Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, photo reconnaissance of enemy installations, troop movements and critical infrastructure were primarily conducted by converted bombers.
Slow and easily intercepted, these bombers retained their heavy defensive armament but were no match for the faster and more advanced single engine fighters.
This vulnerability was painfully revealed after the RAF modified a number of Bristol Blenheim’s and Westland Lysander’s for reconnaissance during the opening months of the war and suffered significant losses during the invasion of France and the evacuation of Dunkirk.
In late 1939 it was suggested that airborne reconnaissance might be better suited to fast, single engined aircraft that could use their speed and higher service ceiling to avoid detection and interception.
To this end, two MkI Spitfires were released by RAF Fighter Command and sent to the fledgling and highly secret reconnaissance unit under the command of Wing Commander Sydney Cotton.
To reduce weight and increase speed they were ‘Cottonised’ by stripping out the armament and radio transmitters whilst the airframes underwent streamlining with gun ports being filled in and the airframe rubbed down to remove any imperfections. Coats of a special very pale blue-green called Camotint were also applied and polished.
With two F.24 cameras with 5” lenses installed face down in the now empty wing gun and ammunition spaces, these aircraft became the Spitfire Mk I P.R Type A - boasting a speed of 10 to 15mph faster than the original fighter version.
By mid January 1940, further Spitfires were modified and delivered to the highly classified Camouflage Unit and established a new line of high speed, unarmed photo reconnaissance aircraft used through out the war.
As the standard Spitfire fighter underwent continual improvements and modifications, so did the reconnaissance versions with the P.R Mk XIII equipped with additional fuel capacity and larger cameras housed behind the pilot in the fuselage.
The Mk XI was the first PR variant to have the option of using two vertically mounted F52 cameras with 36-inch-focal-length lens in the fuselage behind the cockpit.
The most famous missions involved carrying out reconnaissance missions in preparation for Operation Chastise, the 617 "Dambusters" Squadron attacks on the Ruhr dams. A PR Mk IX photographed the dams the day before the operation and photographed the Moehne Dam after the operation.
Spitfire PR Mk XIs were capable of a top speed of 417 mph at 24,000 ft and could cruise at 395 mph at 32,000 ft. Normally Spitfire XIs cruised between these altitudes although, in an emergency, the aircraft could climb to 44,000 ft However, pilots could not withstand such altitudes for long in a non-pressurised cockpit without suffering from serious physiological effects.
In mid 1944, sixteen Mk X’s were fitted with the pressurised Mk VII cockpit, complete with sealed sliding canopy, and retained the fighter style windscreen with the bullet-proof glass panel. The long thin air intake to the cockpit pressurisation system was fitted under the exhaust stacks on the starboard cowling.
The performance was similar to that of the PR XI although the pressurised cockpit meant that this version could stay at altitudes of over 40,000 ft for longer without the exhausting physiological effects experienced by the pilots of unpressurised cockpits. Sixteen Mk Xs were built during April and May 1944, with the first mission being flown on 11 May. All saw limited service in 541 and 542 Squadrons in a high altitude reconnaissance role.
This combination Oxygen Content Gauge and Oxygen Flow Regulator Assembly, British Air Ministry Mark XIC, was installed in the later variants of the P.R Spitfires such as the Mk XIII and Mk XIX.
The pressure gauge in the upper right displayed the contents in the oxygen tank. The oxygen system was opened and flow adjusted by rotating the knob in the lower right. The oxygen flow rate is indicated by the twin floating balls in the flow meter in the upper left, assuming that the flow was adequate when the copper balls were balanced between the two index markers on the left and right of the centre of the flow meter. At the bottom left is a switch to immediately raise the flow of oxygen to “High" from Normal in the event of a sudden need.
While the unit is marked as having undergone modification since its first installation, the flowmeter and contents gauge glasses are intact, with the flow meter still retaining its twin copper balls.
This rare, late Spitfire collectable is in excellent condition with its Flow Toggle Switch flipping up and down as intended and the Flow Rate Knob is still fully functional.
* NOTE - the Spitfire model used in the top product shots is a Mk VIII and used for illustrative purposes only. The model accompanying this Mk XIC Oxygen Regulator will be the PR Mk XIII
This Supermarine Spitfire Instrument comes complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
* Note that this Spitfire Instrument is pictured with a 1/48 scale model rather than the standard detailed, but smaller 1/72 scale. Click on the 'Model Upgrade' option at the top of this page for the larger 1/48 scale.
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Your Spitfire Mk XIC Oxygen Regulator, Original Recovery Curios Warbird Collectable includes:
- Original Warbird instrument
- Highly detailed hand-built and airbrushed 1/72 plastic scale model of the aircraft,* or 1/72 scale Die-Cast model
- Hand-crafted and beautifully finished 100yr, Far North Queensland Mango Wood display stand
- Detailed, 2-sided, printed and laminated Instrument Fact Sheet detailing aircraft and instrument
- Removable Magnetic Display Arm
*An upgrade to the larger and more detailed 1/48 scale model is also available in the hand-built and airbrushed plastic version for an additional $35 (Click on the 1/48 scale option)
Both the 1/72 & 1/48 scale hand-built and airbrushed plastic models are available with 'wheels & flaps up or down' and 'canopy open or closed' options with a choice of two Squadron markings and camouflage.
While the 1/72 scale Die-Cast Spitfire model comes with a 'wheels up or down' option, the canopy is sealed and the Squadron markings and camouflage are preset.
Upon order placement you will receive an email asking for your preferred configuration.
Your complete Recovery Curios Original Instrument Collectable is securely packed and delivery normally takes between 3 - 4 weeks approx.
Did you fly, crew or maintain a Supermarine Spitfire or have a friend, colleague or family member who did? Check out our PERSONALISED ORIGINAL INSTRUMENT COLLECTABLE OPTION here.