Turkish Spitfires

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Sir

I was absolutely fascinated by Mr Hamilton’s account of his Le Mans exploits in C-type Jaguars (July 1990). I am, however, slightly puzzled by his remarks with regard to his days as a Spitfire pilot, taking part in sweeps and scrambles.

I seem to remember reading a book, many years ago, written by Mr Hamilton himself, or by a biographer, when he was serving in the Royal Navy as a Lieut/Commander Engineering Officer. I do remember being very impressed by the fact that Mr Hamilton ‘acquired’ a Spitfire in which to ferry himself about while carrying out his engineering duties. I do not think that we were told how he managed to obtain this aircraft, but I do remember feeling extremely jealous, as I had always yearned to fly a Spitfire.

In 1943 I was a staff pilot flying Ansons round the Irish Sea. We were based at Dumfries and were training French aircrew navigation, wireless operating and bomb aiming. We did lots of flying hours and it was very, very boring.

However one day in high summer, a squadron of brand new Spitfires arrived. I soon zipped over to their dispersals and had a look. It turned out that they were being flown by a bunch of Turkish pilots. This was a bit of a shaker, but nevertheless I thought I would leave it a few days and then see if I could persuade someone to let me have a go, as I had loads of hours in my log book, including flying Hurricanes.

Alas, it was not to be. The Turks were useless: within a very few days they had managed to write-off several beautiful aeroplanes, ground-looping them, tipping them on their noses, or flying them into the local scenery, some of which was quite high.

They all disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. I have been off Turks ever since. They were squat, thick-set men, with very brilliantined hair. They had red stripes down their trousers, and they managed to put several of our WAAFs in the family way in between writing off Spitfires. I think they were due to go to Germany to write off a few ME 109s after they left us. I never did get to fly a Spit but I did fly Lancasters, which made up for a lot.

AR Clarke,

Hay on Wye, Hereford

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