The legend has its roots in the great sea plane races of the 1920/30's especially the Schneider Trophy wining Supermarine S5/S6 designs of R.J.Mitchell. Out of a host of probable names, such as the Shrike and the Shrew, came the name Spitfire and although Mitchell was not too impressed with this, the Air Ministry and Sir Robert McClean, the chairman of Vickers ( Supermarines parent company), both agreed on the name. Just after a year since the prototype, K5054, flew and when large orders for the Spitfire were coming in, R.J. Mitchell died after a long fight to beat his cancer. His assistant, Joseph Smith, took control of the design office.
On the 4th August 1938, only one year before the Second World War, the first production Mk I Spitfire, K9789, was delivered to 19 Sqn Royal Air Force at Duxford. Within twelve days the second aircraft was delivered and by May 1939 the squadron had a full compliment of sixteen Spitfires and was fully operational. Its famous silhouette, all smoothly contoured lines and oval wings, helped to lodge it firmly in the public mind as the most instantly recognisable aircraft of the second world war and indeed of all time.
Over the next two decades, more than 22,000 Spitfires, all the way up to a Mark 24 model, capable of 440mph, would be built. At the end of its career, in 1954, it was being used primarily as an unarmed photo-reconnaissance plane. There are currently around 50 Spitfires in active flying condition. The oldest still in operation is a Mk II first delivered in August 1940.
The painting depicts George Frederick "Buzz" Beurling DSO, DFC, DFM & Bar, RCAF (6 December 1921 - 20 May 1948), who was the most successful Canadian fighter pilot of the Second World War. Beurling was recognized as "Canada's most famous hero of Second World War", as "The Falcon of Malta" and the "Knight of Malta", having shot down 27 Axis aircraft in just 14 days over the besieged Mediterranean island. Before the war ended his total climbed to 31. Beurling lost his life in a crash while delivering an aircraft in1948.
Artist Paul Howard.
Available as an A3 size or 20x16 print.