The Supermarine Spitfire: To Be, Or Not to Be?

Model 224 Spitfire

As a child we played “war” a lot. And why wouldn’t we? It was on television and in movie theaters. I was also given books about World War II. Somehow the Battle of Britain managed to be among the most talked about event. Perhaps it is our closeness to our mother country that brought their experience to the forefront.

The constant comment in all this literature was that in the Battle of Britain there were never enough Spitfires. Why?

Spitfires and Blenheim bomber

The question has bothered me. I read a lot about World War II as a child and now well into adulthood the read continues. While I cannot get enough of it, there is this lingering question from far back that I just cannot answer.

So I started down the road of buying books and even going to the public library to find the history of how this aircraft got built and learned it nearly never got built.

Some of what I have referenced in this podcast I had read before. For example the experience of other countries than Great Britain proving their aircraft in the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939. This put them in a great position to know what was going to work come the commencement of the Second World War in Europe, Sept. 1, 1939.

Westwind Whirlwind

Because Britain didn’t take sides in the Spanish Civil War they were still experimenting. In doing the research I also kept encountering the parallel tales of the development of other “also rans” in the Battle of Britain. This included the German effort, which made some of the same assumptions and errors, such as a twin engine fighter bomber would be adequate to meet a true air superiority fighter.

Other comparisons had to do with the sort of political system that was generating the products; a liberal parliamentary democracy like Britain versus a totalitarian regime like Germany.

Messerschmidt Bf 109



The podcast is about 40 minutes.

Hawker Hurricane
Spitfire XVI




Dogfight, The Supermarine Spitfire and the Messerschmidt Bf 109, David Owen, Pen and Sword Books Ltd. (2015)

Hurricane I vs, Bf 110 1940, Tony Holmes, Osprey Publishing Ltd. (2010)

The Battle for Spain, The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 Anthony Beevor, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London (2006)

The Kamakazie Hunters, Fighting for the Pacific 1945, Will Iredale, Pegasus Books (2016)

Air and Space Smithsonian May 2017




2 thoughts on “The Supermarine Spitfire: To Be, Or Not to Be?

  1. It is all a matter of perspective. Sitting in Kent in the summer of 1940 there is no question. Escorting American Bombers in daylight in 1944 is another matter, then it is the P-51 Mustang. Ground attack is altogether a different mission, largely championed by the Hawker Typhoon or the P-47 Thunderbolt.

    Thank you for your comment, it is a labor of love. Much the same as your blog I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

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