The Spitfire in SAAF Service
Author: Steven McLean
ISBN: 0 958 4437 1 8
Reviewed By: Dean Wingrin
Reginald Mitchells' Spitfire icon must occupy a special place in just about every aviation enthusiast heart and none more so than the author, Steve McLean. The reviewer has know Steve for almost twenty years, and in all that time he was the one to ask about anything to do with the Spitfire. Steve is also an avid SAAF historian. It thus came as no surprise that after three years of writing, this book turned out to be the masterpiece it is.
South Africa enjoyed an extended relationship with the Spitfire following the initial equipping of 1 Squadron in 1942. Altogether ten squadron's saw wartime service with the type. After the Second World War, many pilots and ground crew were reunited when 136 Spitfire F.IXe's and HF.IXe's were selected for service in the post-war SAAF in 1947. In 1950, the Spitfire contributed to the Korean War when they were used to train 2 Squadron pilots prior to departure to the Far East and Korea. Four years later the Spitfire was finally retired from the SAAF.
From the Western Desert in 1942, to surviving airframes with a SAAF connection extant today, the successes and failures are recalled through the eyes of the men who flew and maintained the aircraft in battle, as well as those who are fortunate enough to have carried the legend into a different century. Fittingly enough, the first chapter detailing the history and evolution of the Spitfire has been guest written by leading Spitfire historian Peter Arnold. The following chapters detail the arrival of the spitfire in SAAF service and their daily use in the North African campaign. From there is is onto Malta, Sicily, Kos and finally onto the Italian mainland.
Post war, the selection and delivery of the Spitfire to the Union, together with the ups and downs of service life are told in an easy to read manner. The love the author has for the type is evident. Markings and camouflage schemes are detailed, together with the superb colour side profiles by Darryl Legg. As can be expected, the brief histories and the current state of all surviving ex-SAAF Spitfires, together with photos, are included.
Appendixes include a selection of Spitfires operated by the SAAF during WWII, a copy of the supply and delivery arrangements memorandum for the 136 aircraft delivered to the post-war SAAF and delivery schedules and details. Due to the difficulties in detailing the tie-ups between the RAF and SAAF serials in post-war service, the full history of each post-war Spitfire is listed per RAF serial and then again per SAAF serial. As if this was not enough, further appendixes log post-war incidents and accidents, details of all Spitfires offered for tender during 1954and finally, full details on the minor servicing of the Spitfire Mk.9 aircraft and engines.
This book can be thoroughly recommended to anyone interested in the Spitfire and SAAF.
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298 x 210mm, 240pp, 267 b/w & colour photos, maps & profiles