Designed to fulfill the high altitude fighter role, the Spitfire VII featured a pressurised cabin, extended span wings intially and a two speed, two stage intercooled Merlin engine. The engines fitted were intially the Merlin 61 with later production aircraft fitted with the Merlin 64, 70 or 71. New production aircraft were delivered with Merlin 64 engines beginning in February 1943, this engine being the most common engine fitted to Spitfire VIIs. The Merlin 64 was similar to the Merlin 63, with cabin supercharger and S.U. carburettor. Performance of the Spitfire VII with Merlin 64 would have been very similar to the Spitfire F. VIII with Merlin 63, with a maximum speed of 408 mph at 25,000 ft., the only significant difference being the pressurized cockpit of the Mk VII. Maximum power of the Merlin 64 was 1,710 H.P. at 8,500 feet in M.S. gear and 1,505 H.P. at 21,000 feet in F.S. gear while operating at +18 lbs./sq.in. boost and 3,000 R.P.M. It was cleared for +21 lb. boost on 150 grade fuel, giving 1800 H.P. at around 6,000 feet. Twin radiators were fitted under the wings. The airframe of the Spitfire VII was considerably strengthened compared to previous versions. The Spitfire VII was the first production Spitfire to incorporate a retractable tail wheel. The aircraft was fitted with 12¾ gallon fuel tanks in the leading edge of each wing and 96 gallons in the main fuselage fuel tanks. It was also capable of carrying 30, 45, 90 or 170 gallon auxiliary belly tanks. Armament consisted of two 20 mm cannon and four .303 machine guns. The aircraft weighed 7,900 pounds fully loaded. 141 Spitfire VIIs were built.
|Spitfire VII EN.474 with Merlin 64. EN.474 was shipped to the USA, arriving in May 1943. This aircraft is the only surviving Spitfire VII and is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum|
Brief Operational History
The first production Spitfire VII was delivered to the RAF on 5 September 1942. The type followed the Spitfire IX into service by two months and was similar in performace, being equipped with the same Merlin 61 engine intially. The first RAF unit to operate the Spitfire VII was the Special Service (High Altitude) Flight at Northolt.
|124 Squadron recorded in its Operations Record Book for 20 January 1943:
It would be March of 1943, however, before 124 Squadron transitioned to the Sptifire VII at North Weald and began using it on defensive operations. The first confirmed kill for a Spitfire VII occured on 15 May 1943 when F/O Oliver Willis shot down a reconnaissance Bf 109G-4, Werk No. 14906, of 4.(F)/123 flown by Lt. Wilhelm Marcks, who was killed. Willis mis-dentified the enemy aircraft thinking he had shot down an Fw 190. He recorded in his Combat Report:
I was scrambled to intercept two bandits reported heading for Start Point at 1235 hrs. 15 May/43. At 1310 hours, when approximately 60 miles S.W. of Start Point, I opened fire on one of the e/a from astern at 400 yds range, seeing strikes on the fuselage and wing roots. The enemy aircaft was then lost from view, but I turned to re-engage and saw a parachute open and pieces of aircraft falling down to the sea. I claim this e/a as one Fw 190 destroyed.
Spitfire VII BS.142, the second production Spitfire VII and equipped with a Merlin 61, was delivered to the High Altitude Flight at Northholt in September 1942. BS.142 then served with 124 Squadron when the High Altitude Flight was absorbed by the Squadron. This aircraft was flown by F/O Oliver Willis when he scored the first kill for the Spitfire VII on 15 May 1943.
Additional reconnaissance Bf 109s of Aufklärungsgruppe 123 were shot down by 124 Squadron Spitfire VIIs during the summer of 1943. W/O Gareth Nowell shot down Bf 109G-4, Werk No. 14910, of 5.(F) 123 over the English Channel on 13 June 1943, Fw. Heinz Sieker missing in action. W/O Nowell scored again on 27 June 1943 shooting down Bf 109G-4, Werk No. 14774, of 5.(F) 123, Uffz. Karl Beultzingslöwen missing in action. F/O Basil Brooks shot down Bf 109G-4/R-3, Werk No. 14763, of 4.(F) 123 off the Isle of Wight on 16 August 1943, Ltn. Hans Jaschinski killed in action. 124 Squadron’s Intelligence Form 'F' and Personal Report for 16 August 1943 recorded the following:
By September 1943 124 Squadron had added bomber escort missions to France in addition to thier usual scrambles and defensive patrols. F/O Paul Philipps destroyed another Me 109 over the Isle of Wight on 9 September 1943. 124 also accounted for a couple of Fw 190s destroyed in October with F/Sgts Kelly and Yeardly scoring over the Channel.
616 Squadron was the second squadron to convert to the Spitfire VII, doing so at Ibsley in September 1943. 616 continued to perform high altitude duties, just as they had with thier Spitfire VIs that preceeded the Spitfire VIIs. By October 1943, however, the squadron joined 124 Squadron in carrying out high cover escort of Mitchell bombers attacking airfields in France. Ramrods, scrambles patrols and defensive interceptions continued to be the principal tasks for the Spitfire VII squadrons into 1944.
124 Squadron, flying out of West Malling, destroyed two Me 109s on 14 February 1944, the Combat Report stating:
131 Squadron began converting to Spitfire VIIs in February 1944 at Castletown and were fully converted and operational the following month. The squadron spent the spring flying Ramrods, Rodeos, Rhubarbs, Roadsteads as well as defensive scrambles and patrols. F/O Don Nicholson, of 131 Squadron, described his impressions of the Spitfire VII:
In May the squadron had joined the Culmhead Wing with 616 Squadron, also flying Spitifre VIIs, and were largely operating over the Normandy area performing a wide assortment of missions. The Culmhead Wing had a good day on 12 June 1944 when they destroyed six enemy aircraft (probably from JG 11 and JG 27) during Rodeo 169 to Le Mans and Laval airfields. Also on the 12th, a section from 124 Squadron flying out of Bradwell Bay downed a Me 109 into the sea 20 miles east of Dover. It is difficult to know with certainty who the victims were of the Spitfire VIIs on this date. The Luftwaffe had been hit hard, losing 19 Fw 190s and 26 Bf 109s in the invasion area, JG 27 alone suffering 17 BF 109 G-6s shot down. 131 Squadron met with futher success with two Fw 190s shot down on 6 August near Argentan and Le Mans followed by three Fw 190s shot down the following day along the valley of the River Loire. W/C Peter Brothers described the action from 7 August 1944 whilst leading 131 Squadron:
S/L Ralph Sampson recorded in his Combat Report for 7 August 1944:
|Spitfire VII of 131 Squadron with long range drop tank at Culmhead during the summer of 1944. It appears that the pointed, extended span wing tips have been replaced with standard span wing tips.|
A number of Spitfire squadrons, such as 312, 118, 453, 602 and 313, sent north to rest had the opportunity to fly the Spitfire VIIs that were allocated to the Station Flight at Skeabrae in the Orkneys. P/O John "Ian" Blair, flying a Spitfire VII with 602 Squadron out of Skeabrae, described his shooting down of a reconnaissance Bf 109G-6/R-3 of 1(F)./120 on 20 February 1944.
Victor and vanquished. Above left, Spitfire VII MD.114 of the Skeabrae Station Flight that was flown by P/O John (Ian) Blair of 602 Squadron on 20th February 1944 when he shot down Bf 109G-6/R-3 Werk No. 20357 of 1(F)./120 flown by Oblt. Helmut Quednau. Above right is a still from Blair's gun camera film showing the destruction of the Bf 109. The German pilot, Oblt. Helmut Quednau, was killed.
124 Squadron flew thier last operationl mission using Spitfire VIIs on 18 July 1944, an escort to Lancasters and Halifaxes bombing Caen, after which they went over exclusively to Spitfire HF IXs. 616 Squadron began transitioning to Meteors in July 1944 and by August had ceased operations with Spitfire VIIs, although they kept a few VIIs on charge through 1944 for non operational duties. At the end of October 1944 131 Squadron was withdrawn from operations in preparation for deployment to the Far East and all of it's Spitfire VIIs allocated to 154 Squadron, who flew the type on bomber escort operations out of Biggin Hill into February 1945, when they converted to Mustangs. A number of Spitfire VIIs were also used by RAF meteorological units, namely 1402 Flight and Nos. 518 and 519 Squadrons from Autumn 1944 to December 1945.
Spitfire Mk. VII AB.450
Performance and Cooling Tests
|Time to Climb|
|Rate of Climbft/min|
AB.450 was the Spitfire VII prototype converted from a Spitfire V. This performance test was only done using M.S. gear as the aircraft was required by Rolls-Royce for further work before the trial could be completed. The aircraft was approximately 10 mph faster than Spitfire IX BF.274, also equipped with a Merlin 61 engine, tested during the same period at Boscombe Down. AB.450 served with the Special Service (High Altitude) Flight at Northolt, then with 124 Squadron.
Spitfire Mk. VII MD.176
Level speed performance
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|Spitfire HF VII Aircraft Data Card|
|Power Boosting with Liquid Oxygen on Spitfire VII|
|Rolls-Royce Merlin 63, 63A, 64, 72, 73 Engines Altitude Performance.|
|Engines Cleared for use of 150 Grade Fuel|
|Bf 109G-4 14906 Marcks, Ltn. Wilhelm 4.(F) 123 5+LB 15-May-43 KIA in Luftkampf. Kanal Gen.Qu.6.Abt. (mfm #10)-Vol.17 South of Plymouth 100%.|
|Bf 109G-4 14910 Sieker, Fw. Heinz 5.(F) 123 13-Jun-43 MIA after Luftkampf. Kanal Gen.Qu.6.Abt. (mfm #10)-Vol.18 100% F|
|Bf 109G-4 14774 Beultzingslöwen, Uffz. Karl von 5.(F) 123 schwarze 1 + - GD+UR* 27-Jun-43 MIA, cause unknown. Kanal Gen.Qu.6.Abt. (mfm #10)-Vol.18 100% F|
|Bf 109G-4/R-3 14763 Jaschinski, Ltn. Hans 4.(F) 123 blaue 1 + GD+UG* 16-Aug-43 KIA, being shot down by Spitfire Mk.VIIs of 124 Sq. (Haywood & Brooks). DK Kanal Gen.Qu.6.Abt. (mfm #11)-Vol.20; The Blitz, Then & Now, p.291. Hill Farm, Newchurch, Isle of Wight (Pl.Qu. 1117/15 West) 100% F|
|Bf 109G-6/R3 wn 20357 A6+XH of 1(F)/120 Ff. Oblt. Helmut Quednau missing on 20th.Feb.1944.|
|Fw 190A-6 Werk Nr. 550739, Ehret, Obfw. Karl, 7/JG 26, KIA 14 February, 1944 in "Brown 10" during aerial combat with a Spitfire of RAF No. 124 Sq at Montreuil-Calais.|
|Fw 190A-8 Werk # 730438 "White 1" (dam 6/12/44), Bahlke, FhjOfw. Helmut, 2/JG 11, WIA 12 June, 1944 during aerial combat in the Le Mans area.|
|Fw 190A-8 Werk # 680140 "White 14" (lost 6/12/44), Prenzler, Lt. Kurt, 3/JG 11, KIA 12 June, 1944, reason unknown, crashed in the Le Mans area|
|Fw 190A-8 Werk # 680530 "Black < I" (lost 6/12/44), Schillinger, Uffz. Hermann, 2/JG 11, KIA 12 June, 1944, reason unknown, crashed in the Barneville area.|