Spitfire Mk VII Performance

Brief Description

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:

Six pilots and aircraft, of the S.S. Flight, of Northolt, who had been trained in special high altitude flying duties for interception of Sub stratosphere Ju 86s etc, arrived at North Weald, on the absorbtion of the flight by the Squadron. They brought with them a Spitfire VI, besides IXs and some of the new VIIs, with which the Squadron will be re-equipped.

This type continues the pressure cabin of the old VI, but has a Merlin 61 engine, and a retractable tailwheel, which should give us the speed of any contemporary fighter. The Squadron looks forward to being re-equipped, and once again returning to the fore front of operations, besides being able to cope with any odd Ju86s.

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:

One Me.109F and pilot destroyed by F/O Brooke. Two Spitfires took off from Northolt to patrol Selsey Bill at 24,000 ft. Red section patrolled up and down on vectors of 140 and 310. At approximately 1850 hrs Controller (P/O Holmes) gave them a vector of 170 and told Section to climb to just below smoke trail height. A few minutes later vector was changed to 200 and Controller reported bandit 30 miles ahead at 32,000 ft and then ordered Section to orbit as bandit was five miles ahead on vector of 010. Section did half an orbit and then given a vector of 060 and controller reported bandit at 3 o'clock at 34,000 ft. Vector changed to 010 and a few minutes later Red 1 (F/Lt. Haywood – New Zealand) observed two smoke trails about 4,000 ft. above and in front going north. Section immediately gave full throttle and started climbing after bandits. Section were now two miles behind bandits who were at 36,000 ft. Bandit passed over Portsmouth area and did a diving orbit to port. Red Section started to turn inside. Bandits were now indentified as two Me.109F’s, and were flying in line astern and had now turned and were coming out over Isle of Wight at approximately 29,000 ft. Red 1 (F/Lt. Haywood) turned in behind last enemy aircraft and from 400 yards opened fire with cannon and machine gun. His port cannon ceased, so he stopped firing and called up Red 2 (F/O Brooks). Red 2 came in between Red 1 and bandit and Red 1 reports that he saw Red 2 attack enemy aircraft and enemy aircraft burst in the air and catch fire.

Red 2, who had not quite been able to keep up with Red 1, waited until enemy aircraft started to turn out and turned more tightly, which allowed him to come practically alongside the enemy aircraft. Red 2 held that position as Red 1 was firing, and when Red 1 called up that he had a stoppage, turned right in behind. Closing from 150 – 100 yards, gave two 2-second bursts and saw hits on tail and the port wing fold up. Enemy aircraft caught fire and exploded.

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:

At 1000 hours Blue section (F/O B.P.K. Brooks (I) and F.Sgt G.J. Beadle (2)) were scrambled on vector of 240°. After change of vector section was informed of bandit 5 miles E. Gris Nez. Crossed French coast AMBLETEUSS at 23,000 feet and flew on vector of 010° where the section was joined by Green section (F/Sgt. Kelly (1) and W/O Nelson (2)) who had been scrambled at 1035 hours. Green 1 sighted two aircraft about 10 miles away, at 16,000 feet, the first North of Gris Nez traveling E and the secong north of SANGATTE travelling west. Tally ho was given and aircraft which were now recognosed as enemy did diving turns inland.

F/Sgt. D.J.P. Kelly (Green 1) reports:- "Having previously dropped my tank I selected the first e/a which was diving SE, and banking over I pushed open the throttle and pitch to the gate. I was 800 yards behind the e/a which was streaming black smoke from the exhaust and following him down to zero feet with I.A.S. 420 in the dive I pulled out and maintained an I.A.S. of 400 on the deck. My compass was reading between 100 and 140. I chased the e/a for about 10 minutes weaving in and out of church spires and chimney stacks and saw a few bursts from the occasional flak tower. I was now getting +18 boost and having closed to about 600 yards I fired several short bursts of cannon and m/g from dead line astern and saw a cannon strike on the port wing of the e/a. This succeeded in slowing up the e/a. I fired several more short bursts from line astern from about 500 yards and saw more strikes. My port cannon and m/g had a stoppage. I was now closing to within good range of the e/a which was leading me over towns and once I nearly lost it in a thick industrial haze. The e/a tried to lose me by steep turning on the deck round rising ground and chimneys. We passed over an airfield (presumably LESQUIN) but no a/c or activity was apparent. I had now closed to 75 yards and recognized e/a as a Me. 109 and with my starboard m/g (the starboard cannon had a stoppage caused by excessive banking) I gave the e/a a further burst – the e/a streamed white smoke which covered my windscreen and pulling up to 500 feet the e/a’s hood flew off and the pilot was seen to bale out his parachute opening. To avoid hitting the machine I did a steep turn and did not see the e/a crash. Blue 1 who had been left behind owing to the fact that he could not jettison his tank was now behind me and saw the pilot bale out of the e/a. We returned together on a vector of 320° and then 270° crossing the English coast at North Foreland landing at base at 1145. I estimate the place of crash of the e/a to be between LILLE and PERUNELZ."

Blue 2 and Green 2 in the meantime had destroyed the other e/a.

F/Sgt G. J. Beadle (Blue 2) reports: "I first sighted the e/a 10 miles E. of St. Omer at about 12,000 feet coming towards the section in a shallow dive. When the e/a was almost underneath me I half rolled on to my back and followed him down. I closed to 150 yards and identified it as a Me. 109. The e/a was diving at approximately 350 mph. I fired a 3 sec. burst of cannon from dead astern at 250 ft. and saw strikes all over both wing roots and thick grayish smoke started to pour from the e/a. By this time I had a good overtaking speed and pulled out to starboard. The e/a was losing speed and I then saw Green 2 who had followed me down make his attack."

W/O A.E. Nelson (Green 2) Reports: "I gave the e/a 2/3 sec burst at 300 yards closing to 100 yards. Strikes were seen on wings and smoke from the engine, ¾ ring deflection allowed – angle off 10/15° - e/a speed 280). I was overtaking fast so I broke and missing the e/a on his port side by 20 feet I climbed to 200 feet and turned down again to attack from 150-50 yards and saw cannon strikes on the wings. I broke away and saw the starboard wing of the e/a hit the ground and the a/c crash in a field about 10 miles South of St. Omer. I believe the pilot was killed before the e/a crashed."

Blue 2 witnessed the crash. Blue 2 and Green 2 then came out over Boulogne at zero feet, where a heavy concentrated barrage of flak was put up but no hits were registered. Section landed at West Malling at 1125 hours. Cine cameras automatically exposed.

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:

The Mk VII was designed for high-altitude operations and our planes wore high-altitude camouflage, light grey on top and blue-grey underneath. I liked the VII, it was a good aeroplane. The hightest I ever took one was to 39,000 ft; it could have continued climbimg, but I had no reason to go any higher.

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:

I remember 7th August 1944 as a 'good' day as for several days either side of it I spent leading my Wing as escort to long-range columns of 250 to 500 Lancasters attacking targets such as Bordeaux, darting up and down their line like demented sheep-dogs, no doubt good for morale but with little enemy fighter reaction, total boredom for us. But that day Sammy and good luck arrived together.

Leading twelve Spitfires of 131 Squadron with Sammy as my No. 2, we crossed the Channel at low level as usual, climbing to the coast to clear the coastal flak belt then dropping to around 4,000 feet once inland of Cherbourg. Our route then was southerly to Vire, Le Mans, Tours and Bourges, some 400 miles from our Culmhead base, where we were to swing round north-westerly to Blois, Vire, Cherbourg and home.

Eight weeks previously I had led 131 and 616 Squadrons of the Culmhead Wing in low level attacks on the airfields at Le Mans and Laval where we were lucky enough to catch the Luftwaffe taking off and destroyed six FW 190s and damaged a further five, much to our satisfaction and that of Air Marshal Sir Roderick Hill, our Commander-in-Chief, who wrote to express his congratulations. So we were in high hopes of again stirring up activity from these airfields and repeating our success.

Approaching Bourges we saw in the distance two Me109s which we chased briefly but failed to catch them so gave up as they were drawing us far off our route. Our action was to be rewarded however, for nearing Blois we ran into fifteen FW190s which dived away with us in hot pursuit. Sammy and I chased a pair which separated, mine to the left, his to the right. By now down to ground level, as I closed the range I was surprised to see my 190 start a gentle climb and weave equally gently to left and right, offering a perfect target. 'Oh, my god, you poor sucker. You must be straight out of training school,' I thought. It seemed so unfair and spoilt the exhilaration of the chase. This was not to be an exciting duel but a massacre. Worse was to follow.

I think I am not alone in regarding air combat as tremendously stimulating fun as one shoots in an attempt to knock down an aircraft. There is nothing personal in it and one is usually spared the thought of bodily injury. It can be wholly impersonal, unless one had the misfortune to have suffered like the Poles, Czechs and others who left loved ones behind in the hands of a brutal enemy. I opened fire and was horrified and sickened to see my cannon shells not knock off a wing or tail of the aircraft, but blast straight into the cockpit instantly killing the pilot. The aircraft flipped over and hit the ground. 'I am sorry, I didn’t mean that,' I said out loud. Then I thought at least it was quick – and you chaps nearly killed my wife in 1940.

My thoughts came back to reality as I answered a radio call from 'Closet' Waterhouse, one of the flight commanders who had shot down another FW190. Gathering together as many of the squadron as were not too widely scattered by the combat, I set course for Vire and home. It had been another good day.

S/L Ralph Sampson recorded in his Combat Report for 7 August 1944:

I was flying No. 2 to W/Cdr Brothers on Rodeo 194. We were on the way back at 5,000 ft when we saw 2 Me 109s N.W. of Alencon flying south. We gave chase as far as a point west of Le Mans, but could not catch them. We then saw a formation of about 12 a/c at 7,000 ft flying west; they had long-range cigar-shape tanks slung to their bellies which they jettisoned as we approached. The W/ Cdr drew ahead and the aircraft broke and were promptly recognized by all as Fw 190s.

I was about 1,000 yds away when the two e/a on the extreme left broke to port and came towards me head-on. I climbed slightly to avoid a head-on attack and they rolled on their backs and went down, both firing at nothing. I half rolled after them and they seemed to have to throttle back to pull out. I had no difficulty in quickly closing the distance from 1200 to 600 yds. We were now at 0 ft and I was only closing very slightly traveling in a N easterly direction at 350 indicated. I gave a short burst at 600 yds to make them weave and they broke in opposite directions. I selected the starboard a/c. I gave a 1½ sec. burst all armament at 450 yards off 40°, 1½ ring deflection with no result. The e/a then broke starboard and I gave a 2 sec. burst at 300 yds, one ring deflection, speed 240 with no result. The Hun then started breaking both ways alternatively, and I was enabled to get in three more short bursts with small angles, speed about 180 mph. I observed strikes on the cockpit and the e/a pulled up vertically to 600 feet, rolled over and went straight in, the pilot being killed.

F/Lt Bearman (Blue 1) and W/O Crayford (Yellow 3) witnessed this. I heard W/Cdt Brothers say he had shot one down, and noticed a large column of smoke about two miles to the west of my combat which was in the region of Beumont sur Sarthe. I claim one FW190 destroyed.

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.

Scrambled to intercept a high flying Me 109 on reconnaissance. The aircraft was a Mark VII, a Spitfire Mark VII with a pressure cabin and a different engine. Scrambled, 26 minutes to Tally-Ho and aircraft destroyed. Climbed smartly to 12,000 feet. Vapour trails seen at 12 o’clock. Hun turned and dived to starboard. Indicated air speed 500 miles per hour. Had two squirts at a 1,000 yards. Red 2 passed me and closed to 300 yards astern firing and missed. I had a go, three seconds at a hundred yards. Starboard wing blew off. Aircraft crashed in the drink. No sign of the pilot. That was it really. The thing was we got to 33,000 odd feet, no 38,000 feet I think. This aircraft was phenomenal with pointed wingtips and a phenomenal rate of climb. It really was.


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.

Performance Trials

Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment
Boscombe Down

October 1942

Spitfire Mk. VII AB.450
(Merlin 61)

Performance and Cooling Tests


Maximum Speed
Time to Climb
Rate of Climb
32,000 15.871,463
38,000 22.07   520

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.

Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment
Boscombe Down

September 1944

Spitfire Mk. VII MD.176
(Merlin 71)

Level speed performance


Maximum Speed
Time to Climb
Rate of Climb
40,00040915.5   930
44,00037622.2   300


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.

WWII Aircraft Performance