Aircraft

Commonwealth Aircraft of the RAF, RCAF, RAAF, and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm

Commonwealth Aircraft of the RAF, RCAF, RAAF, and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm:

To start with, here is an American-made Curtis P-40E Kittyhawk in RAF colors, as flown against Axis Powers over the Sahara in the North African Desert Campaign.

Next up, the Spitfire Mk XII shown below was equipped with the massive Rolls Royce Griffon engine, replacing the Merlin found in the early Spitfires. This new generation of Spitfires mounted a four-bladed prop and twin 20 mm cannon, to augment its Browning .303 machineguns. The Mk XII had removable wingtips, allowing this Spit to fly with clipped wings for a better roll rate, for low altitude agility.

Below, in freshly-applied invasion stripes, is the Supermarine Spitfire Mk-XIV-c, also equipped with the Griffon engine, plus a five-bladed Dowty Rotol prop. The RAF was not amused with hit-and-run FW-190 raids, nor with the thousands of V-1 Buzz Bomb launches, which, at one point, were reaching 100 per day, resulting in well over 22,000 mostly civillian casualties, and responded with this, the most muscular of the wartime Spitfires, with a top speed of 446 mph.

And, speaking of the more muscular British aircraft, here is an early model of the massive Hawker Tempest, with its 24-cylinder Napier engine and four 20 mm cannon.  This plane was the scourge of everything from V-1 rockets to German jets, which it would mangle near their Luftwaffe airfields, to German armor, which fell prey to its underwing stores of 60-pound rockets.

Shown below is the first Mustang to be flown to a combat victory. Flying Officer Hollis “Holly” Hills, an American volunteer from Los Angeles, fighting with the RCAF, shot down a German FW-190 in this Allison-powered P-51A while providing air cover for the Canadian commando raid on Dieppe.

In another first, a Canadian pilot, Fred Clarke, in an identical fighter, for whom Hills was flying wingman, may have become the first pilot ever to survive the ditching of a Mustang, when he was shot down over the Channel. The reason this was so unusual is that the large radiator scoop under the belly of these planes tended to cause such terribly sudden deceleration when a plane hit the water that it would really slam the pilot forward, much like hitting a brick wall in a traffic accident. Clarke’s head slammed into the edge of the windscreen framing, fracturing his cheekbone, and dealing him a concussion, and the battered Mustang began to sink into the cold waters of the Channel, all while the vicious battle precipitated by the Raid on Dieppe raged on. The predominantly Canadian Commando group, along with some British Commandos, and a relative handful of American Army Rangers and one RAF radar expert were trying to evacuate, in the wake of a very rough reception, which included German armor.

As the plane sank, an alert, and incredibly brave Canadian Commando, in full battle dress, dove out of his landing craft, swam down and rescued the knocked-out pilot from certain death. Soon after, Clarke returned to his base, and tried to fly another mission, but a pounding headache and blurry vision forced him to relent, and a belated doctor’s examination revealed the pilot’s skull fracture, and he was grounded until he healed-up. Think about this: trying to fly another mission, right after ditching, with a fractured skull, and your oxygen mask and goggles pressing against all of the facial bruising……no wonder they’re called the Greatest Generation.

A fitting historical bookend to the Hollis Hills Mustang is this RCAF Mustang Mk IV (P-51D) flown in the last Allied combat mission over the European Theater, covering the the Allied retaking of Channel Islands, which had been siezed and occupied by German troops earlier in the war.

Below is an 11.75″ x 36″ print of the De Havilland Mosquito Bomber, one of the best, most versatile aircraft of the war.  Unusual in that it was built mostly of wood, its speed and agility allowed it to be used with great success in some of the wildest, riskiest missions ever conceived.  Its twin Rolls-Royce Merlin engines allowed it to get in and get out.

This is a 24″ x 36″ two-view print of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Corsair used to fly top cover during the raids against the German Battleship Tirpitz, as this dreaded vessel lay at anchor in a Norwegian fjord in April of 1944. Knowing that the D-Day Invasion was scheduled for later that June, the Allies did not want to have to worry about the Tirpitz suddenly appearing within range of Allied invasion vessels. The RN FAA made the first operational use of the Corsair from carrier decks, though they’d had to clip the tips of their Corsairs’ wings in order for them to be able to fit (when folded upward for storage) under the low overhead spaces on the British Carriers’ hangar decks, but, aside from creating a more squared-off look to the plane, these clipped wingtips also increased the roll rate, and also allowed pilots to quickly “drop” the plane onto the carrier deck, for a swift and sure, if jarring, landing.

This print is one of six renderings prepared for a very thorough archivist from Down Under. Shown here is a late war P-51K of No. 3 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force, while it was stationed at a captured air base in the north of Italy. Of note is the bare aluminum finish, the humped canopy of the P-51K, the Aero Products prop, and the way the Ozzies tended to lock the inner main gear doors in the closed position, to help keep debris out of the gear bays while the plane was parked. I want to thank “James O.” and No. 3 Squadron, RAAF for diligent help and attention to detailed research while aiding in preparing to do these six renderings. Good on you!

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