Language selection


The Spitfire

Heroes Remember

They referred to the Spitfire as a lady. And not delicate so much as very light on the controls. And you actually put a Spitfire on. It was that compact that some bigger fellas would have trouble and if you were much over six feet your head would be hitting the coupe top. And it had its idiosyncrasies but once you were in the air it just was a delight to fly – very docile and very forgiving. And yet it could out turn and all the rest of it. Here again ... instructing in the Harvard ... flying a lot from the backseat of the Harvard put you in a great – let’s say position – to land the Spitfire because you had so much motor up ahead of you. As you got into the others with the bigger motor – the Spit 9 – you were sitting a long way back. And because you learned to look out to the side and land from the backseat of the Harvard that here again ... it helped a tremendous amount. The Spitfire, when you sit back, you can’t see straight ahead. And so you’d taxi this way back and fourth. And in landing you did what we called a fighter pilot’s approach. Basically you didn’t want to have your backside exposed too long and so you did a curving approach in. You’d come downwind, get your wheels down, your flaps, and you did a curving approach in and straighten out just as you came to land. But once you’re straightened out, you have to look out the side. You can’t see straight ahead unless you’re gonna try and do a wheels landing. But here again on a short runway ... and when we got to Normandy you were landing on ... I think they had this mesh that was 1200 metres or about 3600 feet. It wasn’t a lot of room. And so you tried to do pretty well a three point landing so you could get stopped in time. There’s nothing that could stay with a Spitfire in a tight climbing turn. So that was your safety belt. The closest was an ME 109G but the 190 couldn’t turn with you and so on. So that was your safety valve. So in combat because of your ... of this tight turn ... where if you’re turning very sharply nobody can turn and get a shot at you. I prefered my Spitfire for combat. We had 20 millimetre cannons. We had two. The Spit 9, originally they didn’t. But then by the time they got more with the bigger motor and that, we had two 20 millimetre cannons ... one on each wing and we had two 303 machine guns, two in each wing. So you had four machine guns and 2 cannons. You could fire just the cannons alone, the machine guns alone or both together. And the Hurricane actually had four; eight machine guns ... 303s. But ... either or ... when you fired those all at the same time it actually slowed you up by about 35 miles an hour. You could feel it because there was the...let’s say the... just the force of firing that all at one time and they harmonized them out in front. Basically I think the average (range) was about 300 yards. And you’d have a cone about twelve feet across. George Burling, who was my flight commander when I joined 412 squadron ... he had his cone about three feet across because he was such a deadly shot. And that meant that he only needed to fire at half second bursts and that’s five, six shells and he’d be able to shoot down an aircraft. We – the average guy – needed a much bigger pattern and you’d compare that to a shotgun and this is how they do that with a shotgun. So you have a pattern out there so far.

Mr. Fox discusses the landing technique, manoeuvrability, and armaments of the Spitfire fighter.

Charley Fox

Mr. Fox was born in Guelph, Ontario in 1920. He signed up in March, 1940, and was called up the following October. Mr. Fox excelled during pilot training, but a bout of scarlet fever prevented him from accompanying his squadron overseas. Once returned to health, he became a flight instructor, during which time he married. A short time later, he was sent overseas and joined the 412 Spitfire Squadron. He was involved in air support for D-Day and flew many follow-up missions destroying “targets of opportunity” in France and Holland. After the war, Mr. Fox returned home and became a retailer. He now resides in London, Ontario.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Charley Fox
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
412 Spitfire Squadron
Aircraftman 2nd Class / Flight Lieutenant

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Related Videos

Date modified: