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Air Commodore Peter Brothers CBE, DSO, DFC* (deceased)
|Learnt to fly at the age of 16 and joined the RAF two years later in 1936. He first saw action in 1940 when as a Flight Commander in 32 Squadron, based at Biggin Hill, he flew his Hurricane against the fighters and bombers of the Luftwaffe. He recalls this as an intensely busy period, during which he shot down an Me109 - his first enemy aircraft; by the end of August that same year his tally of enemy aircraft shot down increased to eight. Awarded the DFC, he was transferred to 257 Squadron where he joined Bob-Stanford Tuck as a Flight Commander. Promoted in 1941 to Squadron Leader, Pete Brothers then took command of 457 Squadron RAAF, equipped with Spitfires. A year later when 457 Squadron returned to Australia, Pete took command of 602 Squadron. In the early autumn of 1942 he went on to become Wing Leader of the Tangmere Wing, succeeding his old friend, Douglas Bader. By the end of the war Pete Brothers had amassed 875 operational hours over a 44-month period. He was credited with having personally shot down 16 enemy aircraft and damaged many more. He later went on to command 57 Squadron during the Malaya campaign. Upon return to the UK Pete Brothers joined the V-Force, flying Valiant-4 jet bombers. He retired in 1973. Sadly, Pete Brothers died 18th December 2008.|
Group Captain Desmond Sheen DFC* (deceased)
|Desmond Frederick Burt Sheen was born in Sydney, Australia, on October 2 1917. After school, he received a cadetship in the Royal Australian Air Force and in 1937 sailed for Britain, where he was granted a short service commission in the RAF and was posted to No 72 Squadron. During the Battle of Britain, Desmond got his first victories and was shot down twice during the Battle of Britain, in the course of which he accounted for three enemy aircraft destroyed, one shared, two probably destroyed and two damaged. By the summer of 1940, Sheen, was serving as a Spitfire pilot with No 72 Squadron, based at Acklington, Northumberland. Although well to the north of the main area of the Battle of Britain, on August 15 the squadron was heavily engaged with the enemy. Flying from Denmark and Norway, a Luftwaffe force of more than 60 bombers with a 34-strong fighter escort was making for the RAF's fighter bases in north-east England. With two other Spitfire squadrons, No 72 raced to intercept them. In the ensuing action, beyond the Farne Islands, Sheen accounted for two Me 110 fighters, one of which almost did for him. |
Flames and smoke appeared near the inside of the port engine. he said. The enemy aircraft, either with the pilot shot or in a deliberate attempt to ram me, approached head on left wing low. Sheen took evasive action and saved his neck. A fortnight later, on August 31, No 72 was ordered south to No 11 Group fighter sector station at Biggin Hill, Kent - where they landed as the airfield was being heavily bombed. The next morning, having transferred to Croydon, they were scrambled to intercept a large enemy force approaching London. This time Sheen's aircraft was hit. As his cockpit filled with dense smoke, he released his straps, turned the Spitfire on its back, pushed the stick forward and dropped out. It was a sunny day, and as he drifted to the ground he had a grandstand view of the battle Several dogfights were going on and an Me 109 went past me in flames. I think the pilot baled out but his harness broke and he didn't make it.On reaching the ground, Sheen was confronted by a girl and a young Army officer who, suspicious of the darker blue of Sheen's old Australian uniform, brandished a revolver. The misunderstanding cleared up, the girl took Sheen to a nearby house where a party of guests were enjoying pre-lunch drinks on the lawn as they watched the battle in the sky overhead. Four days later, back with his squadron, Sheen was shot down again. As his Spitfire hurtled towards the ground, Sheen, though wounded, managed to release his harness. He was sucked out of the cockpit, but his boots caught on the windscreen and he was left lying on top of the fuselage.
After what seemed an age, he recalled, my feet came free and I pulled the ripcord and my parachute opened with a terrific jerk. I just had time to see treetops underneath when I was in them. These broke my fall and I landed on my feet as light as a feather. A bobby appeared on the proverbial bicycle. He pulled out a flask, bless him, and handed it to me. 'You left it a bit late,' he said.
His first real taste of action came on October 21 1939, when he shot down two of some dozen Heinkel 115 floatplanes that were attacking a North Sea convoy off the Yorkshire coast. In early December, north of Arbroath in Scotland, Sheen shared in the destruction of an He 111 bomber. Flying so low that he opened fire at a level below the top of a nearby lighthouse, he was hit by return fire and wounded in the leg.
I stopped a couple of bullets, Sheen explained. One went through my earphones and the other got me in the thigh. The most serious was a bullet in my fuel tank. The petrol began to stream into the cockpit. I went in again to attack but I was dizzy and decided to turn for home.After a spell in hospital, in April 1940 Sheen was posted to the embryo photographic-reconnaissance unit which had been formed under Sidney Cotton, another intrepid Australian. The two men flew down to the south of France and to Sardinia where, flying unarmed Spitfires, they made photo-recce sorties over Italy. Sheen resumed with No 72 at the end of July 1940 and later, after the Battle of Britain and a second spell in hospital, took part in a night action over the North Sea which he described in a broadcast on the BBC. In bright moonlight, on the night of March 13-14 1941, he intercepted a Ju 88.
As I opened fire I could see my tracer bullets bursting in the Junkers like fireworks . . . when I turned in for my next attack I saw that one of the Hun's engines was beginning to burn but just to make quite sure of him I pumped in a lot more bullets then I had to dive like mad to avoid ramming him.
Not long after this, Sheen received command of No 72. Flying from Biggin Hill, he led the squadron - and sometimes the Spitfire Wing - in offensive sweeps over occupied Europe. Subsequently, he held staff appointments and station commands in Britain and in the Middle East. He was awarded a DFC in 1940 and a Bar to it in 1941. Sheen was released from the RAF in 1947, but in 1949, dropping in rank from wing commander to flight lieutenant, he rejoined with a permanent commission. From 1950 to 1952, he commanded No 502, a Royal Auxiliary Air Force fighter squadron equipped with Spitfires, and later with Vampire jets. In 1954, he was posted to the Central Flying Establishment's air fighting unit, and a year later to RAF Leuchars, in Scotland, as Wing Commander Flying. Subsequent appointments included the command of RAF Odiham (1962-64), and Group Captain Organisation at Transport Command. After retirement in 1971, he joined the BAC/British Aerospace to administer the company's BAC 111 and Concorde marketing teams. He died aged 83 in 2001.
Group Captain Tom Dalton Morgan DSO, DFC*, OBE (deceased)
|Tom Dalton-Morgan was born on March 23rd 1917 at Cardiff and educated at Taunton School. He was a descendant of the buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan and the Cromwellian General Sir Thomas Morgan, Thomas Frederick Dalton-Morgan. Tom Dalton-Morgan joined the RAF in 1935, serving with 22 Squadron. Flying the Wildebeeste torpedo bomber, he joined the training staff at the Air Ministry. In April 1940 he applied to return to flying, and was appointed to No.43 Squadron. In June 1940 he was posted to Tangmere as B Flight commander with 43 Squadron, flying Hurricanes, scoring his first victory on 12 July. In action over the Channel he shared in the destruction of a Heinkel bomber, but he was forced to bale out with slight wounds the following day when he destroyed another and then was hit by crossfire. With no badges of rank in evidence - he was wearing pyjamas under his flying suit - he was captured by a bobby who placed him in the cells along with the German bomber crew he had just shot down. Dalton-Morgan resumed flying and was soon back in action, accounting for four more enemy aircraft in the next three weeks. In early September, he shot down three Messerschmitt fighters. After one engagement he was wounded in the face and knee, and had to crash-land. His DFC praised him for displaying great courage when his behaviour in action has been an inspiration to his flight. After the Battle of Britain, Dalton-Morgan's primary task was to train new pilots for service with the squadrons in the south. He was also required to establish a night-fighting capability with the Hurricane, a task he achieved with great success. Few enemy night bombers fell victim to single-seat fighter pilots, but Dalton-Morgan, hunting alone, destroyed no fewer than six. Three of his victims went down in successive nights on May 6-7 1941, when the Luftwaffe embarked on a major offensive against the Clydesdale ports and Glasgow. On June 8th, Dalton-Morgan achieved a remarkable interception when he shot down a Junkers bomber, having made initial contact by spotting its shadow on the moonlit sea. After two more successes at night, he was carrying out a practice interception on July 24th with a fellow pilot when he saw another Junkers. Dalton-Morgan gave chase and intercepted it off May Island. Despite his engine failing and fumes filling the cockpit, he attacked the bomber three times. He had just watched it hit the sea when his engine stopped. Too low to bale out, he made a masterly landing on the water, but lost two front teeth when his face hit the gun sight. He clambered into his dinghy before being rescued by the Navy. In January 1942 he left the squadron to become a Controller. Promoted Wing Commander Operations with 13 Group, he then led the Ibsley Wing, consisting of 4 Spitfire, 2 Whirlwind, and 2 Mustang Squadrons. His final victory in May 1943 brought his score to 17. Briefly attached to the USAAF 4th Fighter Group, with the task of mounting long-range offensive sorties over northern France and providing scouts for the tactical bomber squadrons. After damaging an Me 109 in December, he shot down a Focke Wulf 190 fighter and damaged another during a sweep over Brest. He was awarded the DSO in May 1943, which recorded his victories at the time as 17. He flew more than 70 combat sorties with the group. Promoted group captain early in 1944, he served as operations officer with the 2nd Tactical Air Force. Dalton-Morgan engaged in planning fighter and ground attack operations in support of the campaign in Normandy, then moved to the mainland with his organisation after the invasion. Years after, his CO at the time (later Air Marshal Sir Fred Rosier) commented: It would be impossible to overstate Tom D-M's importance and influence on the conduct of fighter operations for and beyond D-Day. A month before the end of the war in Europe, Dalton-Morgan learned that his only brother, John, who also had the DFC, had been shot down and killed flying a Mosquito. Dalton-Morgan remained in Germany with 2nd Tactical Air Force after the war before attending the RAF Staff College, and becoming a senior instructor at the School of Land/Air Warfare. Later he commanded the Gutersloh Wing, flying Vampire jets, before taking command of RAF Wunsdorf. He was appointed OBE in 1945 and mentioned in dispatches in 1946, the year President Harry Truman awarded him the US Bronze Star. Group Captain Tom Dalton-Morgan, who has died in Australia aged 87, on the 18th September 2004, was one of the RAF's most distinguished Battle of Britain fighter pilots.|
Squadron Leader Arthur Leigh DFC, DFM
|Another RAFVR pilot, The son of a regular soldier, Arthur Leigh was called up at the outbreak of war. After finishing his flying training he was posted to 7 OTU and then on to convert to Spitfires in August 1940. Arthur Leigh flew with 64 Squadron at Leconfield and 72 Squadron at Biggin Hill during the Battle of Britain before transferring to 611 Squadron. Awarded the DFM in September 1941, Leigh had then completed 50 sweeps, had destroyed two Bf 109s, probably destroyed another four and shared in the destruction of a Do 17. After a spell instructing and ferrying Hurricanes from Gibraltar to Cairo, he returned to operations with 56 Squadron flying Typhoons from Manston. He was shot down on his first sweep by flak, near Calais but was picked up by an ASR launch. In late 1943 Leigh was posted to 129 Squadron at Hornchurch and was awarded the DDC on completing his second tour in December 1944, spending the rest of the war as an instructor.|
Squadron Leader Basil Stapleton DFC (deceased)
|Born in South Africa, Basil Stapleton joined the RAF in Jan 1939, being posted to 603 Sqn flying Spitfires. He first saw action off Scotland, sharing in the destruction of two bombers, before the Squadron was posted south to Hornchurch during the height of the Battle of Britain. By Nov 1940 his tally had risen to 6 and 2 shared victories and 8 probables. In March 1942 he was posted to 257 Sqn as flight commander. In August 1944 he commanded 247 Sqn flying Typhoons, taking part in the Arnhem operations. In December 1944, whilst attacking a train, debris hit his aircraft forcing him to land behind enemy lines where he was taken prisoner of war. Stapme Stapleton had scored 6 victories, plus 2 shared, 5 probable and 2 damaged. Sadly, we have learned that Basil Stapleton passed away on 13th April 2010.|
Squadron Leader Neville Duke, DSO, OBE, DFC*, AFC, CzMC (deceased)
|Neville Duke flew Spitfires as wingman to Sailor Malan in 92 Squadron. In November 1941 he was posted to 112 Squadron in the Middle East. After a second tour in the Desert, he flew a third tour, with 145 Squadron in Italy. He was the top scoring Allied Ace in the Mediterranean with 28 victories. After the war, in 1953, he captured the World Air Speed record. He died 7th April 2007.|
Wing Commander Harbourne Stephen CBE, DSO, DFC (deceased)
|Flying Spitfires with 605 squadron he took part in the air battles over France and Dunkirk and throughout the thick of the Battle of Britain. He was one of the top scoring R.A.F. pilots at the end of 1940 with 22 and a half air victories. In 1942 he was posted to the far east where he took command of 166 wing, remaining in fighters until the end of the war. After the war he had a successful career in newspapers where he became managing Director of the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph. He died on 20th August 2001.|
Wing Commander Paddy Barthropp DFC AFC (deceased)
|At the outbreak of war Paddy flew obsolete Hinds, Hectors and Lysanders in combat, but converted to Spitfires and joined 602 Squadron at Tangmere. During the Battle of Britain he flew with some of the great aces - Douglas Bader, Sailor Malan, and Bob Stanford Tuck. In 1941 he was a Flight Commander with 610 Squadron. Continuing to fly Spitfires, now with 122 Squadron based at Hornchurch, he flew fighter sweeps and escort missions. On 17th May 1942 he was shot down over St Omer. He baled out but was captured, spending the next three years as a POW. One of the RAFs best known and best loved characters, though the bane of certain senior officers, Paddy Barthropps RAF service spanned the period from bi-planes to supersonic jets. Joining the RAF in 1938, his first squadron was 613 flying Hinds, Hectors and Lysanders. In 1940 he was released to fly Spitfires with 602 Squadron where he shared in the destruction of two aircraft. He was posted to 610 Squadron, and then to 91 Squadron, shooting down two Bf 109s during summer 1941 and receiving the DFC. In August 1941 he returned to 610 Squadron as a flight commander. He was shot down three times, the third time being taken prisoner ofwar. He had by then brought his total to 9. Scraps in the air were accompanied by scrapes on the ground, and appearances in Magistrates Courts for disorderly conduct. Addicted to fast cars and lively ladies - and the sworn enemy of stuffed shirts everywhere - he was the irrepressible life and soul of any party, and a persistant thorn in the side of overweening authority as the Germans were to discover. The war over, he was posted to the Empire Test Pilots School where he flew over a hundred different types of plane in ten months. Soon, he was out in the Sudan and in serious trouble again - under arrest after taking a hippo to an upper-crust party. As a boy, he had been taught to ride by champion jockey Steve Donaghue and now, posted to Hong Kong, he rode winners on the track at Happy Valley, and seriously thought of turning professional. Then it was back to the U.K. to take up an appointment as a Fighter Station Commander, and to lead the Coronation fly-past over Buckingham Palace. He left the RAF to set up his own luxury car-hire firm. He died on 16th April 2008.|
|The Aircraft :|
|Spitfire||Royal Air Force fighter aircraft, maximum speed for mark I Supermarine Spitfire, 362mph up to The Seafire 47 with a top speed of 452mph. maximum ceiling for Mk I 34,000feet up to 44,500 for the mark XIV. Maximum range for MK I 575 miles . up to 1475 miles for the Seafire 47. Armament for the various Marks of Spitfire. for MK I, and II . eight fixed .303 browning Machine guns, for MKs V-IX and XVI two 20mm Hispano cannons and four .303 browning machine guns. and on later Marks, six to eight Rockets under the wings or a maximum bomb load of 1,000 lbs. Designed by R J Mitchell, The proto type Spitfire first flew on the 5th March 1936. and entered service with the Royal Air Force in August 1938, with 19 squadron based and RAF Duxford. by the outbreak of World war two, there were twelve squadrons with a total of 187 spitfires, with another 83 in store. Between 1939 and 1945, a large variety of modifications and developments produced a variety of MK,s from I to XVI. The mark II came into service in late 1940, and in March 1941, the Mk,V came into service. To counter the Improvements in fighters of the Luftwaffe especially the FW190, the MK,XII was introduced with its Griffin engine. The Fleet Air Arm used the Mk,I and II and were named Seafires. By the end of production in 1948 a total of 20,351 spitfires had been made and 2408 Seafires. The most produced variant was the Spitfire Mark V, with a total of 6479 spitfires produced. The Royal Air Force kept Spitfires in front line use until April 1954.|
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