Spitfire EE602, which we have called “Mabel”, is a Mk VC Spitfire built in 1942 at the Westland factory in Somerset.
You will see from the timeline links on our Homepage details how she came to be and what she did but this piece gives a more general overview.
Presently there are only around 50 flying Spitfires, only half a dozen of them are Mk V’s. Mable is even more unique because, as matters presently stand, she will be the only remaining “Presentation” Mk V in the world.
When she was built Mabel was fitted with the universal “C” wing configuration. This allowed the plane to be fitted either with 8 machine guns, 4 20 mm canons or a mix of 4 .303 machine guns and two 20mm canons. Mable had the mix of machine guns and cannons.
She was fitted with a Rolls Royce Merlin 46 engine. This put out 1,415 bhp at 3,000 rpm and +16 ib/sq. in. boost at 14.000 ft.
Mabel started life with 66 Squadron. 66 was the second Spitfire Squadron to come into existence and fought in the Battle of Britain. She then went to 129 Squadron, in recognition of the large sums of money the Indian Govt. raised through the sale of War Bonds some squadrons were named after Indian provinces and 129 was named the “Mysore” Squadron.
Mable’s final squadron was the Australian 453 Squadron.
In 1940 the Minister of Aircraft Production, Lord Beaverbrook, came up with a clever idea to raise much needed funds to help Britain defend itself against Nazi attack. He promoted an idea that individuals, companies, clubs, even counties could “buy their own Spitfire”. All they had to do was to collect £5,000 for their donation and a Spitfire would be named after them. That figure was rather plucked from the air by Beaverbrook as the true cost of a Spit was in the region of £12,000 but the idea caught on like wild fire and everyone started collecting, even those overseas sympathetic with Britain’s plight.
One such company was the Uruguayan railways. Run at the time by British expats they wanted to do something to help so raised the requisite £5,000 and ended up having Mable named after their company. So you will see on Mabel’s photo the words “Central Railways Uruguayan Staff” painted ahead of the cockpit with a logo just below the cockpit. Mabel was formally “presented” to 129 Squadron on 31st May 1943.
During late 1941 the Luftwaffe launched the very capable FW 190 to supercede the Bf ME109 fighter. Whilst the Mk V Spits were more than a match for the ME109, the FW190 was a more capable plane in many respects. To give the MkV an edge many were flown with “clipped wings” where the wingtips were removed. This improved the rate of roll of the Spitfire and gave them more of a chance against the FW190. Mabel was flown with clipped wings. It was the later and more powerful Mk IX Spitfire that was hurriedly produced to specifically deal with the FW 190 menace which it did splendidly.
The Mk IX was a longer larger aircraft tan the Mk V and after its launch, the earlier Spits took on the pet name of “baby Spits” in comparison with their larger brothers. They still took their toll of enemy aircraft though and Mabel shot down an FW190 to prove the point!
Mable was flown by some 27 pilots across her 3 squadrons. Some flew her once or twice, others more regularly. Their names and squadrons can be found in our Operations Records HERE
Some of her pilots achieved some distinction:-
S/Ldr Banning Lover subsequently became C/O of 504 Squadron
F/Lt Elcombe shot down 4 enemy aircraft and was awarded the DFC
F/Lt Kruml flew in the battle of Britain
F/Lt EO Watson also flew in the battle of Britain. He became a Wing Commander and was also awarded the DFC
F/Lt Don Andrews of 453 Sqdn was another of Mable’s pilots to be awarded the DFC having single handedly battled with 12 FW190’s shooting one down and living to tell the tale although his Spit was badly shot up.
We’re trying to find out about other of Mable’s pilots so if any names ring a bell do let us know!
Mabel spent most of her active flying life at RAF Ibsley, an important RAF station set on the western edge of the New Forest in Hampshire.
Most famously RAF Ibsley was the setting for the landmark 1941 film “First of the Few” starring David Niven and Leslie Howard. The film was about the life of R.J. Mitchell and his invention and development of the Spitfire. The film included pilots of 118 and 501 squadrons whilst they were engaged in real life sorties.
The airfield was the only one with tarmac runways on the New Forest, the main runway being extended by the USAF to take its heavier fighters and fighter bombers.
Ibsley was used by many Squadrons of the RAF as well as American squadrons.
More details of Ibsley are under the RAF Ibsley tab
It appears that Mable was the victim of a taxying incident on 31st July 1943 at Martlesham in Kent. When on the ground there is virtually no forward vision in a Spitfire over its long and high nose so crashes on the ground were not uncommon.
We assume that Mable’s remains were then dismantled, created up and taken to Australia when 453 Squadron returned, being used for parts to service other Australian Spits.
A couple of years ago a well-known Spitfire hunter came across the mortal remains of Mabel together with the remains of a Mk IX in Australia. These remains were all shipped back to the UK and Mabel was bought by Fairfax Spitfires LLP in December 2011.
Mabel is undergoing restoration at various locations in the UK. The project is being overseen by VMI Engineering, who are in the process of rebuilding her structure. Mable’s airframes have been restored and in some cases remanufactured by Airframes on the Isle of Wight and her Merlin 46 is being fully restored by Retro Track & Air in Gloucester.
The restoration is a 3.5 to 5 year job and her progress will be tracked on this site so do check back!