A UNIQUE COLLECTION OF SPITFIRE MEMORABILIA
COULD THESE BE THE ONLY EARLY ROTOL SPITFIRE MK.V BLADES TO HAVE SURVIVED WW2 ?
A free copy of - A TALE OF TWO BLADES
This is the story of my researches into the possible history of two WW2 Rotol Spitfire propeller blades part of a set of three, that were recovered together a few years ago.
IN THE BEGINNING
The photograph was very poor, all I could really see was a wooden propeller blade stood upright against the ruins of what looked like a collapsed warehouse. There was rubble everywhere, all of which had obviously not been touched for many years. The site looked abandoned, except for this once proud blade now positioned upright. I knew instantly what it was off. For me the wooden Rotol Spitfire Mk V propeller blade is a distinctive shape, and I had only ever seen one close up at first hand before. It was on display at Dowty Propellers, their works being not far from the original classic 1930s Rotol Headquarters alongside Staverton Aerodrome. This was a rare find.
The phone rang Can you tell me anything more about it? Where did it come from? I asked. But there was little information. It sounded as if the abandoned building in the heart of Wilmslow in Cheshire had once been owned by a deceased relative. Someone thought he had worked for the RAF there during the war, and that was about it. All intriguing stuff. Another quick look at the photo showed a large cavernous but dark background, my mind was racing and I casually asked I dont suppose you have seen any other bits and pieces lying around, have you? Ill have a look came the reply, and will phone you back. The phone rang again Ive found another one, do you want it? Wow, I thought to myself, this is a good day. I would certainly like to see it I said, followed by are you sure there is nothing else there? Well you never know do you? This time the reply was adamant, there was nothing more.
I was not disappointed. The two blades had been part of a set of three. Although in filthy condition they had been rescued just in time, and with a bit of suitable restoration work, they could be made presentable once again. Identifying numbers could initially be read on both the sides and underneath of at least one of the two blades to confirm that they were the designated Drawing number that had been made for the Spitfire Mk V.
I noticed something at the time that suggested to me they could be very early examples of the type, but more research would have to be done. The clues were all there, it was now a case of seeing just how far the trail would lead before something historically interesting came up.
THE HISTORY OF ROTOL
The history of Rotol has been an interest of mine for some years. Having already handled a number of their wooden propeller blades, some of which are in my collection, I was intrigued as to their methods of manufacture. The excellent book Rotol the History of an Airscrew Company by Bruce Stait explained the story, but it was not until I managed to get hold of an original WW2 16 mm sound film of the blades being manufactured, that my respect for their creation really took off. Later on this led me to make a special visit to the Film Archives of the Imperial War Museum, to watch the other five parts of Squadron Repairs to Wooden Propeller Blades training film.
THE RESTORATION - Analysis of damage
My first thoughts, based on initial observations, were that these two remaining blades out of the set of three, which had initially been balanced to the letter N, had undergone some serious and rapid damage at some point. This is clearly seen at the blade tip of one of the two blades, with loss of two parts of the tip completely ripped off, including a sizeable patch of the protective sheath below the two holes. The other blade although chiefly complete had also had a sizeable piece of the Rotoloid protective sheath ripped away at the foot of the Pitch face. With the third blade missing, it is not hard to imagine how this could have come bout. For many pictures have been taken of Spitfires and other similar single engine planes that have had to make a wheels up forced landing. This was sometimes due to a sudden engine failure, in which, depending on the rotation position of the blades when the engine stopped, one or more of the blades would inevitably be damaged in a forced belly landing. On impact and destruction of, in this proposed case, the third blade bits and pieces would have exploded in all directions. The effect of which is very likely to have caused the initial damage seen to the remaining two blades. On closer inspection, deep underneath the damaged Rotoid sheath sections both loose and raised, small amounts of earth could still be found wedged in, even after all these years. My initial conclusion was that these were the remaining two blades that had once been fitted to a Spitfire either a Mk V or possibly a Mk II fitted with a Rotol Constant Speed Airscrew, a plane which may at some unknown time have made a forced landing because of engine failure. Not only that but the Spitfire could have been collected up, dismantled, possibly repaired and put back into service, depending on the severity of the undercarriage damage on landing.
A CLOSER EXAMINATION OF THE TWO BLADES
A closer examination of the Jablo blade construction revealed some interesting points. In the training film we are clearly shown the lamination process, where batches of 48 sheets of birch log veneer are collected together with Casein resin impregnated paper placed between each veneer to make up a Board ready to be compressed into blocks. The individual blocks would later be glued together into a much larger form, to make up the basis of each propeller blade. The finished result would then produce an immensely powerful structure capable of withstanding great forces. However on closer examination of one of the blades it was clearly evident that parts of the bonding process were splitting apart, and in several cases sections have fallen off. It is possible that this could have happened in the forced landing, but one would have expected to have seen more external damage, but little was to be found. It is more likely to have taken place over a period of time, especially if being stored in damp conditions, the wooden parts being exposed because of the lost protective Rotoloid sheeting. See photos.
The training film shows a curing process that all the laminated Boards and Blocks had to go through before any modelling took place. This involved giant presses where heat was applied to a certain temperature to effect the curing. I personally had not seen such evidence of splitting along joint lines before in either Jablo or Hydulignum blades. For me the one remarkable thing has been just how solid the material is still after all these years. However on mentioning this fact to one of the technical and historical advisors at Dowty Propellers, the reply came back that certain problems were known to have existed in the very early days of the Jablo manufacturing works in Stockton and Trafford Park in Manchester, where apparently the original curing process, that had been recorded on film, was replaced with what would have been then the first use of Microwave Radiation, which later produced more consistent results. See Quicktime Movie film clips with no sound.
So my immediate thought was, are we dealing with an example here from an early Jablo / Rotol batch production? Continuing a careful examination of all the blades surfaces came up with other features that were missing. For example on just about all of the Rotol blades I have examined, or seen in photographs, one usually can find on the Camber face of each blade white stencilled lettering above the Pink Identity Disc (see photos) This clearly states the Drawing number for that particular blade - for example there should be stencilled in this case - RA. 690/RS - This is the same as the information that should be seen stamped into the wooden block at the base of each blade. It is understandable that such writing might have been lost over the years, being scraped away or possibly painted over. But one thing is certain that on very close examination of each of these blades there is absolutely no evidence that any white paint had been applied to the two surfaces at all where it should have expected to have been seen. One can see that the Pink Identity Disc below clearly shows no sign of damage apart from old age fading, and on one blade the markings are much clearer than the other. (See photos). There is more evidence of something missing if one examines the blade tips. On the one which is damaged only a small section of yellow paint can be seen on the Camber face. However on the other the whole top section appears to be in near perfect condition considering its age. What is missing are the black stamped markings of the Blade Serial number. This was a feature that was decided upon after the initial stages of production, apparently as an aid to stocktaking, when hundreds of blades were stored standing up vertically, where often only the tops of each blade would be visible among the masses.
One final point that informs me that these two Jablo blades could have been part of the first batch of production, comes from a close examination of the screw fittings used to hold the protective brass or copper sheathing in the thicker sections on the the leading edges of each blade. The Squadron Repairs to Wooden Propeller Blades short films viewed in Seven parts, as seen by myself in the Imperial War Museums Film Archive, clearly stated that only Brass screws should ever be used on wooden propeller blades along side the Brass rivets used in the thinner blade sections. See photo
It is noticeable, on these two particular blades after all these years, that in several locations patches of rusty steel remain in the holes where once their heads protruded up to the surface. There is however sufficient steel remaining inside to confirm this as they attract a magnet. All these observations can only point to the fact that these two surviving examples of the RA.690/RS propeller blades are more than likely to be from the first Jablo / Rotol batch production, and therefore most probably fitted to the first batch of Spitfire Mk V planes fitted with Rotol Airscrews assembled in the Castle Bromwich Factory in the West Midlands in 1941.
SOME OTHER OBSERVATIONS OF THE TWO BLADES
The damage to these two propeller blades can be divided clearly into 2 sections. First, of course as a result of sudden damage that I believe can be closely associated with an engine seizure and subsequent wheels up forced landing taking place.
The second has more to do with abandonment after a certain length of time, where it appears from viewing the original photograph and subsequent conversations with the previous owners, that at some point the two blades had been abandoned and left partially open to the elements in recent years with subsequent deteriorating damage. In spite of this happening it is interesting to note that some of the surfaces have remained well preserved after all this time. In fact it looks to me as if these two blades were never actually thrown away from the start, but were kept and looked after for a period. This is supported by the fact that the steel Adaptors at the base of each of the blades were once painted in a bright yellow paint, as if to preserve the metal, but has ended up heavily pitted in more recent years. See photos
THE RAF CONNECTION
So I could imagine this previous owners relative proudly displaying the blades somewhere, like in a works office or home during and after the war. But what had Spitfires to do with the location where the blades were found? It did not take long to find a possible RAF connection with Wilmslow in Cheshire - No. 75 Maintenance Unit (MU) was based at RAF Wilmslow. Its main function was The recovery and salvage of crashed aircraft from the Pennines Area. The recovery area would probably have covered a range of 150 miles or more from Wilmslow. It is possible therefore that the original owner of these blades was employed by No. 75 MU, for I understand that both RAF and some Civilian personnel worked for these MUs and Recovery Units during the war.
THE CHANCES OF IDENTIFYING A SPITFIRE
It was around this time on one winters evening that I considered as to whether it might be possible to take this research project any further. Could it be possible to find a way of matching up the above story with a particular Spitfire history? What would be the chances? After all there were a lot of Mk V Spitfires made, and then there were the Mk II conversions to be considered. At first I thought it would be a waste of time, and if something came up how could it be proven? The thought interested me though. Why not have a try, what is there to lose? But how would one begin?
PLANNING A SEARCH
First of all define the parameters -
1 What is the most likely type to be looking for? - A Mk VA or VB Spitfire manufactured at Castle Bromwich, ( based on the understanding that Castle Bromwich was issued with Rotol Airscrews and Supermarine with De Havilland Airscrews), the first batch that came off the production line in the Summer of 1941. Then a look through the records of Mk II conversions to Rotol Airscews carried out in 1941.
2 Look for a Spitfire that has been recorded as - engine failed (e/fd), wheels up (w/u), landing (ldg).
3 Time period for accident - a calculated guess somewhere between late 1941 and mid 1943? This could seem like a daunting task, but thankfully with the aid of Spitfire the History by Morgan and Shacklady, (a massive volume of over 600 pages, where every Spitfire that was ever built has had a brief record taken from its own Aircraft Movement Form A.M.78 archived by the RAF Museum at Hendon, London), a quick scan of all the records might only take a few hours.
4 The Spitfire accident would have to lie within the catchment area of No. 75 MU based at Wilmslow in Cheshire, which is situated just South of Manchester, estimated at a 150 mile radius.
So on one dark winters evening the search was on. With book in hand line after line of individual Spitfire records were scanned for the essential letters - e/fd, w/u, ldg . Possibilities were written down for later cross checking with location and factory details etc. Then, believe it or not, with a further few hours work from a growing list of possibles of individual Mk V and Mk II planes, it seemed to me that all could be eliminated bar one. Just one Spitfire fitted all the above requirements in every respect.
ONE SPITFIRE IS FOUND
This I had thought would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, because it was easy to imagine that many planes would have crashed under similar circumstances. What would be the chances of finding a possible connection? That of course is all I am claiming this exercise to be, for it can never know for certain, unless for example, photograph turns up of the crash landing that might verify matters one way or the other.
Once I had the Spitfires Code Number P8784, it was just a case of writing to the Archive Department at the RAF Museum at Hendon in London to ask for a photocopy of The Aircraft Movement Form A.M.78 for this plane. I waited in anticipation until one day a letter came through the post containing the full record.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SPITFIRE P8784
P8784 was delivered from the Castle Bromwich Aircraft factory to No. 38 MU on July 6th 1941. This means that P8784 was part of the last batch of the first order for the Mk V Spitfire - P8780 - P8799. All of which would have been fitted with the first batch of the new Rotol Airscrew fitted with its three wooden propeller blades.
2 On August 22nd 1942 P8784 received a Cat E F.A. (e/fd, w/u, ldg) whilst serving with 403 Squadron, where apparently the pilot had to make a forced landing due to sudden engine failure at RAF Leeming in Yorkshire. RAF Leeming is situated near to Northallerton alongside the A1 highway, and only approximately 120 miles from Wilmslow.
A VISIT TO THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES AT KEW
On a later visit to The National Archives at Kew in London I was able to examine the official records of 75 MU (see Air 29/1024), but sadly little has been recorded in detail, but one can build up a picture of the daily business of the Maintenance Unit. In for example 1943 75 MU had a staff of around 200 of mainly RAF personnel. The Monthly records are chiefly confined to one piece of paper attached to the Operations Record Book.
Operations Record Book for 75 MU - September 1942. - See photograph
The September Report for August 1942 shows that 56 crash Inspections had been carried out that month. This is followed by a breakdown list of how the numbers of planes brought to the works had been dealt with. Sadly no individual records exist in the MU files for routine recoveries. However 75 MU did record occasionally in some detail crash recoveries. These appeared to have been serious accidents where pilots had been killed and planes written off. The sites were often in inaccessible places and so recovery expeditions took sometime to organise. I did make a note of one example - Spitfire VB AD230 - that was recorded being recovered on March 2nd 1943 at White Moss Fell (map ref 25/050717), but because of an existing photo one can now see that this 317 Sq Spitfire had crashed badly apparently in poor weather on December 28th 1942 in which the front end of the Spitfire was completely destroyed, sadly killing its Polish pilot.
A RETURN VISIT TO THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES AT KEW
It was later was necessary to make a return visit to the National Archives at Kew in London to research the history of P8784 and hopefully to find out something more about the pilots that flew this Spitfire in the weeks before the flying accident.
Records taken from the Microfilm Records of RCAF 403 Squadron July to August 1942. (AIR 27 / 1780)
On first appearance examining the detailed records of 403 Squadron it looked as if P8784 was probably the oldest Spitfire in the unit judging by its serial number. This could be the reason as to why it was not flown every day. The records show that from June to August the Squadron was based at RAF Catterick in North Yorkshire with a detachment at RAF West Hartlepool in County Durham. However during a short period in August the Squadron moved down to RAF Manston near Margate in Kent to be involved with the ill fated *Dieppe Raid on August 19th. * Please see the latest research about the Dieppe Raid below -
The Aircraft Movement Form shows that P8784 was passed over to 403 Squadron on July 16th at RAF Catterick. The plane had previously been with 332 the Second Norwegian Fighter Squadron in the RAF. Please see the Aircraft Movement Form for the full record of P8784.
403 Squadron - July to August 1942July 26th - F/S CD Aitken flew P8784 for an aircraft test. Followed by Sgt HJ Dowding flew P8784 for formation flying. later on Sgt. M Monchier took P8784 up for another aircraft test. July 27th - P/O KP Marshall took P8784 up for formation, dogfighting and cinegun. July 28th - Sgt. M Monchier again flew P8784 for aerobatics and local flying twice on the same day. July 30th - P/O R Wosniak flew P8784 from West Hartlepool to Catterick, and returned the same day. Afterwards Sgt. M Monchier flew P8784 formation and tail chasing and the returned the plane from West Hartlepool to Catterick. July 31st - P/O Mozolowski took P8784 up for air to air firing. August 5th - P/O LA Walker, P/O R Wozniak and Sgt N Monchier took turns to take P8784 up for air to air firing. In the evening Sgt N Monchier flew a weather test in P8784. August 6th - Sgt N Monchier flew P8784 on a dawn patrol, followed by a squadron formation. Later F/S Aitken was scrambled above base in P8784 but did not report any sightings. Finally Sgt CF Sorensen climbed into the cockpit of P8784 for aerobatics. August 7th - Sgt N Monchier flew P8784 for a weather test. August 9th - Sgt CF Sorensen flew P8784 in squadron formation. Followed by Sgt J Norman taking P8784 up for formation and tail chase. August 10th - Sgt CF Sorensen flew P8784 from West Hartlepool to Catterick. August 16th - Sgt CF Sorensen flew P8784 from RAF Catterick down to RAF North Weald in Essex. Then Sgt now promoted to P/O N Monchier flew P8784 from North Weald to RAF Manston in Kent. August 17th - P/O N Monchier took P8784 up for a practice squadron formation. Later on Sgt LC Barnes took P8784 into action on a fighter swoop to St. Omer, but nothing was seen or encountered. August 19th - The Dieppe Raid The First Sortie took off from Manston at 0645 hrs to cover ships engaged in landing operations. Claims - 1 ME109 destroyed and 1 FW 190 destroyed. Casualties P/O N Monchier, P/O LA Walker and P/O JE Gardiner -missing. P8784 was not used on the First or Second Sortie. The Second Sortie took off at 1115 hrs to cover ships just off Dieppe. Claims - 2 FW 190 destroyed and 2 damaged. The Third Sortie took off at 1620 hrs to mid-channel covering ships part way back. Claims - 2 FW 190 destroyed and one damaged. P8784 was in the action being flown by F/O J Wiejski but did he not make any claims. The Fourth Sortie took off at 1720 hrs and flew to Dieppe, no enemy aircraft were encountered. All our A/C returned safely. P8784 this time was flown by P/O J Mozolowski. August 20th - P/O KP Marshall flew P8784 from RAF Manston back to RAF Catterick. (This might be a recording error, read - to North Weald, as P8784 flew out from North Weald on the next day) August 21st - Sgt JA Dow flew P8784 from North Weald to Catterick. August 22nd - Sgt WT Lane took P8784 up for a sector reconnaissance. After which he later flew formation flying in P8784. At 14.30 hrs Sgt CF Sorensen took off from RAF Catterick to perform some acrobatics. However at approximately 15.10 hrs Sgt Sorensen experienced sudden engine failure at about 2000 ft His engine failed and he was compelled to make a forced landing on the edge of Leeming Aerodrome. Sgt Sorensen must have had to to have reacted very quickly to this emergency, being only 2000ft off the ground and falling fast. He was fortunate that he was within sight of and presumably sufficiently lined up with the aerodrome to make a wheels up landing in what would have been a very short time. The landing must have been heavy, although the pilot thankfully escaped unharmed. P8784 initially was recorded as receiving Category E damage which was designated a Write off. However within days this had been redefined to Cat. E1 - written off to components, presumably after the plane had been dismantled on the airfield and moved away. Then the Records show that a third assessment had been made in November 1942 and P8784 was re-categorized to Cat. B, designated as being beyond repair on site. This site presumably was referring to the Recovery Unit it had been collected by and delivered to - No. 75 MU at RAF Wilmslow. So as the Aircraft Movement Records show this was by no means the end of Spitfire P8784, for on November 25th 1942 P8784 was sent down to A.S.T. Ltd at Hamble near Southampton in Hampshire to be rebuilt - R.I.W. - Repaired in Works . The Spitfire was ready - AW/CN - Aircraft Awaiting Collection on February 5th 1943. P8784 is then recorded as being at No. 39 MU at RAF Colerne in Wiltshire, on February 20th 1943. On March 6th 1943 P8784 was flown to - P+P 17 - This refers to Philips and Powis Ltd based at South Marston near Swindon in Wilts, where a fuel system modification was installed. The fitting of a Negative G type carburettor system, which went a long way to improve the situation up against those German fighters that had been equipped with a fuel injection system that responded effectively which ever way up they were. Apparently it is also recorded from other sources that P8784 was fitted with IFF - identification friend and foe - had its wings stiffened and under which bomb carriers were then fitted. An interesting twist in the story Now this is where this story becomes doubly interesting for me, and I hope the readers will appreciate that this really is a pure coincidence, but last year I completed writing a book on the History of Spitfire P7505 that was first built as a Mk IIA in 1940, was converted into a Mk VA and later converted again into a PR XIII, part of a unique group of only 25 Spitfires. Somewhere in the back of my mind the number P8784 had been ringing a bell, and so it was because the A.M. records show that P8784 was flown to Heston Aircraft Company Ltd, London to be converted to a PR XIII Spitfire and is recorded being in the works on April 30th 1943. Spitfire P7505 had also been sent there in January 1943 where its PR XIII conversion was completed in approximately 8 weeks. The PR XIII conversion of P8784 had been completed and the Spitfire is recorded being in store back at 39 MU on June 4th 1943 -AW/CN - Aircraft waiting collection.
My records showed that P7505 eventually was sent to No. 4 Photo Reconnaissance Squadron in December 1943, whilst the A.M. Form shows that P8784 was delivered to the Royal Navy Deposit Account (RNDA 66) on March 3rd 1944. I am sure others will have records of what happened next to P8784 and the other nine PR XIII Naval Spitfires - AA739. W3831. X4021. X4615. X4660. AD501. BL526. EN902. BM591 - but this is where this story ends.IN CONCLUSION As you can now see this is a possible scenario for the history of these two wooden Rotol propeller blades. I will leave it up to each reader as to whether they choose to agree with the possible outcome or not. Whatever the truth may be, these two blades represent for me so much more. Standing proud upright as they do now they are fitting symbols for those that were prepared to lay down their lives in defence of this country when it was most needed. I feel it is therefore appropriate to remember their service and commitments, and so in conclusion dedicate this research to the memory of three young brave pilots who went into action and never returned - 403 SQUADRON LOSSES on August 19th 1942
P/O Norman Monchier, aged 19, of the Royal Canadian Airforce, who had flown P8784, was killed in action on August 19th 1942, and was buried in St. Aubin - Le - Cauf Churchyard, France.
P/O Leclare Alterthorn Walker, aged 24, of the Royal Canadian Airforce, who had flown P8784, was killed in action on August 19th 1942, and was buried in Grave F60 in the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery in Hautot - Sur - Mer, France.
P/O John Edwin Gardiner, aged 23, of the Royal Canadian Airforce, who had flown P8784, was killed in action on August 19th 1942. He is buried in St. Aubin - Le - Cauf Churchyard, France.Sgt CF Sorensen who kept his head by reacting quickly under difficult circumstances by managing to land P8784 on August 22nd 1942 in a condition that allowed the Spitfire to be repaired and reused again is to be commended.
AH. August 2010.
March 2012 update -
Thanks to the internet, I have recently heard from the daughter of the late F/O Frank Sorensen. She has very kindly sent me a collection of material about her fathers war history. Here is a very brief synopsis after August 1942 -
Frank Sorensen was of Danish / British nationality whose family had moved to Canada shortly before WW2. Frank served with 403 Squadron until September 10th 1942 when he was formally transferred to 232 Squadron. In November 1942 the Squadron was posted to North Africa. On April 11th Sorensen was shot down, he crash landed his Spitfire which turned upsidedown and partially buried in a sand dune. Fortunately Frank was unhurt but unfortunately it was close to a Jerry camp, so he ended up being transported back to Germany and finally was sent to the now famous Stalag Luft 111 prisoner of war camp.
As Sorensen could speak fluent german he must of been of great use in the preparations for the Great Escape. It seems, being a fit young man, that his talents were also used as a 'penguin' to spread the 'Tom,Dick and Harry' tunnel earth secretly, from bags down his trousers, over the grounds of the camp, without attracting notice. Come the day of the escape on March 24th 1944, Frank who had originally been given one of the early tickets in the tunnel, swapped his for a later slot. In hindsight this was to be fortuitous for him because he was actually waiting just outside the tunnel, among the next five to go down the hole, when the escape alarm went off; but Frank did however manage to destroy his false identity papers and get back to his hut before being caught.
In early 1945 Sorensen was involved in the now infamous 'long march', of which many of his fellow prisoners sadly did not survive. On May 2nd 1945, Frank, along with other POW's,was fortunate to have been liberated by the British forces while at a farm at Wulmenau south of Lubeck. He was later flown back to Britain in a Lancaster in mid May.
Frank Sorensen was demobbed in from the RCAF in October 1945 and returned to live in Canada, where he trained and worked as a dentist. Frank died aged 87 on February 5th 2010.
The only other Rotol Spitfire Mk V wooden Propeller blade I have ever seen. This too has a history, it was given to an employee of Rotol during the war as a wedding present. Apparently he used it as a hat stand. After he died his wife handed it back to what is now Dowty Propellers.
No.75 Maintenance Unit. RAF Wilmslow. Monthly appendix for August 1942
Spitfire P8784 first served with 92 Squadron at RAF Biggin Hill from July 24th 1941 where the Squadron was involved 'almost daily in offensive activity'. P8784 was damaged in a landing accident on August 31st 1941 and repaired on site. Then the Spitfire was passed onto 603 Squadron based at RAF Hornchurch on September 12th 1941. The Squadron was involved in 'fighter sweeps and Bomber Escort fighting'. On October 27th 1941 the Spitfire received Category AC damage and was repaired on site. P8784 was then sent to 332 the Second Norwegian Squadron, based at RAF Catterick from where 403 Squadron took the Spitfire over on July 16th 1942 until it was involved in another accident on August 22nd 1942. Eventually as can be seen in the records above P8784 was repaired once again and converted into a PRXIII photo reconnaissance Spitfire. The demise of this plane is not known to me, except records show that most of the other surviving PRXIII Spitfires were disposed of after the Spring of 1945.
P8784 Crash Report - August 22nd 1942 page two
A letter written by Sgt Frank Sorensen to his Father a few days after the Dieppe Raid, dated 23.8.42.
August 23rd, 1942 RAF 403 Squadron Catterick, North Yorkshire, England. Dear Dad and GC, When I got back to NW. (RAF North Weald) I learned we had,403, bagged 7 enemy aircraft, with a loss of 3 of our chaps, namely P.O.Monchier, P.O. Walker and P.O.Gardiner, a son of a Canadian minister (of agriculture I think) I saw him in Yorkton pinning the wings on the class ahead of us from which Monchier and Gardiner graduated. Today is the 24th I was told that I could have my leave starting the 23rd of this month till the 4th of September. Next Friday, I'll be seeing you - I hope. Let me know just how and when you are leaving and to where I should have my warrant written out for. Love Frank.
According to the Aircrew Remembrance Society, Norman Monchier and John Gardiner were providing cover from the Luftwaff during the raid at Dieppe on August 19th. They collided and crashed at St. Aubin-le-cauf, five miles south east of the raid. All three officers were involved in the Dieppe Raid.
* The Dieppe Raid *
There has been some new research recently that suggests that the real reason for this operation in 1942 was to steal an updated Enigma code machine, that was apparently urgently needed by the boffins at Bletchley Park to brake the latest German naval codes as used by their U Boat fleet.
In August 1942, all but a select few had any idea as to the real purpose of this raid. To many it looked foolhardy, especially afterwards when the objective was not reached. At the time of course, with so many losses all round, the British Government was not able to say anything that might have given the game away. So it has always remained a debacle in many peoples eyes, especially with those who were fortunate to have survived on the beaches. Now when surviving veterans were told of the real truth about the mission objective, they, in a moment, seemed to change their views, and said they felt more pride with what they had tried to achieve, and that perhaps their colleagues had not after all died in vain.