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Inside the Archive: Spitfire

Has there ever been an aircraft held in such affection by one country, as the Spitfire still is in the United Kingdom? The all-metal, single-seat fighter with its iconic elliptical wing became a symbol of national defiance during the Battle of Britain. Technically though, its success was due to it being exceptionally manoeuvrable at altitudes above 4,500 metres, allowing it to gain the upper hand against the German’s also-outstanding Messerschmitt BF 109. Altogether, 20,351 were built in 40 major variants, of which 656 were delivered to the RAAF.

So anticipated was its arrival in 1942, Australia allocated the Spitfire the serial A58 and named it Capstan – after a popular cigarette – to keep its debut secret. These fighters operated with Nos. 79 and 85 Squadrons and the redeployed Nos. 452 and 457 Squadrons, together with Spitfires from the British RAF Nos. 54, 548 and 549 Squadrons.

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