Due to its key geographical location, Malta played a key role in the struggle for control of the Mediterranean during the Second World War. During 1942, Malta was effectively besieged by Axis forces and suffered intense aerial bombardment. The island relied on fighter squadrons of Spitfires, such as those depicted by Cole in this painting, to help defend the island against enemy fighters. The siege was finally relieved by Operation 'Pedestal', a convoy of Allied ships, which reached Malta with badly needed supplies in August 1943.
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Designed by R J Mitchell, the Supermarine Spitfire, a single-seat fighter aircraft, is arguably one of the most iconic aircraft in aviation history.
The Spitfire entered service with No. 19 Squadron RAF at Duxford in August 1938 and famously played a significant part in the Battle of Britain during the summer of 1940, both in terms of the number of enemy aircraft destroyed and the positive effect upon public morale. While the slower Hurricane targeted the Luftwaffe bombers, the Spitfire’s efforts were successfully focused on destroying the enemy fighters.
Twenty-four marks of Spitfire were built between 1938 and 1948, with over 20,000 Spitfires being produced during this period. The Spitfire V was the most prolific mark of Spitfire and was used with great success on a number of battle fronts during the war, including the North African campaign and the defence of Malta in 1942.
Although primarily a fighter, the Spitfire was also used for photo-reconnaissance purposes, with cameras fitted instead of guns, and served for the duration of the war in this role. The Spitfire was also adapted for use by the Royal Navy in the form of the Seafire.
Poster illustrating how subscriptions from Tonga have paid for the construction of a Supermarine Spitfire for the Allied war effort and explaining the significance of the aircraft, stating, 'Spitfire' fighters protect British homes and industries from aerial attack and harass enemy shipping and transport. This is one in a series of posters featuring aircraft and equipment funded by contributions from Britain’s colonies.
Photograph of a Spitfire Mk I of 19 Squadron being re-armed, 1940. This Supermarine Spitfire Mk IA, P9368 'QV-K', of No. 19 Squadron RAF is shown being rearmed between sorties at Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire. P9368 was often flown by the Commanding Officer, Squadron-Leader B J E 'Sandy' Lane, and was also the preferred aircraft of 'A' Flight commander Flight-Lieutenant W J 'Farmer' Lawson.
Facts of the Fight for the Factory, Spitfire Bulletin, no.14. This lithograph and letterpress poster was produced by the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Its aim was to publicise and promote the contribution made by factory workers to the war effort. Its message, THEIR SUCCESS, THEIR CONFIDENCE, THEIR SAFETY - They all depend on you emphasises that the heroic efforts of the RAF's Spitfire pilots are dependent upon the efforts of civilian war workers in aircraft production.
Unis pour la Liberation [United for the Liberation]. This poster features a stylised depiction of three Allied fighter aircraft in flight; including a Royal Air Force Supermarine Spitfire, 'Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres' and United States Air Force planes.
Spitfires at Sawbridgeworth, Herts , 1942, by Eric Ravilious. This watercolour drawing of Spitfires on an airfield was one of a series produced by war artist Eric Ravilious during a period spent at Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire. Ravilious became fascinated by aircraft; he also enjoyed the sensation of flight and valued the opportunity to view the landscape from above. After Sawbridgeworth, the Air Ministry agreed to his request for a posting to Iceland. Soon after his arrival there in September 1942, Ravilious was reported missing presumed killed after accompanying an air-sea rescue flight which failed to return.
This colour photograph shows two clipped-wing Supermarine Spitfire V's of No 40 Squadron, South African Air Force (SAAF) serving in a ground support role with the North-West Africa Tactical Air Force (NWATAF), formerly known as the Western Desert Air Force (WDAF). Effective methods of close co-operation between fighter aircraft and ground troops were developed during the campaigns in North Africa and later used in the campaigns in Italy and in north-west Europe.
Great Britain will Pursue the War against Japan to the Very End, c.1945. This poster depicts an RAF Supermarine Seafire flying over a British aircraft carrier at sea. The Seafire was a naval version of the Spitfire designed for flying off aircraft carriers. Fleet Air Arm squadrons equipped with Seafires served with the British Pacific Fleet during 1944 and 1945.