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Old 18th March 2017, 19:02
Tom Semenza Tom Semenza is offline
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Spitfire V ER254 of 242 Sqn. in Nov. 1942

There is an interesting photo of ER254 on page 140 of Vol. 3 of A History of the Mediterranean Air War. The caption reads:

"A Spitfire V of 242 Squadron about to take off from Djidjelli in the hands of Flt. Lt. D.H. Fox-Male on 25 November 1942."

There is a small letter "B" before the fuselage roundel and what appears to be the letter "W" aft (it's a bit washed out in the photo.) This would seem to be more like the codes used by a wing leader; 242's code was "LE". To further confuse the issue, Fox-Male is listed on page 141 as flying "Spitfire Vb 'J'" when he claimed a Ju 88 damaged on the same date. Of course he could have done multiple sorties in different aircraft on the same day. However P/O A. Hampshire is also listed flying 'J' when he also claimed a Ju 88 damaged. Again, since there are no times given, these could have been on separate mission.

Does anyone have any insight on the codes?

While I'm at it, there is another photo on page 359 of a Spitfire V coded 'G-B' in a very similar fashion to the one shown on page 140. The serial begins with 'EN' but unfortunately the numbers are obscured by ground crew. The photo is unhelpfully captioned:

"Spitfire 'Queen of the Skies' in northern Tunisia."

Any ideas on this one as well?

Thanks,
Tom
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Old 18th March 2017, 19:34
Graham Boak Graham Boak is offline
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Re: Spitfire V ER254 of 242 Sqn. in Nov. 1942

These single character squadron codes are a feature of the squadrons entering North Africa from Gibraltar as part of (or just following) Operation Torch. They were allocated in sequence of arrival in North Africa (or at least that was the intention). B was allocated to 242 Sq, as you say, and G to 87 sq.
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Old 19th March 2017, 01:28
Tom Semenza Tom Semenza is offline
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Re: Spitfire V ER254 of 242 Sqn. in Nov. 1942

Thanks, Graham, I had never come across that in any previous sources. Can you tell us what the other squadron code allocations were? How long were these used for and what is the source of this information?

Tom
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Old 19th March 2017, 11:54
Brian Brian is online now
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Re: Spitfire V ER254 of 242 Sqn. in Nov. 1942

Hi Tom

For what it's worth, fighter units at Malta in mid-1942 also used the single letter identification.

Cheers
Brian
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Old 19th March 2017, 13:08
Graham Boak Graham Boak is offline
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Re: Spitfire V ER254 of 242 Sqn. in Nov. 1942

I checked those particular examples in Combat Codes, by Thomas and Flintham. Sadly they do not include a separate list specifically for this operation but do show that the use of single-letter codes has been quite common over the history of the RAF. I believe that there is similar information in Chris Shores' books, such as the older Fighters Over Tunisia and the more recent volumes of Mediterranean Air War.

Combat Codes states use from 11.42 to 5.43 (and A = 81 Sq., spotted en route)
F = 154 Sq (possibly)
J = 93 Sq
L =152 Sq

Presumably any other units had not been positively identified at the time this book was produced, but a study of the arrival of fighter units into the theatre may be helpful.
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Old 19th March 2017, 15:45
Tom Semenza Tom Semenza is offline
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Re: Spitfire V ER254 of 242 Sqn. in Nov. 1942

Thanks again, Graham. After your initial posting I thought to take a look at Andrew Thomas' Spitfire Aces of North Africa and Italy. He also mentions the use of these single letter codes during Torch, but not in much detail. There are however several photos and/or profiles of such markings as follows:

242 Sqn. ER676 coded B-E (possibly dating from Dec. 42)
93 Sqn. ER979 coded J-J (early 1943)
152 Sqn. JG871 coded L-E (April 1943)

Photos of Spitfires used by RAF squadrons during Operation Torch seem to be rather rare. As indeed are official squadron records such as the Form 541 of the ORBs.

Also, in Those Other Eagles, Sgt. J.H. Watling's (242 Sqn.) first 2 claims are shown as being made with Spitfires coded 'B-C' and 'B-D'. I had thought that this was a typo, but now am enlightened!

As Brian pointed out, single letter squadron codes were used by several Malta based squadrons, however this has been well documented in a number of publications. We can only hope that more info on the use of such codes in North Africa will come to light.

Tom
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