-43 FH388.45

or

AB514   Vc   2572   EA   M46   Special FF 7-2-42 8MU 12-2-42 66S 8-3-42 Shot down by Fw190s off Dieppe 19-8-42 Lt V R E Nissen killed

or

AB517   Vc   2574   EA   M46   Special FF 7-2-42 33MU 12-2-42 66S 8-3-42 Shot down by FW190s 10m W of Dieppe 19-8-42 FH244.35

From the same source I have located:

AB417    Vc    2560        M46    Special FF 4-2-42 5MU 13-2-42 66S 8-3-42 AST 15-5-42 u/c fail to lock on landing Ibsley CE 5-8-42 SOC 13-8-42

AB452    Vc    2549      M46    Special FF 31-1-42 6MU 14-2-42 501S 'SD-Q' 6-5-42 FACB 27-8-42 AST 340S 15-12-43 52OTU 6-2-44 FLS Millfield 11-2-44 Engine cut bellylanded in field SW of Eshott 23-2-45 SOC CE 6-3-4

BP856    VcT    2566    M46    Special FF 10-2-42 8MU 11-2-42 66S 17-4-42 CB ops 24-7-42 AST 312S 31-5-43 504S 5-7-43 313S 'RY-V' 22-9-43 Missing presumed shot down by fighters escorting Mitchells to Brest 24-9-43 S/Ldr J Himr killed

BP857    Vc    2570    M46    Special FF 10-2-42 39MU 13-2-42 66S FACE 8-3-42

BP862    Vc    2601    CHA    M46    Special FF 18-2-42 39MU 24-2-42 66S 16-4-42 tyre burst landing overturned Ibsley CB 22-5-42 AST SOC CE 1-6-42 FH14.20 [313S Missing from escorting B-24s to Brest 6-3-43 F/O J Prihoda DFC killed]

BP864    Vc    2607    CHA    M46    Special FF 21-2-42 39MU 24-2-42 66S 16-4-42 FACB 29-12-42 AST 504S 26-6-43 165S 'SK-U' 8-7-43 308S 10-10-43 1660CU 7-12-44 Reid Sigrist 24-9-46 Portugal

Another interesting detail are those extra blisters on the outer wings, about the position of the inner .303 gun bays - could these indicate an armament modification (.50 cals perhaps?), and is this why these were called "Specials". Any ideas what Special meant?

My thanks to Paul Sortehaug for the photo.
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Spits
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2012, 06:04:33 AM »

The C wing was a universal wing so any armament is possible.
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NZTyphoon
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2012, 10:12:18 AM »

True, but that doesn't explain those extra blisters on the inner gun bay doors which, until this photo, I have not seen on any C wing; something has been altered and I'm hoping someone might have some idea as to what it was, and whether the modification had something to do with the "Special" tag given to these particular Spitfires.

All of them were built by Supermarine at Eastleigh, or at the shadow site of Chattis Hill. There were other VC Specials which were converted to Spitfire IXs, and some were transferred to the Mediterranean.
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Edgar Brooks
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« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2012, 12:13:06 PM »

The bulges weren't on the covers, they were alongside the gun breeches, as this excerpt from the Mk.V spares list shows.
 They seem to have been unique to the Vc, since the Va & Vb wings, in the same spares list, don't show them, and I've never seen them on either Mark. So far, I (and others) haven't found a definitive answer, but their position points to it being either something to do with the gun heating system, or/and(?) a carry-over from the Mk.III.

Edgar
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NZTyphoon
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« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2012, 05:53:56 AM »

Excellent, thanks for that - I wonder whether there might have been some experiments with the ammunition feed?
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detective
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« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2013, 01:11:53 PM »

....could these blisters have housed the .5 cal armament ipo .303 as an experimental (special) fit ?
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Edgar Brooks
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« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2013, 06:03:40 PM »

Unlikely, since the .5" gun was 11.5" (29cm) longer, and wouldn't fit into the available space.
Edgar
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gilly617
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« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2017, 03:53:18 AM »

I think that you might have been very close to the answer Edgar. My research on Vc AA963 'Borough of Southgate' has thrown up the problems they had trying to make the 4 x cannon 'C' configuration work. They never got it to function properly so the 'C' option of four cannons on a mark V was shelved indefinitely and most thereafter were produced with the 'B' wing armament configuration. Yes there was a slight weight penalty with four Hispano's (and ammunition) but it wasn't the core of the problem. I believe the technical issue was the heating of the 20mm gun bay(s). The Hispano cannon didn't relish the cold and needed some warmth to function reliably, especially at altitude where it was appreciably colder. The starboard wing cannon armament (either 2 or 4 guns) was heated adequately from the starboard under-wing radiator. Not so the port wing as it had to be heated from the same sole under-wing radiator from the other wing and there was significant heat loss to the port wing. At that time during 1941 the problem presented itself as a marked yaw when the gun button was pressed as the starboard cannon(s) fired reliably whilst one or both port cannon frequently jammed, resulting in asymmetric recoil and sudden loss of sight picture, which doesn't help matters if you are trying to shoot someone down. They had similar problems in 1940 when they first fitted a pair of cannon to the mark IIb's of 19 Squadron during the B of B and had to give 19 Squadron back their 'A' wing Spits after their cannons continued to jam in this manner.

I believe the smaller outer wing blisters were part of their technical efforts to solve the cannon heating issues on the 'C' wing exactly as you surmised in your earlier post.

Incidentally the few photos showing what are apparently 4 x cannon armed Spitfire Vc's aboard the USS Wasp to reinforce Malta are misleading. The dust thrown up from the constant bombing of the Malta rock had an abrasive effect on everything mechanical, especially the Hispano's mechanism and barrel, which resulted in them wearing out quickly and depleting the stock of spare cannons/Hispano barrels in the armoury. The same limestone dust also required them to fit the Vokes filter to the aircraft. They relieved this situation by fitting a spare pair of Hispano's in the outer bays before they left the UK, which were quickly removed and put into stores upon arrival at Malta. An erroneous story explaining this was that they had run short of 20mm ammunition on Malta and that they were removing the extra pair of cannon to ease their ammunition usage in order to make stocks last. They actually had plenty of 20mm ammunition for the Hispanos when in fact they were dangerously short of the cannon themselves. Every Spitfire that made it through to Malta meant two more spare guns for the armoury.
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