The Spitfire VIII was essentially an unpressurized Mk VII incorporating the universal wing with extended tips, twin radiators under the wings, enlarged engine cowling to accommodate the larger Merlins with 2 stage superchargers, four blade propeller and retractable tailwheel. It had a strengthened airframe primarily designed to take the 61 series of Merlin. As with the Mk VII, the fuel capacity was increased to 96 gallons in the main tank with 27 gallons carried in the two wing tanks making a total of 123 gallons. Early models featured an extended wing of 40’2". Later models had the standard span of 36'10" or were clipped to 32'2". The ailerons were reduced in size, having about 8 1/2 inches less span than on the standard universal Mark VC wing. There was little discernable performance difference between a Spitfire VIII and IX similarly configured. There were three major versions of the Spitfire VIII; the F (Fighter) with Merlin 61 or 63 engine, the LF (low and medium altitude) with Merlin 66, and the HF (high altitude) equipped with the Merlin 70. The majority of the Spitfire VIIIs produced were the Merlin 66 engined LF version. The operational weight with full fuel and ammunition was 7,800 lbs. A total of 1,654 Mk VIIIs were built.
Brief Operational History
The first production Spitfire F VIII (JF.274) was delivered in November 1942. 145 Squadron went operational with Spitfire VIIIs in June 1943 while based on Malta. Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, commenced on 10 July 1943. On this date there were 23 Spitfire fighter squadrons based on Malta flying a mix of Spitfire Vs, VIIIs and IXs which provided cover for the invasion. 244 Wing moved to Pachino, Sicily on 13 July. 244 Wing (1 SAAF, 92, 145, 417 and 601 squadrons) as well as the 308th FS 31st FG USAAF used the Spitfire VIII during the Sicily campaign. The battle for Sicily was over by mid August.
On 3 September 1943 British forces landed at Reggio, Italy, followed by the Allied landing at Salerno on the 9th. 324 Wing was the first unit to move to Italy, flying in to Paestum on 12 September. Spitfire VIIIs were used widely in Italy from September 1943 to war's end. Units known to have used the Spitfire VIII in Italy are:
244 Wing: 92, 145, 417, 601 squadrons. VIIIs predominately/exclusively.
324 Wing: 43, 72, 93, 111, squadrons. Mix of VIIIs and IXs
31st FG USAAF: 307th, 308th squadrons. 308th was equipped with VIIIs exclusively
1 SAAF, 32, 73, 87, 185, 253, 256 squadrons. Note: listing incomplete
Spitfire units began moving to Corsica in December 1943. By July 1944 the following Spitfire units, operating a mix of Spitfire VIIIs and IXs, were engaged in operations over France culminating in August in Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France:
7 Wing SAAF: 1, 2, 4, 7 Squadrons
251 Wing: 237, 238, 451 RAAF Squadrons
322 Wing: 154, 232, 242, 243 Squadrons
324 Wing: 43, 72, 93, 111 Squadrons
332 Free French Wing: 326 (GC/II/7 'Nice'), 327 (GC/I/3 'Corse'), 328 (GC/I/7 'Provence') Squadrons
The Wings moved to France at the end of August; 251 Wing to Cuers, 322 Wing to Fréjus, 324 Wing to Ramatuelle, and 332 Wing to Istres/Le Vallon. The units found it necessary to move often as the front moved quickly east towards Germany, linking up with Overlord units near Dijon in mid September. Many of the RAF Squadrons returned to the fighting in Italy in October. The Free French Wing, 1ère Escadre de Chasse, moved to Luxeuil in October staying there into March 1945. They then made their last move of the war to Colmar from where missions to Germany occasionally brought them into contact with the remnants of JG 53.
81 and 152 Squadrons became operational with Spitfire VIIIs at Baigachi and Alipore, India respectively during December 1943. By June of 1944 seven more Squadrons in the China/Burma/India (CBI) theater had converted to Spitfire VIIIs, namely; 17, 67, 136, 155, 273, 607 and 615 Squadrons. These squadrons played a significant role in breaking the siege of Imphal. They met with good success against the Japanese Army Air Force's Oscars. By late 1944 Nos 1, 2, 3 and 8 of the Indian Air Force were operational with Spitfire VIIIs. They were followed in 1945 by Nos 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10 Squadrons IAF. Early in 1945 two more RAF units, 131 and 132 Squadrons, re-equipped with Mk VIIIs. The Spitfire VIII units supported the Fourteenth Army during its offensive through central Burma, the capture of Rangoon and Mandalay as well as the slaughter of the hemmed-in Japanese on the Mandalay Plain.
The RAF Spitfire Wing in Australia, comprised of 54, 548 and 549 Squadrons, converted to Spitfire VIIIs in April 1944. They were tasked primarily with the defense of the Darwin area. The Australian spitfire squadrons, Nos 79, 452 and 457, also began to re-equip with the Spitfire VIII in April. The Australian Spitfire Wing deployed to Morotai where they provided escort to Beaufighters and engaged in strikes against Japanese positions in the Moluccas.
Spitfire Mk. VIII JF.275
Climb and level speed performance
|+18 lb||+25 lb|
|0||338 MS||362 MS|
|+18 lb||+25 lb|
|0||4,610 MS||5,580* MS|
Spitfire Mk. VIII JF.934
Brief Performance Trials of a Spitfire (F) - Mk. VIII
..................The performance of the subject aircraft is summarised as follows:-
|Rate of Climb|
|Rate of Climb|
|22050*||2850||+12 F.T. (s)||385||-||-|
Fig. Level Speeds Fig. Climbing Trials Fig. Time to Height
Note: This report mentioned that the speeds were inferior to those obtained from Boscombe Down and it was unusual for the top level speed to be above the Critical Full Throttle Height. See Spitfire VIII Performance listing performance as 384 mph at 11,000 ft, 404 mph at 21,000 ft. (with extended wing tips).
S/L Bert Houle D.F.C. (Canandian) flew Spitfire VIII's with 417 (RCAF) Squadron in Sicily and Italy:
My favorite fighter was the Spitfire VIII with clipped wings. It had power and good armament. It could roll quickly and out-turn any enemy fighter we encountered. Robert Bracken, Spitfire, The Canadians, (Boston Mills Press, Erin, Ontario, 1995), p. 62.