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IWM Duxford - 80 years since Spitfires came to Duxford
Duxford and the Supermarine Spitfire have a shared history.
RAF Duxford's No. 19 Squadron was the first RAF squadron to re-equip with the new Supermarine Spitfire, and the first Spitfire was flown into RAF Duxford in August 1938.
The third production Spitfire (K9789) was presented to the squadron at Duxford on 4 August 1938 by Jeffrey Quill, Supermarine’s chief test pilot.
A few days later Duxford’s 66 Squadron received its first Spitfire and both squadrons began intensive trials of the new fighter.
As Flight Lieutenant John Banham recounted, 'We each of us flew for about half-an-hour in the thing. Oh, it was a tremendous thrill.'
Not everyone took to the Spitfire immediately. Pilot Officer Gordon Sinclair, recounts 'I must confess I didn't terribly like the Spitfire to begin with. But then, I had a reason not to because the first flight I ever did in one I turned it upside-down on the aerodrome landing. And it gave me an in-born fear of it. It took me quite a lot of hours to get over that.'
During the Second World War, Jeffrey Quill was responsible for all Spitfire testing at Vickers Supermarine at Eastleigh.
Following the fall of France in 1940 he was determined to rejoin a fighter squadron to gain first-hand experience and was temporarily released on 5 August to join No 65. Squadron at RAF Hornchurch.
His active service during the Battle of Britain lasted just 19 days, but following this limited exposure to aerial fighting, he learned enough to see that improvements needed to be made to the Spitfire.
These included improvements to the ailerons to improve handling and changes to the canopy and fuselage to give the pilot better rear visibility.
The Spitfire, alongside the Hawker Hurricane, played a leading role in the Battle of Britain, and in gaining air superiority for Europe later in the war.
How would you describe the sound of a Spitfire flypast? Hear it for yourself in person next month. 18 Spitfires are confirmed for the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show.
There's plenty to keep the whole family busy at IWM Duxford over the summer holidays. Learn the principles of aviation, meet Second World War veterans, help conserve historic aircraft or explore the inside of our York transport aircraft. Book tickets in advance to save 10%.